Port Lincoln likes to call itself the “Seafood Capital of Australia” and it’s probably not too far wrong in that claim. Located at the foot of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, it has access to the pristine Southern Ocean and all the bounty that comes from it. With all that delicious seafood, some adrenalin pumping activities and stunning scenery, Port Lincoln makes an ideal location for a few days of exploring and is a South Australia must see. Here are all the best things to do in Port Lincoln to make your visit perfect.
- 1 About Port Lincoln
- 2 Getting to Port Lincoln
- 3 Things to do in Port Lincoln
- 3.1 Shark Cage Diving
- 3.2 Swimming with Sea Lions
- 3.3 Taste the Local Wine
- 3.4 Visit Glen Forest Tourist Park
- 3.5 Learn about the Area at a Museum – or Two!
- 3.6 Paying Homage to Australia’s Greatest Racehorse
- 3.7 See Koalas at Mikkira Station
- 3.8 Taste All the Local Produce
- 3.9 Explore Lincoln National Park
- 3.10 Drive the Whaler’s Way
- 3.11 Watch a Movie at Lincoln Cinema
- 3.12 Check out Local Artwork at a Gallery
- 3.13 Enjoy Views Over Port Lincoln
- 3.14 Take One of the Walking Trails
- 3.15 Do a Tour at The Fresh Fish Place
- 3.16 Throw a Fish at Tunarama
- 3.17 Go Fishing!
- 3.18 Take a Tour
- 4 Things to do in Nearby Towns
- 5 Where to Stay in Port Lincoln
- 6 Where to Eat in Port Lincoln
About Port Lincoln
Port Lincoln is the ninth biggest city in South Australia with a population of around 14000 people. It is the hub of much of the fishing industry of the state – perhaps even the country – and many people have made their fortunes here from fishing. As such it has the highest amount of millionaires per capita in Australia.
The traditional owners of the land Port Lincoln stands on are the Barngarla people. The first European to land here was Matthew Flinders in 1902, beating out the French explorer Nicolas Baudin but just a few months. Flinders named it Port Lincoln after his home of Lincolnshire in England.
Port Lincoln has featured in some recent tv series, with the first series of Australian Survivor filmed at Whalers Way, and the Discovery Channel series Tuna Wranglers and Abalone Wars based here too.
Getting to Port Lincoln
While Port Lincoln is about 280km from Adelaide in a straight line, to drive there it is 650km from Adelaide and it takes around 7 hours if there is very little stopping along the way. If you are planning to drive all the way in one day, I suggest to allow at least en extra hour or two to give plenty of time for rest stops during the drive.
Driving is the best way to get to Port Lincoln because it also gives you access to a car during your visit. This will make it much easier to get around and see the things you want to see. It is possible to rent a car in Port Lincoln if you arrive by one of the other options below. Make sure you consider the things you want to do before renting a car because some of the areas require a 4WD or AWD car for access.
Getting to Port Lincoln by Air
Port Lincoln does have an airport and there are regular flights to Port Lincoln from Adelaide run by both Rex and Qantaslink. With so much uncertainty with air travel at the moment, I suggest checking flights carefully before making further bookings.
Getting to Port Lincoln by Bus
Buses run from Adelaide to Port Lincoln on a regular basis. Before the covid restrictions, there was a bus every day, but currently the timetable has been restricted to three times a week in each direction. Check out the Stateliner website for the most current timetables and prices as they are likely to keep changing.
Things to do in Port Lincoln
There is a lot to do in Port Lincoln and it is one of the premier tourist destinations in South Australia. I spent six nights in the town recently and still didn’t get to everything I would have liked to do. The highlights are the national parks, the food and wine and the other nature adventures. Here is what to do in Port Lincoln during your visit.
Note: I visited Port Lincoln as Covid restrictions were still easing. Some places had different hours to usual, and others weren’t providing all that they usually would. I’ve not given opening hours for any of the attractions as I don’t know what they are going to be at any time in the future. I suggest checking with their individual websites or confirming with the Tourist Information Centre once you arrive in Port Lincoln.
Shark Cage Diving
Port Lincoln is the only place in Australia to go shark cage diving with great white sharks, and as see it is the most popular of the Port Lincoln attractions. While there are other companies also doing the tours, I went with, and recommend, Adventure Bay Charters on my trip out to Neptune Island.
