The Eyre Peninsula is seductively secluded, a dream destination with fabulous seafood, unique ocean activities and spectacular scenery with hidden coves, bays and beaches, wild headlands and dramatic limestone cliffs.
With time a precious commodity, flying here is great as it’s just a 45-minute flight from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. With your hire car already in place, the brand new Sea SA vehicle/passenger ferry will be a great choice from early 2011, carrying you across the Spencer Gulf between Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula and Lucky Bay in comfort in just two hours.
However you arrive, you’ll find a coastal paradise founded on fishing and aquaculture with the seafood capital of Port Lincoln at its heart, on one of the world’s largest natural harbours.
Join the Seafood Tour and Taste of the Port Lincoln Marina, operated by Adventure Bay Charters, for an interpretive walking tour to see working fishing boats, watch a seafood harvest being unloaded, find out about local fish species and see some of them the aquarium.
As you explore you’ll discover Coffin Bay, Streaky Bay, Elliston, Venus Bay, Ceduna and Whyalla and one of the best ways to focus your travels is by following the Seafood and Aquaculture Trails. Be sure to sample the famous Coffin Bay oysters, better still, take the Coffin Bay Explorer Tour to an idyllic location where leases hold up to a billion molluscs and sample freshly shucked oysters straight from their beds.
The Eyre Peninsula also has a rich arts culture with many fine galleries. Look for Indigenous Australian art at Kuju Arts and Crafts Gallery, Port Lincoln, Coffin Bay Art and Craft Gallery and Ceduna Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Centre for example.
The outback meets the sea
With more than 2,000 kilometres of coastline to explore you may think it’s all about the ocean but the hinterland holds many attractions with hills and farmland meeting the salt lakes and craggy outcrops of the dramatic Gawler Ranges.
In essence this is a part of Australia where the Outback meets the sea and, to the west, the vast Nullarbor Plain stretches out across Western Australia crossed by the Eyre Highway.
Both the area and the highway are named after explorer John Eyre who crossed this land and followed the coast on his amazing journey from Adelaide to Albany in Western Australia, reaching the Head of Bight in 1841.
The explorer was helped by Aboriginal people and shown waterholes along the way including some in the vast Sleaford-Wanna white sand hills which you can see from the Head of Bight whale-watching platform.
In the Lincoln National Park, these dunes are said to be 6,000 years old and a great way to explore them is by 4WD – or up close on a sandboard! To the west can be seen the enormous cliffs of the Great Australian Bight, the Bunda Cliffs.
Dive with sharks, swim with sea lions
Did someone mention whale watching? This is a fantastic area for seeing all kinds of sea life including Southern Wright whales which come in great numbers in the breeding season between June and September.
Pods of dolphins also patrol the waters and love to swim with the boats – and you can swim with them in shallow water on tours in the area, too. Swimming with the weighty Southern Bluefin tuna is a thrill with tours such as Adventure Bay Charters.
Diving and snorkelling opportunities in the area include snorkelling among giant cuttlefish that spawn off the coast of Whyalla, changing colour and texture to blend with their environment which you can see between May and August.
For a thrill of a lifetime you can dive with Great White Sharks – Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions and Calypso Star Charters offer cage diving adventures to see these sharks which average 3.7 – 4.9 metres in length with females becoming larger than males.Stirring tales of Great Whites over 6 metres long fill some of us with fear but apparently these recordings are few and far between.
Colonies of seals and sea lions call this coast home and there are tours see them. At Baird Bay there’s a large colony and Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience offer the chance to swim with them on a snorkel experience with a difference.
The Gawler Ranges
The Gawler Ranges National Park conserves plants, animals and heritage sites between the Eyre Peninsula and the Gawler Ranges ranging from arid to semi desert with volcanic landscapes, gorges and spectacular weathered rocky outcrops.
Stay in style at the luxurious Kangaluna Bush Camp, part of Geoff Scholz’s Gawler Range Wilderness Safaris. The raised, ensuite tents (just three of them) are perfectly designed to make camping out a dreamy experience and there’s a telescope for star-gazing and delicious food to top it all off. If it’s all too luxurious, ask for a swag so you can sleep outside under the stars.
Tours vary from pure Outback experiences to see magnificent sights such as Lake Gardiner’s glistening white saltpan and the magnificent Organ Pipes rock, to combinations of Outback and ocean adventures.
Surf, walk, play golf
For surfing, Cactus Beach is the place to watch the waves or even join the action and if you play golf you’ll find courses at Port Lincoln, Coffin Bay, Louth Bay, Kimba, Streaky Bay and Whyalla.
You could also take up the challenge of the Nullarbor Links, the world’s longest golf course over 1,400 kilometres between the Eyre Peninsula’s Ceduna and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
Chinta Air Tours has launched a four day/three night golfing luxury package to fly to various golf holes along the course and Nullarbor Traveller has three different five-day golfing packages, with options including camping provisions, roadhouse accommodation and exclusive chartered vehicles.
If you love walking, Wilderness Wanders eight-day Walking on Eyre package is for you, exploring the highlights of the coastline, National Parks and historical places at a relaxed pace with cosy accommodation and delicious food.
Stay and eat
Self-contained apartments, villas and holiday houses are plentiful at Port Lincoln and The Port Lincoln Hotel is a 4-star resort hotel with in-house Sarins Restaurant & Bar.
Local cafes and restaurants feature local food ,especially seafood, but there’s more as you’ll discover at eateries such as the Oysterbeds Good Food House. With views across Coffin Bay this restaurant serves up delicious fusion menus with a great emphasis on local produce including beef, free rangepork from the renown Miniribbie Farm, Tumby Bay lamb, locally made feta cheese, olives, pistachios, almonds, honey and fresh herbs and vegetables.
Discover arrange of produce at Lincoln Goodies at Port Lincoln with gourmet food, light lunches and take-home meals and check out restaurants such as award-winning Del Giorno’s Café Restaurant, also in Port Lincoln
The welcoming towns around the Peninsula have cafes, fish shops and a range of stores and restaurants – try farmed kingfish at the Watersedge Restaurant, Whyalla; fresh local tastes at Cowell Commercial Hotel, a la carte at the Anchor Bar and Bistro at the Streaky Bay Motel; seafood chowder and sashimi tuna at the Moorings, Port Lincoln; abalone at Mocean Café, Streaky Bay.
Keep tasting and discovering , it won’t be long before you feel as at home here as the locals do.
Written by Alison Plummer on behalf of Tourism Australia. This article is copyright free and may be reproduced.