A spur of the moment decision saw us packing the car for a road trip. In went the tent, some bedding, the camera – and, well, that was about it! This unheard of spontaneity culminated in a visit to the stunning Innes National Park.
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We hit the road heading north from Adelaide, and then decided we will go towards the Yorke Peninsula, a popular weekend destination. Many Adelaidians have holiday houses over here, or as we affectionately call them, “shacks”! The term “shack” conjures up great childhood memories of little more than tin sheds right on the beach front kitted out with not much more than some beds and an outdoor shower. I spent many summers at the beach in places like this and always had the best times. The reality is a bit different now, these are proper houses. Luxury two storey lodgings overlooking pristine beaches with boats and jet skis stashed in the garage.
This was not to be our accommodation though. We spent the day driving down the coast, calling into the small towns along the way to admire the views. The tides were low, and this eastern side of the peninsula is well known for how far the water recedes. By early evening we had almost reached the toe of the peninsula and finally a plan was forming. We were going to spend the night at the Marion Bay Caravan Park, then head into the Innes National Park first thing in the morning for some walking.
I need to provide a bit of background information. A tent was mentioned above. I have not slept in a tent for at least 20 years. Not so much because I wouldn’t, but Simon is so not a camping kind of guy! We used to joke that the only camping he would do would be at a five star hotel with cable tv! He has relented a little over the last few years, with our first backpacking trips (it was either that or stay home!) and stays in budget accomodation. The tent belongs to Simon’s Dad and we had borrowed it in the past to put up in the backyard for kids’ sleepovers. Thanks to those sleepovers we at least knew how to put up the tent, so it was done painlessly and in only a short time.
We ate at the Marion Bay Tavern enjoying our dinner with a view of the sea. The food was surprisingly good for small town fare, with plenty of options. We walked back along the beach and then up to Penguin Point to watch the sunset. As our visit is just outside the busy summer school holidays, we were all alone.
On arrival back at our tent, our camping inexperience had us muttering “we should have brought some sort of light with us!” With little else to do in the dark, it was an early night!
Innes National Park
And an early morning! By 7:30am the tent was down and so we were heading into the Innes National Park. I had done the briefest of Google searches and knew we had to pay a park fee to enter. We could do this on the National Parks website and for us it was $10AUD. Visitors can pay the fee at the Visitor Information Centre, where they have an external computer that can be used to pay at any time of the day or night. Throughout the park there are various camping and caravan facilities and they can also be paid for in the same way. The money collected is used for park maintenance, and rangers do travel throughout the park checking that visitors have paid.
The Visitor Information Centre can help out with maps and other information, but it is only open from 10am to 4pm. We were there before opening time so could not grab any maps, but a photograph of the big map outside did the job beautifully throughout our visit. This is also a perfect time to use the bathroom facilities, as they are scarce within the park, and, well, lets say very rustic!
We had only been driving for a few minutes into the park – before we even reached the information centre – when we had our first sighting of emus. This group was an adult emu with some babies, or more accurately, teenagers! We saw many such groups throughout the day, getting within a few metres of them in the car if we moved slowly towards and then past them. A couple of times we had to slow down to avoid them on the roads, and there are many signs around reminding drivers to slow down and watch out for the wildlife.
It also wasn’t long before we came across a kangaroo, again sitting only metres from the road, with a baby not far from her. We edged along in the car, and watched the kangaroo happily chomping away on the shrubs. The wildlife here appear to be used to seeing people and are therefore not so scared. While I don’t think I could have gotten out of the car (and there is no way I wanted to!), so long as we were quiet and slow, they just seemed to watch. We saw a few more kangaroos throughout the day, but nowhere near the amount of emus.
The coastline throughout the park is absolutely spectacular. We stopped multiple times just to admire the view. The waves pounding up against the cliffs creates this amazing roaring sound that reverberates through my bones. The power of the sea is just awesome, and the Innes National Park coast shows it in all it’s glory.
We visited two different lighthouses, one at Cape Spencer, and the other at West Cape. Both have been built in recent years, so lack the romance of the old-style lighthouses we are all more familiar with. Each of them requires a short walk, a little further to West Cape, but well worth it for the views.
At West Cape we climbed down the stairs to the beach and watched in awe the huge waves roll in. The beach is over 2km long and empty apart from us and four surfers further along the beach. The surfers didn’t seem to be having much success, but I am no expert so maybe that’s just how it is here.
In the park is the historic settlement of Inneston so we did a short walk through the area. It is possible to book and then stay in one of the refurbished buildings here. We walked past the cricket ground, and made our way towards the main settlement, commenting on the quiet solitude. I was taking some photos, and then hear a shout of “I hope I’m not in that!” On looking up I see a woman who was clearly staying in one of the buildings. She was sitting on the front porch, in her pj’s enjoying the view and drinking wine – at 10:30 in the morning! I experienced a few moments of jealousy since that seems like a great way to spend a peaceful break!
It was interesting to discover that the chalk I remember being used in our schools when I was in primary school was all made in a tiny factory here in Inneston. The colours remain visible on the ground in front of the doors.
We continued to drive and stop at various locations, making our way around to Pondalowie Bay. Soon the ominous grey clouds convinced us it was time to retrace our steps and start making our way home. While all the roads are considered okay for a 2wd car, I was not keen to test out driving on dirt roads in the rain. We had known bad weather was coming from the forecast, but had initially hoped to get a full day in with some longer walks. When the dark clouds and thunder initially started mid morning, we decided it was short walks only. There are well signposted walking trails all over the Yorke Peninsula, and the main Walk the Yorke trail goes for 500km around the area. Walkers can do sections of the trail as shorter day walks.
We had a great couple of days playing tourist on Yorke Peninsula. We had been over there numerous times before, but usually to one town and we just sat on the beach. This time we looked at it with different eyes, and ventured into the Innes National Park for the first time. I don’t think it will be the last!
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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.