Before going I had some reservations. I didn’t like the idea that these tours throw berley (sometimes offal) into the water to attract the sharks. I also happened to be in Port Lincoln in winter, and the thought of getting in the freezing Southern Ocean waters was way scarier than the sharks.
Adventure Bay Charters addresses both of these concerns for me. They do not use berley, but rather attract the sharks by creating vibrations in the water – by playing rock music loudly through underwater speakers. Apparently the sharks are big fans of AC/DC. They are also the first company in the world to have a sub that allows people to sit below the waterline and have the same view that those in the shark cage have – all while staying dry. This means children can come along and see the sharks too. As an added bonus, if you are PADI qualified, Adventure Bay Charters have a second cage on board for bottom shark cage diving at 18m below the surface. On our trip these people got the best shark views of all.
Swimming with Sea Lions
While I haven’t done this one myself – I had to choose sharks or sea lions – these tours are offered by the same companies that offer the shark cage diving. The half-day tours go out to Seal Cove where you get to spend time swimming with the playful “puppies of the sea”. I will absolutely trying this one myself when I come back to Port Lincoln again. Since I had such an enjoyable shark tour with Adventure Bay Charters, I would happily recommend them for the sea lion tour too.
Taste the Local Wine
While Port Lincoln is not listed as one of the 18 wine regions in South Australia, just in the last few years a few vineyards have started to pop up. The are currently three wineries producing their own wines.
Boston Bay Wines have vineyards just north of Port Lincoln and claim to be the closest vineyards to the sea in the world. I’m not sure how true this is, but there really is only a highway between their vines and the beach. They run their own cellar door and tasting are available everyday. There is a restaurant here that provides great views over the vines and Boston Bay while enjoying lunch with your wine.
Lincoln Estate Wines are produced by the same family who runs Glen Forest Tourist Park (see below). Tasting can be done at their cellar door/ticket office/gift shop.
Peter Teakle Wines do not yet have a cellar door, but their wines are available for sale all over Port Lincoln, so it’s easy to try a glass with dinner wherever you eat. The winery does have it’s own fine dining restaurant – recommended to me a few times during my visit – called The Line and Label, but unfortunately it was not open during our visit to test it out.
We found all the wines to be quite good and took a few bottles home from each winery.
Visit Glen Forest Tourist Park
Glen Forest is one of the best things to do in Port Lincoln with kids. They are home to all sorts of different animals, mostly typical farm animals (and a few not so typical) and Australian natives. Pick up a bag of feed and you will suddenly become best friends will all the animals. Kids will absolutely love it, and adults will likely have a good time too. We couldn’t help but turn to mush when holding baby rabbits not much bigger than mice.
The animals aren’t the only attraction at Glen Forest Tourist Park though. There is also a huge wooden maze to work out, a putt putt golf course and Segway tours. There are BBQ facilities so bring along lunch too. And for the adults, while you are these, have a taste of some of the wine made on the farm too.
Learn about the Area at a Museum – or Two!
There are a few museums in Port Lincoln that will give you a great overview of the history of the area. Here are my best suggestions:
- Axel Stenross Maritime Museum
- Port Lincoln Railway Museum
- Mill Cottage Museum
- Port Lincoln RSL Museum
Paying Homage to Australia’s Greatest Racehorse
Right on the foreshore of Port Lincoln is a statue of a horse. This is Makybe Diva. Depending on who you ask, she would rank highly as one of the best racehorses in Australian history. She was the winner of Australia’s premier race, the Melbourne Cup, for three consecutive years and still holds the record for the highest amount of prizemoney ever won by a single horse.
She is commemorated here because her owner was local Port Lincoln tuna baron Tony Santic, so she became a much loved favourite “daughter” of the town in her heyday.
As a tip – if you want a great photo of Makybe Diva, don’t visit in the morning, but rather in the afternoon when the sun is not behind her.
See Koalas at Mikkira Station
I had no idea there were koalas around Port Lincoln, and when I heard about it I wasn’t sure what to expect because I couldn’t find a lot of information. I couldn’t even find where Mikkira Station was on Googlemaps! I asked about it at the Visitor Information Centre and learned that this is a privately owned property that requires a permit to access. We arranged that and were soon on our way, given directions by the lovely staff..
