Port Augusta is known as a ‘working class town’, which is ironic because no one there has a job. The city has been redundant since its port ceased to operate in 1973, making half of its name a lie. Attempts to resuscitate ‘Portagutter’ by kick-starting a new economy predicated on polluting the atmosphere with copious amounts of carbon ended with the closure of all of its coal-fired power plants in the 2010s. Now little more than a blight on the South Australian desert landscape, Port Augusta exists purely so people can confuse it with Port Pirie and Port Lincoln.
Port Augusta is cursed with a punishing climate that sees the mercury push 50 degrees, forcing feral punters to cool off in the flooded rubbish tip known as the Spencer Gulf. 500 algae-encrusted shopping trolleys were recently fished up from waters near the wharf to prevent jumpers from landing on them, but a sizeable trolley reef remains.
Aside from a derelict disused port, Port Disgusta boasts a world-class collection of abandoned buildings, towering razor-wire-tipped fences, beaches with more broken glass than sand, and patches of dirt in lieu of lawns. It’s also home to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, which showcases all of the nothing that grows in the Outback. A former hit with overseas visitors was the now-closed Baxter Detention Centre/refugee prison, which attracted tourists from all over Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and must have been incredible because most visitors stayed for years.
Port Augusta: Where the Dirt Meets the Sea.