The coastal way drive around Yorke Peninsula is one of South Australia’s finest. With more than 700 kms of coastline, it’s a sandy playground packed with adventure, selfie vistas, fine fare, walks, stunning sea life and amazing coastlines. In fact there is a thing called, ‘Walk The Yorke’, where you can explore the whole peninsula by foot from Port Wakefield to Moonta Bay. It’s a 500km trail of effort (and achievement) or you can get on and off at various points all the way around. We’ve suggested a few places to stretch your legs, and horizons, along the way on this road trip.
If seeing birds from as far as Siberia or Alaska sounds interesting then this bird sanctuary is a must stop. Adelaide’s International Bird Sanctuary is one of the key feeding and roosting sites for migratory birds, who can pass through up to 22 countries. The sanctuary, which is in Winaityinaityi Pangkara National Park, covers 60km of coastline providing lots of space for more than five million migrating birds - and 27,000 locals. Red-necked stints, plovers, sandpipers, turnstones and godwits all pass through and the sanctuary protects endangered species too like the Eastern Curlew. Thompson’s Beach is the best way to get into the sanctuary if you want to see as many birds as possible, an hour from Adelaide.
Ardrossan is known for its jetty fishing, blue swimmer crabs and imposing red cliffs. It's also home to the Stump Jump Plough and the museum pays tribute to this ingenious implement, housed in the original plough factory. There’s lots of information on shipwrecks in the area and there’s a whale display from the 2014 Parara Beach whale beaching in the museum. And just to the south of town, a memorial can be found to pay repsects to the tragedy.
After the beaching of seven whales at Parara in 2014, locals established a memorial to mark the tragic event. Seven boulders were chosen in various sizes to represent each whale, with their respective sizes marked on the name plaques of each boulder. After paying your respects, explore the rest of Parara Beach, which boasts some great cafes, pubs and retail shops for those wanting a day of browsing, good food and taking in the sights.
The Ardrossan Lookout provides a phenomenal birds-eye view of the town, the coast and the extensive impact the dolomite quarry and silos have had on the region. Accessible by car and caravan just south of Ardrossan on the coast road, there is nothing stopping you from stopping and enjoying the glorious views, and sneaking a look at what's happening in the mine.
The attractive and peaceful bay of Port Vincent, with a marina at the northern end, provides a safe harbour for yachties, boaties, kayakers and SUP lovers. Kids of all ages love playing in the crystal clear waters and swimming out to the pontoon followed by a treat of ice-cream or hot donuts or fish & chips on the beach, of course. The local kayak shop has plenty of kayaks and SUPs for hire.
Part of Walk the Yorke, the walking trail at Port Vincent takes you through hidden oasis, to cliff tops and passes granite boulders deposited by moving ice sheets 2.7 million years ago. Begin in central Port Vincent, on the foreshore or one of the trailheads on Marina Parade and you can loop back in two hours.
Situated on the 'foot' of the peninsula, Marion Bay is the gateway to Innes National Park. With surf, secluded rock pools, and a variety of fishing this bay is known as Angler’s Delight. There can be fantastic hauls of King George whiting, garfish, tommy ruff, mulloway and even salmon right off the beach.
After all the action of Marian Bay, you might need to replenish the system. Stop off for flavoursome wood oven pizzas at this classic tavern.
Innes National Park’s a must-do on your Yorke Peninsula itinerary. Get amongst this awe-inspiring national park that delivers striking seascapes (some of the best of Yorke), shipwrecks, a host of walking trails from 30 minute strolls to four-hour treks, and plenty of wildlife to entertain you. The Park is a favourite for camping, fishing and surfing and is accessible by 2WD, so ideal for day visits. It's a paradise for beach lovers too. Park entry fees apply.
Situated around the headland from Marion Bay beach, this family friendly stretch of beach can be accessed via the walkway across the headland from Marion Bay, or any number of the paths cutting through the sand dunes. Although the sand is not the whitest on the peninsula, it still offers everything you need for a summer’s day down the beach - or brisk winter walk.
This 200 metre long jetty is well worth the jaunt to the end. Years ago horse drawn wagons used to clip clop to the jetty carrying gypsum out to ships. Now’s it’s a terrific place to fish from and jump off.
If one lighthouse wasn’t enough, then there’s another option on the west coast. This lighthouse is also a working one, with rugged cliffs and epic views of West Cape, Pondalowie Bay and Marion Bay Township to boot. It takes around 40 minutes to walk through Innes National Park to get to this unusual stainless steel lighthouse, sitting pretty at the westernmost point of Yorke Peninsula, but the cliff top views once you get there will make it oh-so worth it.
Built in 1876, the Ethel was a 711-tonne, three-masted iron ship. She ran aground in a storm while en route to South Africa in January 1904. One man drowned as he tried to swim ashore with a rescue line, but the rest of the crew reached land safely. The storm drove the ship onto the beach above the low tide mark, where it remained intact for many years. The hull finally collapsed in the mid-1980s, but there is still plenty to see, with many large pieces of rusted iron jutting from the sand, clearly marking the ship’s outline. The boiler of a second wreck, The Ferret, lies stranded in the surf about 50 metres away.
It’s a catchy phrase, ‘Walk the Yorke’, and another great place to see part of this trail is at Gleeson. This one’s a big day walk - 20.5 km from Gleesons Landing to Corny Point - that’s less corny but beautiful once you get there. Corny Point was named by Captain Flinders in 1802 as it looks like a corn growth on the toe of the Yorke Peninsula.
Located in the historic General Store, built in 1889, the Minlaton Museum is the place to be if you are fascinated by early settler history and local experiences. Most famous is the room dedicated to celebrated local World War One pilot, Captain Harry Butler. Learn about his story and get a peep at his Red Devil monoplane which is on display in a glass hangar. It’s said he was inspired by his mum’s chickens to learn how to fly… And the rest, as they say, is history.
For a town that claims to be the barley capital of the world, it’s hard to believe that until recently there were no breweries in Minlaton. Watsacowie Brewery is here to change that, opening at the beginning of 2018 to the delight of local and travelling beer buffs. With their locally-produced ales only being available to purchase from the cellar door, Watsacowie attracts huge crowds for their regular Sunday sessions with pizza and live music. Beer, pizza and music… Sounds like a winning combo to us.
To get more in the spirit of locally-created greatness, head to Harvest Corner Art & Craft, where you will find all the best art, craft and produce from Minlaton and the wider Yorke Peninsula. Run by volunteers and providing a platform from which local artists and artisans can sell their work, you’ll come out of this place feeling inspired to channel your own inner crafter. Browse through the gallery before tucking into a piece of homemade cake and a cup of tea in the adjacent tea rooms.