Six reasons to visit Yorke Peninsula this winter…
If winter seems like a drag, you may be looking at it the wrong way. John Boswell called winter the time to ‘gather golden moments, embark on a sentimental journey and enjoy every idle hour’.
The sentimental journey to Yorke Peninsula begins at the head of the Gulf Saint Vincent, just an hour from Adelaide. With the summer wheat harvest long gone, you’ll be greeted by slowly-greening fields and quiet seaside towns, by long empty beaches and the occasional sight of whales off Cape Spencer. So idle those hours with glorious solitude and nature in the raw. You’ll soon see winter in a whole new light…
1. Winter fishing
The Yorke coastline has some of the most varied fishing grounds in Australia – a 700km fishing opportunity that offers tidal mangroves in the north, sheltered gulf beaches in the middle (facing both east and west), and wild, wave-hammered cliffs in the south.
Ask any Yorke local and they’ll agree that fishing is at its best in winter, precisely because the winds die down and conditions become calmer and more predictable.
Whether you’re dropping a line off a jetty or heading out into big seas, you’ll be offered improved chances of catching tommies, squid and mulloway. Winter sees the arrival of salmon off southern beaches, increased snapper action and improved chances of bagging King George whiting which comes closer into the shore.
If you ask us, the zenith of fishing happiness is a thermal mug of hot coffee at dawn with a thick beanie on your head and an historic jetty under your feet. Yorke Peninsula has one of the highest concentrations of jetties in the state so there are plenty of great fishing opportunities to be had. We recommend Wallaroo, Port Hughes, Port Victoria, Moonta Bay, Ardrossan, Stansbury, Edithburgh and Marion Bay – all conveniently close to hotels or cafes serving hot breakfast!
2. Wrecks, wings and whales
Innes National Park is a state treasure, a place where ghost towns are hidden behind rugged limestone cliffs, and pale turquoise lakes are rimed with a strange, grey crystal.
If winter brings a special wildness to this unusual corner of Australia, it also brings a proper empathy for the small isolated township of Inneston, an outpost of 150 souls who mined the crystalline gypsum from 1913 until they abandoned the place in the 1930s. The same weather left the region littered with shipwrecks, including the Ethel which was grounded on Ethel Beach in 1904. In 2015, her steel bones were left especially stark after a powerful storm and these can still be seen today.
The new Walk the Yorke trail carves through the 9200ha park in a 51km section (Marion Bay to Gleeson’s Landing), following cliff tops, stopping at pockets of pristine beach and plunging through thick mallee scrub. Bird lovers particularly love this section for the rare western whipbird, which was discovered in 1970. Other prized sightings among 120 bird species include the osprey, boobook owl, purple-crowned lorikeet and southern scrub robin.
Winter also brings the largest visitor into the region. In May, Southern Right Whales begin their migration eastwards, heading for sheltered breeding grounds. Look for their tell-tale blows on the horizon.
3. Warm up on gourmet winter fare!
Barley Stacks Wines’ Gourmet Day has become a highlight on Yorke Peninsula’s calendar. This lively event sees the ample barrel shed near Maitland filled with people, music, art, fashion wine and a feast of local food.
This year (2017), the event takes place on July 2: on-the-door tickets cost $12 which includes a Barley Stacks glass or stubby holder and entry into the door prize.
4. Learn about the Grain Racers
By the 1880s, thanks to government incentives to pioneering farmers, South Australia was growing half of Australia’s wheat. Yorke Peninsula was a big part of this, and jetties right around the peninsula were piled with grain stacks for export to the rest of the British Empire.
One of the most evocative aspects of the chapter was the unofficial ‘Grain Races’ that took place between England and Yorke Peninsula. The skippers of huge four-masted ‘windjammers’ would race for glory, flying on trade winds around Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope. Their dramatic stories – and an unlikely connection with Finland – are revealed in a fabulous little museum overlooking Port Victoria jetty. After being invigorated by salty tales, repair to the skippers’ favourite pub, the old Port Vic Hotel. The cosy front bar overlooks the jetty, and has a suitably hearty menu…
Other farming heritage museums include The Farm Shed Museum and Tourism Centre in Kadina and the Ardrossan Historic Museum, the National Heritage listed Moonta Mines Museum and the Wallaroo Heritage and Nautical Museum.
5. Get the kids to rug up and help out!
Farmers and kids have something in common – the weather won’t stop them.
Redwing Farm offers one of South Australia’s very best farmstays. Located among rolling wheat country south of Moonta, this peaceful, pretty and ultimately thoughtful retreat offers two beautifully tailored self-contained spaces for families – the Shearer’s Quarters and the Redwing Barn.
Kids know they’re in for something special the moment they arrive at the lovely main house where owners Damien and Nicola Adams reside. Alongside is a series of rustic enclosures, home to dozens of animals including Godfrey the cow and Menindie the donkey.
Kids are encouraged to help with morning feeding duties, a chance for them to learn about the animals while getting some colour in their cheeks. Afterwards they’ll be gobbling down their cooked breakfast of farm-fresh and locally sourced goodies (available to guests) and eager to get into the country style of living.
There are three walking trails on the property, so pull on the boots and jacket, grab an umbrella and challenge the kids to see how many wild animals they can spot from among grey kangaroos, foxes, rabbits, hares and even deer. Winner gets to go to the lovely old Moonta Mines Sweet Shop for a bag of their favourite lollies…
6. Get toasty beside these happy hot spots
Historic hotel hearths: There are log fires blazing in many of the peninsula’s lovely old hotels including at the Curramulka Hotel (1879), Warooka Hotel (1880), Coobowie Hotel (1876) and the Yorke Valley Hotel in Maitland (1877).
Pizza wood ovens: Do your dough at Coopers Alehouse (Wallaroo), Marion Bay Tavern, Cross Roads Wood Fired Pizza (Moonta) and Yorke Peninsula Wood Oven Pizzas (Stansbury).
The baker’s oven: The Tavern On Turton not only has fabulous views over Hardwicke Bay, rave food reviews and the Peninsula’s biggest burger, it also bakes it is own bread daily.
Beach bonfire! Many Yorke Peninsula camp sites allow for campfires in winter, and beach bonfires are still something of a tradition on the peninsula. So roast those spuds, toast those marshmallows – and if you’re feeling creative, tip a bottle of locally made Shiraz into a saucepan, add a spice pack and mull your own wine. Luxury!
Written by Max Anderson for Yorke Peninsula Tourism