People head to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia for its spectacular coastal scenery and outdoor activities. The peninsula which juts out into the waters of the Great Australian Bight is characterised by its pristine natural environment both on land and in the sea.
This beautiful coastal area sees a large influx of visitors during the peak holiday periods, with people coming from all over South Australia and further beyond. Many of these visitors opt for free camping along some of the secluded beaches with the idea of waking up by the sea, a dream holiday for many Australians. However, this sudden influx of human activity on the coast can have a detrimental effect on the fragile environment.
From leaving behind rubbish to disturbing the natural habitat of the wildlife, there are many ways that travellers and campers could be more conscious of their impact on the environment. This article will outline how you can do your bit to help preserve this beautiful part of Australia, while still getting the most out of your trip.
Table of Contents
- 1 About the landscape of the Eyre Peninsula
- 2 Camping infrastructure on the Eyre Peninsula
- 3 Staying at accommodation on the Eyre Peninsula
- 4 Environmental impacts of free camping on the Eyre Peninsula
- 5 Leave no trace principles
- 6 Responsible travel tips for free camping on the Eyre Peninsula
- 7 While you’re on The Eyre Peninsula:
About the landscape of the Eyre Peninsula
The Eyre Peninsula is a long, triangular-shaped outcrop off the coast of South Australia. It’s surrounded by the Spencer Gulf to the east, with the Great Australian Bight and Nullarbor Plain to the west. This beautiful coastal landscape is characterised by pristine oceans, white sand beaches, coastline shrubland and a variety of wildlife.
The waters around the Eyre Peninsula are home to some of the most unique and diverse marine life. The area is a huge seafood and fishing frontier, with an estimated 65 per cent of the country’s seafood coming from the Eyre Peninsula. It’s also home to some unique sea life including great white sharks, cuttlefish, Australian sea lions and southern right whales, the latter two of which are endangered. Wildlife is one of the biggest attractions of the Eyre Peninsula with many people coming just to encounter some of these incredible animals.
On land, the coastal area is especially beautiful and fragile with a few designated national parks. The Gawler Ranges National Park runs across the north of the peninsula, Coffin Bay National Park is on the southwestern corner of the peninsula and the Lincoln National Park is on the south-eastern tip of the peninsula. The pristine white-sand beaches and coastal shrubland is home to thriving animal populations and vegetation that is essential to the preservation of the ecosystem.
This stunning landscape and nature are what often draws visitors to the Eyre Peninsula. However, the sudden influx of people free camping in the warm summer months and holiday periods is a significant strain on the limited infrastructure and can hamper the safeguarding of the natural environment of the precious coast.
Camping infrastructure on the Eyre Peninsula
Camping is a popular way for people to explore the Eyre Peninsula. This area of the coast is characterised mostly by small towns and large expanses of coastline with few human inhabitants. This means that there is often very limited infrastructure outside of the official paid campgrounds and caravan parks. Free camping here is not quite like some other parts of Australia, with limited toilets, rubbish bins and shelters outside of towns.
Many of the beaches along the coastline of the Eyre Peninsula are remote and often see very few people for much of the year. Some of these spots lie outside of designated council areas, which means that that are no jobs to cover the maintenance and clean-up of the environment. Although you might find some facilities around the major towns like Ceduna and Port Lincoln, as you travel further away along the coast, the settlements and beaches beyond Ceduna lie outside of any council area.
Some of the infrastructure that you do find at beaches outside of town in out-of-council areas is often built and maintained by locals who volunteer their time. They put these things in place so they can enjoy the area without causing damage. Although the region can be sparsely populated in some areas, the people who live in the region do care very deeply about protecting the coast. After all, they are the same people who have fought against major oil companies from drilling the pristine waters in the Great Australian Bight. Essentially, in all but a few places, there is simply not enough infrastructure to handle the sudden arrival of visitors in the holiday period.
With this in mind, free camping is not necessarily an environmentally conscious choice for accommodation. With such limited infrastructure, clearing foliage and shrubs for tents, leaving behind rubbish and going to the toilet in the bush all have detrimental impacts on the natural environment and wildlife that call the area home.
