It was the phone call that changed the course of our holiday. I rang the caravan park a week before Christmas, by chance someone had just cancelled their camp site. It was for the exact five days we wanted. Otherwise we would have gone back to Corryong in the High Country, one of many fire effected Victorian towns that have been evacuated since then.
Life’s sliding doors instead took us to Marion Bay, on the doorstep of Innes National Park in South Australia.
Still, even on the tip of the South Australian coastline, there was potential for more bushfires. On the day we arrived, a hot blustery wind was blowing and authorities weren’t taking any chances. The next day was declared a “catastrophic fire danger day” and all campers inside the eight campgrounds of the adjoining National Park were evacuated.
Fortunately the Marion Bay Caravan Park was a safe haven and the National Park reopened two days after we arrived.
Here are some of my favourite places in the Park:
This small National Park packs a big dose of scenic splendour. This is the view as you crest the road near Chinamans Hat and it’s jaw dropping when you see it for the first time.
Innes National Park covers an area of 9415 hectares of coastal vegetation. It takes only 40 minutes to drive from one end to the other. But why rush it? With so many places to explore along the way you need a full day to appreciate all that’s here and even longer to return and enjoy some of the gorgeous swimming spots we uncovered.
Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk
The picture perfect jetty at Stenhouse Bay looks out over turquoise waters and is a favourite spot for fishermen.
Adjacent to the jetty is the 2km Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk leads across the cliff tops where seven look out points provide spectacular views. The well marked loop trail includes signs and stories of the mining era along the way and at each look out point. I was blown away by the scenic views. Not literally of course!
At one stage we had a couple of emus to accompany us. How’s that for local guides. Yep, the wildlife’s prolific and friendly here.
Lunch at West Cape Lighthouse
Okay, I’m happy to meet the locals but this is ridiculous!
It’s close to lunch time and West Cape is the perfect place for a stop with picnic shelters that overlook a magnificent view. I just hadn’t counted on getting so close to the local wildlife.
Two curious stumpy tail lizards clearly had their eye on our lunch menu. One was so friendly I thought he was going to climb up onto my lap. Ahh, not so close buddy.
After lunch we enjoyed a breezy 30 minute trek along cliff tops to the extraordinary West Cape lighthouse. This fully automated lighthouse built in 1980 is constructed from stainless steel. The walk was exhilarating.
Fancy spending a night in a ghost town? You can, right here.
Not far from our lunch stop, deep in the heart of the National Park, is a two km walk to historic Inneston. In the early 1900s this was a bustling gypsum mining town that was home to about 150 miners and their families. Nowadays it’s abandoned but you can stay overnight in one of the restored heritage buildings.
If that doesn’t take your fancy you can simply explore the area, the glistening salt water Inneston Lake where mining once took place and all the ruins.
Apparently inside the ‘Bakers Oven’ over 130 loaves of bread were baked daily in the 1920s. No smells of baked bread when we visited, though my hubby had the fancies for a pizza. Around us, only lonely picturesque ruins stood as a reminder of the era.
Oh, and pesky March flies! They were so intent on hanging around, so ferocious and so intent on biting that I ended up running the last hundred metres back to the car to escape them.
The waves were thundering and the ocean swells massive when we walked the 130 plus steps down to Ethel Beach. Such a beautiful beach but such a treacherous coastline. No wonder the Ethel came to grief here, run aground in 1904. You can read her story and see wreck remains down on the beach.
The remains of over 40 shipwrecks are scattered off the coast of Innes and within the Southern Spencer Marine Park. So many stories of tragedy, bravery and final agonising moments.
From the top of the boardwalk you can take in the views and marvel at the power of the sea that brought the Ethel to its final resting place.
And at the bottom, as you walk along Ethel Beach, amid the pounding of the waves and the towering red cliffs, you can’t help but feel small and humbled.
At the far end of Shell beach, around the corner, is a stunning swimming spot known as the Blue Pool. It’s nature’s own pool and the perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day.
We enjoyed a couple of relaxing hours here on our last balmy day.
So many other inviting places, walks and stunning beaches, so much to enjoy on Innes …
The SA National Parks and Wildlife Service are featuring Innes National Park in their online promotions this month. I was stoked to have two of my recent Insta photos included.
Can you guess which are mine? Clue: one of them I’m farewelling the decade. You can see more photos on their website here
Entry to the park costs $11 entry per vehicle. It’s worth every cent with the park’s campgrounds, roads, signs and board walks extremely well maintained.
Where is it? Innes is right on the “toes” of the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, just over three hours from Adelaide. It’s ruggedly beautiful, filled with dramatic coastline, wildlife and history that make it a must do destination in South Australia.
I feel very grateful we were able to enjoy the beginning of 2020 in this pristine part of Australia.
Whenever you are in the world, stay safe and happy and keep enjoying the journey.
In light and love
Australia is hurting right now with bushfires ravaging much of our land and wildlife. Here are a couple of links where you can donate to help:
Red Cross Australia – general disaster relief
WWF – help save koalas
Please keep Australia in your thoughts and pray for rain.
It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it. Edward Abbey