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Out of the Blue: Eyre Peninsula’s stunning and secret transformation into a world-class holiday haven


Little bits of news have filtered through to the city about the wonders of Eyre Peninsula (mostly rave reviews for shark cage diving), but the full breadth of the region’s transformation remains unexplored by most South Australians.

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For those who dare to discover, the former primary production centre is ready to share its world-class produce, wildlife, and natural environment through once-in-a-lifetime experiences – from fine-dining meals made by award-winning chefs, to crafty cocktails and coffee, eco-friendly luxury accommodation, and up-close encounters with some of the ocean’s most adorable animals.

Love local, eat well

Before he began work at Port Lincoln’s The Line and Label restaurant in 2017, chef Josh Harris was based in Brisbane – collaborating with celebrity chef Pete Evans.

But he chose to leave city life behind and shift his family and life to the Eyre Peninsula.

“The number one drawcard was the produce,” he says. “Being the seafood capital of Australian and one of the seafood capitals of the world, the produce is second to none.”

A year and several accolades and awards later, Josh’s gamble is paying off.

Located just outside the township of Port Lincoln, The Line and Label is a full service fine-dining restaurant. It represents the Eyre’s emerging high-quality, locally-focused hospitality scene, and locals and travelers alike are lauding the venue as one of SA’s not-to-be-missed culinary highlights.

In the kitchen, Josh is turning produce freshly plucked from the farm or the sea into specialty dishes like ‘Snout of Ocean Jacket’ – a unique dish that sees diners eating the delicate and delicious cheek meat from the fish’s head, an experience which has earned glowing praise from food critics.

The food, of course, is central to a good meal at any restaurant. But restaurant general manager Diana Williams says it is not just the quality of local ingredients that make The Line and Label special.

“To be able to sit and look out over the vines, look out over Boston Bay, and see the chef’s gardens – you feel like you’re really in the country, and then you glimpse the ocean,” she says.

“Between the food and the setting, it really is like nowhere else in the world.”

Those looking to discover the Eyre Peninsula through their taste buds will find that The Line and Label is only the start of a journey that can satisfy their curiosity (and their stomachs) with everything from local beer to lovingly-crafted coffee.

Credit: Robert Lang ©Line and Label / Teak Corp

Beer Garden Brewing capitalises on the region’s status as a high-quality grain producer – using local barley and wheat to make that most desirable of grain products, craft beer (although bread is a close contender).

Janie and Mark Butterworth started the brewery in Port Lincoln in 2016, and its popularity has been assured by the beer awards on the walls and the smiles on the faces of drinkers seated in the sun outside the taproom, which serves a rotating selection of ten house-made brews.

The brewery is a must-do for craft beer enthusiasts, turning out things like coffee stouts and hop-heavy IPAs, and its equally enticing for everyone else with options such as the milder Eyre Peninsula Ale, made in the style of a pale ale, as well as wine, ciders, and a grazing menu with a local produce focus.

Eyre Peninsula Ale

Unusually, the brewery also serves excellent coffee, but given independent coffee roaster – Eyre Roasted – is also located onsite, perhaps it’s no surprise. Eyre Roasted supply far and wide across the Peninsula, with their growth fueled by demand for a flat white that tastes as good as anything served in a Melbourne laneway.

One of their major accounts is Port Lincoln café The Rogue and Rascal. Sat right on the Esplanade, Jemma Schilling and Elouise Dukalskis’ venue has the aesthetic to match their on-point coffee – with chic design elements like exposed copper piping and restored wood floors sitting comfortably with the view out across the ocean.

The R&R breakfast and lunch menu doubles as a tasting tour of some of the Eyre’s best producers – from The Fresh Fish Place to Boston Bay Smallgoods. And it’s not just daytime adventurers who are rewarded here, those exploring after the sun sets and The Rogue and Rascal closes will find And the Rebel – a wine and cocktail bar – upstairs, serving delicious food alongside their delicious booze. An evening spent here sitting on the balcony, watching the ocean, and sipping on a negroni is a secret pleasure that so far remains undiscovered by most South Australians.

Excellent ethics, excellent experiences

The Eyre Peninsula’s hospo industry is not alone in its coming of age.

Across the region, a host of entrepreneurs have realised that what they’ve got is what the world wants. Not only are they creating excellent experiences that are just waiting to be uncovered, they’re also doing it sustainably – mindful that they should be enjoyed for generations to come.

