Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Cleve SA


Postcode: 5640

Cleve is a small agriculurally based town on Central Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It is 226 km southwest of Port Augusta and 143 km north of Port Lincoln. The town has its origins in the 1850s, with the town established some twenty years later. Cleve is still a major hub for farmers and suppliers in the Eyre Peninsula, with a field day held each second year to offer the newest in farming equipment and stock.

The first European settlers in the area were the three McKechnie brothers; James, Peter and Donald who arrived in 1853.The first European woman arrived in 1862; a wife of one of the brothers. They established a sheep run 43 km from the current day site of Cleve and continued living there until 1869, when Peter and Donald died, leaving James to return to his homeland of Scotland. The run was sold to George Melrose in 1873, and he had great initial success, shearing 30 000 sheep in his first year. This was not to last though, as dingos decimated his flock in the following years. Melrose was also the first to report rabbits on the Eyre Peninsula, an indicator of the troubles they would cause in the future.

In 1878, the current site of the town was inspected and surveyed, in anticipation of creating a new town to serve the growing wool and crop industries which were rapidly expanding. During this period, Arno Bay became the port for the products grown in Cleve and also underwent expansion.

The town was officially gazetted on March 6th 1879 in a square grid design meant to imitate the city of Adelaide. The main street and 1st to 5th street were neatly enclosed by North, East, South and West Terraces, and outside of this lay parklands, a school reserve and a golf course. The new town was named after Cleve House, the county seat in Devon, England of the Snow family, cousins of Sir William Jervois who was the Governor of South Australia at the time. The Cleve school was opened seven years later in 1886, and would go on to become a recognised instructor in dryland farming.

Cleve has maintained its position as a leading producer of both grain and wool since the establishment, with other ventures such as copper mining in the area having little success.