From Adelaide, an hour flight with Regional Airlines (REX) will take you to what is known as ‘Australia’s Seafood Capital’ and the gateway to the Eyre Peninsula region, Port Lincoln. With a population of around 14,000 people, this unique city is nestled on the beautiful, blue Boston Bay which is three times the size of Sydney Harbour. The city then continues around the coastline with contrasting landscape, ranging from sheltered waters to surf beaches and rugged oceanic cliffs.
Discovered by British naval explorer Matthew Flinders in February 1802, the harbour is now home to Australia’s largest commercial fishing fleet and a thriving aquaculture industry that farms tuna, yellowtail kingfish, abalone, mussels, oysters and experimental farming in seahorses and spiny lobsters. In addition to its seafood, this area is one of the nation’s premium grain growing regions, with its produce being exported worldwide.
It is because of this, that dining out is guaranteed to satisfy any seafood connoisseur and delight the gastronomic taste buds. In Port Lincoln – depending on the season – we like to indulge in popular tantalising dishes of western king prawns, king george whiting and black mussels – dishes which gives Eyre Peninsula its name as the ‘seafood frontier’.
Ideas to work up an appetite
To work up the appetite (and give excuse to indulge to your stomach’s content), there are plenty of things to see and do in this port city, starting with its most northern point. Spectacular lookouts over the Southern Ocean, protected coves, steep cliff faces and surf beaches are a stones throw away from the city centre. The bay’s sheltered waters create a Mediterranean climate with ready access to both Spencer Gulf and the Great Australian Bight it makes Port Lincoln a blue water playground for yachting, scuba diving and game fishing.
For those more adventurous, there is the unique opportunity to jump in the water and swim with your dinner – well tuna at least, or dive with the apex predators of the ocean avoiding to become their dinner, the great white shark. Just a half day tour, beginning with a 15 minute luxury catamaran boat ride out to the world class tuna pontoon, a swim with the tuna is three hours of excitement not to be missed. Suited up in a wetsuit and prepped with a snorkel and mask, jump into a floating pen full of one of the fastest fish in the world, the blue fin tuna. These agile fish can grow to lengths of nine feet and weights of 1,500 pounds, and the opportunity to feed these amazing fish is sure to get your adrenalin pumping.
Why not step up the adrenalin levels and upgrade to an even larger marine animal, the great white shark. This trip takes a full day starting at dawn to include a southern sunrise for a spot of dolphin watching. The journey takes you out to the Neptune Islands and the southern aspect of the Australasian Continental shelf, a distance of 70 kilometres south by south-east of Port Lincoln. Reaching depths of 95 metres, Neptune consists of two major islands which form an extended crescent divided by a small sea channel running from south-west to the north-east. The southern-most island supports a major New Zealand fur seal colony as well as the rarer, and more endangered, Australian Sea Lion, which attracts both great white sharks and bronze whalers. Fun fact, it is in this area where part of Speilberg’s 80′s classic Jaws was filmed.
Jumping into the cage that hangs off the back of the boat takes more than just the ability to squeeze into a wetsuit, pull on a mask and learn to breathe through a diving regulator – it takes a certain courage to come face to face with one of the most feared predators. Chumming the water with a mixture of fish offal, blood and oil works to attract the sharks, it’s an encounter that should rate in any adrenaline junkie’s top 10, and can only be found in Australia in this region.
Check out the sights
However, there’s more to the Eyre Peninsula than just the southern town of Port Lincoln. A half hour drive out from Port Lincoln and you enter the Port Lincoln National Park, covering an area over 17 thousand hectares. A small fee gives you entry into this spectacular wilderness, thick with flora and fauna to explore.
Meanwhile, across to the west there’s another region which juts out to create what is known as the Coffin Bay Peninsula. Starting at the western side around to the southern end of Coffin Bay Peninsula you’ll see coastline licked by the waves of the Southern Ocean. While the water looks inviting, the seal colonies in the area attract the occasional great white shark, so swimming and diving is not advisable.
The eastern and northern end is a different story however, with sheltered sandy beaches meeting azure coloured waters, perfect for swimming, fishing and various other water sports. While some tracks is 4WD access only, the rest of the national park is easily accessible and the perfect place to pitch a tent and camp. The Coffin Bay Peninsula is a haven for bird watching – think sea eagles, ospreys, albatrosses and petrels – and from early September to November the landscape comes alive with magnificent wildflowers to add to a picture perfect view.
Most famously known in Coffin Bay are the oysters. Landing on restaurant tables around the world, these oysters have been farmed in Coffin Bay since production was established in the Eyre Peninsula in the 1980s. If you are interested to learn more about these tasty treats, tours are available that will take you to farms and provide a hands-on experience from growing the oysters right through to how it reaches the apprtiser plate. Even if you’re not a fan, be sure to have a taste of these world renowned oysters before you leave.
If you have the spirit of an explorer, curiosity for discovery, a taste for adventure or simply want to see a part of Australia that is a hidden gem for most, then the ‘seafood platter’ of Australia awaits in the Eyre Peninsula. With sensational food to feast upon, an interesting working industry, marvelous coastal scenery quaint inland townships with unique aquatic adventures and historic trails and walks, it’s a mixed bag of experiences, but also a place where you can mix with locals and absorb the buzzing atmosphere of an active port. If peace and quiet is what you’re after, there are many spots where you’ll find yourself alone on an idylic white sandy beach with an azure ocean backdrop. This seafood frontier is the big ‘seafood platter’, it has something for everyone, so what are you waiting for?