The Eyre Peninsula is one of the most spectacular coastal regions in South Australia. The triangular peninsula is a major seafood frontier of the country with pristine waters that harbour a range of marine species. It’s also a popular tourist destination, with its incredible coastal scenery and unique location on the eastern edge of the Great Australian Bight.
The peninsula is home to a few major towns including Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, Whyalla, and Ceduna, which are perfect bases for exploring all that the area has to offer. Here’s everything that you need to know about the Eyre Peninsula, including all the incredible experiences you can have on your visit to this beautiful part of South Australia.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is the Eyre Peninsula?
- 2 What is the peninsula known for?
- 3 Why should you go to the Eyre Peninsula?
- 4 When to visit the Eyre Peninsula
- 5 How to get to the Eyre Peninsula
- 6 How to explore the Eyre Peninsula
- 7 Major towns of the Eyre Peninsula
- 8 Best things to see and do on the Eyre Peninsula
- 8.1 Cage dive with great white sharks
- 8.2 Swim with dolphins and sea lions
- 8.3 Go whale watching
- 8.4 Snorkel with giant cuttlefish
- 8.5 Go for a surf
- 8.6 Go on a fishing charter
- 8.7 Taste some seafood
- 8.8 Enjoy the white sand beaches
- 8.9 Spot some native wildlife
- 8.10 Go for a hike
- 8.11 Explore the Gawler Ranges
- 8.12 The Nullarbor Plain
- 8.13 Learn something new at a museum
- 8.14 Festivals, art, and culture
- 9 While you’re on The Eyre Peninsula:
What is the Eyre Peninsula?
The Eyre Peninsula is a pendant of land off the coast of South Australia that is roughly the same size as Switzerland. It’s surrounded by the Southern Ocean, with the Spencer Gulf to the east and the Great Australian Bight stretching to the west. The pristine underwater environment of the peninsula makes it a haven for marine life, such as Southern Right Whales, Australian sea lions, Great White Sharks, and Bottlenose dolphins.
The Gawler Ranges run across to the north of the peninsula, while the Eyre Highway passes by through the towns of Port Augusta and Ceduna, South Australia. The semi-arid Nullarbor Plain runs to the west, with Ceduna being the last major town before the long road across the limestone plain to Western Australia.
The coastline of the Eyre Peninsula was first explored by Europeans when Matthew Flinders chartered the coast between 1801-1802. The interior land wasn’t surveyed by Europeans until Edward John Eyre explored the peninsula and the Nullarbor between 1839-1841. Both the peninsula and the later built highway were subsequently named after him.
What is the peninsula known for?
The Eyre Peninsula’s economy relies primarily on agriculture and aquaculture with growing mining and tourism sectors. Farming still covers a large part of the area of the peninsula, with cereals, sheep, and cattle in the drier north and dairy farming in the south. Fishing and aquaculture play a huge role in the economy of the coastal towns. Oyster farming was first established in the 1980s and is now a growing business with the west coast of the peninsula producing some of the country’s best.
Tourism is a fast-growing sector on the Eyre Peninsula with the region considered the ‘Seafood Frontier’ of the state with plenty of people being attracted to the delicious food and fishing opportunities on offer. The natural environment of the peninsula and coast are also a huge drawcard for visitors. The peninsula is home to three national parks and numerous conservation areas that harbour precious wildlife and beautiful scenery.
Why should you go to the Eyre Peninsula?
The Eyre Peninsula is a stunning coastal region that has plenty of incredible things to see and do for everyone. The area is home to spectacular landscapes and a variety of wildlife. The landscape changes from the semi-arid Nullarbor and rocky Gawler Ranges to the rugged coastline with white sand beaches.
You can also encounter an array of wildlife from native animals such as kangaroos, wombats, and koalas, to rare sea life such as whales, dolphins, sea lions, and cuttlefish. These beautiful encounters with the natural world are what draw many people to explore the peninsula.
This particular part of the South Australian coast is also known as the seafood frontier of the country. The pristine waters of the Great Australia Bight harbour an abundant fishery with King George Whiting, salmon, garfish, Tommy Ruffs, tuna, oysters, scallops, prawns, and more, all found around the peninsula.
When to visit the Eyre Peninsula
The weather on the Eyre Peninsula is relatively temperate all year round meaning that you can travel to the region at any time. However, summers can get quite hot and winters are much cooler, with spring and autumn offering the most ideal conditions. If you want to time your visit with the migratory Southern Right Whales, then winter is the best time. These beautiful mammals are usually seen off the coast from May until October each year. This is also an ideal time to avoid the crowds on the beaches of the warmer months, with most people visiting in the summer holidays.
