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Yorke Peninsula: Three Days of Sights and Secrets

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South Australia is known for its peninsulas, each one much scenic than the next. Yorke Peninsula is the middle of the three, a favourite for surfing and fishing.

It’s also the peninsula I am least familiar with, so when Mick from SA Eco Tours invited me to join him on one of his 3-Day Yorke Peninsula tours, I jumped at the chance.

You see, Mick might live in Adelaide and base his business there, but he owns a holiday home on Yorke Peninsula and spends much of his time there, and this was exactly what I was keen to experience.

He would know all the local secret spots, the backroads and the local stories, and this was exactly what I wanted.

This was to be my second trip with SA Eco Tours – earlier in the year I joined their 3-Day Flinders Ranges tour which was fabulous. Steve was my driver at that time.

A man standing near a white 4WD which has "Australian Private Tours & Charters" on the door

The SA Eco Tours ethos is around providing small group tours with a flexible itinerary and a local feel. Each trip adjusts slightly with the changing seasons and weather, the interests of the passengers and even how the days progress.

There is no rushing here. The whole idea is to sit back and enjoy.

This time there were only two other guests on the tour, so the four of us were travelling in a comfortable 4WD instead of the bus that we used last time.

(The signs on the doors are for Mick’s other business, where he also offers bespoke private tours.)

Day One – Getting to Yorke Peninsula

Yorkes, as we affectionately call it, can be reached with only 90 minutes of driving from the Adelaide City Centre, but that is just where it starts.

We pulled into the perennial road trip stop of Port Wakefield to grab a coffee and a snack to keep going. This was to be a common theme – if we wanted to stop we would, if we didn’t we would keep moving, none of the stops were set in stone.

A mural on the side of the Rising Sun Hotel in Port Wakefield shows a gnarly sailor holding a bottle of beer

I may have lived in South Australia all my life and driven through Port Wakefield probably hundreds of times, but I have never before turned off the main highway to explore the backstreets.

Two skeletons sitting on chairs in a dry river bed. Behind them are two mannequins looking down on them

This time we did, as Mick regaled us with stories of Jack Brabham winning his first Australian Grand Prix and Dawn Fraser swimming in competitions right here in this sleepy town. Who knew?

The plan today was to continue down the Eastern side of Yorke Peninsula, winding our way through coastal towns and barley fields.

The ochre sea cliffs of Ardrossan with white grain silos on a point in the background

This area produces some of the best barley in the world, but at this time of year, it was all brown with the new crops to go in as soon as it looks like it might rain.

There has been almost no rain on the Yorke Peninsula for three months (as of May 2024) and that was to become an ongoing theme throughout the tour.

At one stop we learned a little about the Indigenous history of the area and saw the fish traps that had been used to catch fish for thousands of years.

Standing on a cliff looking down at the ocean. Some rocks can be seen sticking out of the ocean in a bunch. These are an Aboriginal fish trap.

As we drove Mick pointed out some of the local trees, like the native apricot with its bright orange fruit.

“Is it edible?” I asked, wondering if this was a fruit like the quandong which I absolutely love!

Sadly the answer was no. Or at least, you could eat it, but it was incredibly bitter and not at all nice. I think I’ll give it a miss.

The conversation turned to what each of us would like to see. One of our party really wanted to see the pink salt lakes, and I wanted to see two of the area’s water tank murals I had not seen before.

A large water tank with a colourful mural of a lizard on it sits next to a corrugated iron shed with a black and white mural of a cart piled high with bales of wool

I got my first glimpse of a new (to me) tank at Wool Bay, but we also stopped in to see others at Stansbury and Lake Fowler, while spotting some of the others in the distance.

A water tank painted with a mural of an emu and salt flats

For a while, we joined the Salt Lake Trail around the Yorketown area. Following this gives views across some of the 200+ salt lakes found at the foot of Yorke Peninsula.

A salt lake with a little water in in making it look like is has streaks

Sadly for our New Zealand guest, there was not a pink lake in sight. With the lack of rain this year, most of the salt lakes are dry and the bacteria and algae creating the pink tinge cannot thrive without the water.

The lakes are still interesting to explore. Some are bright white, others more red or grey depending on the soil. The few that had a little water in them glistened blue.

