On the oyster and crab trail

10 to 14 October 2019

Streaky Bay to Sheringa, 170km

to Coffin Bay, 102km

to Cowell via Port Lincoln, 197km

to Port Germein via Whyalla, 248km

Having said farewell to the Sissies for a week or so, they headed back to work and we headed east on the Flinders Highway with a plan to stop for a couple of days and the intriguingly named Coffin Bay.

However, a tiny place called Sheringa had other ideas. About 100km short of Coffin Bay, with little more than a friendly roadhouse, an old chapel and a road called Nowhere Else Road, Sheringa was a blink and miss it kind of place but we spotted a sign to a beach camp and we couldn’t help but check it out.

At the end of the unsealed road was a spectacular stretch of coastline with enormous dunes and a basic campsite (brand new toilet but no shower) tucked behind them. We decided it was too good to miss a night in such a remote spot. We could survive a day without a shower!

There was nothing much to do but explore the beach and dunes and try out our animal tracking skills. We reckon there were kangaroos or wallabies and shingle back lizards about but we saw no other sign of them but their tracks.

The next morning we finally made it to Coffin Bay. It sounds like it should be a dark and spooky place but it was rather straighforwardly named by Matthew Flinders after his friend Sir Isaac Coffin. And it is a beautiful spot, sitting in an almost enclosed bay with turquoise water and pretty flowers. We were warmly welcomed by the local emus!

The Coffin Bay National Park is an almost inaccessible area of mountainous dunes and beautiful scrubland. Almost inaccessible except for 4WD vehicles and so we took Tick on his first proper off road experience. The sandy and stony roads were very slow and very bumpy.

In an area of deep sand we got stuck (or bogged in Australian). No matter what Stefan tried Tick’s tyres just dug deeper into the sand. We weren’t going anywhere! Luckily for us, in the middle of this remote wilderness, help was not far away. A couple of oncoming trucks saw our predicament and came running to assist with some plastic recovery tracks. With those dug under all four tyres we were quickly out of trouble and, with only mild levels of mortification, continued on our way.

We had fun chasing emus along the tracks and dodging groups cross the road but were nervous to go too much further for fear of getting stuck again.

Coffin Bay is surrounded by equally grim sounding places – Seasick Bay, Point Avoid, Thorny Passage and Sudden Jerk Island. How they got their names we don’t know but can make a good guess! But the views across the water to Mount Dutton belie them completely.

Coffin Bay taught us a lot about emus from our close encounters with them. Their favourite food is the fruit of the quandong tree. It was hard to find any fruit left on the trees and it was obvious from all the droppings full of stones that the emus were responsible! We later bought some homemade quandong jam to find out for ourselves what all the fuss is about and can report it’s quite tasty but we’re happy to leave it for the emus.

One afternoon, whilst writing the blog outside the tent, I was treated to this emu family parade up the road and into the bush. There were nine chicks!

But it is not emus that Coffin Bay is famous for. It is oysters and the town vies with Ceduna in claiming to have the best.

Of course, we had to do the taste test and can definitely say that these from Coffin Bay won. The view helped!

From Coffin Bay the weather took a turn for the worst and we stopped in Port Lincoln only to swim (Stefan was alone in braving the outdoor pool!) and in Tumby Bay only to have fish and chips in the rain and admire the silo mural of two boys jumping off the jetty. Nothing could be more South Australian!

There was more silo art at our stop for the night in Cowell but this time a celebration of a local character, Lionel Deer, who for over 30 years brought his camel to the Christmas Pageant. A woman in the pub chatted fondly about him. Apparently he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about but quite likes the image.

In Cowell we took a windy walk along the jetty, it being the thing to do. Actually, it was pretty much the only thing to do! We met Susan and Glen, from our campsite, who were fishing for blue swimmer crabs. As we stood chatting they pulled up crab after crab and promised to bring us some over later in the evening. True to their word, two cooked crabs arrived. Getting into them was a challenge and I must admit I’d rather have oysters!

Our onward journey took us through Whyalla, a place much maligned by Anna who lived there a while, but which we found to have an excellent pool, some lovely 1930s architecture and the most beautiful blue water in the bay. We also found a French explorer, Louis-Claude de Freycinet, celebrated alongside the ubiquitous Matthew Finders. He too had navigated and charted these waters in 1803.

Having left the Eyre Peninsula we made our way round, through Port Augusta again, to the top of the Yorke Peninsula and to Port Germein on the other side of the Spencer Gulf. This is still crab country and our caravan park had its own separate crab kitchen with all the equipment needed to cook them.

But there is only one star attraction in Port Germein, and its claim to fame, the jetty! Opened in 1881, it once held the title of longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and wheat was shipped around the world from here. Now no ships collect cargo from it and storms have shortened it to a mere 1.5km. Now it has to make do with the title of longest jetty in South Australia. The formerly final 100 metres are now reserved solely for the resident cormorants.

From Port Germein we continued south along the Spencer Gulf to somewhere where copper replaced wheat and crabs as the main export…

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