A Breath of Fresh Eyre! We visit Australia’s Seafood Frontier- the wonderful Eyre Peninsula
Photo credit: (SATC) John White, Paul Kowalkski, Robert Lang, Don Fuchs and Jane Archibald
We recently found ourselves touring the coastline of the Eyre Peninsula for the third time in as many years. Something tells us that we must be quite fond of the place! But what is it that keeps bringing us back? Is it the amazing coastline? The great fishing? The fresh seafood? Or is it the friendly people that the Eyre Peninsula seems to have plenty of? After debating this question with my partner we couldn’t really pinpoint one single reason- it was unanimous that it must be a little of all the above!
The Eyre Peninsula, for those who aren’t familiar with its location- it’s the little triangle of land in the middle of South Australia’s south coast.
The peninsula makes a perfect place to spend a few weeks offering something for everyone and best of all it’s an easy spot to add to your travel itinerary. Mainly because it’s located just to the west of Port Augusta and an easy diversion once you complete the Nullarbor heading east. With so much packed into the peninsula you can see why each year, thousands of tourists and travellers decide a trip to the Eyre is a must! You will find that April and May are particularly busy months on the Eyre Peninsula because a lot of travellers decide to tour the area before heading due north to escape the cooler winter months of the south.
The official eastern ‘gateway’ to the Eyre Peninsula is the thriving seaside town of Whyalla, commonly known for being the home of OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks (formerly BHP). There is no doubt about it; Whyalla is quite obviously an industrial town with an important heritage. Originally established as shipping port to transport Iron Ore from the many mines in the area, the town of Whyalla has grown into a major retail service hub providing lots of activities to keep visitors busy and of course satisfying the inquisitive minds of tourists with a range of tours, museums and galleries. A perfect example of ‘must do tour’ is the tour through the OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks where you can learn how Iron Ore is transformed into over 90 grades of steel. As a part of the tour you can also see other aspects of production such as the casting of steel, the blast furnace and see how railway lines are made. These tours are very popular and I would suggest you book your spot. As the lifeblood of Whyalla, a tour through the steel works would really be a shame to miss.
We particularly loved the foreshore area of Whyalla which has recently had major improvement works done and is now a great little spot to take the kids. A popular activity for locals and tourists alike was to go “raking for crabs”, this was the first I had ever heard of “raking”. Basically you walk out on the beach at low tide into ankle deep water and use a rake to catch and scoop blue swimmer crabs hiding in the seaweed. Even if you didn’t catch any, it’s still a lot of fun!
During your visit to Whyalla, make sure you pay a visit to the former HMAS Whyalla, the first ship ever built at the local shipyards. Take the tour inside the ship and visit the Maritime Museum whilst you are there. This place is an absolute hit with kids especially as its home to one of Australia’s largest HO scale model railways with over 400m of track. Toot! Toot!
Travelling further south you will come across the seaside hamlets of Cowell, Arno Bay, Port Neil and the picturesque Tumby Bay (one of our personal favourite spots).
Cowell, a little over 100kms from Whyalla is home to the famous Franklin Harbour. A huge natural harbour that has developed a reputation for being a fantastic fishing haven with a huge variety of saltwater delights being caught within its the calm waters which keeps keen fishermen coming back time and time again. A great little day trip is south to historic Port Gibbon and out to the little country town of Cleve.
The next little village we visit is Arno Bay, many refer to it as “snapper and Kingfish heaven”, yes another fishermen’s paradise! But, even if you aren’t one keen on wetting a line, Arno Bay is a peaceful and relaxing spot where a leisurely walk on the jetty or beach can also consume your time quite effectively. There is a fantastic caravan park in Arno Bay with access to the jetty at the rear gate- we spent a few days in Arno Bay and our son loved trying his luck at catching the blue swimmer crabs and I dabbled with my squid jigs and tried my luck for a squid or two. I have to admit, we did get a few feeds of freshly caught squid- there is definitely an art to cleaning them though, and if not done right it can get messy.
The local hotel in Arno Bay is definitely worth a visit for a good counter meal and the local café does a great morning tea. If you are feeling like taking a stroll, the mangrove boardwalk is a popular activity for many. Along the boardwalk, you literally walk above the mangroves, mud flats and small tributaries of the creek, a few jetties along the way allow great opportunities for some more fishing.
