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.
Two Kiwi's who have retired early to travel the world. Share our journey with us.