Once at the property there’s not a lot here. It really is just a property, not (yet) a fully fledged tourist attraction! Follow the road until you can’t go any further and park near the toilet block. There is a sign pointing out the historical walk, but no mention anywhere about the koalas – which is of course why we came.
Mikkira Station is home to a wild colony of koalas living among the small section of Manna Gums. As we took the short walk to the old homestead, all around us were koalas just hanging out in the trees. We were the only people there so had all the time and space in the world to ooh and ahh over these cute creatures.
We spent about an hour with the koalas, then also did the walk to see the giant yuccas (look out for the sign on the way in). While we weren’t staying the night, Mikkira Station would be an amazing place to camp. There is a toilet/shower block available, and the cost to camp is the same as a day pass. It’s quiet and a lovely area.
Taste All the Local Produce
Port Lincoln seems to have become a hub for small businesses to produce some fantastic products from the local raw ingredients. Here are just a few to try while you are in town. Why not take these home as a souvenir from your trip or as gifts to family members.
- Beer Garden Brewing – craft beers from the grains grown on Eyre Peninsula
- Boston Bean – boutique coffee house roasting and grinding their own beans. I also had a delicious chai here too. The beans can be found to buy in many locations, but head to their cafe to try them brewed for you too.
- Bush Flower Teas – herbal teas blended from organic products
- Pope’s Honey – A few different varieties of local honey. They also run tours of their factory to learn about the honey-making process.
- Boston Bay Smallgoods – pork cuts and smallgooods from a local free range heritage breed pig farm
- The Fresh Fish Place – you may not be able to take fresh fish home, but there are a wide range of pickled and smoked options too
If you can’t get to the individual locations, The Fresh Fish Places sells a wide range of local products in their shop.
Explore Lincoln National Park
Located south of Port Lincoln on the Jussieu Peninsula, Lincoln National Park is a little bit different to Coffin Bay National Park and Whalers Way. While it still has a rugged stretch of coastline, the other side of the peninsula faces the calmer waters of Boston Bay. This makes it an ideal location for recreational activities such as fishing and hiking. There are some great little beaches where swimming is possible too.
Lincoln National Park is also the location of the pristine Memory Cove, but you will need to see the people at the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre before entering this part of the part. Entry is restricted to only 15 vehicles a day to help preserve the area. It is home to the endangered White-Bellied Sea Eagle, the second largest bird of prey in Australia. There are only 240 pairs remaining and disruption of their habitat by humans is their biggest threat. Memory Cove is also only accessible by 4WD.
There are quite a few locations throughout Lincoln National Park where camping, caravans and RVs are allowed, including a few spots at Memory Cove. This would be a lovely place to spend a few days.
Part of southern coast of Lincoln National Park overlooks Sleaford Bay. Over recent years, this has become the winter home of a small group of Souther Right Whales. While not actually in Lincoln National Park, we were able to see the whales at the lookout at the end of Sleaford Bay Road, but they could be anywhere in the bay.
Drive the Whaler’s Way
This is a 14km section right on the bottom of Eyre Peninsula. It is predominantly viewing the stunning cliffs and bays of the coastline. While it’s a driving route, almost every stop requires a walk to see the views. The distances of the walks range from just a few metres to up to 1km.
All I can say is that this part of the coast is just awesome! No need to drive the better known Great Ocean Road in Victoria, this is easily as good. I could not help be be awed by the roaring and immense power of the Southern Ocean. The waves were huge, but when the sun came out the colours in the water were stunning. Deep blues out in the depths and bright blues in the shallows, all mixed with the milky white of the waves as they hit the cliffs. Just awesome!
While we didn’t see any, it is possible to see fur seals and whales in this area.
The Whaler’s Way is on private property and to enter visitors need to buy a permit at the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre. They will give you a key to the gate. It’s all dirt roads and I recommend an AWD/4WD – although we went with a 2WD so it is possible. I would suggest allowing a whole day for your visit so you can enjoy all the walks.
Watch a Movie at Lincoln Cinema
The Lincoln Cinema is a historic cinema opened in 1929. It has three screens, and shows new releases and classic films. Remember what cinema-going was like in the yesteryears during your visit by spending an evening watching a movie. Great for kids too, with plenty of children’s movies being shown, especially in the school holidays.
