It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the Eyre Peninsula, but it remains one of my favourite road trips in South Australia. It was memorable for many reasons, the spectacular coastline and national parks, the sumptuous seafood and even the ferocious wind squall that blew up at midnight. As we discovered, windstorms are common around Port Lincoln, coming in from the Southern Ocean, but fortunately there’s more bounty than storms in these waters.
We started our trip in Melbourne and spent our first night in Keith before passing through Adelaide and heading towards Port Augusta and Whyalla. From there the traffic eased on this lonely highway which leads to the Eyre Peninsula.
Port Germein was our second stop, with a roadside visit to the distinctly Australian “Harrys Homemade” on the way a must. Here you can pick up fresh fruit and veggies, homemade chutneys, and everything from kangaroo burgers to fresh oysters. We enjoyed our fresh oysters that night at the Port Germein Caravan Park, located across the road from the port. Port Germein is famous for having the largest wooden jetty in South Australia. It’s a mile long and a great walk at dusk or early morning.
From Port Germein we passed through Cowell with its beautifully preserved heritage buildings. From Cowell to Port Gibbon, Arno Bay and Tumby Bay there are plenty of seaside places to stop and take in the views. Picturesque Tumby Bay features a heap of colourful art murals, a massive painted silo, and in July hosted the Adelaide Guitar Festival, filling local venues with talented guitarists from all over South Australia.
With Coffin Bay booked out for our summer stay Mount Dutton Bay was our next destination. It’s off the beaten track, a quiet and secluded area. Taking centre stage is the historic Woolshed, built in 1875 which has been converted into a museum/art gallery and café. The camping area next door is unpowered, but it has toilets and showers, with minimal fees and prime water views. The best bit is the location, right across the road from the Mount Dutton Bay jetty.
The heritage listed jetty is picture postcard material. It’s the best place to watch the swarms of coloured fish and starfish during the day and to soak up the incredible sunsets as flocks of geese flew by nightly, their wings silhouetted in the pink and orange horizon.
Just up the road is Farm Beach, one of the most popular swimming beaches in the area. Nearby is Little Douglas Beach, which is less well known and other remote and secluded surf beaches such as Frenchmans.
Coffin Bay is fifteen minutes from Dutton Bay and is world renowned for its oysters. It’s surrounded by national and conservation parks, has pristine beaches and heaps of activities to enjoy. We bought oysters fresh from the boat, swam off the pier in town, ate fish and chips on the foreshore and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this picturesque coastal town.
In the town centre, fishing boats unload their catches of crayfish, pilchards and sharks. Fishermen haul in octopus, scallops, crabs, King George whiting and garfish and at the main boat ramp the oyster boats return daily with baskets of the famous Coffin Bay oysters.
Seafood lovers can get in on the action at the Coffin Bay Oyster Farm tour. It’s the only tour in the world where you wade to a working oyster farm, sit in the water and taste fresh Pacific and native Angasi oysters fresh out of the sea.
Out of the water there’s some seriously fun four- wheel driving to be enjoyed with a track which crosses the sand dunes to Gunyah Beach. The ultimate trip heads to the Point Sir Isaacs at the tip of the Coffin Bay Peninsula. We went half-way, to Seven Mile Beach and enjoyed a swim on this stunning white beach, which we had all to ourselves.
Another beach worth visiting is Gallipoli Beach where the 1980’s movie Gallipoli was filmed. The name has stuck and like its namesake the 250m long beach is backed by steep 30-metre-high bluffs.
Port Lincoln is 49kms from Dutton Bay and was our next destination. The town lies on Boston Bay, one of the largest protected natural harbours in the world and three times the size of Sydney Harbour. It’s a friendly place with a lovely welcoming vibe. As you come into town don’t miss the sweeping and spectacular views from Winter Hill Lookout, located off the Flinders Highway.
We stayed at the Port Lincoln Tourist Park with plenty of spacious sites and beautiful views of the bay. Close by in town there’s loads of dining options with six pubs to choose from, a good thing as we arrived on New Year’s Eve and the place was buzzing.
The Marina Hotel has prime views on the Lincoln Cove Marina, near where the tour boats leave. The Pier Hotel is a favourite with the locals with a spectacular view of the bay and cosy open fires for chilly nights, only to be surpassed by the view from the Port Lincoln Hotel. There’s also The Great Northern on the main street back off the water as well as the Boston Hotel which is where we ended up. The food, drinks and ambience all lived up to its great reputation as we savoured our meal in the sweeping lawned alfresco area that leads directly onto the foreshore Boston Bay.
Fancy coming eye to eye with a great white shark? Port Lincoln is the only place in Australia where you can cage dive with great white sharks off the Neptune Islands. Or for something tamer, how about a swim with the ever-playful sea lions, the puppies of the sea? There are plenty of tour companies, including Calypso Star Charters, who offer the ultimate up close and personal ocean adventure.
Tip: Filter Things to Do using Campermate’s maps to find activities and points of interest on your Eyre Peninsula escape.
The adjoining Lincoln National Park boasts some of the most scenic coastline in South Australia with loads of hiking, fishing, swimming, photography, and bush camping on offer. Conventional vehicles can access many of the sights right up to Spalding Cove and September Beach. There are plenty of secluded camping spots including Surfleet Cove, with six sites for tents or camper trailers and 12 drive through caravan/motorhome sites, all on a first in first served basis.
The jewel in the crown of Lincoln National Park is Memory Cove Protection Area, a tiny, secluded beach nestled at the southern end of the park. To maintain the special wilderness qualities of this area, access is restricted to 15 vehicles a day. We were lucky enough, on our visit, to secure the last key.
Once through the gate at Memory Cove the road becomes more corrugated and the wildlife is prolific. There’s emus, wallabies, goannas and eagles overhead. It’s a slow drive in and takes about an hour to cover the 20kms from the locked gate to Memory Cove but once there you’ll feel as though you’ve found a private piece of paradise.
The bay is magnificent, a pure white sandy beach, cradled between densely vegetated headlands, red coloured rocks and aqua blue waters. Whether you’re staying overnight (the limited campsites need to be pre booked) or visiting for the day as we were, this off-the-grid location is truly special. The Visitor Information Centre in Port Lincoln can organise all permits.
Outside of Memory Cove, four-wheel drivers can hit the tracks of the vast Sleaford-Wanna sand dune system for some of the best sand dune driving in the Peninsula. The track has massive wind-sculpted sand dunes, pounding surf and rugged limestone cliffs. For a stunning view without getting off road head to Wanna lookout.
The Eyre Peninsula is a breath of fresh air. There are few crowds and the minimal signage gives little indication of what lies off the highway. Perhaps the locals want to keep this secret to themselves – a rugged, weathered coastline with rocky outcrops and sheer cliffs tumbling into the pounding surf and white sand dunes bookending wide, open beaches. This larger-than-life coastline is truly spectacular. It’s Australia’s seafood frontier and home to raging surf, sharks, succulent seafood, and the occasional windstorm. I’d go back in a heartbeat, if it wasn’t so far.