South Australia's Port Lincoln

I might be biased, but I don’t think any trip to South Australia is complete unless the seaside town of Port Lincoln is part of that visit.  Situated over 700 kilometres by road from the States capital, Adelaide, Port Lincoln sits at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula and is home to Australia’s largest fishing fleet. 

There are reputedly more millionaires per head of population in Port Lincoln than anywhere else in Australia; fortunes made in the Bluefin Tuna Fishery.

If travelling by road from Adelaide, it’s at least an eight hour drive if you take it easy, longer if you decide to stop at one or two of the towns on the way.  You first need to head north along Port Wakefield Road, which is part of National Highway One, to the township of Port Wakefield, which sits right at the top of St Vincent Gulf.  From there, it’s about another two hours to Port Augusta which is right at the top of Spencer Gulf and is called the “Crossroads of Australia”.  This largish town is the gateway to the South Australian outback and the Stuart Highway, which will take you to Darwin and the top of Australia, over 3000 kilometres away.  The Eyre Highway heads west towards Western Australia and that State’s capital Perth, which is another 3000 plus kilometres away.

From Port Augusta head south-west down the Lincoln Highway and the eastern side of Eyre Peninsula.  70 kilometres on you will reach the city of Whyalla, the home of BHP Steel and the steelworks.  Iron ore is mined around this area, and mining towns with likely names such as Iron Knob are testament to this.

About 100 kilometres further down the Lincoln Highway is the small jade mining town of Cowell.  More well-known these days as a holiday fishing destination, Cowell is a nice little spot with a jetty and sheltered Franklin Harbour; a protected harbour that produces nice catches of blue crabs during the warmer months. 

Along the 160 or so kilometres of the eastern Eyre Peninsula, there are some pretty little towns like Arno Bay,  Port Neill and Tumby Bay; all excellent fishing destinations in their own right.  There are some pristine beaches along this stretch too.  Arno Bay has become popular in within the last few years with snapper fisherman and the area, along with Whyalla, now produces the most consistent big snapper fishing in the country.

Of course you could always fly from Adelaide Airport.  There is a small airline service to the Port Lincoln Airport and I believe there is a hire car service now available.  But why would you fly when you could drive for 8 hours?

Finally, we reach Port Lincoln.  Sitting on the shores of Boston Bay, the huge wharf is immediately obvious, along with the magnificent views across the bay to Boston Island.  The town itself is set on foothills that slope gently down to the ocean.  The town has grown somewhat over the last ten years or so, with high rise hotels and apartments making an appearance, along with a few cafes springing up along the foreshore.  I’m still not convinced this has improved things at all, but it still retains some of its small town atmosphere.

Woodcutters BeachCredit: Steven Pike

There are a few hotels and holiday places available for rent but you will need to book if visiting in peak times.  The caravan park on the other side of town has great views and its own jetty which offers quite good fishing if the conditions are right.  The rocky shoreline near the caravan park drops into deep water and is good for snorkelling and diving when the water is clear.

The Port Lincoln Marina is definitely worth a look and has a pool complex with a gym.  There are a number of holiday houses here also.  The majority of the fishing fleet is harboured here in the marina.  A bit further around towards the point is a public boat ramp that offers access to some great fishing grounds, but local knowledge will be required here.

It is not the town itself that attracts me to this area, but more so the surrounding coastline.  Just 12 kilometres from the centre of town is the Lincoln National Park.  It offers excellent camping, fishing and 4WD opportunities and is not unusual to see no-one else for the day or to have a whole beach to yourself.  I once camped here for three days and did not see another person.  Admittedly it was winter, but it was a great feeling to have the entire area to myself for those three days.  A very relaxing experience.

About 50 kilometres from Port Lincoln lies the popular holiday town of Coffin Bay.  A beautiful little spot with sheltered waterways and the Coffin Bay National Park.  This National Park offers 4WD access only to a number of spots, but a conventional vehicle can access some lovely parts of the Park.   Almonta and Gunyah Beaches are renowned surf fishing beaches for the Australian Salmon.  Magnificent coastline indeed.

The coastline north to Elliston is rugged and not all of it is accessible.  However, spots like Sheringa Beach, Locks Well, Drummond Point and Camel Beach are all spectacular stretches of coast with good surfing and fishing.

If you are based in Port Lincoln, all these areas are easily accessible.  The town itself offers other areas of interest.  Shark diving has become a popular pastime.  A charter boat takes customers out to well-known Great White Shark haunts.  The sharks are attracted to the boat with tuna baits.  When one starts hanging around the boat, a shark cage is lowered into the water and paying customers jump into the cage.  Great White Sharks being Great White Sharks usually taste test the cage with a few bites, which is quite an adrenalin rush if you are inside the cage.

You can take a tour of the tuna farms located in Boston Bay.  These Southern Bluefin Tuna are netted miles out in the Great Australian Bight and then towed back into Boston Bay where they are kept in huge pens.  They are fed and fattened up to be sold, most to the Japanese market.  These fish, in good condition, fetch huge prices and this is where most of the wealth in Port Lincoln is generated.

It’s fascinating to watch the tuna fed up close and it’s possible at times to actually dive with the free swimming tuna.

Tours of Boston Island are available and the boat will take you right around the island.

Not far from town there is a great wildlife park where the kids can feed the kangaroos and birds. 

As for eating out, there are a couple of hotels along the foreshore where nice meals are available, as well as plenty of takeaway shops and cafes.  Don’t get caught out though; they are not open twenty four hours a day; it’s still a country town in some respects.

If you are a fishing or surfing fan then Port Lincoln will not disappoint, although the waters are well known for their shark population, with Bronze Whalers common and Great Whites always a possibility.

There are dozens of offshore islands in the area also, and the Sir Joseph Banks Group is listed as a Conservation Park.  Charter boats can be hired to take you out to these unspoilt waters.  Sea lions are abundant out there and are amusing to watch.  Not shy at all, they will readily approach the boat to have a closer look. 

Port Lincoln has it all really, albeit on a small scale.  The country side surrounding it is truly unspoilt and is in stark contrast to most of the rest of Eyre Peninsula which has been cleared for farming.  It is an ideal place to unwind and I haven’t even scratched the surface of things to do and see.  A unique part of Australia and well worth a visit if you have the chance.