Trip 45, post #4 – Eyre Peninsula

Right, let’s kick on with the Eyre Peninsula leg of the trip.

For those not familiar, the Eyre Peninsula is the big Southward pointing triangle of land, cornered by Ceduna in the Northwest, Port Augusta in the Northeast and Port Lincoln in the Southern tip. Famous for its seafood and farming, there’s plenty of space and things to see here.

Passing through Ceduna on a picture-perfect Sunday, the ocean along the Ceduna terrace is calm, flat and serene. We spent a couple of hours here, firstly chucking a couple loads of washing through the laundromat, before grabbing a yummy lunch at a café, then shopping to restock, and finally topping up our van water tanks.

Streaky Bay foreshore on a perfect day

We had intended to push on through to Murphys Haystacks for Sunday night, but whilst watching our laundry spin in the old Mayfair automatic, I found another free camp on WikiCamps called Point Brown Observation, just 50km down the road and on the beach. So, 30km on the black and another 25km on the limestone gravel road, we arrived at a large-ish park/turn area, with views to die for and unbelievably good weather. No wind and not a cloud in the sky meant the ocean was shimmering flatter than my belly. After a quick setup, it was back to sitting in the camp chairs with a cold beer, taking in the views and wondering what other people were doing – that’s right, they’re at work, sucks to be them – being the consensus.

Our free beachside camp at Point Brown Observation
Our free beachside camp at Point Brown Observation from the drone
Our free beachside camp at Point Brown Observation from the drone
Looking East’ish using the drone, from above our camp
The point at the west side of the bay from where we’re camped, and is what Jules and I hiked around the next day
A quick snap from my camp chair, as the sun sets and creates beautiful colours in the afterglow above the horizon to the East

The following morning dawned just as glorious so, after a lazy brekky, Jules and I hiked a 6km look around the headland to the west of our camp before doing the 1km drive the opposite way to check out the Rockpool. Unfortunately, the incoming tide made the rockpool a bit dicey, not to mention the water was at ball-freezing temperature, so I had a quick paddle only. Dinner tonight was yummy eye fillet steak and field mushies done on the Weber, with small roast potatoes and sweetcorn cooked in foil over the coals on our firepit.

Jules (and I) hiking the next day
Our vans from the beach
Water and sand create beautiful shapes, shadows and colours
A White Bellied Sea Eagle we spied
A Nankeen Kestrel
A Singing Honeyeater warming up in the morning sun
Our camp, shot from across the bay using the telephoto lens from the point
Sky meets ocean, meets coastal heath
A cool rock formation down at water level, about 30m below the clifftop where we were standing. The drone got down there ok for the shot though.
Drone shot of the coast
Drone shot of the coast
Drone shot of the coast
Drone shot of the coast
A dead Death Adder Jules found on the track near our camp
Me trying to work up the courage to take the plunge into the rockpool
Me deciding that discretion is the better part of valour and protecting my testicles from the icy water as I instead, pose on a rock.
Jules doing a medi (meditation) at the Rockpool
Rocks and water
BJ cooking up a storm, corn cobs and baby spuds in alfoil on our little firepit as the sun sets behind him
An Australian Bustard, which we call a Bush Chook, on the track out

Today (Tuesday) we continued South, doing a quick reccy stop at Haslam Beach, before stopping in Streaky Bay. Our friends Mel and Phil had highly recommended we visit Seafood On Stanley, so that’s where we went, spending a good 40 minutes chatting and laughing with Jeff Schmucker the fisherman and owner. Jeff is an interesting and cool guy, who took us through the art of oyster shucking and gave us the low down of his fishing and surfing career. You can hear all about it on a Podcast he did, search “Fish Tales Jeff” on Spotify. Anyways, Seafood on Stanley is well worth a visit and we left with a dozen fresh Streaky Bay Oysters, a kilo of fresh cooked Spencer Gulf Prawns and 500gms of filleted King George Whiting, all of which are destined to be tonight’s dinner.

