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South Australia...the underdog

The month of February has seen us spending our whole time trekking along the coast of the Eyre Peninsular. It's been 12 years since we've been out east this way. Back then, we had our ol' Land Rover Defender and a '77 Cabana caravan we bought for $1000. We've been wanting to get back ever since but just like the old saying goes, time gets away from us all!

So, we trekked across the Nullarbor in late Jan, which everyone assumes is this crazy long boring stretch of road, but we think it's great! A lot more pleasant than most parts of the central west coast in my opinion. Punching east, we seemed to get constantly hit with SE headwinds, so it was a slow and steady journey. These are the times I wish we had a long-range tank on the DMax but a couple of jerry's will do for now!

We did a bit of free camping along the Nullarbor but our first decent stop was a few nights in Smoky Bay. We had never been there or heard of anyone who had but it looked like a decent spot to check out. One thing to note is caravan parks in South Oz are a lot cheaper than WA. We'd always prefer not to stay in caravan parks (we don't like being so close to other people) but when it comes down to convenience, they do make life a little easier. Smoky Bay has a park right on the water, 200m from the boat ramp and jetty, hot showers and power/water hookup for $35/night and we can get a bit of washing done. Plus, I sharpened a few knives while staying there for 4 nights and made $70 so the stay became half-price!

We had a fair bit of wind the first couple of days but were able to get the boat out to chase some squid one morning and we got 3, which is a good feed for us. The following day, the wind backed right off so we geared up to chase King George Whiting. This day went down as one of the best King George sessions we've ever had! Plus we caught 5 squid and 5 Blue Manna crabs as by-catch while anchored up! A lovely mixed bag!

From there, we trekked inland towards Port Augusta and along the way, we stopped over at the town of Kimba. This little place not only had the best Silo Art we'd seen but even for being a small inland farming town, they had it dialled in when it comes to travellers! Easy one of the best council-run camps we've stayed at (donation-based and coin hot showers), a great little pub and a super friendly community vibe. We have found this is a common scenario throughout South Oz, with the small communities banding the residents together to keep the town spick and span and doing what they can to attract visitors! I just keep thinking how so many West Oz towns could take a leaf out of their books... actually, many would need the whole book!

We got up to Port Augusta to deliver the rod I'd built for Simon's wife and got to meet and catch up with Jo and her kids, which was so good! They shared some beautiful memories of Simon with us, and we just feel so privileged to have been able to connect with them. Building this rod for what turned out to be an unexpected moment was something special for me that I'll remember forever.

From there, we punched down the coast to Cowell which is set on the Franklin Harbour. We stayed at an old school park a few km out from town called Harbour View. It had a small, run-down boat ramp which costs $8/day to use (which is a common thing throughout SA), and we were able to get out a couple of times to grab a feed. Simon was a big fan of Gar fishing and had sent me a rig months ago in preparation for this trip. Since he had passed, I'd put it away for safekeeping, but I was out on a solo trip in Cowell and at one time was surrounded by hundreds of Garfish! I attached Simo's rig and in minutes of pure chaos, I had a dozen or so Garfish in the boat! They say you haven't really become an SA fisherman till you've slayed a feed of Gar or raked up a feed of Blue Manna's! Cheers Simo for the rig, it's back safely in its bag and did its job well!!

We punched further south down through Arno Bay for a cuppa and a walk on the jetty (another one of those epic little coastal communities) then down to Tumby Bay. We did a few nights in the caravan park and caught up on a few jobs, took the tinny out from the marina and also out around to a place called 2nd Creek but no Squid or Whiting and just managed to grab a feed of Hezza's for many hours on the water.

Louth Bay was our next port of call. It has a small council-run campground for only $10/night but has clean, flushing toilets, access to the beach (can launch the boat easy as) and a jetty but that's about it other than a few houses. The wind was a bit crappy so we didn't get the boat out here, but it looked like a lovely spot if the weather was premo!

