As the temperatures begin to soar and the sun sizzles over the golden grain, there are two numbers you need to bear in mind: 700 and 25,000.
Seven hundred is the total length of the Yorke Peninsula coastline in kilometres; 25,000 is the total population of Yorkes. So even if the entire population decided to go to the beach at the same time, each person would have 28 metres of sand and sea to themselves.Who’s ready for summer?
1. Get into it
Seven hundred kilometres of coastline offers a lot of options. This summer, why not try something new?
Learn to kite surf: Kite surfing is as exhilarating as it looks, but the key is mastering the kite. YP Kite School in Ardrossan has been hiring out gear and teaching since 2014. Visit www.facebook.com/YPKiteSchool/, or call 0400 254 287.
Try fishing from a kayak: Port Vincent Outdoors hires kayaks for $15/hr or $60 a day. It also sells fishing gear. Put the two together and seek out the calmer waters in and around the Port Vincent Marina. You’re all set for a few tommies and squid. Wallaroo Marina Apartments also hires kayaks.
Immerse in a tidal pool: Edithburgh has had a seawater swimming pool since the 1880’s, when it was meant to preserve ladies’ modesty. The present pool started life in the 1930s and offers a safe bathing experience for all.
A modern swimming enclosure called Wateroo has opened at Wallaroo. And you can seek out one of the myriad hidden rock pools off Innes National Park, where you’ll swim for hours without seeing another soul.
Master the art of raking for blue swimmer crabs: You need a rake ($8 from most local stores), a bucket and some closed shoes (trainers will do). Wait for the tide to turn in the shallows and start raking where the sand meets the weed. Who knew crustaceans could be this much fun? The rule of thumb is that crabbing is best in months with an ‘r’ in them, which means you can try crabbing all through summer. The best spots are along the eastern coastline south of Ardrossan, and north of Moonta Bay.
Go jetty snorkelling: jetty pylons offer shelter for marine animals and make for excellent (and safe) snorkelling opportunities. Try Edithburgh, Port Victoria and Wool Bay jetties for for the likes of eagle rays, big-bellied seahorses and Port Jackson sharks. The biggest prize is the leafy sea dragon – once seen, never forgotten.
Dive deeper: more capable divers should try Stenhouse Bay for leafy sea dragons and Point Turton for abalone and crayfish. If you really know what you’re doing, wreck dives are available at yorkepeninsula.com.au/dive-and-snorkel
Ride the waves: Where the peninsula meets the Southern Ocean, the surf gets BIG, especially off celebrated beaches like Chinaman’s near Marion Bay. Beginners however can find some gentler breaks, as well as occasional surf schools, at Berry Bay near Corny Point. Yorkes Junior Surf Club meets there on the last Sunday of every month.
Let the little kids loose in the free water park: Splash Town is a series of water slides, water mushrooms and the Big Bucket near the foreshore at Moonta Bay. Free to the public, it’s open in school holidays and on weekends during October to March.
Do a fishing charter: Charters offer all the benefits of local knowledge, fully-equipped boats and deeper waters. Expect to have your arm stretched by snapper, tuna, nannygai, morwong, groper and trevally. Whiting? Of course! Operators include Balgowan Fishing Charters, Captain Cook Fishing Charters, Double Header Fishing Charters, Point Turton Reel Screamer, Marion Bay Fishing Charters and Reef Encounters.
2. Christmas cheers
Last year, Santa brought a micro brewery to Yorke Peninsula.
The Phasey family worked hammer and tongs to get Watsacowie Brewery open to the public, and judging by their Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/watsacowie/), locals and tourists alike are very happy about it.
The premises – a huge Highways Department maintenance shed in Minlaton – was bought in January 2017. By November, the Phaseys had converted the substantial space to house their brewing gear as well as a fine looking public space.
Still with Christmas, festive lights will be illuminating two towns on the Peninsula: Curramulka Lights Up started early December, and continues for the rest of the year; and the Moonta Mines tram will be doing light tours throughout Moonta and Moonta Bay in the lead up to Christmas – details via Moonta National Trust.
3. Bellissimo Gelato
We couldn’t let summer go without mention of ice cream, or for that matter its near cousin, gelato.
Franco and Janette Martino are based in a colourful outlet near Moonta called the Coffee Barn and Gelateria. It’s a quirky spot, with prickly pear cactus, old mine machinery and a vintage Holden and Fiat parked outside. “The Holden for Australia, the Fiat is for Italy!” says Franco.
Though somewhat off the beaten track, the reputation for superb gelato has travelled far and wide. Franco makes at least 16 types of gelato on-site, including white chocolate cherry, salted caramel and roasted almond. He spurns off-the-shelf flavourings, choosing to make it in time-honoured tradition with real fruit, home-roasted nuts and a few other ingredients that occasionally take his fancy (like Ferrero Rocher chocolates).
The Coffee Barn is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
4. Cast yourself away on this tiny island
Troubridge Island Conservation Park is one of those curious corners of the world that have somehow fallen off the map.
Located 7km off Edithburgh, Troubridge is where you can overnight in historic accommodation and effectively have an island all to yourself. It’s a sandy shoal and home to little penguins, seals and some 60 species of birds. Until 1980 it was also the home to lighthouse keepers, maintaining a light that shone from 1856 to 2001.
The 24m-tall lighthouse is now decommissioned, but one of two lighthouse keeper’s cottages has been maintained with basic comforts for visitors who want to play castaway.
Summer is the perfect time to visit, not least because sea conditions allow for an easier crossing. You get the keys, and the boat crossing, from caretakers Judy and Chris Johnson who live in Edithburgh.
5. Check out Windara Reef
A $4.2m artificial shellfish reef is being created off Ardrossan that is now open to recreational fishermen.
The two-phase project will ultimately see 18,000 tonnes of limestone and oyster shells being laid down on the sea bed, and then being sewn with 7 million baby oysters.
Phase One has been completed, with four hectares of reef currently installed. Phase two has now been completed with the reef extended to 20 hectares. The reef will offer a number of benefits.
It will become home to the native mud oyster, a species that was all but cleaned out by the mid-1900s. These oysters will act as water filters, each shell is capable of filtering 100 litres a day, plus their empty shells will act as habitat for other species.
The reef will also stimulate increased marine biodiversity, attracting larger fish species and thus extending benefits to recreational fishers.
Reef restoration has been trialled in Victoria and WA with promising results. The Ardrossan project is the first South Australian artificial reef.
The 4ha version of Windara Reef is south of Ardrossan near Rouges Point. It opened to recreational fishers in 2017.
6. See the year in with a bang
Believe it or not, the Port Vincent fireworks display on New Year’s Day is one of the biggest displays in regional South Australia.
It’s part of the annual Gala Day, which is now 25 years old and still going strong. The day features more than 60 stalls and displays on Marine Parade as well as live music outside the Ventnor Hotel. But it’s the fireworks that bring the town to a standstill owing to the sheer volume of gunpowder that’s sent into the night sky
To get twice as much bang for your buck, neighbouring Stansbury continues the tradition of New Year’s Eve fireworks, ringing in the New Year with a display on the night previous.
It’s another chance to plant your feet in warm sand and go “ooh” and “ahhhh”!
Or, if you’re in the northern part of Yorke Peninsula, the skies will light up at 9.30pm and then again at midnight as part of the Copper Coast New Year’s Eve celebrations at Wallaroo. It’s a family friendly event with sideshows, amusements, foods stalls and entertainment to celebrate the end of the year.
Written by Max Anderson for Yorke Peninsula Tourism