How to get to the Eyre Peninsula
The Eyre Peninsula is easily reached by road and air.
The Eyre Highway runs past the peninsula, connecting it to Port Augusta and eventually Adelaide to the east, as well as, across the border to Western Australia in the other direction. The highway makes up one of the most epic drives in the whole country, with many people coming to tackle the long journey across the Nullarbor Plain on the Eyre Highway every year.
Approximate distances and driving times are:
• Adelaide to Port Lincoln: 648 kms or approximately 6-hour drive
• Adelaide to Ceduna: 777 kms or approximately 8-hour drive
• Eucla to Ceduna: 493 kms or approximately 5-hour drive across the Nullarbor Plain
The peninsula can also be reached by air. There are regional airports in Whyalla, Port Lincoln, and Ceduna, with daily connections to Adelaide. Otherwise, you can fly to Adelaide from interstate and then hire a car to drive from there.
How to explore the Eyre Peninsula
The Eyre Peninsula is best explored with your own car or a hired vehicle. Many people incorporate it with a trip across the Eyre Highway and the Nullarbor Plain, making it essential that you have your own car to explore all the places on and off the highway. This gives you the ultimate freedom to see all the best things that the peninsula has to offer.
The major towns in the area are Ceduna, Whyalla, Port Lincoln, and Port Augusta. They make for great bases from which you can head out on day trips to explore the surrounding sights. These towns have all the essential amenities for your trip with a range of accommodation available for every type of traveller.
Port Lincoln is the main town towards the tip of the peninsula. It sits on the eastern side and is a major fishing and seafood hub.
Ceduna is the main town in the far northwest of the peninsula and is often referred to as the Oyster Capital of Australia, and is the gateway to The Nullarbor Plain.
On the eastern side, Whyalla is a main town on the northeast coast, just an hour’s drive south of Port Augusta.
However, many of the best experiences on the peninsula are water-based, with plenty of opportunities to get close to some of the unique sea life in the region. There are local tour operators in the major towns that can help with day trips that include some of these experiences that require expert knowledge and assistance.
Major towns of the Eyre Peninsula
Port Lincoln is the main town towards the tip of the peninsula. It sits on the eastern side and is a major fishing and seafood hub. The town is popular with visitors for its proximity to Lincoln National Park, a beautiful rugged coastal area. However, if you’re in town there are also a few things to check out, including the Axel Stenross Maritime Museum and the Winter Hill Lookout.
Ceduna is the main town in the far northwest of the peninsula and is often referred to as the Oyster Capital of Australia. The small coastal town is the main base for people wanting to explore the peninsula, as well as the Nullarbor Plain. The town is conveniently located nearby to many of the region’s best surfing, fishing, and whale-watching spots.
On the eastern side, Whyalla is a main town on the northeast coast, just an hour’s drive south of Port Augusta. It’s known for its incredible natural scenery from the coast to the outback. It’s also popular for its activities like swimming with cuttlefish and dolphins.
Best things to see and do on the Eyre Peninsula
There are endless opportunities on the Eyre Peninsula for adventure. From exploring the outback to wildlife encounters, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you have a couple of days or a few weeks, here’s all the best things to see and do on the Eyre Peninsula.
Cage dive with great white sharks
You can find some of the biggest great whites in the world off the coast of the Eyre Peninsula. If you’re up for a bit of an adrenaline rush, then cage diving with these intimidating animals in Port Lincoln should be on your bucket list. The diving operators in the area are some of the oldest running when it comes to offering cage diving, so you know that you’re in good hands.
Swim with dolphins and sea lions
On the western side of the peninsula in Baird Bay, you can find bottlenose dolphins and Australian sea lions. These gracious animals thrive in the sheltered waters of the bay. You can jump in and swim with them with a licensed tour operator, from September until May every year.
Go whale watching
One of the most famous wildlife encounters on the Eyre Peninsula is the chance to see whales off the coast. From May until October, Southern Right Whales and occasionally humpback whales can be seen in the water around Fowlers Bay. They make the journey up from Antarctica to mate in the sheltered ocean near the coast.
There are designated lookouts along the coastline from where you can catch a glimpse of them. Otherwise, you can head out on a two-hour whale watching boat tour so you can observe these giants up close.
Snorkel with giant cuttlefish
For another unique swimming experience, you can snorkel with giant colourful cuttlefish in winter. Thousands of giant cuttlefish congregate around Point Lowly and Stony Point in the cooler months to attract a mate. The multicoloured fish put on a dazzling display that is sensational to see up close in the water.
Most of these organised snorkelling trips depart from Whyalla on the eastern side of the peninsula.
