Echunga is a small town in the Adelaide Hills located 34 km south-east of Adelaide in South Australia.
The area was initially settled in 1839, with the town laid out in 1849. Gold was discovered in 1852 and Echunga became the first proclaimed gold field in South Australia. This led to a gold rush, however it did not last long with the diggings exhausted and all but abandoned within a year. Subsequent discoveries in 1853 and 1854 led to smaller and equally short-lived rushes. In 1868 more gold was discovered at nearby Jupiter Creek, which proved to be a much larger and long-lived field.
The town reputedly takes its name from an Aboriginal word ‘eechungga’ which may mean either ‘a short distance’ or ‘close by’. For a brief time Echunga prospered and it has been estimated that at its peak it had grown to a population in excess of 1200. Today Echunga is a sleepy little town . Echunga is part of Battunga Country.
In 1839 John Hagen, a wealthy English Quaker, decided that Echunga would be an ideal location for a Quaker settlement. He purchased land off another Quaker J. Barton Hack (his name is still recalled in the Hack Ranges), built the hotel and tried to create a model village with wheat fields, dairy herds and a vineyard. By 1843 he was bankrupt. Although Hagen was bankrupt the vineyard he had planted continued to yield good quality grapes and it is possible that the first South Australian wine to be exported was an Echunga hock which was served to Queen Victoria in 1845.
The gold rushes of the 1850s led to miners pouring into the valley, particularly to Jupiter Creek. The discovery of gold at Jupiter Creek in 1852 was the first in South Australia and caused considerable excitement. For a brief time the town prospered and it has been estimated that at its peak it had grown to a population in excess of 1200. Today Echunga has been overwhelmed by Hahndorf. It is a sleepy town with a lot of disused buildings in the main street.