If I thought South Australia’s beaches were beautiful during the first part of this trip, well these two peninsulas certainly blew my expectations! I had thought we’d be waiting for Western Australia before we hit the turquoise water and fine white sand, but I was wrong! Honestly, South Australia’s pristine beaches may just be this country’s best kept secret. And the best part? THERE IS NOBODY ON THEM! Seriously!!! For much of this part of the trip, we had entire beaches and rockpools all to ourselves.
The Eyre Peninsula was always on the itinerary for this road trip – but we’d never even heard of the Yorke Peninsula until a day or so before we left. If you’re not familiar with either, grab a map of Australia and look for it’s boot (a bit like the shape of Italy) – that’s the Yorke Peninsula. The Eyre Peninsula is just to the west of it, and Michael thinks it looks a bit like our country’s vagina. Go on, have a look at the map. You found it didn’t you!!
I’ll write on these areas from east to west, which is how it should be done when traveling from Melbourne to Perth – although it is not at all how we did it. We actually ended up backtracking to revisit parts that we’d skipped over once we realised we weren’t getting to WA because of the bushfires – more on that drama in my next post!
We skipped straight past this peninsula on our first trip through SA, and I’ll be honest, from the top on the peninsula, it didn’t look like much to see. But once we hit the coast, we quickly realised why those who know this region love it. With only 5 days to spare, we based ourselves right down south in Innes National Park, but we did manage to see a couple of beaches on our journey down the leg of the boot.
This was quite a busy little area, with what looked like a very popular caravan park and a beach that you can drive on – so we drove the camper down and cooked ourselves some prawns for lunch. The water here was shallow and sooooo warm. Aside from the view of an industrial conveyor belt, it was a perfect beach. This one was Michael’s favourite beach visit of the whole trip.
Innes National Park.
Pondalowie Bay. We parked our little home at the Pondalowie Bay campground for 4 nights – our longest stay so far on this trip. This is a popular fishing spot and even has a rundown old fishing village where you can rent out “rustic” shacks right on the beach. We were spolit with emus and also spotted our first snake which resulted in me refusing to use the bathroom between dusk and dawn…
The beach right in front of the camgpround was very sea grassy, but if you continue walking along the beach, away from the fishing village, you come to the Pondalowie surf break which is much cleaner and popular with both surfers and boogie boarders.
Shelly Beach. The highlight of this beach is the huge natural swimming pool. It’s not visible from the beach – to find it you need to walk to the far end of the sand and climb over the rocks. The rocks are a bit sharp and we didn’t wear shoes, so the climb in was much harder than it needed to be, but even Flynnie managed to climb in the whole way. The water in the pool was FREEZING, but given it was 40 degrees the day we visited, I didn’t mind.
Dolphin Bay. We cooked our dinner and drove it down to the beautiful Dolphin Bay at sunset where we had the whole beach to ourselves. The beautiful colours of the setting sun, the rising moon, turquoise water and orange rocks were just stunning. The boys had a climb, Michael and I had a wine and we all loved it so much that we came back for a swim the following day.
Inneston. After 40 degrees the day before, the temperature dropped dramatically and it poured rain all morning, so we had to find non-beachy activities to keep ourselves entertained. Innes National Park is home to an abandoned old gypsum mining town. There’s a walking trail that takes you on a historic tour of the ghost town and some of the old buildings have been restored and turned into accommodation – which I personally found incredibly creepy and was much happier with our camper, despite the extreme weather.
The boys really enjoyed climbing all over the rust old mining equipment and to be honest I was just glad we made it out without anyone needed a tetanus shot! This walk was manageable with young kids, and there’s also a longer version you can do if you’re not travelling with a 1 and 3 year old.
Cape Spencer Lighthouse. The point you see us at in this photo is as close as we actually got to the lighthouse, so I really don’t have much to say besides it was a nice photo opportunity.
Marion Bay. Just outside the entrance to Innes National Park, is the tiny village of Marion Bay. Consisting of a jetty, caravan park, cafe, general store and (Michael’s favourite) a pub. This was where we came when we couldn’t be bothered making our own coffee and food. Which was often. It’d be a good spot to base yourself if you’re wanting to explore Innes National Park without camping.
If you’re travelling from Melbourne to Perth (or vice versa), in my opinion the Eyre Peninsula is a detour worth taking – time permitting of course, as it is quite a long detour. We only had about a week and a half here, but we easily could’ve spent double that exploring this region.
This was just a quick lunch stop for us, but if you’re self sufficient campers and don’t mind “roughing it” this would’ve been a really cool place to camp – especially if you like fishing, Nestled in amongst the dunes, it was pretty easy to find some privacy. We made ourselves a little picnic and had a play in the sand to break up our long drive. Both boys LOVE sand dunes, but it’s so freaking easy to lose them in there!!
Port Lincoln and Lincoln National Park.
On our first trip down the Eyre Peninsula, we skipped straight past it and headed for Coffin Bay. We only visited when we back tracked because of the fires, so it was our last stop on the peninsula.
Port Lincoln is the largest town on the Eyre Peninsula and is MUCH bigger than I realised. Plus a cruise ship had arrived in the day we were there so the town was packed full of tourists (said the tourist!). There are plenty of accommodation options in the town, but we chose to camp in the Port Lincoln National Park, at the Horse Rock campground.
This was one of my fave campsites of the trip, as we were able to drive right up to the water to set up the camper, it was really private and the sunsets were epic. But it is VERY rocky so you definitely couldn’t camp here without a 4WD and decent tyres.
We did a little drive around the park to check out a few different beaches and these were some of our faves,
Engine Point. The water here was super warm. You can camp here – its first come first served, no bookings.
September beach. Both kids had fallen asleep on the drive here, so we didn’t stay. It would’ve been a lovely spot to spend the day and looked perfect for young families too.