Go for a surf
With the pristine coastline, it’s no surprise that the Eyre Peninsula has some impressive surfing spots. You can find the most popular surf beaches at Fowlers Bay, Cactus Beach, Venus Bay, and near Elliston. The most famous of these is Cactus Beach, with world-class breaks that are best reserved for experienced surfers. People come from all over the world to experience the waves here.
Go on a fishing charter
Considering the peninsula is the seafood frontier of Australia, fishing is obviously a popular activity for visitors to the Eyre Peninsula. Fishing charters are an exciting way to enjoy the experience with a good chance of catching the famous King George Whiting, as well as, plenty of other fish species.
If you prefer to throw your own line in, then you can also opt to go jetty fishing, beach fishing, boat fishing, or rock fishing.
Taste some seafood
Tasting some delicious and fresh seafood is one of the must-do experiences on the Eyre Peninsula. Although you can easily find it being served up on many menus at any of the restaurants, the best way to enjoy the experience is on the Seafood Trail. This self-drive tour takes you to Ceduna, Steaky Bay, Port Lincoln and Coffin Bay, while including stops along the way for you to sample oysters, prawns, tuna, abalone, and lobster.
Another great seafood experience is visiting a working oyster farm or seafood factory. For oyster lovers there’s opportunity to sample straight from the water in Coffin Bay, near Port Lincoln, an in Smoky Bay, near Ceduna, is your opportunity to take a working oyster farm tour and sample the product right from the pristine water in which they are grown, and enjoy the 360° bay views from the platform overlooking the oyster farm. Certainly the freshest oysters you’ll ever experience, right from the water that perfects them – you can’t get any fresher than that anywhere in the world and that’s a taste you’ll never forget!
Enjoy the white sand beaches
If you’d rather relax than get active, then there are plenty of opportunities for that at the white sand beaches on the coast. The most beautiful of these are arguably inside the two national parks on either side of the peninsula; Coffin Bay National Park and Lincoln National Park.
Although you can also find beaches along the western side of the peninsula, near Venus Bay, Baird Bay, and Penong which have long stretches of sand to enjoy, many times you’ll have these beaches to yourself.
Spot some native wildlife
Apart from the incredible sea life in the ocean, the peninsula is also home to an abundance of wildlife on land. You can often find many of Australia’s native animals such as koalas, kangaroos, and wombats as you drive around the coast. However, Lincoln National Park and the Gawler Ranges are particularly known for their concentration of wildlife and birds.
Go for a hike
The Eyre Peninsula has some great walking trails which can allow you to enjoy the scenery at a slower pace. Lincoln National Park and Coffin Bay National Park offer some incredible walks from short trails for the whole family to longer trails for serious hikers. If you head north to the Gawler Ranges, you’ll also find some great opportunities to stretch your legs and explore on foot.
Explore the Gawler Ranges
Along the north of the Eyre Peninsula is the Gawler Ranges National Park. It’s characterised by its outback landscape and volcanic rock that is home to a variety of native wildlife and birds.
You can explore the national park either on foot or by 4WD with incredible guided tours that offer an insight into the spectacular landscape. It offers a beautiful contrast to the white sand beaches further south and is the perfect introduction to the Australian outback.
The Eyre Peninsula sits to the immediate east of the Nullarbor. This huge limestone plain is one of the most unique landscapes that you can find in Australia. For many people, a trip across the Nullarbor on the Eyre Highway is a once in a lifetime adventure. Due to their close proximity, many travellers incorporate a trip across the Nullarbor with some time spent on the Eyre Peninsula.
As it’s either the first place visitors stop after the long trip or the last place before people set off across the Nullarbor, the peninsula is a great place to restock and relax or prep for the journey ahead.
Learn something new at a museum
The Eyre Peninsula has some great museums for the whole family to learn something new about the region. Port Lincoln Railway Museum and Axel Stenross Maritime Museum both offer an insight into the history of the coast.
Across the western side of the peninsula, you can find the Arts and Cultural Centre in Ceduna which showcases some beautiful Aboriginal artwork. The nearby Penong Windmill Museum has also emerged as a popular place to visit. This open-air museum includes a large collection of windmills that offers an insight into the agricultural and farming history of the area.
Festivals, art, and culture
If you time your visit right, you might be able to experience one of the annual cultural festivals on the Eyre Peninsula.
Over the Australia Day weekend every year, you can join in the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln. It includes a market, art, and cultural displays, events, and, of course, delicious seafood.
Every October in Ceduna you can enjoy Oysterfest, a long weekend of music, dancing, art, wine, and fresh seafood.
SALT festival runs for a number of days in April each year in the southern part of the peninsula around Port Lincoln. It celebrates all the local artists of the area with a range of workshops, exhibitions, and displays across multiple disciplines.
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