Staying at accommodation on the Eyre Peninsula
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t camp on the Eyre Peninsula. There are still designated camping areas and caravan parks in the main towns where you can stay with all of the necessary facilities. These official camping areas are a more responsible place to stay, with proper waste removal and rubbish bins, shelters, toilets and water. They are specifically designed to accommodate travellers so that the impact on the more secluded and pristine environments along the coast can be preserved.
You can find caravan parks and roadhouses in the main settlements and towns along the Eyre Highway and on the peninsula, including at Ceduna, Port Lincoln and Whyalla. There are also official campgrounds available with well-maintained facilities inside the national parks. The benefit of staying in these places is that you can easily explore the area on day trips, but still have access to all the facilities when you return for the night. However, even on day trips you should still be conscious of your impact on the environment by carrying everything back with you and respecting the wildlife in the area.
Environmental impacts of free camping on the Eyre Peninsula
There are many environmental impacts of free camping along the coast at places without proper facilities. However, by being more informed about these impacts, you can make more conscious and responsible choices during your visit to limit these negative effects. These are the most common impacts from free camping on the Eyre Peninsula:
Destroying of coastal shrubs
The unique coastal landscape on the Eyre Peninsula is characterised by old and frail shrubs and sandy ground. Although these shrubs are often small in size, this is due to the limited rainfall that the coast receives which keeps these bushes from growing so big. However, they are still an essential part of the ecosystem on the coast. These plants are often runover by vehicles trying to park along the beaches and destroyed by people removing them to clear an area for free camping. Even the removal of one shrub can have a huge detrimental impact on the landscape.
For example, when a single camper removes a shrub from along the coast, it leaves a bare patch of sand behind. The extreme winds that sometimes strike the coast then rips the bare sand left behind through the surrounding foliage. This damages some of the roots of the surrounding shrubs and leaves much of the area fragile with many of the shrubs not growing back. Over time, the knock-on effects of that single shrub being removed are felt across the whole surrounding area. It also has an impact on the wildlife, as these shrubs are some of the primary nature along the semi-arid landscape. You should consider this impact that campers can have the next time that you plan to go free camping along the coast.
Toilet paper and defecation
Another major impact on the environment from free camping is from people using the bush as their toilet. Many of the secluded beaches along the sometimes-remote coast do not have proper toilet facilities which means people often go to the toilet anywhere. Toilet paper is one of the biggest contributors to waste left behind along the pristine beaches and coastline of the Eyre Peninsula. It also doesn’t breakdown as quickly as people assume.
Toilet paper left outside can take anywhere from one to three years to breakdown properly. This decomposing cycle is influenced by rain and soil conditions. However, the peninsula gets little rainfall and is characterised by the semi-arid, sandy land which means that toilet paper can take even longer to break down than usual.
This is why it’s very important to carry all of your rubbish back with you, even toilet paper. The pristine coastline ends up littered with toilet paper during summer with some of it even ending up in the ocean as well. This is not a pretty sight to see as the peninsula is known for its unspoiled white sand beaches, which can too easily be ruined by toilet paper left behind. It’s each individual person’s duty to try and do the right thing to keep it as clean as possible.
Rubbish and waste
It’s not only toilet paper that is left behind, but also large amounts of rubbish and waste left by people free camping along the coast. Many of the more secluded beaches do not have rubbish bins or any waste removal services. The rubbish that is left behind by people will almost certainly end up in the ocean, which then causes harm to a lot of the marine life. The very marine life that people come to the peninsula to see in the first place.
Even the beaches that do have bins, they are often overflowing in the busy holiday periods. Many people then leave their rubbish next to the bin in plastic bags, expecting other people to then come and clean it up. However, it still usually ends up strewn across the landscape and ending up in the ocean. Animals find the rubbish bags and tear them apart looking for food scraps, which leaves much of the plastic to be blown away in the wind.
It’s much more responsible if everyone simply took everything back with them, including rubbish bags and any waste produced during their visit. There are still plenty of rubbish bins in the major towns like Ceduna and Port Lincoln, where you can safely dispose of your waste properly without worrying about it ending up in the ocean. This is also another reason why staying in caravan parks is more convenient, as they have of the appropriate waste removal services available.
