By John Pedler
Last updated on: December 5, 2019 at 1:17 pm
Yorke Peninsula is only 90 minutes from Adelaide, making it the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. But there’s so much to do on this leg-shaped slab of land that it’s worthy of a much longer stay.
Be sure to pack your tackle
The pursuit of utterly fresh seafood is one of the peninsula’s major drawcards, and the prized catch in this region is King George whiting. But there are many other species splashing about in these pristine waters, including salmon, garfish, snook and the small yet tasty tommy ruff.
Boat owners – and those clever enough to befriend them – will find excellent launching facilities all along the coast. Some of the smaller locations have beach launches, and in places like glorious Balgowan, the locals use tractors to dispatch their boats into the sea.
Nearly every coastal town has a jetty, ranging from Wallaroo’s 869m-long bulk handling facility to the tiny wharf at Port Vincent.
Squid can be caught just about anywhere – you can tell you’re in the right place by the ink stains on the jetty planks.
You’ll also see crab nets tethered to most jetties. We had good luck at Port Hughes, Moonta Bay and Wallaroo, and enjoyed a blue swimmer crab and squid feast by the seaside at Moonta Bay.
Raking for crabs is popular too, particularly on the east coast around Ardrossan. Tidal movements here are extreme, so when the tide goes out you can expect a lengthy stroll across the sand flats to get to the loot.
The very tip of the peninsula bears the full brunt of the mighty swells that roll in from the open ocean. This is great news for surfers who head out to the breaks at Chinaman’s Hat, West Cape and Pondalowie in Innes National Park, and further north at Daly Head.
The pounding surf adds drama to the spectacular scenery along this stretch of coastline. The views from West Cape are breathtaking, and the seemingly endless beach that frames the turquoise waters of Formby Bay will inspire a thousand selfies.
If you’re keen for a dip in calmer waters, the seaside village of Port Vincent is ideal for a day at the beach, and the swimming enclosure attached to Moonta jetty is great for kids.
One of our favourites was the man-made tidal pool beneath a rocky ledge at Edithburgh. At high tide it becomes part of the sea, but when the water recedes it reveals a concrete swimming pool, complete with powder-blue deck area and seabird mural.
For history buffs, there are plenty of reminders of a time when copper mining was SA’s most important industry. Back in the late 1800s, Moonta was the state’s largest country town, and significant remnants of the glory days remain. The ruins of the Hughes and Richmans Enginehouses are worth checking out, and the fully intact Moonta Mines Model School has become a fascinating museum.
Home away from home
Our motorhome had a shower, toilet and well-equipped kitchen, and the living area could run on 240-volt or 12-volt, plus gas. This meant we could camp in comfort wherever it was legal, a gloat we shared with anyone who took the slightest interest in our mobile lodgings.
There are plenty of places on the peninsula to set up a caravan/RV/camper trailer/tent for a couple of nights – or even longer if the fish are biting. All the major towns have at least one caravan park, and some of the smaller settlements have more basic campgrounds, with varying facilities.
Campers who are prepared to forgo modern comforts – or those who have on-board amenities, like a shower, toilet and well-equipped kitchen – can choose from the several bush camps operated by the Yorke Peninsula Council. These are fairly basic, and a few are only accessible in an off-road vehicle, but they occupy prime coastal locations. For more information, or to book a patch, visit the council website.
There are also camping areas in Innes National Park, which can be booked through the National Parks website.
To avoid the withering glare of disappointed children, it’s a good idea to book ahead for caravan parks and campsites. We travelled off-season and had no trouble just turning up, but it’s likely to be a different story during long weekends and school holidays.
What we discovered on our Yorke Peninsula road trip is that, thankfully, not a great deal has changed. Sure, Wi-Fi has replaced a walk to the phone box to tell mum it wasn’t me on the news, and caravan park facilities have kept up with the times, but life on the peninsula is still lived in tune with the seasons and the tides.