After crossing the Nullarbor, a trip of some 1600 odd kilometres, we arrived in Ceduna for the next leg of our journey to Penola, where the Solos Rally was being held in 10 days time. Did we take the short way? Of course not, we added another 1600 kilometres to our journey by going via the Eyre Peninsula!
It was Friday the 13th the day we arrived! Margaret may live to regret the comment she made about never having bad luck of Black Friday!
We stocked up our supplies and went off to the Information Centre to find out what we should do and see in the area. The lady there was really helpful – and a very good salesperson – because we both walked out with a $72 National Parks Pass for 2 months. The first park we were going to was just south of Ceduna on the Eyre Peninsula and was called Decres Bay in the Wittlebee Conservation Park. The road in soon became a gravel road which was very rough and rocky but ok until we got to a sandy patch on a bend where Margaret became firmly stuck in the sand. I tried to dig her out but the weight of her Winnebago just kept burying her deeper and by this stage she was a little stressed, you might say! Three 4×4 utes stopped and one had a winch on it which was finally successful in dragging her out backwards where she promptly reversed all the way to the main road and we headed back to Ceduna and a Caravan Park where a stiff drink was in order. So much for going off road on the Eyre Peninsula – that experience cruelled it for Margaret and she was very wary of any gravel roads after that!
We had been recommended to go to the Shelley Beach Caravan Park and that turned out to be a disaster, too. We were allocated a spot right at the end of the park where they were still developing the extensions, so it looked like we were camped in a gravel pit, and the amenities were at least 70 metres away. The owner was very apologetic, told us not only were we on sites that shouldn’t have been let out but also we had been overcharged. To compensate he gave us two stubby coolers each – Big Deal!! I won’t be recommending that park to anyone even though most of the reviews on WikiCamps were very favourable.
One night was enough here so now we really begin our tour of the Eyre Peninsula. Our first day took in the coastal sights of Smoky Bay, Haslam and Streaky Bay, where we veered off the coast to go to Murphy’s Haystacks on our way to Port Kenny and our eventual camp for the night at Coodlie Park Bush Camp.
Coodlie Park was certainly a Bush Camp. It was very basic and judging by the state of the camp kitchen and toilet, not often used or maintained. However, it was a bit of fun seeing what had been developed there and it was a shame it wasn’t better looked after and promoted because it had a lot of potential. It also had a private beach that the owners would take you to (for a cost of $15), but we decided to see the sights for free so one night here and we were on the move again.
There was a lot to see the next day as we travelled through Elliston, where there was an historic reference at the jetty about how in the olden days wheat was stacked ready for transporting by ship to the markets. The jetty itself is constucted on steel pylons screwed into the sea bed and is about 430 metres long. From here we passed through Sheringa and stopped off to see an example of drystone walling where the stones are placed in such a way that they don’t need mortar. These particular walls are believed to have been constructed in the 1850’s by convict labour. Not far from here we came across a delightful old cottage called the Lake Hamilton Eating House which used to be a stopover for coach travellers.
Now to Coffin Bay, home of the famous Coffin Bay oysters. Wouldn’t you know it, we were there on a Sunday and hardly a place open, so I missed out on those beautiful fresh oysters I was looking forward to. Coffin Bay itself was quite pretty, though, with colourful sails on little boats skimming across the bay.
We finally had the chance to use our National Parks Pass near Port Lincoln when we stayed in a camp called Surfleet Cove in the Lincoln National Park. It wasn’t as attractive as some of the National Parks I have stayed in as the camping areas were formed around the ring road that circled the camp rather than being tucked into the bush, but we were entertained by a couple of families of emus that wandered through the camp. The long drop toilets were clean and the beach was quite sheltered but too cold for a swim.
After a night at Surfleet Cove we headed into Port Lincoln, famous for its Tuna fishing, although it bills itself as the Seafood Capital of Australia. Commercially, Port Lincoln produces Abalone, Mussels, Oysters, Prawns, Whiting and Snapper,Blue Fin Tuna and Southern Rock Lobster. Pity that most Australians would not be able to afford to buy it! I certainly couldn’t and I was really hanging out for some fresh fish, too. On the positive side Port Lincoln provides overnight camping at Billy Lights Point and Alex Stencross Maritime Museum, which is a great initiative to attract RV’s to their town.
Not far up the road is Tumby Bay, which is another RV friendly town. Margaret and I stopped here for lunch at the jetty and wished we had more time to get to know this pretty area. We thought we might have got our lines out and tried to catch some fish for dinner, but it was so windy we were blown off the foreshore and kept travelling to our next destination.
It wasn’t a comfortable day travelling as we had a strong cross wind and Margaret really had to work hard in her larger van to stay on the road. We pulled in to Arno Bay thinking we would stay the night but it didn’t really appeal so we kept going to Cowell, which had a great free RV stop just out of town. The wind didn’t let up all night and the dust swirled so we were glad to be on the road again the next day. We drove into the township on the way out and once again it was a town that appealed to us for a longer stay if we had more time on our hands- lovely old cottages, historic town buildings and a nice foreshore. What is Cowell famous for? The beautiful Cowell Jade!
Jade deposits near Cowell on Eyre Peninsula are among the largest known nephrite jade deposits in the world. They were discovered in 1965 when Harry Schiller, a local farmer prospecting in the area, collected a 3–4 kg boulder of dense, hard rock near an outcrop of white, dolomitic marble. The boulder was subsequently identified as nephrite by Adelaide University and South Australian Museum.
Ninety-one separate jade outcrops were identified by Department of Mines geologists in 1974, and well over one hundred are now known. All are located within an area of ~10 km2, referred to as the Cowell Jade Province. The bulk of resources occur on the 23 leases held by Gemstone Corporation of Australia Ltd.
Whyalla was our next port of call, a brief stop at the information centre and to view the HMAS Whyalla at the Whyalla Maritime Museum. The Whyalla was the first ship built at the Whyalla shipyards in 1941.
Driving in to Whyalla we saw these spectacular mine tailings that looked like a many coloured patchwork quilt.
We arrived at Port Augusta, at the eastern end of the Eyre Peninsula, only four short days after starting our trip at Ceduna. It would be easy to spend weeks rather than days in this beautiful part of our country. Oh well, another place to go on the bucket list to revisit.
Next time I’d like to take a deeper breath of Eyre.