The Eyre Peninsula is home to a variety of unique marine life and native animals. With the sudden influx of visitors during the holiday period, this usually disturbs and encroaches on their habitat which they usually get to enjoy in peace after all the visitors return home. Free camping creates a lot of noise and intrusion on the natural environment, which can interrupt the lifecycle of the animals that come to the area for nesting.
The peninsula and coastline around the Bight are home to many resident and migratory shorebirds such as oyster catchers, red-capped and hooded plovers who live on the sandy beaches. For example, the red-necked stint travels up to 25, 000 km each year from the Arctic to spend the summer feeding and nesting on the beaches along the coast. The populations of these shorebirds are rapidly declining due to both predators like dogs and foxes and loss of habitat and disturbances from human activity.
Bringing your vehicles and pets along to these beaches can also disturb these birds and interrupt their breeding and roosting. So, whether you’re free camping overnight or just visiting for the day, be aware of the wildlife that calls the coast home.
Leave no trace principles
The leave no trace principles are seven basic values that any traveller should abide by in the outdoors. They were first developed in the US for backcountry hiking but have since been recognised as the worldwide standard for anyone visiting the natural environments. The underlying expectation is to leave no trave but footprints and to take everything back with you, including any rubbish. The seven principles can be applied to virtually any situation or location that you visit.
The seven leave no trace principles include:
• Plan ahead and prepare
• Travel and camp on durable and designated surfaces
• Dispose of waste properly
• Leave what you find
• Minimise campfire impacts
• Respect wildlife
• Be considerate of other visitors
Responsible travel tips for free camping on the Eyre Peninsula
If you are planning to visit any of the beaches or spots on the Eyre Peninsula, you should always be conscious of your impact on the environment. Whether you’re free camping for the night or visiting a beach on a day trip, it’s everyone’s duty to look after the pristine environment along the coast.
Here are some responsible travel and environmentally conscious tips to consider before exploring the pristine environment around the Eyre Peninsula.
Respect wildlife and nature
• You should not feed wild animals any food that they are not used to eating as this can harm them.
• Refrain from interacting with the wildlife and simply observe and appreciate from a distance.
• Wild animals should remain wild for the preservation of the natural ecosystem, so try not to disturb or harass wildlife.
• Do not take or move any natural objects or plants along the coast, including coastal shrubs from the land.
• Do not clear an area yourself for parking or camping purposes.
• Keep to defined tracks and roads and do not decide to explore off-track, as this can disturb wildlife and ruin shrubs.
• Keep your dogs or other pets on leashes or under control and away from any wildlife, including nesting birds.
• Watch where you step and do not walk on eggs or nests.
• Limit noise and any other loud disturbances in remote locations, so as not to disturb or disrupt the animals that call the area home.
• Find out about any limits or rules for fishing in the local area.
• Carry all your fishing litter and waste back with you.
• Always refuel your boat on land and never release waste, oil or sewage into the ocean waters.
• Fire restrictions are usually in place from November 1 until April 15 every year.
• Use liquid fuel and gas stoves for cooking instead of starting fires.
• Do not uproot any shrubs or break any branches for firewood along the coast.
Rubbish and waste
• You should assume that wherever you go on the Eyre Peninsula that there won’t be any rubbish bins or toilet facilities so you can be prepared to carry everything back with you.
• Take all your rubbish home with you, including toilet paper.
• Carry a rubbish bag or your own bin so you can collect any rubbish or waste during your visit.
• If there are bins provided at the spot and they are already full, do not leave your rubbish next to the bin. Any rubbish outside of the bin is still considered littering, so if the bin is full you should carry your rubbish home with you.
• If you are travelling to remote areas along the coast, carry a port-a-potty for the times when you need to go to the toilet.
• If you must go to the toilet in the bush, use biodegradable toilet paper which breaks down quicker than regular paper, although it still takes a bit of time to do so.
Respect local rules and regulations
• Drive carefully and follow the speed limits on any of the roads on the peninsula and keep an eye out for animals crossing.
• Camp only in designated areas or stay in caravan parks where there are appropriate facilities and amenities.
• Always be considerate of other travellers, local people and animals.
• Follow any local rules and regulations concerning camping, fishing, swimming and driving, including paying attention to any official signs that give instructions.
Finally; please consider staying with accommodation providers and in designated areas throughout your travel on the Eyre Peninsula.
While you’re on The Eyre Peninsula:
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