Writing about Eyre Peninsula is like telling somebody where you found gold, or the location of your secret fishing spot.
Here you’ll find places of unspoiled beauty that have avoided the ravages of overdevelopment. For that reason there’s a selfish instinct to keep quiet about the mighty coastal cliffs, the peaceful fishing villages, the secluded coves and the peninsula-wide buffet of delicious fresh seafood. Whoops!
Port Lincoln is the ‘capital’ of southern Eyre Peninsula, and is scenically located on the shores of glorious Boston Bay. The area is steeped in maritime history from the early days of whaling stations and windjammers, to the modern tuna fishing industry that has contributed greatly to the town’s prosperity.
Take a leisurely cruise of the waterways of Lincoln Cove Marina, aboard the eco-friendly Tesla, an electric-powered canal cruiser. This is a great way to learn about the region’s lucrative fishing industry, while drifting among the impressive real estate that reflects Port Lincoln’s wealth.
The Fresh Fish Factory Tour starts with a behind the scenes look at the processing plant, including oyster shucking, prawn peeling, and the deft skills of the whiting filleters, and ends with a tasting of fresh, local seafood.
A highlight of a trip to Port Lincoln is a face to face encounter with the Southern Ocean’s apex predator, the Great White Shark. Nothing really prepares you for the size and power of this toothy monster, as it emerges from the gloom accompanied by a fishy entourage, like a prize fighter approaching the ring for a title bout. But tucked safely behind the sturdy bars of a dive cage, you can be sure you won’t be the next contender.
For a thrill of a different kind, get among the puppies of the sea on a Swim with Sea Lions adventure. As curious as they are playful, they’re always up for a close encounter with the weird, bug-eyed strangers on their turf. The way these zippy little scamps twist and turn, surely they must be boneless. With bursts of speed of up to 40km/h, it’s probably best not to get caught up in a game of chasey.
The coastline of Eyre Peninsula is dotted with small fishing and farming communities, eking out an existence according to the seasons and the tides. On the relatively sheltered east coast is the township of Cowell, home to the only commercial jade mining operation in Australia. Further south at Arno Bay, take a stroll along a boardwalk that ventures into the strange world of the mangroves.
The peninsula’s wild west coast stares straight into the Great Australian Bight, and is blessed with so many sensational beaches and coastal features that there simply aren’t enough superlatives. And be sure to check out Murphy’s Haystacks – great lumps of granite rising up from the farmlands north of Port Kenny. South of Venus Bay, head for Woolshed Cave, Talia Caves and The Tub, where you’ll find the surf has been busy carving out grottos and sculpting the sandstone into weird and wonderful shapes.
At charming Streaky Bay, take Cape Bauer Drive around to Whistling Rocks, where surging waves force air through fissures in the cliff, creating an eerie, gasping sound like a whale with a head cold. Just south of here are the clean, crisp swells of Hallys Beach, a popular surf break.
Explorer Matthew Flinders failed to consider tourism marketers when naming places like Foul Bay, Point Avoid and Anxious Bay. Coffin Bay, however, isn’t named after a maritime mishap but as a tribute to Flinders’ friend, Isaac Coffin. The township is scenically tucked away at the end of a series of inlets, and couldn’t be more sheltered from the erratic moods of the Southern Ocean. And it’s also home to some of the tastiest oysters in the world. Don a set of waterproof waders and head out on an Oyster Farm Tour, learning all about farming practices, before climbing aboard a semi-submersible for a taste of the local product, straight from the sea. That’s about as fresh as it gets!
If Eyre Peninsula were nearer a capital city it’s quite likely that high rise hotels would cast long shadows over its gorgeous beaches, and the roads would be clogged with traffic during the summer holidays and long weekends. But this is a place that recalls tourism from an earlier age - a time when family holidays were more concerned with simple pleasures like fishing, beach combing and camping, and less about finding somewhere to recharge the kids’ phones.