A dry salt lake with a pink hue to it. There is a small patch of blue water near the front

We finished our day by checking in to our accommodation. We were staying in the beachfront cabins at the Point Turton Caravan Park.

Looking over two caravan park cabins to the sea beyond.

These comfortable cabins meant we could not only enjoy the sea views but both sunrise and sunset could be seen from the balcony.

Looking at the sunset over the ocean on Yorke Peninsula from the balcony of my cabin at Point Turton

Mick had packed a picnic lunch for us that we enjoyed on the beachfront of Edithburgh earlier in the day, and now dinner was at the Point Turton Tavern.

Tip: While on Yorke Peninsula, try the local King George Whiting, a prized fish in this area.

Day Two – Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park

Right at the toe of Yorke Peninsula is the Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park, and that was where we were going to spend our second day.

This area is all about dramatic coastal scenery, wildlife, history, shipwrecks, lighthouses and beaches for miles – and we saw all of that.

Looking down from a cliff over a small bay with a jetty. The sea is a beautiful shade of blue

A stop at Stenhouse Bay told us a little about the gypsum mining that brought so many people to this area in the early 1900s.

I always love to stop here though for the view. The water around the Stenhouse Bay jetty always seems to be such a beautiful shade of blue.

A short walk took us up and around the other side of the hill, to give us our first glimpse of the towering cliffs that can be found along the southern coast.

Looking along a rocky shoreline with cliffs and five headlands stretching into the distance

It’s such a dramatic view, with the sound of the waves crashing below, and it made me quite emotional as I stood taking it all in.

We had our first encounter with some emus on our walk, just metres away from us. We were later to see more of them as we travelled around more of the park.

Two emus amongst green vegetation

Our history lesson continued as we stopped at the historical – but now deserted – town of Inneston.

I was distracted from the tales of old by the stunning salt lake at Inneston. This one is spring-fed, so there was water in it. It was the most beautiful shade of blue, but so crystal clear.

As we walked around town we saw the old Bellco factory, the place where all the chalk came from that our teachers used when we were kids.

An old corrugated iron shed with a sign in front of it explaining its past use as a chalk factory

We also had a look at the old stone cottages that have now been renovated. Visitors can now stay here for a night or two, enjoying the serenity.

During our day we stopped at many viewpoints and beaches, but my favourite stop was at West Cape.

A beautiful but isolated pristine beach with golden sands and blue water

The views from the car park over the beautiful beach here are one of my favourites in the whole state. I could stand all day watching the waves roll into the pristine beach, where on this day, not a single set of footprints marred the perfection.

We had lunch in the shelter here – another delicious picnic – with views to the northern side of the cape before walking to the West Cape Lighthouse.

This is one of the new, automated lighthouses, which tend to lack romance for me, but this one I quite like the unsual bulbous shape. It reminds me of the Boab trees.

A curvy modern lighthouse on top of a cliff

Our final stop of the day was at Ethel Wreck Beach, named because of the shipwreck that has been sitting on the sands since 1904.

I was last here a few years ago, and there has been considerable disintegration of the shipwreck since then, to the point where its almost no longer visible.

Looking over a sandy beach from the cliffs above. Calm blue ocean is in the background. Some timber pieces on the beach are the remains of a shipwreck

This beach has a sad recent history too, where a young boy lost his life to a shark attack just last summer, so it was a good opportunity to pay our respects and remember that the ocean can be a risky playground.

Two men standing with their backs to the camera looking out at the deserted beach and ocean in front of them

When we got back to Point Turton I had just enough time to squeeze in a walk down to the foreshore. I had heard that stingrays often hung around – and I was lucky enough to see quite a few right at the bottom of the stairs near the jetty, including one that was huge!

A sign telling people not to feed the stingrays (even if they ask nicely). It's on a railing near a jetty and a breakwater with the ocean in the background
A large stingray in the ocean at the bottom of some stairs

Dinner on our second night was at the Warooka Hotel, just ten minutes or so from our base in Point Turton.

Day Three – Leaving Yorke Peninsula

t seemed like we had seen much of Yorke Peninsula, but MIck still had some more up his sleeve. We started the day with a loop around the northwestern part of the foot, making our way towards Corny Point.