Check out Local Artwork at a Gallery
As you explore Port Lincoln, drop into one of the art galleries and take a look at the artwork produced by some of the local artists/ Here are some of the galleries I suggest you visit
- Kuju Aboriginal Arts
- Nautilus Art Centre
While not exactly a gallery, make sure you stop past the Rhapsody In Wood store. They make incredible handcrafted wooden maps out of sustainable timbers that are just stunning. They also make a few other things, but it’s their maps that are really great. Feel free to make a purchase, but if the maps are beyond your budget, they are happy to have people visit just to have a look.
Enjoy Views Over Port Lincoln
We all love a good view, and the one from Winter’s Hill Lookout over Port Lincoln is great. As you drive up there are views inland, and then once at the top, all of Port Lincoln and Boston Bay opens up before you.
A second place that offers good views over Boston Bay is the Old Mill Lookout. The Old Mill is one of the interesting sights in itself as it is the oldest surviving building in Port Lincoln.
Take One of the Walking Trails
There are two significant walking trails that pass through Port Lincoln, but both take the same path. The Investigator Trail is a long distance walk of around 115km, starting just north of Port Lincoln then making it’s way down to loop around Lincoln National Park.The first 26km is also called the Parnkalla Trail which follows the beach front through Port Lincoln.
Of course you do not have to do the whole of these trails. It’s easy to walk a section of each as we did. Firstly we walked from The Port Lincoln Hotel right around to the grain silos along the beachfront. This section has information regarding the boats of the area, and you can see the Makybe Diva and Tuna Poler statues right in the middle of town.
In Lincoln National Park we walked the Surfleet Loop, the first section of which is part of the Investigator Trail running right along the beach. In fact, some of the time the path is actually on the sand. There are many other shorter walking trails in Lincoln National Park that include parts of the Investigator Trail. Even though they can be through some rugged countryside, they are well marked.
Do a Tour at The Fresh Fish Place
Since Port Lincoln is known as the Seafood Capital of Australia, while here you want to taste at least some of it. Now while I honestly think you would be hard pressed to find a bad seafood meal anywhere in Port Lincoln, one of the best places to eat is at The Fresh Fish Place. They have all sorts of seafood that has just come out of the sea in the last day, so extremely fresh. We got a Fishermans Basket so we could try a selection, and I might be going out on a limb here, but it would possibly be the best fish’n’chips I’ve every had.
Not only is The Fresh Fish Place a restaurant, it’s actually a factory that processes seafood to sell on the wholesale market to other parts of the country. If you are keen to learn more about the process, they offer tours each weekday at 11am, which include tasting of some of the produce. Unfortunately the tours were not running during our visit, but this sounds like a great way to learn about the fishing industry in Port Lincoln. To book, contact the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre.
Throw a Fish at Tunarama
Each January Port Lincoln really comes alive as crowds surge into town for the Tunarama Festival. It runs over a weekend and features many different events including entertainment, competitions, arts and cultural displays, local markets, and of course, plenty of seafood.
The most popular event is the World Tuna Toss Championships where competitions get to see who can toss a 10kg tuna the furthest. There are other competitions too, such as a Battle of the Bands and a boat building competition. For the children there are the kid olympics, and for the adults, a keg roll.
If you can plan your visit to coincide with Tunarama, this would be a great weekend.
I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far down my list and have not yet mentioned what would probably be obvious for the Seafood Capital of Australia – how about a spot of fishing? There are multiple opportunities to try all sorts of fishing, from throwing in a line at the Port Lincoln jetty, finding a nearby beach to fish from, renting a boat for a day, or going out on a fishing charter to catch big fish. Whichever you choose, you’ll be sure to bring home enough for dinner.
Take a Tour
If you only have one day in Port Lincoln or don’t have your own transport then there is still a way to visit some of the attractions and get a good overview of the city. We were surprised to come across the bus from Tasting Eyre all the way out on Whalers Way, but further investigation shows their tours not only show you the dramatic coastal scenery, you go to Lincoln National Park and Mikkira Station too. There is also morning tea at the Marina, lunch at The Fresh Fish Place and wine tasting at Boston Bay Wines. Sounds like a good day to me!
