White sandy beaches, high cliffs, fishing, squid, crop and sheep farming as well as bush camping sums up the Yorke Peninsula (YP) nicely. The sun even shone.
What the description doesn’t cover are small communities, towns full of history and historic buildings. Coming to the Peninsula is like taking a step back in time. A place that has stood still, marked time. A place we would love to stay longer. A week around the highlights was enjoyable, but everywhere we went we bumped into people who had been here for months. That’s what it does to you. At Port Julia we were staying one night, but stayed three. We could have easily stayed months too, if we didn’t have to work our way back to Geelong to pick up our own motorhome.
With 40kms to the sea from any point on the Peninsula and often a lot less, YP has the feel of an island. As we took our road trip, we began looking for high points with cell phone towers and knew that the next town was close. With the drop off, of the land to the sea, the buildings of the towns couldn’t always be seen from the road.
Lighthouses abound and there are wrecks round the peninsula from times gone by before lighthouses were operating. A veritable ship graveyard. A few fierce storms have blown through recently and Port Victoria community were still repairing their jetty.
The YP’s history is in dolomite, which they exported predominantly to Adelaide to assist with the building of the town. The buildings on the Yorke also made use of the dolomite.
The highlights for us were the people we met along the way. At Pine Point, Kaz is passionate about squidding. She just loves it. When she found out that Geoff enjoyed squid, she brought our three flavours of squid that she had preserved and after Geoff tried them and found his favourite, the rest of the jar was his to take with us. Kaz and Ian are caretaking the camping ground and hosted happy hour, introducing us to Aussie Rules football. The only football game. We enjoyed watching the game, picking up the rules as we went along. And passionate. Ian is as passionate about football as Kaz is about squid.
Bush Campfire Advice
At Port Julia our neighbours, Janine and Paul, a couple from Perth, had a campfire set up between our two campsites. They invited us to join them and we learnt a bit about bush camping:
Additional campfire advice from our Kiwi friends Muzz and Leigh:
Port Julia’s camping facility was very relaxed, go find your spot and at 4:30 attend happy hour, meet the other campers, and pay for your stay. There is very limited water supply, only rain water and water that is trucked in. We arrived with full tanks and drinking water in bulk. Everyone seemed to chill out here. It was like camping was in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. Few rules, just common sense, be mindful of your neighbour and we all enjoyed a chilled out time. This was what it was all about.
We use Farmers Markets and roadside stalls as often as we can, so when we saw there was a farmers market on in Carramulka, we made sure we visited. We picked up some baking and enjoyed a bacon and egg roll for lunch.
The landscape on the YP is mainly rolling hills, sand and scrub bush. The towns are clean and tidy. In particular Stansbury stood out. It’s such a clean and tidy town. All but one (that we saw) homes were immaculate. Restored. Painted up. Gardens tidy. On Tuesdays it’s tidy up date and the locals volunteer their time to pick up rubbish, tidy up public areas and stop for a chat with visitors, making them feel welcome. Their pride in their town shows. In the shops everyone knew everyone, and stopped for a chat. No hustle and bustle, just relaxed, an easy way of life. Beautiful beach. This is another place to come back to and next time stay awhile.
At each port, silos stand tall, now full of the grain and legumes that have been harvested. The biggest storage area is Coobowie, just 5kms north of Edithburgh, with a conveyor out along the wharf to fill the ships. It would have been great to have timed our visit to see the operation in action.
Additional storage areas to cover peak time are laid out like a silage pit, covered with huge tarps. Along with all the grain, the season was particularly right for a predicted mouse invasion. There was also a snail invasion as well, so farmers were burning off all over YP.
The mice moved house. Fortunately they didn’t get into our home on wheels, but it was a near thing. As we were driving to YP we stopped at the beach for a couple of days at Port Parham where they were all over the place. On our way to YP we shopped in Dublin. We bought real meat that hasn’t been messed with at the butchers. Geoff took it back to the motorhome while I went in search of a loaf of bread and some milk. When I arrived back, the house door was open, step down, and a large black mouse was sitting outside looking in. I think he was working out how to negotiate the steps in a single bound. As I came along, he took off underneath the motorhome. I leapt in quick and shut the door. We’ve made a point since of always having the screen door closed when we have the house door open.