Accommodation providers like Camel Beach House, set right on the shoreline 45 minutes outside of Streaky Bay, and Tanonga Eco Cottages, located 20 minutes out of Port Lincoln, know that the land they live on is essential to their livelihood. The operators at both properties are revegetating the landscape with native plants – a long term project that has the short-term benefit of giving observant guests the once-in-a-lifetime chance to spot rare and sometimes endangered wildlife who are returning alongside the re-establishment of their natural habitat and food sources.

Tanonga Eco Cottages

Among the Eyre’s most notable examples of how well tourism and environmentalism can mix is Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experiences.

Alan and Trish Payne started up the business in 1992 – offering people the chance to take a magical swim alongside sea lions and dolphins in the pristine waters around Baird Bay, which is about 50kms from Streaky Bay. The curiosity of the animals is matched only by the curiosity of those who choose to visit them, making this an unmissable interaction for visitors that will no doubt turn into a treasured memory.

Alan and Trish’s business has grown slowly, but Alan says that’s the best way it could be.

“You need to be around the animals for a long time and to work out how they want it to be done, everything has to be on their terms,” says Alan.

Alan and Trish take small groups out on boats to observe or swim with the pods of dolphins and herds of sea lions that live nearby. Everything about the tours are designed to minimise impact – none of the animals are fed and guests are given plentiful guidance on how to engage with each animal, many of which Alan and Trish know by name and who have recognisable personality traits.   

Since beginning the business, the pair have watched the marine mammals flourish – the sea lion population has increased from approximately 25 to about 120, while the dolphin pod has swollen from about 4 animals to more than 25.

While there is no definitive answer as to why the numbers have so drastically improved, Alan is reassured that the presence of his business seems to be doing more good than harm.

“You can guess at different things that might have contributed, but I think it’s the fact that we spend a lot of time there that it doesn’t give people the opportunity to do the wrong thing,” says Alan.

“Once you play around with these animals a bit you get into their mood – they’re just nice so it follows that you want to protect them. Every day out here is excellent, and we want to keep it that way.”

Baird Bay – Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission/Caroline Fisher

And for those who like to combine a little retail therapy with their eco ideals, there’s also plenty to find on Eyre Peninsula. Boutiques like Coco California are go-tos for super up-to-the-minute fashion styles, but Port Lincoln’s Eyre Imports is known for combining aesthetics with ethics – stocking only sweatshop-free, eco-conscious pieces, many of which are hand-made.

The shop also has a range of beauty products, homewares, health foods and dishes up smoothies, juices, and treats – a must-visit for intrepid travelers who need to stock up and wind down.

The real thing

All of the Eyre Peninsula locals who have a hand in creating these experiences share one thing in common – they know how special their home is, and they’ve found a way to help others discover it.

No-one embodies this idea more thoroughly than Ben Catterall and Kim Thomas at Coffin Bay’s Oyster Farm Tours.

The pair realised that their everyday opportunity to wander out into the beautiful sea water of their commercial oyster farm, crack open a shell, and down the fresh oyster while still standing in the ocean wasn’t something they could keep to themselves.

Now, they offer the entire experience (plus wine!) as part of their 1.5 hour tours, or as part of packages that include accommodation and other extras.

For Ben and Kim, it was nothing unusual. But for the rest of us who sit in Adelaide offices daily, or toil over haircuts or broken sinks or unruly gardens or in classrooms and retail shops between Gawler and Goolwa, it’s an amazing experience. And that goes to prove that the combination of Eyre Peninsula’s unique and magical nature, the locals who love the region, and South Australian travelers filled with wonder and curiosity adds up to that rarest of things – an unforgettable holiday.

Oyster Farm Tours – Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission

3-day itinerary example

Day 1

COFFEE: Fumo 28
ACTIVITIES: Mikkira Station
LUNCH: The Fresh Fish Place
DRINK: The Rogue and Rascal
DINNER: The Line & Label

Day 2

COFFEE: The Pink Door Co
ACTIVITIES: Memory Cove, Lincoln National Park
LUNCH: Mount Dutton Bay Woolshed Cafe (Order the smoked fish pie!)
DRINK & DINNER: And the Rebel

Day 3

COFFEE: Boston Bean Coffee Company
ALL DAY ACTIVITY: Shark cage diving or Pure Coffin Bay Oysters – Bay & Farm Tour
DRINK &  DINNER: Beer Garden Brewery

Solstice Media has partnered with the South Australian Tourism Commission to tell South Australian’s the reason why they need to take their next holiday in their own state.

Explore more of the Eyre Peninsula


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