Heading for the Coast: an Adelaide to Port Vincent road trip

Browns Beach, Yorke Peninsula

To enjoy a beach holiday without the crowds, Sarah and Chris take off to South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula and its 700 kilometres of pristine coastline just two hours’ drive from Adelaide.

When I ask Chris what he associates with getting away from it all (without a passport) he doesn’t even think about it: “Beaches.” Is he in for a treat. We’re picking up the car from Apex Car Rentals at Adelaide Airport and hitting the road for the Yorke Peninsula. It’s a popular weekend spot for folks from Adelaide, but not well known by those who come from out of state. Which suits us just fine.

On a Wave: Adelaide to Point Vincent

A man on a boardwalk near some stone ruins of the former Moonta Mines, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Imagine driving down the highway then seeing a massive cockroach off to one side. It happens about half an hour out of Adelaide, where there’s also a rat, a fly, Ned Kelly and more. Some of these sculptures were built in the late 1990s to protest a new dump in the town of Dublin. The dump happened anyway, but the sculptures are still there, providing amusement for passing motorists.

We’re on the Samphire Coast, which hugs the Gulf of St Vincent to Port Wakefield then along the east coast of the Yorke Peninsula to Ardrossan, which is part coastal village, part rural town. The tide is low, so we clamber around the red rocks at the base of the cliffs then paddle in the shallow waters. The Ardrossan Bakery is legendary in these parts, so we stop in and load up on pies and pasties and take them down to the jetty to devour them. The pasties are good, which shouldn’t really be a surprise – there were once copper mines on the Yorke Peninsula that were mainly worked by Cornish miners. In fact, the area around Wallaroo and Moonta was once known as Little Cornwall.

There’s plenty of good winemaking in South Australia; not so much on this peninsula. Barley Stacks was the Yorke’s first commercial winery. We drop by the cellar door and taste a few of the wines, including the sparkling rosé – it’s the perfect holiday drop.

Hook, Line and Sinker: Point Vincent to Marion Bay

A number of small sailing vessels on a beach, with people nearby and in the water, Port Vincent, South Australia

While there are plenty of motels and caravan parks on the Yorke Peninsula, there are even more cool holiday houses. We’re at the Shakin’ Shack, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach, so getting up early and making the most of it seems to be the thing to do. On the way back, we stop at Port Vincent Kiosk and take a seat on the deck for coffee and bacon and egg rolls.

Chris is a keen fisherman, and we’ve chosen autumn to visit the Yorke Peninsula because there’s a big event that takes place after Easter: the mullet run. We grabbed a couple of loaves of white bread yesterday at the bakery (no fancy bait needed for these guys), and are heading to the beach behind the caravan park at Marion Bay, a spot recommended by the locals. Within a few minutes, Chris is wrestling his first fish onto the sand. We spend a good hour pulling them in, letting the little ones go and cleaning a couple that will be more than adequate for tonight’s dinner.

It’s still fairly warm for autumn, so we decide to drive into Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park and head to the rock pools at Shell Beach. After doing some scrambling, we find the right place – it’s a big pool, with brightly coloured starfish on its rocks and tiny fish swimming in its depths. It’s so protected and, on this picture-perfect day, the water is as clear as gin.

Here’s Cheers: Point Vincent to Wallaroo

A women and two children walk along a pier over blue ocean, Wallaroo Jetty, South Australia

So far we’ve really only explored the eastern side of the peninsula, so today we’re going west side. We go as far north as possible to Wallaroo. This cute town is all about the jetty. I’ve made Chris leave the fishing rods at home – we’re heading back to Adelaide later tonight – and he watches enviously as fishermen pull snapper and whiting from the water. As consolation we head out of town to North Beach and plunge into the chilly surf. Afterwards we stop by North Beach Kitchen, where the specialty of the house is the blue swimmer crab roll. The waters around here are full of these crustaceans, and we’ve seen kids on various beaches raking for them.

Heading back south, we check out the ruins of the old copper mines at Moonta before driving back to Minlaton, a town in the Yorke’s midsection. There may not be a beach here, but there is Watsacowie Brewing Company. It’s a really cool set-up in a tin shed, with tables under cover just outside and 12 craft beers on tap. I’m taking over the driving, so order an icy cold, crisp Mid Harvest, while Chris gives the Jazzy Red Ale a try. We cheers to sunny days, good fishing, cold beer and another spectacular road trip.