We swung past Port Lincoln to re-supply everything as we'd be off-grid for the next 9 days or so. To start with we had 4 nights at Fishermans Point in the national park. It is a little steep in terms of price at $21 per campsite but this includes your national parks pass. I really thought this place was going to turn it on for fishing, but we put in some solid hours over the next 4 days with little result. A few squid here and there, some hezza's and 1 King George. Our DMax needed a service and we realised we'd be cutting it fine if we left it till we got back into WA, so Kel took one for the team and spent a day in Port Lincoln getting the 4bee sorted while I went fishing...she's a keeper! ;o)

Running out of time and too many places still on our list we had to plan out the west leg of our SA trip. Some of the places had to be culled and some places were on the definite list to see and do. We are not usually the "touring" type, meaning packing and moving every day as we like to spend 2 or 3 nights at most places to at least check it out and explore the area a little further than just calling through. So, we started trekking west past Coffin Bay and over to Farm Beach for 2 nights. They have a council-style camp with flushing dunnies and cold showers. Lots of long-term "regular" nomads there and this is where I started to realise that South Oz is the Roof Top Tinny capital of the world!

Farm Beach is a lovely spot though and everyone is super friendly. It's also a 4km rocky track to Gallipoli Beach, which is where they filmed the movie, Gallipolli, in 1981. Not too sure how exactly accurate the terrain is to real-life Gallipoli, but even if it's half the same, standing down on that beach, it was so loose to think about what those young fellas went through back in 1915!

From there, we rolled into the town of Elliston, which if you see it on a map, is settled inside this awesome "cove" type inlet. It has a little bit of everything there and we stayed at a park for the first time in 10 days to do some washing and have a long hot shower! The swell and wind were up so no boating, but I did manage to catch my first SA jetty squid!! This 1 squid has taken hours of multiple SA jetty jigging with no luck, so to finally land one I was stoked! The wind was up over 50 km/hr so I had the jetty to myself and was sippin' on a whiskey... life is good!

The next day was my birthday (finally hit the big 21x2+1) so we had planned this day to take the 4bee over to Locks Well to do a day's beach fishing for Salmon. It has a switchback road that leads to a car park then 300-odd steps from the cliffs to the beach. For most of the session, it was just us and another coupla fishermen. It has a lovely deep gutter straight out from the staircase which resulted in one of the best Salmon sessions we've ever had!! We caught and released around 30 Salmon over 3 hours on lures and bait and even got a few bull herring amongst them. We finished the day with a couple of whiskeys and local caught Nanni and chips from the caravan park's small restaurant.

The month would finish off at Venus Bay, a place that we had great memories of from our trip through 12 years ago and we had constantly talked about going back to. We booked in at the caravan park in town for 5 nights which would give us hopefully some good weather to get the boat out and get into some fishing! Other than it being so busy there (last time we were there it was lucky to be 4 caravans in the whole park) it is still a magic spot! Everything is within walking distance, bay views from your van and other than being a dinghy fishing mecca there is still heaps to see and do. We had a couple of days getting into some lovely feeds of KG Whiting, got a few squid and even threw the Hezza Slaya rigs over for a feed of fresh Hezza's. We drove out to the WoolShed Cave to check that out and also had a great catch-up with Jim & Kel who follow our channel. We had a yarn over a couple of beers, and they even gave us a lamb roast from their farm for us to chuck on the rotisserie - as soon as we are allowed fires!

All in all, it's been a busy month with lots of exploring and there have been times when we've just wanted to sit and do nothing, but you realise who knows when we'll be back, so make the most of it! We still missed out on so many epic places and can't wait to get back along the coast down here. I think South Oz has always been the underdog in places to visit in Australia and for our style of life it fits so well. If you're into fishing and even better if you have a roof topper, this stretch of coast has your name all over it! Don't get too wrapped up in having to free camp everywhere as the majority of small towns are so accommodating and friendly, they are well worth checking out but there is a good mixture of free camps in between.

Thanks South Australia... we will be back!


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