Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Elliston SA


Postcode: 5670

Elliston is a small coastal town in South Australia on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula 169 km northwest of Port Lincoln and 641 km west of Adelaide. The township is located on Waterloo Bay. It has a population of approximately 250, rainfall of 426 mm per annum, and a Mediterranean climate.

The first recorded exploration of the adjacent coastline was by Matthew Flinders in the vessel Investigator from 10-13 February 1802. He named the offshore islands but did not note the presence of Waterloo Bay in his log.

Edward John Eyre explored the area on land in 1840 and 1841 on a journey to Western Australia from Port Lincoln. Originally named Waterloo Bay, the township was later named by Governor Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois on a plan for the town on 23 November 1878. Locally it is believed to be named after the writer and educator Ellen Liston who was born in England in 1838 and emigrated to South Australia in 1850. She was a governess working on a local property (Nilkerloo) owned by John Hamp.

It has also been suggested that Jervois, who had a military background chose to honour Sir Henry Walton Ellis (1783 – 1815) who was a hero of the Battle of Waterloo during which campaign he died of his wounds. The area was settled in the 1840s with Elliston being the central port from which the early settlers transported their wool and wheat to market. Sailing ships and later steam ships crossed Waterloo Bay’s notorious reefed entrance. A number of ships foundered in the bay due to its narrow entrance and variable tides.

The town of Elliston lies on Waterloo Bay, a small coastal inlet which is partially protected by a number of reefs lining the entrance to the bay. Outside of the bay, the coastline is exclusively large cliffs, with a number of surf beaches located on these stretches. Inside the bay, it it is relatively calm and shallow, full of seagrass beds and reef, with sandy beaches lining most of the bay. Inland, the country is mostly flat agricultural land. Offshore, Flinders Island is approximately 55 km away from the mainland.