A FUN EYRE PENINSULA ROAD TRIP IN WINTER
An Eyre Peninsula road trip is a popular summer getaway in South Australia; however, we were visiting in winter, would it still be a good idea? Read on and find out.
We had a month in South Australia and had already visited Kangaroo Island and Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, so the next spot on our must-see list was the home of the state’s famous seafood industry. This was an impromptu trip when the borders closed, and we found ourselves stuck in South Australia a few weeks longer than expected.
A 7-Day South Australia coastal road trip off season
Visitors flock to Port Lincoln, a small town on Boston Bay over the summer, but what’s a winter visit to the Eyre Peninsula like? Well, we thought we would find out. We hit the road for a week and share our experience to help you plan your own visit.
Along with the abundant seafood, the Eyre Peninsula offers fantastic marine life experiences and miles of stunning coastline. While it was too cold to swim without wetsuits, which we didn’t have, it was wonderful to have the place almost entirely to ourselves.
Day 1: Adelaide to Cowell
Stop 1: Port Augusta
The first stop on our Eyre Peninsula road trip was one of necessity. Filling the tank before we hit the rural prices seemed like a good idea. Other than a quick stop at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden and this gorgeous lookout, we didn’t spend any time in Port Augusta.
The city is best known as a crossroads between Australia’s east and west coasts and a great opportunity to stock the esky before moving on.
Stop 2: Whyalla
We knew almost nothing about Whyalla. Having only decided to make our way down the peninsula a few days ago, we skipped our usual detailed research and were winging it. A quick google search suggested a local cafe and a circular jetty as the two most popular things to do in town. So we thought, sure why not!
We arrived in Whyalla at about noon and had planned to visit Whisk Away, but sadly, it was closed. We grabbed coffee at Heidi’s – the only place we could find open in the town centre on Sat at 1pm and headed for the lookout to drink it. We didn’t realise at the time that Whyalla was the biggest town on our route today, and the fact that everything was closed mid-afternoon did not bode well for the rest of the day.
Hummock Hill Lookout was, however, a fantastic spot to capture the sparkling blue waters of Whyalla while we enjoyed our drinks. The water was an impossible blue; these photos are straight from my phone without editing. I can imagine in summer the place would be teeming with people.
The next stop was the Whyalla Jetty.
This circular jetty looks pretty special, and we wondered what the significance of the circle was, but the signage gave nothing away. It turns out it is just a fishing jetty and a spot to walk out and take in the view. We were pleased to see the local dolphins, there were two playing right near the jetty’s edge, and local anglers here told us they are all but residents.
If we had been better organised and planned our visit, we would have known that this was the perfect time to see the giant cuttlefish who may find their way to the waters here between May and August to spawn.
We spent the night in the Cowell Foreshore Caravan Park. Our basic older style cabin was clean and comfortable, and the owners friendly. It’s the perfect spot for anyone hoping to do some fishing with a large fish cleaning area complete with lobster pots. The wharf is currently under redevelopment, but this will be a prime position when it’s complete.
The key site in town is the silo which features local Lionel Deer and Diamantina, his camel. It was painted in 2019 by Austin ‘Nitsua’ Moncrieff. For over 30 years, Mr Deer’s camels featured at the Cowell Christmas Pageant.
There are two pubs in town, one in much better shape than the other. There is also an IGA, butcher and bakery. Cowell is probably best visited midweek in the winter if you have a choice with everything shut up from midday Saturday and all day Sunday.
Day 2: Cowell to Port Lincoln
We made an early start well before the 9am opening time of the local cafes and headed for breakfast in Tumby Bay. The road south travels closer to the coast than it does further north, so we stopped in at all the little towns on the way down.
Stop 1: Arno Bay
First up was Arno Bay, a tiny town with another long jetty, something we discover South Australia is famous for. Nearby is a cafe serving local Boston Bay coffee. There was a bit of a queue, so we decide to move on and jump back in the car.
If you are looking for somewhere peaceful and pretty to chill for a while, Arno Bay would be a great stop, especially in swimming weather!
Stop 2: Port Neill
Port Neill with its tiny population of 152 comes next, and there is another jetty and impossible blue beach to greet us. The town has a beautiful waterfront area, and while there is not much here, it’s lovely for a picnic and a swim. There is an interesting display of the history of the area by the jetty.
Stop 3: Tumby Bay
Finally, we come to Tumby Bay. The biggest of the towns we have seen since Whyalla, it also turns out, is our favourite. The waterfront is lovely, and the small town has more than 20 murals gracing its walls with a population of 2,600 that is a pretty good ratio of artworks per person.
We are pretty hungry, so make our way to the Ritz Cafe on the beach; it’s your basic country cafe with friendly service and simple home-cooked meals at very affordable prices.
