The clifftop accommodation and quiet beaches of the Yorke Peninsula have long been a hidden South Australian gem – until now.
Time seems to operate differently on the Yorke Peninsula, which is just over two hours drive from Adelaide but feels decades removed. Days are ruled by tide charts rather than business hours and work can always wait if the surf’s up or the salmon are biting. Perhaps this relaxed pace is why mains water still hasn’t reached the peninsula’s southern tip.
More rustic than the state’s famed wine regions and wilder than neighbouring Fleurieu Peninsula, “Yorkes” may be relatively unknown beyond its state’s borders but it’s been a favourite family getaway for generations of South Australians. Like homing pigeons, they return to its coastal towns, including Ardrossan, Stansbury and Edithburgh, which get progressively smaller as you travel south towards sleepy Marion Bay. Along the Yorke’s 700 kilometres of coastline you’ll discover jetties and rock pools, broad bays and rocky islets. The peninsula’s distinctive boot shape means beaches face in every direction so there are child-friendly spots to splash about in as well as swells that lure keen surfers – just be prepared to share the waves with playful dolphins.
The best accommodation
You can just about taste the salt from the deck of Seafire Beach House, a luxurious self-contained property hidden in the dunes on the peninsula’s southern coast. Inside, two wings fan out from the chic monochrome living space with floor-to-ceiling windows that show off views of St Vincent Gulf and Kangaroo Island. Each wing has its own ensuite and private deck with outdoor shower and the bathrooms’ underfloor heating is a blessing in winter when storms roll in and whales loll in nearby waters. While the property’s isolation is ideal for stargazing it makes ducking to the shops tricky – it’s a 25-kilometre drive to Marion Bay’s general store but the owners will stock the fridge and pantry for you or call in a chef to cook your meals on request.
From the back deck, a steep access trail leads to a private cove where granite boulders covered in orange lichen shelter underwater gardens filled with crabs and starfish. Walking trails meander through Seafire’s 60 hectares, which are home to mallee fowls, pygmy possums and roos.
Though it’s closer to town, roos and emus are likely to be your only neighbours at Bayside Glamping & Co.’s off-grid Tiny House outside Marion Bay. The house, lovingly built from recycled materials, is cleverly designed to ensure the interior feels spacious and the loft bed gives it a cubby-house vibe. There’s plenty of room out on the deck, which includes a second kitchen for dining alfresco and a lounge area overlooking the surrounding farmland.
Where to eat and drink
There’s always something new at the Bond Store, a restaurant, brewery and distillery inside a restored 19th-century warehouse in Wallaroo, on the peninsula’s north-west coast. Twelve taps dispense golden lagers and fruitforward ales, while a gleaming copper still in the moody cocktail bar downstairs turns out spirits, such as the bright sherbet-like quandong and blood orange gin.
There’s more action in the kitchen, where the chef makes good use of local seafood and an on-site veggie patch to turn out tapas-style share plates with an Asian twist and proteins seared on the parilla grill.
Swing past the beachfront café North Beach Kitchen for a casual bite. Blue swimmer crab from nearby Port Broughton stars on the menu – the chilli crab scramble is a standout before lunch (there are excellent vegetarian options, too) – while afternoons mean burgers and baguettes stuffed with crab, crisp lettuce and Kewpie mayo. Your caffeine and sugar hits come courtesy of the espresso machine and ice-cream freezer and in the warmer months you can watch the waves from the shipping container bar with a gin-based cocktail or glass of Clare Valley wine.
Every road trip worthy of the name requires snacks from a good country bakehouse and if the line of customers out front doesn’t tip you off, the wall of awards inside Minlaton Bakery (32 Main Street, Minlaton; 08 8853 2108) should convince you that this is the place to stop in central Yorkes. Everything is baked on site, from sourdough loaves to colourful cupcakes and enormous cream-filled pastries, but it’s the pies that bring roadtrippers and locals in year after year. Chunky pepper steak wrapped in flaky pastry is a sure-fire winner, while temporary offerings such as peri peri chicken or spinach and roasted capsicum topped with golden swirls of pumpkin and carrot mash will suit the experimental.
Despite a population of only 1000, Minlaton is touted as the “barley capital of the world” so it makes sense that it should have its own brewery. But you’ll find much more than just local grain at Watsacowie Brewing Company, where the jarrah bar is fronted with sheep grates and sits under a chandelier fashioned from a salvaged windmill. Pull up a seat next to farmers slaking their thirst with easy-drinking ales and decide whether to join them or geek out over a Scandinavian nitro stout or tart melon-flavoured gose. Then you can ask the obvious question, “So what is a cowie?” (It’s an Indigenous word for water that features in many local place names.)
The charming blue-andwhite caravan known as Wilfred The Van (Black Point Drive, Black Point; 0427 162 459) promises “brews + vibes” and delivers on both counts. Popping up only metres from the sea near the tiny town of Black Point on the peninsula’s eastern side, the mobile café does a brisk trade pouring creamy coffees and lightly flavoured kombucha to go with vegan treats, including raw slices and bliss balls.
Top things to do
The waters off Stansbury on the east coast are known as Oyster Bay and few people know more about the local oyster industry than Steve and Gerri Bowley of Pacific Estate Oysters. Sign up for their Deckie For A Day tour and you’ll learn firsthand how the bivalves are grown as you wade through lines of oyster baskets strung out like washing on a sandbar several kilometres from shore. Try your hand at shucking native angasi and pacific oysters pulled straight from the water and note the rich, vegetal flavour they pick up from the forests of kelp. Then refine your technique back on land with a dozen oysters to take home.
On the toe of the peninsula, Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park marks the end of the road and the wildlife knows it. Blue-tongue and shingleback lizards haul themselves onto the roads when the sun’s out and, in spring, proud emu fathers remain comically unaware of waiting traffic as they lead clutches of fluffy chicks around the park.
the park’s many beaches you might find roos hopping to the water’s edge or majestic white-bellied sea eagles circling their nests on rocky islets offshore. In the water, dolphins compete with surfers for the best waves and
schools of salmon and snorkellers alike enjoy the calmer waters inside the fringing reef at Browns Beach. Even more sheltered is Blue Pool at the end of nearby Shell Beach. Head 30 minutes south to Cape Spencer lighthouse, where powerful swells carve hidden coves into the coastline of sheer limestone cliffs.