There’s no better place to experience the raw southern coastline of Australia than the Yorke Peninsula, and Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park is the juicy tip!
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Narangga Nation, the traditional Country of the Narangga people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Hike through beautiful coastal shrub
- Secluded southern surfing
- Visit or stay at Inneston Historic Township
- See a shipwreck and a lighthouse!
Where’s Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park?
Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park is located at the very bottom of the Yorke Peninsula, one of South Australia’s three peninsulas. It’s an important fauna and flora refuge, so don’t be surprised when you have to stop to let a mob of emus make their way across the main road.
After driving through what feels like hours of wheat plains, you’re treated to a park that’s lush, green, and surrounded by the beautiful and powerful Southern Ocean.
The first drive into Dhilba Guuranda-Innes is unforgettable, as a few minutes after you leave the visitor centre you drive over a crest, and the whole park opens up before your eyes. The adventure begins.
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Hike through Beautiful Coastal Shrub
The Royston Head Hike takes you along the rugged cliff-edge of the park, through low lying vegetation. Coastal mallee and native saltbush surround your every step while the crashing waves of the ocean can be heard below. The 5km return walk can be done at any point during the day, but I recommend taking your lunch and sitting down at the very end of the trail, with a fantastic view of North Island.
The Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk is the perfect way to finish off an afternoon, and the 2.2km can be easily completed in Birks. Multiple signs tell you the history of the area, and from the lookout you can see the Stenhouse Bay Jetty and surrounding area, known 100 years ago as a flourishing port supporting the salt and gypsum mining industries.
Surfing in Dhilba Guuranda-Innes
There are plenty of surf breaks in the park, the most popular being Pondalowie Bay (Pondie) or Chinamans. Pondie can be both a left and right break, and thanks to the recent addition of a boardwalk and viewing platform, it’s a chill stroll from the car park.
When it’s working it can get a little crowded (though nothing like the breaks along SA’s midcoast) but punters will be treated to pristine waters and if they’re there, the friendliest pod of dolphins I’ve ever come across.
I was sitting on my board, patiently waiting for a wave and suddenly 10-15 dolphins gently appeared and weaved their way through the bodies in the water. It’s impossible to forget the gleam of sunlight bouncing off a dolphin’s skin as it swims within two meters of you.
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250m north of Pondie is a break called Richard’s, named after one of the local surfers. Usually less populated than the main break, it’s worth the walk.
Chinamans is a powerful hollow wave that breaks directly next to a hair-splitting shallow ledge, and when it’s pumping, it’s really pumping. If near vertical take-offs aren’t your thing, a sunny afternoon can be spent on the viewing platform watching the locals work their magic.
Visit (or stay) at Inneston Historic Township
One hundred years ago, the tip of the Yorke Peninsula was a bustling mining town, where the nearby Inneston Lake was a rich mineral source bearing gypsum and salt. Present day visitors can wander through the ruins of what was once a thriving community, complete with its own school, bakery, post office and tennis court. On an overcast day the town feels eerie, and transports you back to the people and stories that existed before us.
For those inclined for a more comfortable experience, multiple buildings within the township have been refurbished and renovated to serve as lodge accommodation. You can stay in heritage buildings such as the old Post Office, Engineers Lodge or Managers Lodge, which are perched on a hill and overlook the town, the lake and vast expanse of the park.
For a warm and dry surf trip, these are perfect, and nothing beats sitting with a warm tea and enjoying the sunrise from a comfortable verandah.
See a shipwreck and a lighthouse!
Below the tall cliffs of the southwest side of the Peninsula lies the Ethel, a ship that ran aground in 1904 while travelling from South Africa. The wreck lies on sand instead of underwater, and provides a rare opportunity to check out a shipwreck without having to don scuba gear.
Time, as well as wind and rain, have led to the slow degradation of the metal hull, which can still be seen poking out from below the sand. The walk down the steep boardwalk overlooking the ocean, the wreck, and the mighty swell are all impressive reminders of the raw power of the natural world.
You can surf at Ethel’s too, but the towering cliffs and thundering waves mean that it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park features two lighthouses: Cape Spencer and West Cape. The walk to both is well worth it for the views and the romanticism that comes with seeing a lighthouse. Oh to be a lighthouse keeper in the 1900s! With nothing but the ocean and books to keep you company.
Nowadays both towers are automated, but seeing them really brings you back to simpler times.
There are multiple campsites to pick from within the park, but my personal favourite is Cable Bay, located just after Chinamans. The campground is somewhat central, meaning you’re well positioned to explore the whole park.
There are nine camping sites, a calm sheltered bay, and the campground is far enough away from the main road that everything feels secluded and serene. While staying at this campsite I met a lovely couple, who gave great advice (and ingredients) on how to make the yummiest vegan damper. The key is a bit of thyme, and patient placement in the outer coals of the fire.
How To Get There
Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park is about a 3.5 hour drive (300km) from Adelaide, and can be accessed by the Yorke Highway B86. Turn off just after Port Wakefield (or before if coming from the west) and follow the road all the way down. The bakery at Minlaton is a good spot to satisfy the mid-drive craving.