Things to do in Nearby Towns
There are a few small towns around Port Lincoln that a worthy of a visit while you are in the area. Here I will go through a few of the main ones and their main attractions.
Things to do in Coffin Bay
While in Port Lincoln it’s almost essential that you drive the 44km over to Coffin Bay on the western side of Eyre Peninsula. Coffin Bay is best known for it’s world class oysters, and the best thing to do in town is to take a tour with one of the oyster farm operators to learn about the farming process and taste a fresh oyster right out of the bay.
After getting a taste for the oysters, head to 1802 Oyster Bar for lunch. This restaurant specialises in local seafood and has some delicious options on the menu. Oysters themselves are served seven different ways – we loved the Thai and the Southern Fried versions.
To wear off all that food, make your way into the Coffin Bay National Park to admire even more of the stunning coastal scenery. Take a walk along some of the walking paths, or perhaps throw in a line and try to catch some more seafood for dinner.
Now this is a more offbeat activity, but when I asked in the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre about quirky, new or unusual things to do in the area this is what was suggested! Just outside of Coffin Bay is Minniribbi Farm. Go there to check out their antique store or eat at their cafe – all while viewing the free range berkshire pigs that are raised on the farm. They also have a wide range of pork products for sale. Unfortunately I was not able to check it out myself, but it’s on the list for my next trip.
Things to do in Tumby Bay
More than one person told me I just had to go to Tumby Bay to eat at L’Anse, a French influenced cafe open for breakfast and lunch. We did just that – only to discover it was not open – thanks covid! We did manage to get back again when it was open though, this time for breakfast. I had to have a croissant and my companion had poached eggs and bacon. All the food was very tasty. L’Anse was really busy though, so I recommend that if you want to go, book in advance.
On the first visit we instead got lunch at the Tumby Bay Bakery, and I would also happily recommend them for a quick lunch too.
Tumby Bay is becoming known for it’s silo art, but that’s not the only art in town. Take a walk around the streets and find some of the other fantastic murals that brighten up the dull walls.
There are a couple of museums here to explore, the Tumby Bay National Trust Museum, and the Excell Blacksmith & Engineering Museum. Check in town for current opening hours.
If you are a scuba diver (or even snorkeler) then Tumby Bay is the perfect place to try to spot the leafy sea dragon. They are know to live under and around the jetty. See the sign at the start of the jetty for more information.
And of course, Tumby Bay has a fantastic swimming beach and a great jetty for fishing, so relax in town, throw out a line and catch your own dinner.
Where to Stay in Port Lincoln
If you are visiting just to go Shark Cage Diving or you are looking for budget accommodation in Port Lincoln, we stayed at and recommend The Shark Apartments. They are a small group of three apartments right on the marina. The rooms are basic, but relatively new and very comfortable. They have a small kitchenette with microwave, fridge and stovetop to allow you to prepare meals. There’s a big screen tv and a clean and tidy bathroom. The heating was great, and the wifi worked perfectly. We were warned in advance that because the apartments were in an industrial area, there may be some early morning noise as the fishing trawlers left. There was a little noise, but mostly it was vehicles rather than any banging or yelling, and it didn’t bother us. I have no trouble recommending them.
Click here to see prices and availability for The Shark Apartments 1
Click here to see prices and availability for The Shark Apartments 2
Click here to see prices and availability for The Shark Apartments 3
While it was not an issue for us, others might see the location of the Shark Apartments as a downside because they are located away from the centre of town at the marina. If you prefer to stay closer to the centre of town, The Port Lincoln Hotel is very popular. For a budget option, take a look at the Port Lincoln YHA (yes they have private rooms) or for mid range, try the Hilton Motel.
Where to Eat in Port Lincoln
Almost every local we met gave us recommendations on the best place to eat in Port Lincoln. Here are the most popular places
- Port Lincoln Hotel (two meals area, one casual, one more upmarket)
- Pizzeria Trieste (pizza)
- Pier Hotel (pub meal)
- Marina Hotel (seafood)
- Del Giornos (Italian/General cafe)
- The Fresh Fish Place (seafood)
- The Line and Label (fine dining)
Want even more? – I have created a Facebook Group to answer any questions you may have about travel in South Australia. We can help with any queries you have, make further suggestions and provide the latest information. Click here to join now.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.