Approximately 50kms north of Port Lincoln is the very popular town of Tumby Bay, this gem of a spot really impressed us when we called in for lunch last time. On a typical sunny day, the ocean was calm and the jetty sat proudly over the water which was a deep blue colour usually only seen in holiday brochures. Such a magnificent view, complimented by a foreshore area that is obviously something the locals are proud of. For the kids, there is a fantastic playground and plenty of picnic tables, bbq’s and toilets- a lot of shade is provided by the many pine trees.
Again, there is another great caravan park in town for you to park your RV or camper. Spend a few days to relax or perhaps take a few scenic day trips along the coast. If you are into water sports, Tumby Bay is a great spot to launch your kayak or canoe, try snorkelling or perhaps scuba diving around the group of islands just off the coast.
Next stop on our journey is to the seafood capital of Australia, home to numerous adrenalin pumping activities and the largest commercial fishing fleet in the country- yep, Port Lincoln on the southern end of the peninsula, a town known widely for its fresh seafood such as prawns, rock lobsters, farmed tuna and King George Whiting.
It was first proposed that Port Lincoln be South Australia’s official capital city, but the lack of fresh water made the choice not so viable.
Apart from the most notable seafood industry, Port Lincoln is also well known for famous attractions such as cage-diving with sharks, swimming with the tuna and swimming with the Sea lions. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can experience these kinds of activities.
Many travellers consider Port Lincoln as a perfect spot to base themselves and choose to do day trips to the many coastal and inland towns including a trip out to the stunning Lincoln and Coffin Bay National Parks which also offer designated National Park camping areas suitable for caravans where the native wildlife are plentiful. In Port Lincoln there are a few caravan parks to choose from as well as numerous hotels, motels and B&B’s and of course a few high class resorts as an option for those wanting a more luxurious stay.
For the oyster connoisseur a visit to Coffin Bay, around 30kms North West of Port Lincoln has to make it onto your list. Most of us have all heard about Coffin Bay oysters, you find them in top-class restaurants around Australia and indeed overseas. They are highly sought after due to their superb quality and taste. A plump, sweet and creamy delicacy usually fetches big dollars a dozen but when bought directly off the oyster farmers from the oyster sheds in Coffin Bay, you may be able to pick a dozen up for as little as $7- you just need to open them yourself! We of course stocked our fridge with a few dozen before we left- we love them!
Coffin Bay is another example of a humble seaside town offering plenty for the tourist and traveller. A centrally located holiday park makes for a great few nights stay within easy walking distance to the foreshore, local café and yacht club for a meal.
As our visit to the Eyre Peninsula was nearing its end, we venture north along the western coast with a visit to Elliston and Streaky Bay on the way through.
The western coastline becomes noticeably more rugged and plays host to numerous stunning cliffs and a quite a few pristine beaches too, very popular for surfing. Elliston is a great spot if you are a keen photographer or are a sucker for stunning sunsets.
Moving further north we really recommend calling into Talia Caves and take the steps down to the rock platform for a magnificent view inside the cave itself, look up at the rock formations and explore the many rock pools. Just be careful of the waves!
The towns of Venus Bay, Streaky Bay and Smoky Bay are also notable places worth checking out and of course choosing one of the numerous holiday parks to call home for a few days is a worthwhile decision.
Make sure you call past and take a walk around Murphy’s Haystacks, 40 kms south of Streaky Bay. A weird outcrop of lonely pink granite rocks that offers great photo opportunities (entry is via a donation at the gate).
One of the reasons we love the Eyre Peninsula so much is that it’s so relaxing, nothing is rushed. There are plenty of safe swimming beaches for the kids and such a variety of fishing opportunities such as rock, beach and jetty fishing. We also love the contrast of the almost arid interior to the beautiful blue ocean and white beaches. But best of all, everyone is so friendly here!
Go on, you deserve a breath of fresh Eyre too!
Some useful links to help plan your visit to the Eyre Peninsula:
Our Top 10 ‘must do’s’ on the Eyre Peninsula
- Tour the Whyalla Maritime Museum
- Grab a rake and go “raking” for blue swimmer crabs
- Visit Arno Bay and take a fishing charter and chase a big Snapper
- Take a stroll along the jetty at Tumby Bay
- Swim with the tuna at Port Lincoln (or try cage diving with sharks if your game)
- Take a drive through the Lincoln National Park to the lighthouse
- Buy some fresh oysters at Coffin Bay
- Visit Talia Caves
- Get a photo taken at Murphy’s Haystacks
- Try squidding off the Smoky Bay jetty