The colourful walls that seem to pop up around every corner were created as part of the Colour Tumby Street Art Festival, which began in 2018 and skipped 2020 (thanks to the pandemic) before 2021 saw it kick back into action.
Tumby Bay also has its own impressive silo art. At 30-metre tall, by 60-metre long, this one is hard to miss from the main road. Painted by Argentinian muralist Martin Ron, it shows two boys jumping off the Tumby Bay Jetty and is based on a photo of some local kids.
We only had an hour to see as much as possible, but this would be a great town to spend some time in.
Stop 4: Coffin Bay
We were planning to spend a full day at Coffin Bay tomorrow, but there was some pretty horrid weather on its way for the next few days, so we squashed it in today. Ideally, we would have combined this with a morning in Lincoln National Park and an oyster tour, but we will be back!
Coffin Bay is the Oyster capital of South Australia. We only had a few hours to enjoy the delights, so it was full steam ahead. First up was a quick visit to Coffin Bay National Park. There are some great 4WD tracks, more than 50km worth, and a 4WD accessible campground.
We stuck to the sealed roads on this visit. The round trip to Yangie Bay and then Golden Island Lookout is just under 50k and took about an hour and a half.
When we came back into town, we parked the car and enjoyed a section of the Oyster Walk from the jetty to Oyster HQ. This is the spot to book a tour and learn more about harvesting oysters. Finish your visit with an oyster platter on the balcony.
Coffin Bay is a popular place to meet the local emus; we didn’t need to look hard at all; they wandered across the road right in front of us.
Overnight: YHA Port Lincoln
Port Lincoln is a spotlessly clean, spacious hostel with hands-on managers who make sure everyone is happy. There is a great outdoor deck, a huge tv room with its own bar area, a cinema room upstairs that doubles as a great yoga space in the mornings.
The kitchen is very well set up and makes cooking your own meals a dream.
The hostel has twin ensuite rooms and four-bed dorms. It’s only 500 metres from the town’s main street, an easy walk an added bonus is that it’s next to Beer Garden Brewing. We slept well in our small but well set up ensuite double and would recommend the hostel to budget travellers.
There are several motels and apartments in town. The Port Lincoln Tourist Park is down on the waterfront and a great spot in the right weather.
Day 3: Port Lincoln
Lookouts and local produce are the order of the day today
The first stop when you hit town should be the Port Lincoln Visitors Centre. The staff here can help you book any tours and give you tips on the best spots to visit in the Lincoln National Park. They can also provide keys to the Whalers Way a magical piece of the coast that is on private property. To visit you need to acquire a permit from the visitors centre and pay an entry fee and key deposit. This was top of our list but the heaviest rain in some months put an end to that plan.
If you are luckier, you can easily spend a half or a full day visiting that area. Don’t miss September Beach or Donington Beach, brilliant spots to kayak or snorkel.
The Barngarla people are the traditional landowners of Port Lincoln. They call this place Kallinyalla or ‘place of sweet water
We started our Port Lincoln day with a brisk stroll along the middle section of the Parnkalla Walking Trail before some pretty miserable weather kicked in. We began walking at Slipway Road near the Port Lincoln Tourist Park.
Port Lincoln is the largest natural harbour in Australia- at least three times as big as Sydney Harbour.
Along this section are the famous statues of the tuna fisherman and the Makybe Diva statues, and the Town Jetty.
We had worked up an appetite, so we headed to Rascal and Rogue café just opposite the jetty in the middle of town. The hostel recommended it as having the best coffee in town, and it certainly makes great coffee. We planned to stick to a light breakfast, but one look at the menu and that idea went out the window.
Did you know? Matthew Flinders named Port Lincoln after the city of the same name in England.
After breakfast, we made a quick stop at old Mill Lookout. Completed in 1846, the Old Mill is the oldest building in town. It’s only 46 stairs to the top for a pleasant view over Boston Bay and the city centre. If you have time to spare, it’s nice enough but not an essential stop.
The next stop today was Lone Pine Lookout, about 20km from the centre of Port Lincoln. Adjacent Mary Ellis Wreck Beach looked pretty treacherous, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to jump in!
We raced the storm back to town and decided the rest of the day was going to be all about food, and we made our way to the Fresh Fish Place on Proper Bay Road.
It was time to taste the local delicacy, King George Whiting. The Fresh Fish Place also offer tours if you are so inclined. We came to eat and quickly ordered way too much food. Our whiting was joined with squid, prawns and local wine. All of it is wonderful. Highly recommend you stop in here.
We considered hunting down some of the local cellar doors that are open seven days per week and perfect for days when the weather sets in; however, we were pretty happy to head back to the hostel and rest. Peter Teakle Wines was highly recommended to us if you have more energy.