Our final destination on YP was Innes National Park on the tip of the peninsula.
We bush camped here after digitally checking in at the Visitor Centre. Fortunately, we could use WikiCamps reviews as a guide, because we were required to enter in the camp and site number we were going to stay at before checking out the various camps. We found it to be a catch 22. So we chose the camp at Cable Bay, site 4.
As it turned out, none of the sites gave us a view of the sea as the sand hills providing shelter from the prevailing wind. Walking to the beach (about 10m) beautiful sand but covered in seaweed, after seeing the mice at Port Parham in the seaweed, I was reluctant to walk along the small beach, happy to look from the “safety” of the sand dune.
Back in the motorhome, after our walk, sitting down to a cuppa, Geoff said “Hey, take a look at this”. “This” was a rat, stealthily working its way to our motorhome. I think I heard every noise in the night, but as it turned out, Geoff was right, there is nowhere for a rat to get in.
During the night we had also been visited by kangaroos. Possibly emu’s as well.
In the morning we took a whirl wind tour of the park as I was reluctant to stay another night, beginning with Cape Spencer Lighthouse. This area has been the scene of many tragic shipwrecks.
We stood on the southernmost point of the peninsula looking all the way down to Antarctica (and feeling the chill of the breeze coming straight from the South Pole).
A highlight was a visit to Inneston historic town, where the dolomite was mined.
The village is being restored and the restored buildings are available for overnight stays. Emu’s were wandering around, as we ourselves wandered around. Information boards painting the history of the area.
On the road trip out of the park and up to Corny Point Lighthouse the roads are sealed and in pretty good condition until the road out to the lighthouse, which was rather corrugated.
We found there isn’t a lot of room for turning, although was fine as we were the only ones there and signs. recommend caravans don't go - park your van and drive out in your vehicle.
Just as the towns were hidden by the contours of the land, so also was the Barley Stacks Winery and we didn’t see the vines until we saw the winery.
Owner Lyall Schulz welcomed as warmly at 10am. Can you wine taste at 10am? It was a bit much for my system. When Lyall’s Mum and sister arrived to see their son and brother, they warmly engaged me in conversation. I didn’t realise, until then, how short of girl talk I was. We were busy chatting away and I left the wine buying to the menfolk only to discover that we bought two bottles not a case.
Lyall is running a business, and in business like fashion, he used the services of top winemakers, making a name for the winery with silver and bronze medal wins. We’d have awarded gold. I’m sure we will settle somewhere long enough to get a case shipped.
Smiths stump jump plough. Say that a couple of times after a wine or two. We paused in Arthurton on Main Street to see the stump jump plough.
When ploughing the field the Smiths came up with the idea to be able to raise the plough up over the stumps of the trees that had been removed and continue ploughing the field. In so doing the invented the stump jump plough.
It must have had quite an impact on the farming community because when we reached the entrance to the YP, a replica stump jump plough has been placed, honouring the invention.
We said farewell YP, knowing it is a place we would like to return to when we have more time up our sleeve.
When you say Barossa Valley, people already know it is one of Australia's wine regions. What we didn't fully appreciate is that we have come from one of the top wine regions in the world and finding a wine that we like was a very hit and miss affair to start with. That was until we discovered a little winery in the tiny village of Greenock. Actually this village sports two wineries and a brewery. But the Kalleske winery, one of the oldest in the Barossa Valley and has been in the Kalleske family since 1853. Our wine tasting experience was warm and convivial as we were led through the vines and their history, along with stories about the wines and wine makers. The price of the wines was down to earth too. .We chatted with an Irish couple who had lived in New Zealand, returned to Ireland and eventually settled in Australia. Our hostess looked after three tastings at the bar and three tastings seated at the tables and it was all spaced out nicely, giving enough time to fully appreciate each variety.
No Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir. But wine made from old vines where the grapes struggle with minimal watering adding depth to the wine. This lady walked home to where we were camping in the nearby oval very happy,
At the beginning of our day, we visited the Herbig family tree. This is where the family lived until they had an actual house to live in. The Herbig homestead is on the opposite side of the road. Standing inside the tree, we would also have been happy to camp here.
