A Scot, Alexander Cameron, founded the township of Penola, while
another Scotsman John Riddoch, planted the first vines, laying the
rich foundations of Coonawarras quality wines.
It was Alexander Cameron who was issued one of the earliest Hotel
licences in South Australia, during the year of 1848, allowing him
to open the Royal Oak Hotel. The hotel is privately owned by John
and Libby Heyward, the Heyward family having been associated with
the Royal Oak since 1940.
The original Royal Oak Hotel was a slab construction, however in
1872 Cameron arranged for the construction of a new two storey stone
hotel. It was built by A Dunbar for 2883 pounds.
During the construction the Penola correspondent to "The Border
Watch" reported on September 18th 1872 "The new Royal
Oak Hotel is now in full swing, the cellar walls have appeared up
to the surface and a large number of men are employed. The report
says that none but teetotallers are engaged on the work."
By February 12, 1873 the scaffolding had been removed and the hotel
was ready for the Race Ball that was held on February 19-20 1983.
The greater part of this building is still standing intact, with
the addition of balcony and verandah extensions at the rear.
Further Penola History
Mother Mary MacKillop (niece to Alexander Cameron), Australias
first declared saint together with Father Julian Tenison Woods,
founded the religious order of the Sisters of St Joseph in Penola
over 125 years ago. World famous poets, Adam Lindsay Gordon, Will
Ogilvie and John Shaw Neilson, who were born in Penola found the
country side attractive with its native flora and fauna offering
a never ending source of inspiration.
Visitors have every opportunity to remember the historical significance
of Penola as signposts throughout the town point to the relationship
with the past. There is a heritage walk around the town, many art
and craft shops, two art galleries, first class restaurants, historical
homesteads & cottages and sport & recreation facilities.