Ever wanted to visit South Australia’s iconic Eyre Peninsula? Here’s our pick of top outdoor adventures you won’t want to miss.
1. Snorkel with giant cuttlefish
Every winter at False Bay, divers and snorkelers take the plunge to witness thousands of giant cuttlefish performing a startling mating spectacle. Flaunting ever-changing colours and patterns in shimmering displays, these Australian Giant Cuttlefish compete for mating rights over a much smaller gathering of females – and this is only place in the Spencer Gulf to see it.
The cuttlefish are amongst the largest in the world, measuring around 60cm and weighing up to 5kgs. To witness the spectacle, arrive between May and August and explore the bay just west of the Point Lowly lighthouse. A great nearby base to park the rig is at Fitzgerald Bay Bush Camp, which stretches along a unique shingle beach shoreline for 4km.
There are toilets and drinking water at the bay’s northern end, and nearby Point Lowly has a boat ramp and a campground with wheelchair accessible toilets, cold water showers, a picnic shelter, playground, drinking water and an RV dump point ($8 per night, payable on site, maximum 14-day stay).
To get there, turn off the Lincoln Highway (B100) 65km south of Port Augusta onto Fitzgerald Bay road and follow the signs. If you go, don’t forget your fishing rods. Fitzgerald Bay’s enviable angling list includes salmon, snapper, tommy ruff, kingfish, garfish, blue swimmer crabs and the razorfish and cockles that are easily gathered in the shallows off the beach.
2. Sand dunes and sea lions
The wild seas that wrap around the windswept tip of the Eyre Peninsula break onto a vastly contrasting coastline of monstrous sand hills, ravaged limestone cliffs and arcing, white-sand beaches. National parks on both sides of the peninsula provide incredible wilderness escapes: Coffin Bay to the west, and Lincoln National Park on a bay three times the size of Sydney Harbour.
In Lincoln National Park you can set up camp beside the sea at Fishermans Point or September Bay, or load up the 4WD and navigate sandy tracks to spend time at the secluded Memory Cove Wilderness. Travelling south across the park, conventional vehicles can safely reach Wanna’s huge wave of sand dunes, gradually marching inland to cover old growth coastal mallee, eucalypt and tea-tree woodland. A lookout on the edge of Wanna Dunes takes in sea views of granite outcrops and steep, limestone cliffs carved by endless southern swells.
Further still, a 4WD-only track leads across the dunes to Mary Ellis Wreck Beach, but if you don’t want to brave the steep, shifting dunes, simply exit the park and head south to the spot where this wrecked wooden sailing ketch has lain since 1907. If you go, don’t miss a trip to Taylor’s Landing, an idyllic swimming spot tucked in the lee of Taylor Island with a gorgeous white-sand beach and shallow, see-through seas favoured by curious sea lions.
3. Kayak Coffin Bay
On the opposite side of the peninsula, sheltering an extensive system of calm water channels and tranquil inlets is Coffin Bay, home to some of the best oysters in the country. It’s an idyllic seaside haven that swells its population every summer when South Australians stake out their salty beach shacks and spend sunny days paddling, fishing and sailing.
Protecting a rugged coastline of overhanging sea cliffs and sheltered blue bays, Coffin Bay National Park begins on the outskirts of town. Much of the park is 4WD-only, but conventional vehicles can reach some great spots on the park’s eastern edge. If you go, base yourself at Yangie Bay campground and don’t miss the chance to launch a kayak at Yangie Bay, discover the drifting Coffin Bay Dunes at Almonta Beach and adventure off-road to Point Sir Isaac, spotting western grey kangaroos and emus en route.
4. Catch Lipson Cove’s salmon run
The barely rippling sea suddenly explodes as dolphins hunting blue salmon trigger a seagull feeding frenzy. Back on the beach it takes mere minutes to reel in our first catch of salmon and our easiest seafood dinner ever is devoured at sunset, our feet dug into the sand on one of South Australia’s prettiest beaches.
The big attraction at Lipson Cove, signposted off the Lincoln Highway, 290km south of Port Augusta, might be its lovely bay, just perfect for paddling. Or perhaps it’s Lipson’s tiny offshore island that you can walk to at low tide. Or maybe the cliff top walking trail that leads scenically south.
Lipson Cove is a top place to camp with big designated sites that suit just about everyone, no camping fees and no time limits on your stay. Pets and generators are welcome and there are toilets, fire pits and rubbish bins, which will suit self-sufficient travellers looking for somewhere to kick back and relax.
5. Sea Caves and haystacks
Descending a timber staircase to the base of Talia Caves, we find ourselves staring into the cavernous mouth of The Woolshed, gouged out of the cliffs by unrelenting waves and pockmarked with a honeycombed ceiling filled with swallow nests. The nearby Tub tests our flexibility more, calling on us to climb down into a collapsed crater cave 50m in diameter then push through a narrow tunnel to reach the sea.
Close by, dominating a hilltop surrounded by flaxen wheat fields, a strange scattering of giant pink boulders and pillars pique the curiosity of passers-by. These huge granite inselbergs (German for ‘island mountains’) are Murphy’s Haystacks – formed from 1500-million-year-old pink Hiltaba granite and sculpted by the winds that howl across the hill. A $2 donation gains you access to the site, which you’ll invariably explore with your neck craned upwards!
FEATURED DESTINATION: COFFIN BAY NATIONAL PARK
An off-road paradise on the Eyre Peninsula
- Isolated, remote camping requiring total self-sufficiency at Black Springs on Port Douglas Bay, Morgans landing at the end of Seven Mile Beach, The Pool near Point Sir Isaac and Sensation Beach
- Thrilling 4WD tracks over soft sand and undulating dunes, offering incredible views over the Southern Ocean
- Surf fishing at Sensation Beach
- Drive on Seven Mile Beach (low tide only)
- Incredible wildlife including pods of dolphins and mobs of roos
The Technical Nitty-Gritty:
- When driving on soft sand be sure to drop tyre pressure to 15psi. It’s safer to drive on low tyre pressure than to perform a beach recovery on a bogged vehicle
- Take a quality recovery kit including snatch strap, Maxtrax (or similar) and, of course, a trusty shovel
- Be sure your caravan or camper trailer is up to the task with quality, heavy-duty suspension like AL-KO’s Enduro Outback
- A standard 50mm ball coupling is not adequate for this kind of off-road driving. Travelling over undulating sandy terrain requires a reliable off-road coupling with 360-degree articulation, like AL-KO’s Off Road Coupling
- Be mindful of the tides at all times and plan beach driving around low tide. Pick up a tide chart or try an app like Willyweather
- For self-sufficient camping, be sure to check your water tanks and gas bottles are full. You’ll need at least 3L of water per person, per day, not including showers