After a pie at the bakery, we drove out and set up at Murphy’s Haystacks which is our camp for the next couple of nights. And it’ll also be the first camp where we’ve had to pay any camping fees since leaving home! (albeit, only $10)

Our camp at Murphy’s Haystacks from the drone
Our camp at Murphy’s Haystacks from the drone with some of the rocks in shot
Some of the Murphy’s Haystacks rocks from the drone in the setting sunlight
Looking out the other way (East) above Murphy’s Haystacks
The last sun silhouettes the trees
The other reason we come back to Murphy’s Haystacks – honey!! This honey is the duck’s nuts, dare I say, even better than our honey. And it’s all purchased on an honours system, this 1kg tub costing $15 (Jules thinks ours is better, we’re at odds on this one!!)
Jules and Goose at Seafood on Stanely. His brother, Scallop, equally big and drooly was chilling out on the couch
Jeff Schmucker (no bullshit, that’s his real name) showing us how to shuck an oyster – I bet he hears “Schmucker the shucker” a lot..
Our seafood dinner banquet, fresh Streaky Bay oysters, Spencer Gulf prawns and Streaky Bay King Gorge Whiting, all nicely presented on Gwavins tailgate. And it was all delicious!

I managed an early start this morning to shoot the inselbergs that are Murphy’s Haystacks at sunrise. It was well worth the effort as the colours and light were spectacular.

Pre-sunrise light in the clouds
Pre-sunrise light on the rocks
Pre-sunrise light on the rocks
Pre-sunrise light on the rocks
The sun pokes its head above the horizon
The rocks in the arvo
The rocks in the arvo
The rocks in the arvo
The rocks in the arvo
A large, 60mm long’ish, Rain Moth outside our van door just a few hours before it rained. We should have kept him with us to help forecast the weather on our upcoming travels as it rained all night, just after seeing him.

Then it was back into Streaky Bay for a coffee and a better look around, without the vans in tow and what a difference a day makes! Yesterday the bay was picture-perfect flat, but today it was a little choppy and whilst still nice, was far less inviting. We drove the Cape Bauer loop to view the dramatic coastline to the South, taking in the Whistling Rocks and blowhole, then wended our way back around the North, Streaky Bay side, where it was more beaches and mangroves.

After a quick bite to eat for lunch, we headed out the back roads to Sceale Bay, and then Point Labatt to view the Sea Lion colony. We got lucky here as the local ranger turned up on her rounds, after recently completing her master’s on Sea Lions, and we got an impromptu 30-minute info session on all things sea liony. Really cool, she was lovely and very passionate about her work.

The surf on a Cape Bauer beach
Near the blowhole on Cape Bauer
The dunes and heath on Cape Bauer
A seal on Point Labatt – he looks like he’s smiling for the camera
A seal on Point Labatt
Seals on Point Labatt
Seals on Point Labatt
Seals on Point Labatt
Seals on Point Labatt. Note the suckling pup who’s are about a year old now.
Seals on Point Labatt
A seal on Point Labatt
What we think is a Fur Seal, rather than a Sea Lion, at Pt Labatt

Finally, we visited Baird Bay (not much to see here).

Sing it with me “Oh what a night”, and afternoon… On arriving back at Murphys Haystacks after our little jaunt through the countryside, we found ourselves in a veritable wind gale and dust storm. Dust from the recently tilled and seeded paddocks was being whipped into gale-force flurries of brown dust that got everywhere, so we retreated to the van for the evening, relaxing as the wind eventually died down around 10 PM. So it was off to bed and all was well in the world, with a gentle drizzle settling in, till BANG, 1 am and the bloody wind arrived again, this time in gale force proportions, whipping, and banging old Goldy around like a boat at sea in a maelstrom. Jules and I both laid there, waiting for the wind to drop which, thankfully, it did around 2:45. So with renewed sleepiness we drifted off into never-never land, only to be rudely awakened again by the returning wind at 4 am for another 45mins or so. But come sunrise, we’d survived, and so had Goldy – the bloody legend she is – so after brekky, we packed up and headed south to our next destination Port Lincoln as the BOM was forecasting heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday, so we figured we’d see that out in the comforts of a caravan park.

