South Australia’s Aquatic Playground

A destination in itself, the Eyre Peninsula beckons lovers of all things marine.

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the Eyre Peninsula, the ultimate vacation spot. Whether you spend a day or a week there, you’ll be greeted by welcoming locals and experience drop-dead gorgeous beaches, ocean-to-plate seafood safaris, opportunities for swimming with marine animals, and national park adventures galore.

The Eyre Peninsula enjoys a warm, sunny climate, especially in the summer (December to February), with highs ranging from the upper 70s to upper 80s. Spring and fall are quieter and have more moderate temperatures; spring (September to November) finds the hills awash in green and flowers, and fall (March to May) brings out the colors.

Sunrise at Port Lincoln Marina. The Seafood Capital of Australia is a perfect base for exploring the Eyre Peninsula.
Sunrise at Port Lincoln Marina. The Seafood Capital of Australia is a perfect base for exploring the Eyre Peninsula.
Photograph by Dan Westegren

During the summer, hitch up with Goin’ Off Safaris, which runs personalized tours that provide close-up interactions with marine life. Just tell them what you’re interested in and how long you have, and they’ll give you a deep dive into the peninsula, complete with Australian accents and plenty of local lore. Goin’ Off Safaris owner David (“Lunch”) Doudle seems to know everybody in the region’s main city, Port Lincoln, including several interesting and entertaining local characters. Lunch will also guide you to local hotspots on a “hunt and gather” safari, where great stories are told while gathering the catch of the day. Then sit back and sip a beverage, while the seafood is prepared by your own personal cuisine guru. Add a blissful Indian Ocean and melting sunset background, and what could be a more perfect day?

The oyster farms in Coffin Bay offer another noteworthy seafood experience. The oyster industry a generation ago was on the brink of dying out from over-harvesting. That’s when scientists came on board and worked with the local seafood industry to bring back this important staple. Every day the oyster baskets are checked and moved in accordance with the weather and tides, and the result is oysters that, says Dan Westegren, National Geographic photographer, “are just unbelievably good.” After eating a half dozen of them on the half shell fresh out of the water, Dan proclaimed that he was spoiled for life. “I can never go back to eating regular oysters again.” To eat a just-opened oyster is to taste the rich, briny essence of the sea, and it’s a world away from eating one that is even a day old. If you have a taste for seafood, don’t miss out on this experience.

While in the area, check out Coffin Bay National Park and its windswept cliffs, huge dunes, brilliant white beaches, and turquoise waters. Experience the rich birdlife, and take advantage of opportunities for sailing, diving, windsurfing, and other water sports.

Head over to Port Lincoln to learn more about the seafood industry. This is where all the processing takes place. “A person can’t just go out and catch a fish and sell it on the street,” says Dan. “It’s all regulated to protect the fisheries. And you can take a tour to see how the fish are processed, and then you go out front and eat the fish.”

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But one of the biggest reasons to swing by Port Lincoln is to have a close encounter with some of that abundant marine life swimming around out there. You can sign on to swim with dolphins, sea lions, seals, and amazing giant cuttlefish. Or, you can go cage diving with the sharks. Adventure Bay Charters, one of five places in the world where you can go nose-to-nose with great whites, uses AC/DC music to draw out the sharks. The vibrations from the music attract the sharks, which is believed to be less agitating to their nervous systems than using bait. “We had 16 people, with 6 in a cage at a time. You stay in the cage until you can’t stand it anymore. After about 5 hours there were only 3 of us crazy enough to still be in that cage,” says Dan. The sharks weren’t exactly banging the cage, but they did make an appearance. For those who don’t want to get down in the water with a wet suit and regulator, the vessel has a glass box mounted on the back. Tour operators provide wetsuits, masks, and snorkels; you can also buy an underwater camera. Along the way you’ll see plenty of dolphins and seabirds.

Let your imagination run wild while you’re planning this trip. Picture yourself surfing in uncrowded national parks, slurping Coffin Bay oysters, draining bottles of sunset beer, taking a fishing charter, going on a photo safari. Then come to Eyre Peninsula and live the dream.

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