“Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to meeeee” Please excuse me, this marks a very special occasion. Not only is it my birthday in February, it also marks a time when I visit a new destination in Australia. In an effort to see more of my own country, I self imposed the challenge six years ago. Since then it’s taken me to destinations I would not normally have traveled and I’m thrilled to point out that I’ve now visited all states and territories in Australia. A goal I’d been wanting to hit for quite some time.
You might be thinking, South Australia? Why did you leave that last? Well, I guess I need to make a little confession. I’d left South Australia last because I wasn’t drawn to it. It didn’t sound nearly as exotic as admiring Uluru (2014) or living the #vanlife in Margaret River (2015) or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef (2016) or scaling Cradle Mountain (2017) or surfing in Esperance (2018). I sadly had really low expectations, and thought it to be another version of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.
Oh, how wrong that perception was. I was completely blown away by South Australia; with its natural beauties, wine and culinary scene and how unbelievably friendly, helpful and cheery the people were. If a people define a place, I reckon South Australia is the happiest place on the island. I must say with remorse I didn’t allow nearly enough time here and will need to come back ASAP to explore further.
Deciding on visiting the Yorke Pensinsula was easy, mostly because it seemed like not many travelers ventured there and yet it looked the most beautiful and undoubtedly the most untouched. Most wont go further than the golden triangle of wine regions (Barossa Valley, McClaren Vale and Adelaide Hills), some venture to Kangaroo Island and the Clare Valley, but seldom venture further. Moo and I were up for the challenge.
With only five days, we started where most do: in Adelaide. Our flight arrived promptly at seven after an arduous day at work- don’t forget the thirty minute time difference (WTF) – we uber’d straight to the city center to check out the festivities of the Adelaide Fringe Festival (a complete coincidence but would definitely come back for it) the entire park was sectioned off for carnival folk, rides, live music, an abundance of food trucks and eclectic locals.
We were lucky to get a reservation at Africola (on Valentines day no less) and managed to suckle on a fine Charlotte Dalton Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills to match our meal (highly recommend the Peri Peri chicken, cauliflower and hummus) before unbuttoning my top stud and ambling over the road to see an “improv” show. By eleven our weary eyes could take no more and it was a quick ride back to base in Henley beach.
We wake to lapping shores and stumble across the road for breaky at 303 By the Sea on Henley beach. The area is full of options and I’d give it five years before it shares a similar likeness to Bondi with bountiful boutiques, wine bars and ‘Justin Hemmes-like’ establishments. The beach itself reminds me of Port Mebourne bay and I’m immediately drawn to breathe deeper and adjust to the slower pace of life.
We later pick up our ‘Mighty’ camper (whom I’ve aptly named Mallory for no reason whatsoever) and we’re off. Heading west with no direction home. The highway out of Adelaide was forgettable and the constant traffic lights felt as if we were getting nowhere, but after an hour of day dreaming, suddenly a salt lake appeared and then another and before we new it, we were on the open roads looking out as far as the eye could see over vast agricultural plains, olive tree plantations and the frequent puff of salt in the breeze.
Our plan for the Yorke was to drive down the right side of the leg, circle through the foot, starting at the little toe and then onto the big toe before hopping back up the left shin. You see the peninsula is in the shape of a right foot, similar to a map of Italy.
Others may recommend just hightailing straight to the phalanges where you can find Ines National Park: a haven for all things hiking, swimming, surfing, fishing and relaxing. But in doing my research, it appeared there were many things to see on the limb and skipping them wouldn’t be doing it any justice. I will say though, rushing to get to as many places as possible – goes against all my ‘slow travel’ principles, but I assure you, we did our very best. And unfortunately in doing so, cut out a few places I had eyed up the week before. I’ll ensure to list all the key areas in Part Two.
Our first stop on the ‘Yorke’ was Port Hughes. I’d been drawn to the place for it’s exceptionally clear waters and intricate tides where one can walk along the sand bank being encased by a turquoise saline. Famous for it’s fishing potential, the jetty is where most other humans can be found. You see it is currently blue swimmer crab season and merely casting a container out is all that is required for these dim creatures to crawl straight in. It also provided one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen.
The Yorke Peninsula is one of the few places in Australia where you can see the sun rise and set over the sea of the Spencer Gulf, though we never made it up in time for sunrise, we saw enough sunsets to still remain gleeful.
You will find a caravan park here – but it seemed there weren’t harsh restrictions to free camp (nothing like the east coast anyway), so we parked Mallory in the carpark overlooking the bay. No-one bothered us and I guess because we were only there for one night we weren’t bothering anyone either.
The next morning we wake to lapping shores. Me, the coffee snob of the two brought some Carlo’s coffee and my French press. So for breakfast we enjoyed avocado on sourdough in bed overlooking the daily grind that was; dog walking, horse riding, swimming and fishing.
We enjoyed Port Hughes and if we’d stayed longer would have visited the local tavern (every town has one). We stayed long enough for it to be socially acceptable to start sipping wine as we migrate slowly to the Barley Stacks Wines cellar door, the only vineyard on the peninsula.
I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but it was here, in this place, in the year of 2019 that I bought and sincerely enjoyed my first ever bottle of Chardonnay. The times are changing readers, you’ve heard it here first – gone are the times where chardonnay can be referred to as sickly, fluorescent yellow concentrate. The bold and brash oak tasting days are over and as trends have altered to steer from Sauvignon blanc the Chardonnay makers are catching up and cashing in. Welcome a new era of (finally) delicious Chardonnay. Light, airy, dry and not at all provoking an eye squint – in fact – quite the opposite.
It was then onto Corny point, the little toe on the peninsula. I’d read about the rock pools, sweeping coastal views and surf potential so this stop was unmissable. The town is devoted entirely to pleasure; surfing, boating, fishing, swimming and let’s not forget the walking trails, here you can walk the entire peninsula along a 500km trail called ‘Walk the Yorke‘.
The only downside to this part of the peninsula was the unsealed roads. Still, we pushed Mallory out of her comfort zone and out to the lighthouse (a central starting point for most) to find this:
A little exploring later, we found Berry Bay and before I knew it I was surfing with dolphins. Not even joking!!
Next week we’ll continue on to Ines National Park and along the heel and calf of the peninsula. See you then!
Until then xo