Next to na­ture

Feet first on South Aus­tralia’s jagged Yorke Penin­sula

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA - MICHAEL OWEN

As we nav­i­gate our way down a rocky path, a vast ex­panse of ocean on the hori­zon, we feel a pair of eyes on us. A short dis­tance away, star­ing in­tently, is a large kan­ga­roo watch­ing our ev­ery move. From an­other di­rec­tion, two emus dart.

Th­ese quin­tes­sen­tial Aus­tralian an­i­mals pro­vide a wel­come in­ter­ac­tion with na­ture for my chil­dren, aged nine and 11, as we trek the 7km from South Aus­tralia’s Mar­ion Bay to Sten­house Bay un­der a clear blue sky in early Fe­bru­ary. We are blessed with clas­sic Yorke Penin­sula weather. Boats dot the calm wa­ters. Fish­er­men have long been lured to the re­gion, up­graded mod­ern ramp fa­cil­i­ties in­stalled along the coast adding to the area’s pop­u­lar­ity as a hol­i­day desti­na­tion for fish­ing en­thu­si­asts from Ade­laide. “Yorkes”, as the lo­cals call it, is a boot-shaped land mass sep­a­rated from Ade­laide to the east by Gulf St Vin­cent and from Port Lin­coln to the west by Spencer Gulf. To the south is Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

The grain-pro­duc­ing re­gion is full of rich farm­land, but also mag­nif­i­cent white sandy beaches won­drously free of crowds; there are jagged shore­lines, cliffs, surf­ing breaks and an abun­dance of fresh, clean seafood.

The dis­tances are vast, so most peo­ple drive to sight­see. But the ter­rain is rel­a­tively flat and of­fers lots of di­verse op­tions to ex­pe­ri­ence its beauty by foot. Ram­blers have long been at­tracted here due to the ex­ist­ing nat­u­ral-sur­faced tracks. Now there are walk­ers ga­lore, lured by the es­tab­lish­ment of 500km of trails wind­ing from Port Wake­field down and up the penin­sula to Moonta Bay. This net­work com­bines ex­ist­ing tracks with newly formed grav­elled sec­tions, as well as beach ac­cess.

The Walk the Yorke ex­pe­ri­ence, years in the mak­ing since a con­cept plan was re­leased in 2009, was launched in De­cem­ber and has proved a hit. There are brightyel­low trail mark­ers, signs, seat­ing, shel­ters and wa­ter tanks at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. It is a pleas­ing re­sult for those who have pur­sued the vi­sion over the years, in­clud­ing Yorke Penin­sula Coun­cil’s op­er­a­tions man­ager Stephen Goldswor­thy.

It ap­pears to be a case of “build it and they will come”. Hash­tags such as #walk­they­orke have cropped up and a flood of in­quiries has boosted con­fi­dence for in­creased vis­i­tor num­bers. You can choose short walks of up to 90 min­utes or more chal­leng­ing day walks, multi-day itin­er­ar­ies or bike-rid­ing op­tions.

For my fam­ily, it is a great op­por­tu­nity to re­visit the penin­sula and con­nect with na­ture for a few days. We stay at the tiny town of Mar­ion Bay, a three-hour drive from Ade­laide, on the edge of stun­ning Innes Na­tional Park, which fills in the en­tire south­west tip of the penin­sula. It is a re­mote spot with a well-equipped car­a­van park and di­rect beach ac­cess. The Mar­ion Bay Tav­ern has a sur­pris­ingly wide-rang­ing menu and its wood-fired pizza oven is on duty all day.

We take the more ad­ven­tur­ous path for our first walk, start­ing on the cliffs over­look­ing Mar­ion Bay. We tra­verse clifftop paths, walk along se­cluded beaches, ex­plore dune paths and marvel at the na­tive an­i­mals as we en­ter the na­tional park. Crisp, white-sand beaches with calm

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