You’ll need your sea legs when packing for Australia's beautiful Eyre Peninsula as you should prepare yourself for a smorgasbord of glorious coastline, fresh seafood and wonderful national parks. Stretching for 3,000 km and with plenty of salty points of interest, if you time your trip right you may be lucky enough to witness some amazing marine life who range from friendly to mildly curious.
A great way to start exploring the Eyre Peninsula, is to embark on an Adventure Bay Charters Seafood Tour and Taste walking tour through Port Lincoln Marina’s hustle and bustle. Learning about the longstanding aquaculture industry in the area will open your eyes to the special connection between the people of the land and the bountiful sea that provides them with a beautiful aspect as well as economic stability. The tour takes about 1.5 hours and you will need good walking shoes. This is the quintessential seafood trip, as it doesn’t get fresher, or more delicious than this and at the end you get to indulge in their seafood buffet. And if you have children with you, under 5-year-olds walk for free.
Crazy but true : Great White Sharks are attracted to the songs of Aussie band AC/DC. So already this adventure comes with a true blue soundtrack as you head 70km from shore, viewing dolphins and seabirds while attracting the sharks to the boat in a sustainable, burley-free way. Adventure Bay Charters will take you to your destination where you can opt for one of two ways to meet these giants of the deep: either submerge yourself in the Aquasub (the driest seat in the house, which is also suitable for kids and seniors) or brave the traditional dive cage. Either way, this experience rocks.
Surfing is just the tip of the iceberg these days as far as boarding adventures are concerned. That’s where kitesurfing, SUP’s and the crowd at Xtreme Kites and Paddle come in handy. They can tailor their lessons to suit any skill level. Lessons are longer the less you know and the more you want to try it out. For the experienced, you can also learn the next level stuff like 180 degree spins, toe side riding and surf riding. You will be the envy of all your mates as you learn to flip and bounce on the water surface using the elements of wind and waves to power your ride. And if surfing is not your bag, they offer sumo wrestling, electric skateboarding and bubble soccer/zorbing as well. They can teach at several Eyre Peninsula beaches and will determine the best location based on weather, tides and your comfort level.
Lincoln National Park is a beautiful and rugged peninsula that provides a summer haven for migrating birds, travelling from as far as Siberia. It is surrounded by the clearest of water and it’s beaches range from sheltered sandy bays such as Boston Bay to steep limestone cliffs which protect the peninsula from the Southern Ocean.
The park has loads of campsites and more than 20 walks, hikes and overnight treks to suit all levels of ability. To purchase entry and camping passes you need to pop into the Visitor Centre or you can call them on 1300 788 378. They will also give you the Lincoln Park National Bushwalking Brochure to get a good handle on where to park and hop out and how long each walk is expected to take.
A superb option if you would like to spend some time exploring is the Investigator Trail which is a long but easy walking trail comprised of a series of shorter connected trails through mallee, along beaches and coastal heath. You can in fact do the entire trail as day walks (getting to and from by car), or you can hike the trail in 4-5 days, camp along the way. The Investigator Trail incorporates beautiful coastal scenery with delightful bays, secluded beaches, sand dunes and offshore islands and the trail is careful marked so you wont get lost.
Please remember to take lots of water with you in summer as the water supply is not guaranteed.
You can start at the park entrance, or if only doing day chunks you can begin at any of the campsites or access roads along the way.
If you’re in a 4WD then head off-road to Lincoln Park’s remote Memory Cove campsite. With its pristine white-sand beach, this is a stunning excursion. Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area is a wildlife refuge and protects and preserves the flora and fauna of the area. Consequently the area is only accessible to 15 vehicles a day, via a gated track and the trip requires booking an access permit and sourcing a gate key from the Visitor information centre (which is located at 65 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln). Signposted off Lincoln National Park Access Rd, 29 km south-east of the park entrance, the journey to Memory Cove will take about 1 hour over rugged terrain.
Set amongst Lincoln National Parks eucalypt and she-oak woodlands there are a wide variety of rare birds living in the park and the coastal views from the lookouts are amazing. During winter months you may even be lucky enough to spot a whale or dolphin passing by.
Pick up a vehicle permit from the Port Lincoln Visitor Centre before heading out to this remote nature reserve. Whales Way is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on the Eyre Peninsula and has thriving populations of kangaroos and emus.
