If you can believe the legend, the mining town of Tennant Creek grew round a spot 500km north of Alice Springs where a beer wagon destined for the nearby Overland Telegraph Station broke down in 1934. Seems pioneer Joe Kilgariff built a store at the breakdown site, a pub went up alongside and a town was born.
The naming of some of Tennant Creek’s gold and copper mines was just as offhand. The Peko Mine was named for a miner’s dog, while the Burnt Shirt Mine was so dubbed when a shirt hung out over a camp fire to dry caught alight as the strike was made.
In the centre of town, Mural Drive includes the huge 'Jurnkurakurr' Aboriginal mural that depicts the dreaming of the Warumungu people. Visit Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre, near an Aboriginal sacred site. The cultural centre offers an insight into the culture of the local Aboriginal people, including Aboriginal artifacts, paintings, bush tucker and dance performances.
The Tuxworth-Fullwood Museum is a National Trust museum, located in a former army camp hospital. The museum includes hundreds of photographs of the town and its pioneers, the old jailhouse and a typical miner's camp. Visit the Battery Hill Mining Centre, based around the huge Number 3 Government Stamp Battery. There are tours of the battery, an underground mine tour and a superb mineral museum. You can even pan for gold in the gravel from four mines!
North of Tennant Creek is the old Telegraph Station. You can walk around the buildings and interpretive panels highlight the history of this vital link in the Overland Telegraph Line. You may also go inside the buildings by obtaining a key from the Visitor Information Centre in town (refundable deposit required). Almost opposite the Telegraph Station is the turn-off to the Pebbles, a granite outcrop similar to the Devils Marbles. One hundred kilometres south of Tennant Creek lie the extraordinary Devil's Marbles, enormous round rocks scattered apparently at random on the ground. They are worth the trip - be sure to leave plenty of time as they change colour with the changing daylight conditions.
At Threeways north of Tennant Creek, you will see the Flynn Memorial, erected in memory of Rev John Flynn who pioneered the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service.
Mary Ann Dam lies some 5km northeast of the town. It can be reached either by road or via the Ted Ryko bicycle track through the photogenic Honeymoon Ranges. At the dam there is swimming, bushwalks, BBQs and picnic areas. The dam is a haven for native animals and birds.
Things to do:
In the area:
- Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre - Aboriginal artifacts, paintings, bush tucker and dance performances
- Tuxworth-Fullwood Museum - local history museum in a former army camp hospital
- Battery Hill Mining Centre - tours of the battery, underground mine tour, mineral museum, panning for gold
- Telegraph Station - interpretive panels relate its history
- the Pebbles - curious granite outcrop
- Devil's Marbles - photogenic enormous round rocks
- Flynn Memorial - dedicated to the memory of Rev John Flynn who pioneered the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service
- Mary Ann Dam - watersports, picnics and walks