The coast road between Port Augusta and Ceduna connects a string of summer resort towns, some of South Australia’s most dramatic coastal scenery and great fishing spots.
Story By Denis O'Byrne
Motorists in a hurry to get between Ceduna and Port Augusta will take National Route 1 (the Eyre Highway) across the northern part of the Eyre Peninsula. But if time isn’t a problem the coastal option via Port Lincoln is a more exciting alternative. This fully sealed route takes you to some of Australia’s most dramatic and beautiful coastline, particularly on the west coast with its blend of quiet bays, booming surf beaches, Sahara-like dunes and towering storm-sculpted cliffs. There are many friendly old seaports to explore and more gourmet seafood experiences than you can poke a stick at. There’s excellent fishing from beaches and jetties right along this unspoilt coast, with salmon and King George whiting being popular targets. If that’s not enough there are also outstanding wildlife tours and four-wheel-drive trips to national parks and reserves.
With its apex pointing south, triangular-shaped Eyre Peninsula is bounded on its eastern side by the sheltered waters of Spencer Gulf, and on the west by the wild Southern Ocean. It was first colonised by Europeans in 1840, just four years after the proclamation of the colony of South Australia. The first settlers relied on a fleet of coastal vessels called ketches to get their produce to market. By 1865 the coastline was dotted with small townships, all engaged in the ketch trade. Wheat became important in the 1880s and beyond as the big runs were broken into smaller holdings.
Wheat and wool have continued to be the peninsula’s economic mainstays, while tourism has also become a major earner. Most coastal towns boast an aquaculture venture or two – Pacific oysters, abalone, mulloway, yellow tail kingfish and southern bluefin tuna are among the species farmed – and many of these may be visited on guided tours.
Tuna farming, which is by far the most important economically, is a unique and fascinating industry. It involves the capture of whole schools of fish in the Great Australian Bight, from where they are towed to Port Lincoln and transferred to large cages in Boston Bay to be fattened for market. “The wild catch is controlled by a strict quota system, with Australia’s share being 5265 tonnes divided between 11 Port Lincoln-based farmers,” local tour operator Peter Dennis, who specialises in aquaculture cruises on Boston Bay, says. “The tuna are held in a feedlot situation for up to seven months, by which time they’ve gained 50 percent of their body weight and their flesh has reached the desired fat and oil content. Almost all the fish go to the Japanese sashimi market, where they bring up to $150,000 per tonne.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #54
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2007