You'll soon understand why this wild spot was chosen as the filming location for the Australian version of Survivor as the rugged coastline is dotted with a series of natural crevasses and giant fissures in which deep bays and chasms have been created. The sea surges back and forth into these chasms with great dramatic effect.
A great example of this is Cape Wiles, an 100 metre high cliff that looks out on an island that has been worn away by the sea over centuries and now resembles two pyramids sitting side by side. It's even more picturesque as fur seals lounge on the base of these rocks or frolic in the surrounding surf.
Then head to Red Banks, capture a great photo of D’Anville Bayand then lay out a picnic blanket and enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sunset. You can stay overnight in the bushcamp at Red Banks - it's basic but perfectly sited.
Mikkira Station is an amazing place to visit or to camp overnight as you camp amongst trees that are home to wild koalas. Other wildlife, kangaroos, emus and all manner of bird life live at Mikkira station as well and so you get to camp amongst them all in their natural environment. In addition, from April during winter months, tiny native orchids can be found on the walk that takes you out to the giant Yakkas.
To visit this off-track koala haven, you will need to get a permit from the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre prior to arrival. Situated just 30k from town on Fishery Bay Rd, you can pitch a tent or park at the non-powered sites and utilise the shower and bathroom facilities as well. But please remember you can bring your own wood burning cooking facilities over the winter months (as the fire risk in summer is too high) but from November it's gas cooking only, and only after rainfall.
Travelling in the outback without seizing the opportunity to feed a kangaroo is simply not an option if you are travelling with kids. Thankfully you can stop in at Glen Forest vineyard and petting zoo. It’s very kid friendly with plenty of interaction with the animals, from kangaroos to water buffalo. You can also enjoy a round of mini golf on their 18 hole facility or try out the Segways fitted with off road wheels to maximise your tour of the facilities. The neighbouring Lincoln Estate vineyard does a tasty Sauvignon Blanc and offer tours for those who have booked in advance.
There’s no grim history behind the Coffin Bay name, and the scenery is mind blowingly beautiful, so stopping at Coffin Bay and nearby Golden Island is a must do. Sunscreen, a book, a blanket, some snacks and drinks are all that’s needed to get the most out this place.
The white sand and the aquamarine sea will make you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life, so stretch out for a snooze or take your time and walk along the beach. The surf here isn’t threatening but the sea current - the clash of two seas - and rocky landing can make for a tricky swim, so use Coffin Bay as a fantastic area to bask in the surroundings and then head off to the nearby lagoon at Golden Island for a swim or for snorkelling.
Just follow the boardwalk from the Golden Island Lookout carpark, walk along the beach and about 200 metres around the point (accessed at low tide) in a westerly direction is the lagoon. This spot makes for a great place to see protected marine life such as blue groper and various other reef fish species. Entry is free.
Whilst in Coffin Bay, you must sample the fare they are world famous for - oysters. And as far as seafood restaurants go Coffin Bay’s 1802 Oyster Bar and Bistro is pretty great. With over 12 ways of preparing oysters, 1802 will have you relaxed and nourished in their cool ‘surf and turf’ setting. Their extensive menu also offers the best of local seafood and a great selection of wines. The view from your chair into Kellidie Bay and the inlet is equally satisfying and outdoor seating offers full coverage from the sun so while your meal is cooking, you don’t. Whilst this is fabulous for any seafood connoisseur (70% of dishes on offer are seafood) there are also plenty of tasty land-based dishes to satisfy all foodies.
Described as one of the “most reliable” places to catch Australian salmon, Locks Well Beach is your best bet if you’re wanting to hook a mighty big fish on your road trip. This popular fisherman’s bay is only accessible by a steep 288- step staircase which can be a little challenging on the walk back to the car especially if you’ve managed to catch an 8 kg salmon!
This beach is also a great lookout point across the rugged Eyre Peninsula coastline and a prime spot to watch the sunset. The surf here is rough so don’t come if you’re wanting to swim or surf.
Is there anything more magical than being able to play with our mammalian friends at sea? And when you come to Baird Bay, you get the opportunity to do exactly that with Eco Certified Nature Tourism Operators - Ocean Eco Experience in Baird Bay. Their tour enables you to swim for up to 4 hours with both sea lions and dolphins for the one price. Tours leave either 9:30 am or 1 pm, depending on your schedule, and take you to two scenic destinations. The sea lion swim is in an environment close to their island home and with relatively shallow water it is perfect for younger humans or less confident swimmers. The open water swim with the dolphins is definitely for the more experienced, however, tour guides are in the water to assist at all times. There is no feeding to lure the dolphins and sea lions, just a relationship built over years between Alan and Trish and the resident sea lions and dolphins of Baird Bay.