Making the most of the 230km to Port Lincoln, we stopped in at Venus Bay for a look-see, and then Jules found a local baker on WikiCamps, who bakes in an old Scotch Oven and sells his bread and sweet buns at a roadside stall with an honours payment system. Luckily for us, they still had some bread left and whilst I was demolishing my first sticky bun, the baker popped out to check his stocks and we had a quick chat. He was a lovely bloke who clearly loved his craft, sourcing his flour from the local mill at Cummins. With mornos sorted via the sticky buns, we then planned to have a couple of slices of fresh bread with butter and vegemite for lunch on arrival at Port Lincoln. We also visited the Woolshed Cave on the drive down.

Unfortunately, the wind is still pretty strong here, but we expected this and we’re hoping the luxuries of a caravan park, with flushing dunnies and hot showers, will compensate for the crappy weather over the next couple of days.

Lake Hamilton eating house, restored from its original construction in 1851 when it served food to travellers making their way into the peninsula
The Colton roadside bread stand
The Colton roadside bread stand
Our Hightop loaf of bread about to be demolished for lunch
Looking out from Woolshed Cave
A naturally drawn bee hive and comb on the roof of Woolshed cave
Looking out at the coast from Venus Bay
Fishing boats at Venus Bay

As forecast, Friday dawned overcast with sporadic showers. But that’s all good, as we’d planned a drive around the countryside today, starting with trying to find some wild koalas living in a small crop of trees about 30kms south of Port Lincoln. Following the WikiCamps map, we found three of them right at the promised location, and they were looking bedraggled and ended up looking even sorrier for themselves as another heavy shower passed through. Pretty cool experience though as these guys were only 2 to 3m off the ground and allowed us to get close.

What we think was a male Koala
What we think was a male Koala
Then a rain shower came through and this little Koala looked wet, cold and bedraggled. However, after such a long drought, I noticed it was quick to lick the rainwater off the tree branch so there’s always a silver lining.

We then followed the gravel road we were on, out to the old Whalers Station, of which nothing now remains but it is a lovely little bay. From there, we shot off into Coffin Bay where the weather gods gave us some love and more sunshine as we enjoyed a seafood platter, watching the emus wander the main streets of the town, literally making cars stop and beep them to get them to move off the road.

From Coffin Bay I opted for the circuitous route home, first driving West away from Port Lincoln, to then take the gravel Duck Lake Rd out to Cummins, which is a large-ish town with one of the oldest remaining operating flour mills in Australia, and the source of flour for the fantastic roadside bread we’d bought, and are still enjoying, from Colton the other day. It was then out to Tumby Bay on the East Coast of the Eyre Peninsula, a lovely little seaside town with great silo art and local artwork spread throughout the town.

I loves me a single tree on a horizon pic. This pic saw me risking my life, pushing through snake-infested bush (though to be honest, I didn’t see any snakes, but I’m sure there were lots of them there) to get to the spot for the taking of picture.
Fantastic silo art at Tumby Bay. This pic painted by an Argentinian artist, using a photo of the local kids jumping off the jetty into the ocean.

Saturday 1st of June 2024 and with a glorious day, full sun and no wind, Spencer Gulf, visible from our van, was dead flat and inviting us to explore it. So, out came the foldable e-bikes and away we went. Cycling a round trip of approximately 17km around the town, out to the boat ramp towards North Shields, then back into town, where we checked out some shops and had lunch on the foreshore. We then rode out to the West Coast Distillery where we hoped to sample the local gins but, unfortunately, they were closed, so instead we rode to the Beer Garden Brewery a local craft brewery to sample a couple of beer paddles of their fantastic beer in front of the fireplace. This was followed by a slightly wobbly ride back home to the caravan park for dinner, drinks, and chilling.

