View of Whyalla CBD Hummock Hill lookout
It was founded as Hummock's Hill in 1901 by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) as the end of a tramway bringing iron ore from the Middleback Ranges to be used in the lead smelters at Port Pirie as flux. A jetty was built to transfer the ore. The settlement consisted of small cottages and tents clustered around the base of the hill. The Post Office opened in 1901 as Hummock's Hill and was renamed Whyalla on 1 November 1919.
The BHP Indenture Act was proclaimed in 1937 and provided the impetus for the construction of a blast furnace and harbour. In 1939 the blast furnace and harbour began to be constructed and a commitment for a pipeline from the Murray River was made. A shipyard was built to provide ships for the Royal Australian Navy. The population began rising dramatically and many new facilities, including a hospital and abbatoirs, were built. In 1941 the first ship from the new shipyard, HMAS Whyalla, was launched and the blast furnace became operational. By 1943 the population was more than 5,000. On 31 March 1943, the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline became operational. In 1945 the city came under combined company and public administration and the shipyard began producing commercial ships. In 1948 displaced persons began arriving from Europe..
From 2004 northern South Australia enjoyed a mining boom and Whyalla found itself well placed to benefit from new ventures, being situated on the edge of the Gawler Craton. The city experienced an economic upturn with the population slowly increasing and the unemployment rate falling to a more typical level.
The Lincoln Highway passes directly through Whyalla. The city is served by Premier Stateliner which operates four coach (bus) services to and from Adelaide (via Pt Augusta) each week day (less on weekends) and one service each way to Pt. Lincoln. There are however occasional exceptions to the week day route due to lack of demand to travel through Whyalla..
A narrow gauge so-called tramway was built to Iron Knob to supply iron ore originally used as flux when smelting copper ore. This ore became the basis of the steelworks. As the Iron Knob deposits were worked out, the railway was diverted to other sources of ore at Iron Monarch, Iron Prince, Iron Duke and Iron Baron.
To enable interchange between the BHP's other steelworks in Newcastle and Port Kembla of specialised rollingstock, the railway system within the Whyalla steelworks was converted to standard gauge circa 1963. Although the steelworks produced railway rail, for several decades there was no railway connection to the mainland system. Finally in 1972, a standard gauge link to Port Augusta was completed.
Some iron ore is exported from Whyalla. In 2007, steps were being taken to export iron ore from Peculiar Knob, 600 km away. To meet this increased demand, a balloon loop is being installed in 2013 at the port for both gauges.
Whyalla is served by Whyalla Airport, with Regional Express flying into Whyalla from Adelaide a number of times a day. On 31 May 2000, Whyalla Airlines Flight 904 (registration VH-MZK) crashed into the Spencer Gulf due to engine failure in mid flight. All 8 people on board (1 Pilot, 7 Passengers) died.
There is a small boat marina, sailing club, and boat ramp on the coastline below Hummock Hill. Iron ore is exported through an off-shore facility.