Memory Cove. Soft white sand, turquoise water, and more emus than people. That’s what you’ll find at the stunning Memory Cove. Only 15 vehicles per day are permitted access to the Memory Cove Wilderness Area, including the beach which I personally think is one of the nicest I’ve seen in Australia. You need a permit, which can be purchased online or from the visitor centre in Port Lincoln. You also need to pick up the key from the visitor centre. The drive in to the beach is VERY rough. It’s 4WD only and it took us 2 hours to get there from town. You can also camp here, but unfortunately for us it was booked out when we visited. We had such a lovely day here – digging holes, building castles, splashing in the water and being jumped on by the rat bags any time I attempted to sit down!
Whalers Way. Located on private property, about 40 mins south from Port LIncoln, Whalers Way is comprised of rock pools, geological formations, blowholes, caves and beaches. The rock pool below was my reason for visiting. Little did I know, the climb down was not for the faint hearted. And probably not for mamas with a toddler strapped to their chest either. You begin by carefully walking along the cliff edge like a mountain goat, before grabbing hold of a rusty chain that’s been there for years and stepping carefully onto a tube of ladder that appears to be hanging to the cliff by a thread and has likely never been looked at by an engineer.. If you survive that, you then slide down some rocks on your bum whilst simultaneously trying to work out where you need to go and not looking down. Is it worth the climb in? I think so. Plus Archie Pie now holds the record for the youngest person ever to make it in there!
Coffin Bay National Park.
Right at the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula, Coffin Bay National Park is a LONG way from any major city. It’s about an 8 hour drive from Adelaide. But it’s only about 30 minutes from Port Lincoln so you could easily day trip from there. To properly explore the park you’ll need a well equipped 4WD as many of the swimming beaches are down a tough, sandy track. That said, we didn’t attempt that track and we still found some pretty spectacular places. One of my favourite things about this park was the wildlife. We regularly saw emus (which both boys are calling “nemos”) wandering down the road and I was joined for my morning walk by a few kangaroos.
Yangie Bay. We camped at the Yangie Bay campground, which we’d pre-booked, and while the pretty bay wasn’t the ideal swimming location (it was pretty squishy under foot) it was great for kayaks and the rangers have done an amazing job setting up a nature play area for the little ones. It was also one of the only 2WD accessible spots to camp.
Almonta beach. We spent Christmas Day with a bottle of Rosè on the beautiful Almonta Beach. For the most part we had this slice of sand all to ourselves. It was a little rough for the kids to swim but they still enjoyed digging holes, building sandcastles and splashing by the shore. You can access this beach without a 4WD, but it is a bit of walk up over the dunes, especially if it’s a hot day and your children both refuse to walk!
Greenly beach rockpools.
Our first stop on our ascent back up the Western side of the peninsula was Greenly Beach. And so began my love of South Australian rock pools!
You probably could reach this spot in a 2WD but I certainly wouldn’t attempt it in my car. Michael’s truck had no problems though. The toughest part was the climb down the cliff face to reach the pools with a 1 year old, 3 year old and all their things (because you can NOT visit a rock pool without a bucket, watering can, 2 trucks and 5 dinosaurs).
The water in these pools was VERY fresh. Much like taking an ice bath, but it was like an interesting little aquarium with huge crabs, starfish and sea snails. Somebody had put their leftover prawn heads in the water and all the sea animals were having a lovely feast. The boys really enjoyed this spot. We had the whole area all to ourselves for quite a while too!
Dinner with a view. We picked up a bite to eat on our way through the Sheringa Roadhouse and took it down to this epic picnic table at Locks Well. Definitely not a beach for swimming with young kids, but it was certainly beautiful to look at and worth the stop for a photo opportunity.
Elliston & Walkers Rocks.
The next town heading up the peninsula is Elliston. It has a well stocked little grocery store, a caravan park, good playground, bakery and a pub (as all good country towns do!). Deciding we could go another couple of days without a shower, we opted to camp at the Walkers Rocks Campground for $10 a night. We hadn’t prebooked, but it was quite busy and we were lucky to get a spot. This campground has a clean toilet, cold shower and 4WD access to the beach so we drove down to enjoy sunset, a drink and some prawns we’d picked up in Coffin Bay while the boys played in the dunes and flew the kite. The sunset here was pretty magical. It was one of our fave camping spots of the trip.
When we arrived at Talia Caves, the cliff face had collapsed onto the staircase entry, with another big boulder about to tumble after it, so access was impossible (or at least very dangerous). I was a bit disappointed, but the silver lining was this lovely little rock pool which we had all to ourselves. To find this one, you keep driving past the woodshed caves and the tub, climb down to the beach and then walk around to the right.
It was 42 degrees the day we drove out to Murphy’s Haystacks so our visit was quick. These rock formations are on private property and entry is via honesty box donation. Flynn decided dinosaurs lived here since they are millions of years old too.
Smooth Pools & The Granites.
Now this was definitely a more appropriate place to be on a scorching summer day. Continuing my quest to bathe in all the rock pools South Australia has to offer, we stopped off at the Smooth Pools to cool down. Here you have plenty of pools to choose from so it wasn’t hard to find one all to ourselves. For some reason, Flynn has now decided he doesn’t like his tummy and will only swim in clothes??
To get to these pools, you need to detour down the Westall Loop. We would’ve skipped straight past them if it wasn’t for the tip of a local surfer.
Streaky Bay is the final little town as you head west up the Eyre Peninsula. We stopped at the take away shop for dinner and an ice cream but that was as much of the town as we explored. It seemed to be a popular little holiday destination though and would probably make a nice stop over if you have more time than we did.
From here, it’s time to cross the Nullarbor! Continue reading our journey using the links below.