Our first stop was at The Pines, where Mick pointed out the holiday home he owns. It’s available to guests on to enjoy this tranquil location with views of the ocean from the front deck.

The front of a beach house with a timber deck

We next visited a rocky headland with views across a small bay to the Corny Point lighthouse. What got my attention though was the bright orange and yellow lichen on the rocks – and then the sea lion basking in the sun.

A large male sea lion sitting on a rock near the ocean looking up at the sky as he enjoys the sunshine

I scrambled across the rocks to get a better view and soon became the object of interest to the sea lions playing in the surf. They would duck and weave then stick their heads up and look at me as if to say “Did you see that?”.

I thought I had seen the best beach in South Australia yesterday, but that was challenged when we stopped at Berry Bay.

Looking over a pristine white beach from the cliffs above

I quickly realised I might have to change my opinion as I was awed all over again by the long white beach and sparkling water. We watched as dolphins surfed the waves, then went on their way to visit the group of school children learning to surf at the other end of the beach.

We stopped at a few more places – my favourite had to be Baby Lizards, a surfing spot, just because of the cool name! Looking right down into the green water here was so different to the blue elsewhere.

Just before we started the drive back, Mick remembered a place where he saw hundreds of kangaroos quite regularly.

We arrive at a gate with “No Trespassing” clearly signed, but Mick shrugged “The gate is open, so we should be okay. I’m not a fan of these farmers who think only they should be allowed on their land.”

We snuck past the house hoping not to be seen, and all of a sudden we saw the kangaroos, and yes, there were hundreds of them, bounding across the property, spooked by our vehicle.

“Let’s get out of here” we encouraged Mick, imagining a gnarly old farmer coming after us with a shotgun.

As we drove up the road Mick waved at a passing car and admitted that was the person who lived on the farm and they were good mates! We weren’t really trespassing at all, but it did add to the excitement of the hunt for the kangaroos.

Mick’s favourite thing to point out as we drove were the numerous birds. Now I barely know an eagle from an owl (yes, I did get that wrong with one I spotted!), but Mick could name them all. We saw eagles and ospreys, hawks and falcons, gulls and herons.

Our lunch stop was at the busy bakery in the town of Minlaton, one of the larger settlements in the area.

This area was home to Harry Butler – no, not the one of TV fame in the ’80s, but the WWI aviation hero who flew his little “Red Devil” until he sadly crashed in a paddock just out of town.

Just because the Yorke Peninsula isn’t one of South Australia’s eighteen wine regions, it doesn’t mean there are not wineries here.

We stopped at Barley Stacks Wines for a tasting and a look around. The hospitality here was second to none as both Brooklyn and Lyall looked after our little group.

Four bottles of fortified wines lined up. All have labels saying Barley Stacks

I did some tasting while two others asked Lyall question after question about farming, intrigued by the modern methods used today.

We had one final detour as we made our way back to the bright lights of the city and that was to St Kilda.

This little town is best known for its fantastic adventure playground, but I also remembered that last time I was here, the salt lake was really pink. So it was one last ditch effort to find a pink lake – which sadly was also a failure.

The Verdict

As we said our goodbyes and I dragged my tired body home I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered our three days. We saw a lot, experienced a lot, ate a lot, and generally had a fun, relaxing and inspiring few days.

Everything was easy and flexible. It felt like a weekend away with friends exploring a region with all our different interests.

Having Mick as our guide really made the tour. It is clear he absolutely loves this area, and because of his many visits since he was a teenager with his girlfriend pushing a Combi van over the dunes to their favourite surfing spot, he has many tales to tell.

Looking over a small bay to a lighthouse on the cliff in the distance

I can only encourage you to give this tour a go yourself – and to help you out, Mick has given me a code for a 5% discount. You will need to book your trip through this link and enter the code EXPLORINGSA at checkout for the discount.

Don’t just take my word for it – read all the reviews for SA Eco Tours on TripAdvisor here.

Note: I was partially sponsored by SA Eco Tours for this trip. As always, these are my own views and opinions.

Want to explore more of Yorke Peninsula? Read these next
Things to do in Port Broughton
11 Things to Do on the Copper Coast

Josie sitting cross-legged in a garden
About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.