Depending on the time of year you come to South Australia will impact on whether you join Rob and Simone Keogh for winter whale watching based in Fowlers Bay, or if you are adventuring in the spring, summer or autumnal months, don’t be too disappointed as you can relax in their capable hands, and join their Streaky Bay based fine dining degustation cruise. Delight in the likes of Venus Bay Prawns, Kinkawooka Mussels and Port Lincoln Bluefin Tuna, paired with delicious local wines, all whilst cruising the beautiful bays of the Eyre Peninsula. The trip takes about 4 hours and departs from Streaky Bay Jetty. Snorkels masks and towels are also provided.
Did you know a curve or recess in a coastline, river, or other geographical feature is called a bight? And the Eyre Peninsula is part of the largest bight on earth. For a view like no other, the scenic flight tours offered at Ceduna Airport with Chinta Air is the only way to truly appreciate the Great Australian Bight. Besides landmarks like the 350 feet high Bunda Cliffs, Oyster farms and surf beaches, another treasure during the Winter months is the chance to sight the 100+ southern right whales that spawn here.
Ceduna Arts Centre is the perfect place to appreciate Aboriginal art and artists as it has an impressive collection of works and artefacts, illustrating the influence of the landscape on indigenous artists. Their use of traditional Aboriginal painting techniques, colours and imagery are unique to Australia’s Outback and unique to the area. Purchasing some of the artwork here, whether it be a didgeridoo, ceramics or a canvas for your wall at home, helps fund not only the artists but enables the centre to continue as a place of learning and as a community meeting point for the Indigenous people of Ceduna.
Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris cover so many different options it will be hard to decide which one to choose. However, it’s absolutely worth the stop so that you can experience staying overnight in their Kangaluna glamping (glamourous-camping) or swagon site. Their luxury glamping is an experience in itself with mattress beds, wooden floor verandahs, private bathroom facilities and candlelit, outdoor dinners (with wine), beneath the stars. The Swagon is a renovated wagon where you can sleep in a swag bed directly underneath a sea of stars. You can opt for one of their varied tour options, or tailor your adventure by prior arrangement. This is a great way to see many of the listed Eyre Peninsula highlights with expert guides on hand. An Advanced Ecotourism Certified Business, Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris campsite is based in the open mallee woodland and is home to hundreds of bird species and to a range of native animals, who continue to pass through on their original trails through the campsite. What a magic way to live and breath the Australian outback.
Step back in time through the mouth of a Giant Prehistoric Ripper Lizard! The region’s discovery of these, recently extinct, creatures has become an icon for the area and a great place to start the centre’s “tunnel of time” walk. You will be transported back to the creation of the Flinders Range and the Outback, follow the Dreamtime stories and hear about the settlers; from the outback pioneers, bullockies, to miners and modern day residents. Learn about the flying doctors and try your hand at an old switchboard. The walk is only 10 mins but the captivating stories will ensure you’re an expert by the end and you can easily spend hours here. Finish this tour with a sit-down and a taste of the native quandong (wild peach) cheesecake at the Outback Tuckerbox Cafe.
If you’re travelling on the Eyre Peninsula between May and August then you need to grab your snorkel and stop in Whyalla to check out one of the world’s most mysterious and spectacular sealife gatherings. During mating season, between 15,000 and 200,00 giant cuttlefish swarm off the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. These curious creatures are known for some sneaky courting practices. Males will often change colour and even impersonate the colouring of a female cuttlefish to encourage their mates to come out from the rocky hiding places.
You’ll have a front-row seat to this most unusual show just a few meters out from the ramp at Stony Point. Cuttlefish are extremely passive so you should be able to get within a meter of them. But just remember you’re on their turf, so be respectful to these wild animals - watch but please don’t disturb them.
Previously a shipbuilding town, HMAS Whyalla was the first ship to built at the Whyalla yard in 1941 and she continued sea work up until her 1988 return. She now sits like a proverbial fish out of water at the town’s Visitor Centre and Maritime Museum, providing visitors an insight into what life at sea was like during the war. The guided tour is hosted by local historian aficionados, whose knowledge on the HMAS Whyalla’s engineering and heritage will blow you away.
Banner Photo Credit: National Parks South Australia