NOW: EYRE PENINSULA – WHYALLA TO PORT LINCOLN
It’s difficult to describe this first part of the Eyre Peninsula as it is used for so many conflicting purposes. North of Whyalla at Lowly Point is the only place in the world where Giant Cuttlefish breed. While we stood at the Lowly Point lighthouse which sits at sea level and is only 5 metres high, we could hear the booming of explosives from the adjacent military firing range and see the gas and oil refinery. In the distance was the Whyalla steelworks. So, it wasn’t very pretty but it was interesting.
As we drove into Whyalla we saw 3 different signs about steelworks tours so figured that had to be the must do in Whyalla. On our tour we learnt that ore from Iron Knob and the Middleback Ranges is turned into 90 different grades of steel, all of Australia’s railway lines are made in Whyalla and the steelworks was bankrupt! During World War II gun emplacements on Hummock Hill guarded the shipbuilding yards and steelworks but they are struggling financially to continue at the moment. As the major employer in Whyalla the loss of the steelworks would be disastrous.
Continuing south The Igloos, old air raid shelters, stand in the grain paddocks near Port Gibbon, one of the many small fishing villages along the coast. Lots of people in very small tinnies chase King George Whiting, squid and crabs at Point Gibbon and in the protected bay at Cowell.
Our destination was Arno Bay where we’d booked ahead for a fishing charter and the wind had finally eased enough for us to head to sea. There were no whitecaps on the ocean, the sun was out but the swell was enormous. David wanted to catch snapper and I was after whiting. The first fish in the boat was a snapper on my line but it was too small. This became the pattern with all the snapper caught going back so that they could grow up. The whiting however were slow to get the idea but eventually we got our quota of 50 fish for the boat as well as some squid and blue swimmers. It was an exhausting day hanging on in the big swell and pounding through the waves but the grilled fish, chilli crab and crumbed calamari were a just reward.
The South Australian dirt car championships were held in Cleve while we were at Arno Bay. People think we’re mad travelling on dirt roads – these guys do it for fun with no windows, air conditioning or dust filters. Our Pajero is relative luxury!
After over 30 years we were back in Port Lincoln. The foreshore has changed significantly but the jetty where the tuna boats used to berth is now just a tourist fishing spot and good for the kids to jump from! All the commercial fishing and fish farm management happens from the purpose built marina now and most of the catch is exported. We did look for a lobster but the small one was $300 so we just stood like the pelicans and looked at them. One thing we didn’t just look at was the local brewery. We tried a tasting paddle and then chose our favourite from the paddle to sit back and enjoy.
Armed with a key from the Port Lincoln Information Centre we travelled through Port Lincoln National Park to Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area. As the emus kept crossing the road we knew we were definitely On the Emu Track. Access to Memory Cove is restricted to 15 vehicles per day and 5 campsites with a maximum 3 day stay under the trees looking out into the protected cove.
Matthew Flinders named Memory Cove in 1802 after his crew members who drowned going ashore to search for fresh water. It is also the site of the Whalers Post Office. Messages were left here by crews of early ketches for other boats to collect.
A little further west is the Whaler’s Way Fauna and Flora Reserve which also requires a key from the Port Lincoln Information Centre. There is a $30 fee to visit this private property but it was a full day out with lots of stops along the way. A land based Whaling Station operated here from 1837 – 1841 but it was only moderately successful. At Whalechaser Crevasse you can look back to the old whaling site from the 61 metre high cliff with a fissure named in honour of the fast sailing ships used to chase the whales.
Cape Wiles is the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula and was named by Matthew Flinders on 19 February 1802 after his friend Wiles who was the botanist on Captain Bligh’s Bounty. A fur seal colony can often be seen here 106 metres below the cliff. Cape Carnot is the most south-westerly tip of the peninsula and named by Nicholas Baudin who followed Flinders along this part of the coast. The rock at Cape Carnot is the oldest rock in South Australia.
The Theakstone family settled in the Whaler’s Way area in 1889 grazing sheep and growing barley. Theakstone Crevasse, a fault fracture which occurred millions of years ago, is named in their honour. It is 13 metres deep with 9 metre high walls and extends 30 metres underground.
Back in Port Lincoln we took a sight seeing cruise on Boston Bay to see the aquaculture industry in action. Kingfish and mussels are farmed in the bay and wild caught tuna are held in holding tanks, fed on pilchards and exported for sashimi. We tried sashimi with horseradish cream, pickled ginger and soy – melt in your mouth even for a reluctant raw fish eater. Seals and sea lions also call Boston Bay home sharing the harbour with all the feeding, catching and supply boats associated with the aquaculture industry.
NEXT: EYRE PENINSULA – COFFIN BAY TO KIMBA
See you on the Emu Track
Cheryl and David