The road trip continued on to the Eden Valley lookout across the Barossa Valley and the Sculpture Park (see photo above), as the weather closed in. The Autum rain had started early.
The Sculpture Park resulted after a stone symposium in 2008. The work of the sculptures is here for people to enjoy. See at the end of this post for photos of some of the sculptures. My favourite is the one with the small hand and foot carved into the stone as if a child has stepped into cement.
After sampling cheese in Angaston, we quickly move on to Pheasant Farm, the home of Maggie Beer, to arrive in time for the two o'clock cooking demonstration. I thought this would be one of the highlights of the trip for me, and it would have been, except Maggie herself arrived, looking for her head chef. She stopped to say hello and welcomed everyone. She is so warm and natural, just a genuine person. The kitchen is a replica of Maggie's kitchen. When she was making the TV series "The Cook and the Chef" there were 40 people involved in production. At the time, Maggie's children were small, so the interruption to family life needed to be kept to a minimum, in the family home. Maggie arranged for a replica kitchen to be built at the farm shop. Maggie is a guest on the latest Masterchef series. Her cooking is the basics and rustic. For example, you leave the onion skins on - no tears for the cook put the skins to the side of your plate. It's the first cooking demo that Geoff has been to with me. He couldn't see how he would use any of it on the BBQ, whereas I saw heaps of things we can do. The balsamic apples worked a treat. I still have to take the skin off our onions - BBQ chefs instructions.
The next day was Saturday, so we made our way to the Barossa Valley Farmers Market, between Nuriootpa and Angaston. It was everything I think a farmers market should be. The farmers (or their staff) on hand to talk about their produce. No middle man, just the real deal. It's a very popular market and it wasn't easy finding parking for the motorhome. We eventually got her parked far enough off the road to go in.
After topping up our fresh fruit, vege, meat, cheese and bread we wandered our way to Kapunda. Down into the iSite cellar we went to meet the characters who created this town.
We then went out to the copper mine ruins to walk the rim of the mine. I've never been a fan of Cornish Pasties because of that thick lump of pastry on the side, but guess what! You don't eat that lump of pastry. That's the bit the copper miner holds on to while he eats down in the mine on his lunch break, then discards because he doesn't want copper in his system. The walk used interpretive panels to paint the life of the people at the mine and we enjoyed it - although we had to cut our walk around the open cast bit short as the rain came down. We scurried back to the van for our own lunch of Barossa Valley farmers market fare.
Down in the cellar of the iSite meeting the characters who built the town, via video sitting on hide skins.
The walk up to the chimney gave a good view of the copper mine area. Originally the copper mine covered an 80 acre section when the copper was discovered and the land was surveyed in 1842. Kapunda was the first successful mine in Australia and the area grew on the wealth it created.
Horses were used to drive a wheel to pump water out from the mine, but they weren't Clydesdales as in Clyde, the statue. The statue is to honour the pit ponies who carted equipment and ore. A replica of the wheel that was driven by horses walking in a circle has been created, is movable. The kids on the walk ahead of us had fun pushing it around, as did the big kid that travels with me.
We were able to walk down into the open cast mine. The colours in the rocks, resulting from the copper are really pretty.
The miners used to report hearing strange noises in the mine, named Tommy Knockers, the spirit creatures of the underground.
We found the interactive panels around the mine area helped paint a picture of the life and business around and in the mine.
Our road trip for the day concluded with a drink in the Gungellan Pub in Freeling, known as Gungellan in the TV series McLeod's Daughters. A wall, just inside the door has been dedicated to the filming of the series. There were a few new subdivisions in Freeling.
McLeod's daughters Gungellan Pub in Freeling. As we entered the town a group of teenagers gave us a friendly wave. I'm guessing that they have been told how much visitors give to the economy.
McLeod's Daughters country, heading towards the motorway, and back to Greenoch where we bush camped at the oval, for a couple of nights. It is set up with a dump station, fresh water and rubbish bins.
And so ended one of the best days on our road trip so far.
Two Kiwi's who have retired early to travel the world. Share our journey with us.