Things we missed in Port Lincoln thanks to the bad weather and our bad planning.
- Boston Island – The ferry was not running this month
- Beer Garden Brewing in Port Lincoln – sadly closed Monday and Tuesdays
- Glen Forest Tourist Park, also in Port Lincoln was on our list but the rain said otherwise! At $15 a head for adults it’s a great option if you have not had any luck seeing native wildlife. They have Koalas
- Shark Diving – if diving with a great white shark is on your bucket list and you have a spare $500 this is highly recommended. We were a bit conflicted and then the weather made the decision for us. Adventure Bay Charters and Calypso Star Charters are the two operators.
- You might also like to swim with the sea lions
In better weather, we would have spent at least another day here, likely two, but it was pretty miserable, so time to move on.
Day 4: Kimba and Port Augusta
We took the Lincoln Highway to Kimba. It was an easy drive even in the bad weather that had set in. We decided to overnight in Port Augusta, 368km, which took us about 6 hours with a decent break in Kimba. I won’t lie; my motivation was seeing the stunning Kimba silo.
Stop 1: Kimba
Kimba is a great little town, and we tried hard to find a place to stay the night, but sadly we were out of luck. Along with its beautiful silo painted by Cam Scale in September 2017, the town is home to the Big Galah and the halfway point for anyone crossing from the east to the west coast.
But don’t just stop for these three attractions. Make some time to visit some local shops; we loved Workshop 26, billed as Kimba’s Creative Quarter. Inside this pretty ordinary shed, you will find six small businesses set up in shipping containers; there was a potter, candlemaker, vintage shop, organic and wholefoods store and more. There is also some damn fine coffee and premade dinners perfect for heating up if you are travelling by caravan or motorhome.
If you fancy staying over, Kimba has two free camps and the lovely Olive House, which offers two properties in town.
Overnight: Port August
Sadly we were forced to keep driving to Port Augusta, where we managed to find a motel room at the local caravan park.
Now from here, you could wake up the next morning and do a straight drive back to Adelaide in 3.5 hours, but we had time to kill, so we decided to head home the long way.
Day 5: Burra and the Barossa
It was another early start via National Highway A1 and Goyder Hwy to Burra. We had stopped in briefly on our way to the Flinders Ranges a couple of weeks back, and heavy rain stopped us exploring, so we detoured slightly for a repeat visit. Burra was a mining town and supplied 5% of the world’s copper for 15 years; in fact, the mine was the largest metals mine in Australia until the 1860s.
The meal to eat in Burra is the Cornish Pastry. A staple of the miner’s diet, the pastry is a meal in one. Two-thirds of the pastry is meat and veg, and the final third is dessert, usually apple. It was certainly filling! But now it was time to hit the road again, we took the Barrier Highway to Nuriootpa, 106km away to a delightful unit just down the road from Château Tanunda.
Day 6 and 7: The Barrossa
We spent the final two days of our trip in the Barossa, which I guess sums up how successful a winter trip to the Eyre Peninsula might be! We were unlucky with stormy weather setting in, and we decided a few more days drinking red wine would be no hardship.
I will save our Barossa itinerary for our next article, but I will share our base, a cute little flat, Basedow just a short walk down the street from Château Tanunda and within walking distance of Tununda’s main street.
What We Didn’t Do on Our Road Trip
We were travelling in an SUV, and several of the beaches and drives that had been recommended were not suitable for our rental car. We would have loved to have been self-sufficient on this trip as there were some great free camps.
Tips for Visiting Port Lincoln and the Eyre Peninsula Towns
You are in the country down here – especially on weekends and off-season. Shops open at 9am and close at noon on both days. Other than the pub, there are very few cafes or restaurants along the way. If you don’t have self-catering accommodation, be sure to carry enough supplies for the weekend.
Any of the beach towns along the coast are lovely and worth a visit. If you are looking for peace and quiet, choose Arno Bay or Port Neill, a bit more life Tumby Bay, and for the fishers, among you, Cowell is a good choice.
How to Get to Port Lincoln
From here, it’s a 650km drive, but if you don’t have two drivers, you really need to break up the trip. We spent a night in Cowell – a cute little town with a bunch of historic buildings lining the main street. We probably wouldn’t do this again on the weekend as from the time we arrived at 1pm on Sat until 9am on Sunday there was nowhere opened to buy milk or coffee or food other than the pub. Next time I would choose Tumby Bay. Regardless I suggest a stop in Port Augusta or Wyhalla for supplies along the way.
Via Port Augusta
If you have been exploring the Flinders Ranges, this is a logical extension.
Rex airlines fly to Port Lincoln if you don’t want to drive. You can also cut down the driving time by taking the ferry to Lucky bay from Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula.