My dream job would involve road tripping full time (sorry boss!). Just me, my car, my camera, and the open road. No fixed itinerary, no schedule – just endless freedom on the road less traveled. It will probably always remain a dream, but… I did get a little taste of how well I’d adapt to the solo road tripping life during my visit to the Eyre Peninsula last year.
Before checking out of Adelaide at the end of August, I had time for one last road trip. The destination was a toss-up; either Kangaroo Island or the Eyre Peninsula. After some serious consideration, (read procrastination), I settled on the Eyre Peninsula for a couple of reasons: I had the use of my brother’s car, it was whale season, and I think I could easily do a KI road trip during any visit to Adelaide. The Eyre Peninsula requires a bit more of a time commitment, and I had plenty of time at that point!
It was a spectacular decision! The Eyre Peninsula offers a diversity unseen in many locations around the world. From vast desert landscapes to rugged coastal cliffs, it’s a land of contrasts. Combined with abundant wildlife, and an emerging epicurean culture and you’ve got an all-around road trip destination.
The Eyre Peninsula is a big place, and the best way to explore is by car. It will involve long days of driving, but there are some absolute gems to be explored, so don’t hesitate to take some days off and hit the road.
Here are my suggestions of everything you need to see on your EP road trip – all the highlights of a wondrous 10 days exploring the Eyre Peninsula – with pictures to inspire, and a map to follow for your convenience.
Gawler Ranges National Park
The Gawler Ranges offers striking natural landscapes, abundant wildlife, and solitude. You won’t see dramatic gorges here, rather look out for rhyolite pillars jutting from the earth, or granite domes shaped by the dramatic desert weather patterns of the last million years or so. You can see all three species of kangaroo in the park (red & grey kangas as well as euros), yellow-footed rock wallabies, plenty of emus, and wombats.
Navigating the rugged bush tracks in the park requires a high clearance 4WD for the most part. If you’re not lucky enough to have 4WD (or the skill to drive soft sand, or slick muddy tracks), then Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris offers single or multi-day tours with outstanding guides and itineraries that will hit many of the highlights of the park.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss a visit to the unique inselberg formations of Pildappa Rock and Tcharkuldu Rock.
Head of Bight Whale Watch Center
Located just shy of the Nullabor Plain, the Head of Bight Whale Watch Center offers one of the most spectacular whale watching locations I’ve ever experienced. The Southern Right Whales are of course the stars of the show, but the spectacular Bunda Cliffs are as much of an attraction in my opinion.
The Whales visit between June and October, to calve and nurture their young. The cliff top viewing areas at Head of Bight offer fantastic views of the Marine Park and the visiting whales. Numbers fluctuate by day, but at the height of the season it’s not uncommon for there to be up to 100 whales in the area.
Just down the road at Fowler’s Bay, you can get a different perspective by heading out on a whale watch cruise with EP Cruises. The super knowledgeable crew knows the whales intimately and provides great value for money on their half-day cruise.
While you’re in the area, take a drive down to Cactus Beach, and Point Sinclair Jetty. You’ll pass by the pastel pink hues (if you’re lucky) of Lake MacDonnell on the way.
Streaky Bay – Scenic Drives
Streaky Bay, situated on the West Coast of the Eyre Peninsula has a charming persona all of its own. Along with being a service center hub for the local area, and growing a reputation for seafood and aquaculture, Streaky is a gateway to a multitude of natural wonders, which is where my interests lay.
There are three scenic drives in the area, and you could easily spend an entire day exploring these drives. Closest to town, the Cape Bauer Loop drive features the rugged cliffs of the Great Australian Bight, the unique Whistling Rocks and the Blowholes and plenty of scenic vistas along the way.
The Westwall Way Loop takes you further down the coast, featuring magnificent surf beaches and intriguing rock formations along the coast. There’s access to the sand dunes via 4WD tracks if you and your vehicle are equipped!
Furthest down the coast is the Point Labatt Scenic Drive. Navigate the winding dirt roads to Point Labatt, where a viewing platform provides clifftop views of the sea lion colony lazing on the rock shelves below.
In season (Sept – March), you might want to continue on to Baird Bay to enjoy the Swim with the Sea Lions experience! Regardless, continue your loop drive inland and stop for a quick visit to Murphy’s Haystacks before returning to Streaky Bay or continuing on to your next destination.
How’s the serenity? Venus Bay is the most perfect little seaside town just down the coast from Streaky Bay. IMO it’s the best spot to stop and relax for a day or two. I hadn’t been there for more than half and hour, and I had already extended my stay by an extra day! Your choices – Sit back and watch as the sun sets over the calm waters of the bay, throw out a fishing line, or just take a stroll along the rugged clifftop trail of South Head Walk. You can’t go wrong.
Venus Bay to Coffin Bay
Venus Bay to Coffin Bay is one of those epic scenic drives. You could take a few days to meander along this part of the coast, or push along and see it all in a day if you’re running short on time like me. Either way, there are some highlights that you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
Driving South from Venus Bay, make the Talia Caves your first stop. The stairway down to the caves was closed while I was visiting, but the clifftop scenery is worth the visit. From there, make your way towards Elliston, turning onto the Anxious Bay Clifftop Drive before you reach town. Along with the requisite rugged clifftop scenery, this drive also doubles as a huge outdoor sculpture gallery.
South of Elliston, don’t miss the Little Cliff Top Drive. Drive right to the end to check out the Little Bay Surf Break – look for the ladders that the surfers need to negotiate to get down to the break. Not for me, I’m afraid!! If you have time, you can also walk this entire route – it has a dedicated trail separate from the clifftop drive.
As you continue south towards Coffin Bay, there’s another couple of stops that you shouldn’t miss. Locks Well is a prominent local surf fishing beach – reputed for its salmon fishing. Even if you’re not stopping to fish, it’s well worth heading down to the viewing platforms for more great vistas of the wild west coast of the Eyre Peninsula.
The next stop is the Cummings Monument – where along with the dramatic and uninterrupted clifftop views, you might be lucky enough to spot Osprey soaring on the thermals.
The last stop I made along this route was Greenly Beach. If you’re here during the warmer months, and at low tide, it’s the perfect stop to explore (and take a dip in) the rock pools along the coast. It was mid winter, and high tide while I was there, but I still enjoyed watching the wild swells crashing onto shore! If you’re looking for a more active adventure, maybe take a hike to the top of Mount Greenly!
Coffin Bay lies on the westernmost tip of the Southern Eyre Peninsula. It’s a haven for gastronomes, being known across Australia for it’s oysters. This idyllic seaside town clings to the shores of the bay, and is surrounded by the Coffin Bay National Park. You can either sit back and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, watch as an emu strolls down the street, or potter around the National Park taking in the scenic vistas and off-road adventures at your fingertips. You can reach Point Avoid, Almonta Beach, Golden Island and Yangie Bay on sealed roads, and there’s plenty of off-road options for four-wheel drivers!
I loved the Golden Island lookout and Almonta Beach – the only other footprints I found in the sand belonged to an emu!
Port Lincoln is the hub of the South Australian seafood industry. Take a stroll through town, or nearby Boston Bay and you can’t miss the influence of the seafood industry. Stay in town for a couple of days to take in all the region has to offer – sensational food and wine, recreational fishing experiences, or it’s ample natural wonders.
Adventurous visitors can head out on the water to swim with dolphins, tunafish, sea lions, or the big one – the Great White Shark. Eep!
If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, why not head out to explore the nearby Lincoln National Park. I spent the best part of a day and a half exploring Lincoln National Park and Surrounds – Don’t miss these spots!
- Sleaford Bay (look for whales!)
- Fisheries Beach
- Lone Pine Lookout
- Wanna Lookout
- Stamford Hill
- September Beach
If you’re looking for more epic coastal scenery, then go and purchase a permit for Whaler’s Way. The drive starts just beyond Fisheries Beach, and while you meander your way along the loop, you can explore a wonderland of rugged cliffs, rock pools, blowholes, and golden sand beaches.
After a day of adventuring, you can head back into town and partake in a seafood feast – enjoying all the gastronomic spoils of the region, or just head on over to Beer Garden Brewing for a tasty local ale and wood-fired pizza in a casual atmosphere.
Port Lincoln to Whyalla
The east coast of the Eyre Peninsula doesn’t offer the dramatic, rugged coastline of it’s west coast counterpart, but has a charm all of it’s own.
Your first stop out of Port Lincoln should be Tumby Bay. The silo art is magnificent, and in town, there’s street art galore. Before leaving town, take a stroll along the foreshore and jetty. In warmer weather, snorkel beneath the jetty in search of the rare Leafy Sea Dragon.
Driving north from Tumby, I made a quick stop in Port Neill for a stroll up to the lookout, before continuing on to Arno Bay. This tiny fishing village is located on the banks of a tidal estuary. It’s worth taking the time for a stroll along the Arno Bay Estuary Boardwalk to explore the most southerly mangroves in Australia.
Just up the road, Cowell boasts some more magnificent Silo Art which is worth the detour. It’s another quaint seaside town, boasting a natural harbor, and sandy beaches popular with holidaymakers.
Whyalla sort of completes the loop of the Eyre Peninsula. It’s one of the main regional hubs of the region and was once a thriving industrial town. Whyalla does have some stunning coastal and outback scenery on offer, but I mention it mainly due to the phenomenon of the giant cuttlefish that congregate around Point Lowly in June and July when their breeding season is in full swing. Jump in with a snorkel to watch the males put on a spectacular display of colors and shape-shifting to attract a mate.
Whyalla to Adelaide
Okay, so this is not the Eyre Peninsula, but if you’re heading back to Adelaide, I have a couple of quick tips to make it an interesting journey!
I continued right on by Whyalla and stopped for the night in Port Germein. The town was once an important transport hub and boasts the longest jetty in South Australia.
Leaving Port Germein, make a stop at the Mambray Creek section of Mount Remarkable National Park. I didn’t have time for the 18km Hidden Gorge loop hike that is high up on my bucket list. Instead, I took a walk on the Davey’s Gully Hike, which was magnificent in itself. It offered great views into the Alligator Basin, and out across the Spencer Gulf. This would be such a great place to set up camp for a couple of days!
Leaving Mambray Creek, head south, then take a left and travel through the winding Port Germein Gorge which opens up to rolling farmland at the end of the gorge. From there, navigate your way through the rural Mid North and the rolling green hills of the Clare Valley, before heading back into Adelaide via Gawler.
Know Before You Go!
The Eyre Peninsula is roughly the size of Switzerland – stretching from Whyalla in the East, down to Port Lincoln at the southern tip of the Peninsula, and all the way across to the far west coast and the edge of the Nullarbor Plain. The best way to get around is to have your own vehicle, however, there are tours that run throughout the Peninsula and the regional airlines will fly you into Port Lincoln, Whyalla or Ceduna if you’re looking to cut down on some travel time (you’ll still need a tour, or a vehicle to get around).
The Eyre Peninsula and Outback Australia can be insanely hot and inhospitable places in Summer. The best time to visit the more remote outback regions of the Eyre Peninsula is between April and October. If you’re clinging to the coast, then the charming seaside towns are year-round destinations.
Outback Australia is an incredibly remote and sometimes desolate destination, so always be prepared as you travel. Fill up your gas tank whenever there’s an opportunity. Always carry plenty of water and snacks in your vehicle, and be aware that cell phone reception is rare to non-existent in much of the region!
There are lots of opportunities for off-roading along the coast and through the Gawler Ranges, Coffin Bay & Lincoln National Parks. If you’re heading off-road, be aware that conditions change frequently, tell someone where you’re going, and when you’ll be back, and always check the road conditions at the visitor center before setting out on these drives.
Here’s a map for reference – with links to the drives, where I stayed, and all the scenic spots you should definitely include on your EP road trip!
Looking for another road trip destination in South Australia?? I’ve got another couple of blog posts to give you fresh inspiration for your next road trip – check them out at the links below!
Happy Road Tripping!