The three musketeers, or could be Huey, Dewey and Louie, about to set off on our epic bike ride
Just keep peddling – and stop every now and then for a selfie
Me and her on the Port Lincoln jetty
Me and her on the Port Lincoln jetty
A boat in the Port Lincoln bay
Never a truer sign to be found
A boat anchored out from the Maritime Museum at Port Lincoln
A couple of beer-tasting paddles at the Beer Garden Brewery Port Lincoln
A couple of beer-tasting paddles at the Beer Garden Brewery Port Lincoln
Mmmm, beer

A chill day today, being Sunday and all. We did some washing and some odd jobs around the van, restocked our food and fuel, and then found ourselves with an arvo to kill so Jules and I headed back to The Beer Garden Brewery for another pint (or two) of Porter.

The Porter was so good, we had to go back the next day for another pint (or two)

Checking out of Port Lincoln, we made our way the 160km North to Cowell, our campsite for the next couple of days. En route, we dropped into and checked out Port Neill and Arno Bay, both lovely little seaside towns that would be perfect chill spots with good weather.

“And the award goes to…(drum roll)…. Cowell!”. Well done Cowell for some great and cheap caravan-friendly crowd-pleasers. First up, the Cowell RV park is just one km from town and provides free potable water, a communal firepit with some firewood, rubbish bins and well-spaced, level sites all for $10 a night. Looked after by the Lions Club, it’s a great, cost-effective place to park our arses, and the van, for a couple of days as we check out the town and region. But alas there are no dunnies or showers – well don’t stress as just up at the marina, that one km away, there are new public dunnies and showers, with the showers costing $1 for 10mins of hot water.

So with our camping in Cowell sorted, we spent a couple of days looking around Cowell and the area. Topped off with an $18 pig on a spit roast dinner, with jacket potatoes and vegies at the Franklin Pub.

Jules chillaxing in Cowell
Silo art in Cowell
The old Masonic Hall
An old, now derelict building surrounded by cactus
Where three roads meet – drone shot
Drone shot of the Ulbana Weir just out of Cowell
A dichotomy of hillsides. Drone shot of a small gully, with one side lush and green and the other reasonably sparse and orange
Fractal tree shapes in water
Ulaban Weir
Jules’ iPhone pic of our Cowell camp at sunset
2 litres of Mulled Wine simmering for tonight!
Air raid bunkers in the middle of a farmers’ paddock near Point Gibbon. These were built by the Defence Dept. towards the end of WW2 and were finished just as peace was declared, so they ended up being sold off for 10 pounds each.
Our cars atop a small cliff at Point Gibbon
Drone selfie at Point Gibbon
Drone coastal aerial shot at Point Gibbon, the black & brown stuff on the beach and surf is seaweed which added some contrast to these pics
Drone coastal aerial shot at Point Gibbon
Under the Cowell Jetty at the end. I (Tony) climbed down the little ladder to the water level and took a look-see under the pier. Just a shag though.
Me, re-emerging from below the jetty
A Oyster farming returning with his harvest of Oysters
The pig on a spit that’d been cooking since 8am that morning
Sharing an arvo, pre-dinner drink, at the Franklin Harbour Hotel
Franklin Harbour Hotel, built in 1881 and still serving great food

That wraps up our Eyre Peninsula leg of the trip and tomorrow we’re heading Northwest again to spend a week exploring the Gawler Ranges.

2 Replies to “Trip 45, post #4 – Eyre Peninsula”

  1. Such great photos and blog Tony! Great to follow your adventures. Are you following a planned route or just whatever takes your fancy and weather depending?

    1. Thanks Lyndell. I’ve got 8months off, 6 of which we’re planning to travel for with no real set plan, other than catching up with some other friends in Kakadu in mid-Aug. Other than that, we’re heading where the wind blows us.

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