Eyre Peninsula: Tuna, Dunes and Kangaroos

Oliver the joey, the ideal (portable) traveling companion

Along the central coast of South Australia, the Eyre Peninsula (pronounced air”) is full of unique adventures. Just a short flight, bus, ferry or coach from Adelaide, you can snorkel with tuna, sail an opal-green bay beside dolphins and seals, drive up and over pristine sand dunes, and even cuddle a baby kangaroo.

(Good luck, by the way, ripping yourselves away from that last one.)

Full of sleepy towns, conservation parks and 2,000 kilometers of coastline, the Eyre is an easy escape to a lot of breathing room. I hear “peninsula” and think “long weekend,” but you could easily spend a week or more here. For instance, the Eyre’s far northwestern Nullarbor Plain and its coastal Great Australian Bight Marine Park could take a couple of days just on their own; the latter is ground zero for Southern Right whale watching from  May through October.

If you have just a day or two to devote to the Eyre, it’s best to stick to just one area — like the peninsula’s southern tip.

Down here, the unassuming town of Port Lincoln is home to the largest per capita concentration of Australian millionaires. Spurred on by Japanese demand, seafood from these waters (some of the cleanest on Earth) can fetch astronomical prices; brokers at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market visit to personally inspect the goods.Just a decade ago, Port Lincoln’s fishermen/women had fallen on hard times, but both the industry and the town itself are now in full-scale revival mode.

If you want to learn more about fish from within the water, book an outing with Adventure Bay Charters. Run by fourth-generation fisherman Matt Waller, a fearless thirty-something guy with a teasing sense of humor, this company specializes in kitting you out in head-to-toe wetsuits and introducing you to finned sea creatures. Waller’s favorite snorkel spot is his own bluefin tuna farm in Boston Bay.

A short cruise from Port Lincoln, this farm is one of many white, mysterious rings you can see from the air, seemingly moored out at sea. On closer inspection, each ring is a great big round net anchored to a dock, providing shelter for little baby tuna fish…who can weigh as much as 60 pounds. Baby bluefins spend a year in these farms, just swimming, eating and growing like Otto the goldfish; they’ll eventually swell to many times their size. To meet them face-to-face, you have to swaddle yourself in neoprene (Boston Bay can be freezing cold), keep your fingers safely tucked (so they’re not mistaken for sardines), and try not to mind that regardless of their size, tuna are freakishly agile and fast.

Adventure Bay Charters' tuna tour in Port Lincoln's Boston Bay (the guy with the big orange eye is a nanny-gai)

You’re allotted a half-hour to swim, but yours truly fled the chill in 7 minutes flat. Within the hour, I’d be snacking on a slice of fresh, bright bluefin sashimi, firmly caught between guilt and joy. (2-hour Tuna Tours: $65 AUD per person + equipment rental)

To experience the seafood industry from the relative warmth of a fishing boat, head out for a short and gorgeous sail with friendly Darian Gale on his Coffin Bay Explorer (1.5 hours, $40 AUD per person). The soft, astonishingly clear waters of Coffin Bay (named for Sir Isaac Coffin, a dear friend of Matthew Flinders, the British explorer who co-discovered South Australia) nurture approximately one gajillion seabirds, and half as many slick, brown sea lions and fluffy blond New Zealand fur seals. As you sip a cup of hot tea and nibble a biscuit or three, curious dolphins are almost guaranteed to nose around, splashing and playing.

The far-from-aptly-named Coffin Bay

The industry portion of the journey is an oyster farm, where a vast array of wooden pylons stretch out to the horizon, each sheltering some of the finest oysters in the world. Gale gives his guests a chance to try Coffin Bay Oysters for themselves, deliciously straight from the salty bay; surprised to say, I’ve never in my life had a better mollusk.

Coffin Bay Oysters...in Coffin Bay

Back on land, if you catch a ride with Phil Porter of  Wilderness Wanders, you’re quite possibly in for another surprise. When he asked me and my traveling companions if we’d hold a cloth bag for him while he drove, we never imagined we’d find Oliver, an orphaned kangaroo joey, inside.

Roads in South Australia are generally long and empty, and kangaroos, designed to travel by leaping and bounding, often spring from the brush into hurtling vehicles. If a female is killed, concerned citizens check the pouch for a baby ‘roo…and a potential problem. The country is home to so many kangaroos that they’re widely considered pests, and the government offers no assistance for the care of orphans. The only hope for these little critters are people like Phil and his family, who routinely take in joeys, keep them pouched and formula-fed ’til they’re a year old, then adopt the family-oriented marsupials for life.

Oh, Oliver...we love you

Oliver often comes to work with his human dad, either cuddled up in a cozy fleece bag, briefly “going for a hop,” or exploring wild spaces like Lincoln National Park. Just a few minutes outside Port Lincoln, this network of ridiculously turquoise Southern Ocean coastline and the smooth, undulating Wanna Dunes is home to flocks of emus, tangles of native wildflowers and the rocky remnants of two billion year-old stromatolites.

Clockwise from top left: dunes, emus, the Southern Ocean and stromatolites in Lincoln National Park

If neither of you have yet cradled a baby kangaroo on your laps while cresting a white-sand dune in a 4×4, with a technicolor ocean on one side and Earth’s most ancient life form on the other, then what can I say? It’s quite possible that you have some living left to do.

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My trip was sponsored by the South Australia Tourism Commission and Qantas Airlines, but all opinions are my own.
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See also

Barossa Valley: Old and New, Part Deux
Barossa Valley: Old and New and Koalas, Too
Adelaide Hills: Day(s) of Wine and Chocolate
Adelaide: From City to Bay
Discovering Down Under: South Australia
Flying High Above South Australia
TWT Travel Binder: Australia

Comments

  1. Wow, sounds like an amazing experience. Slowly but surely I’m getting more and more convinced that my next big trip should be Down Under. I want an Oliver too!

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Travels With Two. Travels With Two said: Sand dunes, baby 'roos & the cleanest waters on Earth: a little Eyre Peninsula, anyone? http://bit.ly/f4cYQl #SouthAustralia […]

  2. […] Eyre Peninsula: Tuna, Dunes and Kangaroos Barossa Valley: Old and New, Part Deux Barossa Valley: Old and New and Koalas, Too Adelaide Hills: Day(s) of Wine and Chocolate Adelaide: From City to Bay Discovering Down Under: South Australia Flying High Above South Australia TWT Travel Binder: Australia […]

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