Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Cowell SA


Postcode: 5602

Cowell is a coastal town on Franklin Harbour on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula, in South Australia on the Lincoln Highway 111 km south from the major town of Whyalla. It is 493 km by road from Adelaide. Franklin Harbour is a natural harbour of 49 kmĀ² in area with a channel to the sea just 100 metres wide.

The town of Cowell is the major population centre of the District Council of Franklin Harbour, and the centre of an agricultural district farming wheat and sheep. The district covers an area of 3,283 square kilometres with a district population in 2001 of 1267. Fishing, and more recently, oyster farming has also been an important industry.

Matthew Flinders was the first explorer to record a sighting of Franklin Harbour, mistaking the harbour for a lagoon or lake in 1802. By coincidence, Governor George Gawler named the harbour while visiting the town in 1840 in honour of Sir John Franklin (Governor of Tasmania and famous Arctic explorer), who had been a midshipman on the voyage in 1802 with Flinders. The harbour was eventually mapped in 1839 by Robert Cock who sailed into it while surveying the northerly section of Spencer Gulf.

When settlers commenced farming the area in 1853, Franklin Harbour became a logical place to load ships for export of wheat and wool and a small settlement was soon established. In 1880 the Governor, Sir William Jervois, named the town of Cowell after Sir John Clayton Cowell who was, at the time, the Lieutenant-Governor of Windsor Castle. In 1965, a deposit of Jade was discovered in the nearby Minbrie Ranges. To date over 100 outcrops have been found within an area of 9 square kilometres and as such has been designated by the South Australian Department of Mines and Energy as the “Cowell Jade Province”.

The Franklin Harbour Historical Museum situated in the old Post Office residence in the Main Street of Cowell preserves many historically important artefacts of the region, both natural and manmade.