Lincoln’s Soft Adventure

Story and Photography by PAMELA and GORDON MAY

With sea eagles overhead, kangaroos in the mallee and emus on the plain, Lincoln National Park in South Australia supplies all the action... you need only sit back and watch.

Lincoln National Park, at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, offers gentle adventure for visitors keen to expend a little personal energy.

Secluded bays on the northern coast attract swimmers, capes lure the anglers. Exposed eastern beaches are popular beachcombing sites. 

The park has features of historic interest and its walking trails range from pleasant strolls to pump-action hikes.

Emus and kangaroos abound (no pun intended)

Proclaimed in 1941, Lincoln National Park protects a 29,000 ha peninsula of quiet coves, sweeping beaches, limestone cliffs, pristine woodlands, granite outcrops and massive sand dunes. These diverse habitats nurture a flurry of bird species from migratory seabirds to resident rock parrots and western whip birds. Emus and kangaroos share grazing rights on the plains.

Easy accessibility is a bonus. Only 20km from Port Lincoln, the park is a feasible day trip destination. Although Memory Cove Wilderness Area (in the south) is four-wheel drive country, the rest of the park is serviced by good gravel roads suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles towing caravans. Our own 2WD motorhome travelled well, even on side tracks.

“Accessibility” carries through to accommodation options. Restored, century-old Donington Cottage offers fully furnished comfort for up to six people. Campers have a choice of 12 camping areas (seven bush camps, five campgrounds) strategically placed to cater for different interests.

For instance, a bush camp 10km into the park is handy to prolific razor fish grounds. We were introduced to this seafood delicacy by a lady using an odd contraption to tug large shells from ankle-deep water. She explained she was “pulling razor fish”. Her husband split a shell to extract a muscle similar to a scallop. With tuition, we were soon pulling our own razor fish (by hand) for a delicious seafood stir-fry.

At Woodcutters Beach camp, we reached for our bathers. The water was so clear we could see our toes in chest-deep water. While we then lazed in the sparkling shallows, stilts patrolled the beach and an osprey circled above.

We were lured from this idyll only by our desire to climb historic Stamford Hill.

A well-graded 1.1km (return) track puts Stamford Hill lookout within reach of most visitors. A hilltop monument commemorates Matthew Flinders’ climb to the crest, in 1802, to scan the surrounds for possible sources of fresh water. Relics of more recent history are evident throughout the park.

Antique farm machinery, stone-pitched water tanks and scattered clearings bear mute testimony to early settlers’ failed dreams. In 1875 the first grain crop was harvested at Cape Donington. Grazing, woodcutting and guano mining industries followed. However, guano mining ceased to be viable and chronic water shortages caused the eventual demise of farming.

William Argent built Donington Cottage in 1899 and earned a living by cutting fence post timber and tending a nearby lighthouse. The Cape Donington property was finally abandoned in the 1940s and added to Lincoln National Park 30 years later.

Camp neighbors at shady Surfleet Cove agreed that nature has healed most scars caused by early settlement efforts. As one camper remarked: “Beach in front of us, bush behind us, a ’roo heading this way… it’s nature in the raw. It’s easy to pretend nobody has been on the peninsula since Matthew Flinders.” True enough. Lincoln does have that “untouched” feel about it.
A small kangaroo (or is it a wallaby?)

Certainly the fish that mocked our lines at Fishermans Point remained “untouched”! Other anglers pulled in whiting, gar and squid. We pulled in hooks neatly stripped of bait. Regular shouts of fishing triumph from a nearby boat underlined our singular (and plural) lack of success. The beauty of beach boulders splashed with yellow, green and fluorescent orange algae eased our fishing disappointments a little. Not much, just a little.

Well-shaded September Beach campground was our next base. Like Surfleet Cove, Fishermans Point, Taylors Landing and Memory Cove Wilderness Area camps, September Beach has tank water and pit toilets. It is also a convenient base for trips to Spalding Cove swimming beaches, Cape Donington and MacLaren Point fishing spots and Taylors Landing boat ramp.

Suffering a temporary loss of fishing enthusiasm, we headed for Taylors Landing – reputedly a top beachcombing venue. We were not disappointed. Our fossicking“treasures” included an intact sea dragon skeleton, two squid jiggers, a tooth that just might possibly have been a sea lion’s incisor, hooks and weights on tangled lines, plus several sand-polished abalone shells.

Taylors Landing is on the north-east edge of Memory Cove Wilderness Area, serious 4WD country and therefore beyond our reach. By all accounts it is an area of rugged scenery, rare flora and abundant wildlife. An entry limit of 15 vehicles per day preserves the tranquillity of Memory Cove.

But let’s return to 2WD territory. On our last day we debated the worth of detouring 20km (return) to Wanna in the south-west of Lincoln. So glad we decided to have “a quick look”.

Wanna is a stretch of magnificently carved coastline, washed by electric blue Southern Ocean waters. Rough-hewn sea stacks sit barely offshore. The massive Sleaford-Wanna dunal system forms a tawny coastal fringe to the north-west of Wanna. 

We lingered, even after walking the clifftops as far as safety would allow. We ran out of film, drained the thermos and finished our sandwiches, and still we stayed. The premium panorama was worth far more than “a quick look”.

Azure waters & secluded beaches

It was a splendid finale to our first Lincoln National Park holiday. Our “first” Lincoln National Park holiday? Yep… we are already anticipating a return visit.

Fact File

Where Lincoln National Park, entrance 20km south of Port Lincoln, Eyre Peninsula (SA).
Roads Sealed to park entrance. Within the park, good gravel roads are suitable for 2WD vehicles towing trailers or caravans – except Memory Cove Wilderness Area which requires 4WD.
Park Entrance $6 per car for day visitors, $5 concession.
Accommodation Donington Cottage, Cape Donington, 22km east of the park entrance. For up to six people. Outside toilet. No facilities for disabled persons. Cost per night: Adults $29 each, children 3-16 years $6 each. Park entrance fee included. Bookings through Port Lincoln Visitor Centre. Bring sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, all food and drink supplies, bathers, hat, sunscreen, fishing gear, walking shoes, camera and film. There is no kiosk in the park.
Camping 12 camping areas, including seven bush camps with no facilities. Surfleet Cove, Fishermans Point, September Beach, Taylors Landing and (in 4WD wilderness area) Memory Cove campgrounds have good shade, tank water and pit toilets. No barbecues are provided as gas stoves are preferred. Surfleet Cove and September Beach are spacious, level areas and the most convenient for elderly or disabled travellers.
Camping Costs $6 per car per site, per night. Memory Cove camping (bookings essential) $18 per vehicle per night, $10 key deposit. No park entrance fee applies to campers. Bring all camping gear (including gas stove), food and drink supplies, bathers, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, fishing gear, walking shoes, camera, film.
Contact Port Lincoln Visitors’ Centre (08) 8683 3544 or 1800 629 911 (different park passes are available). NPWS Port Lincoln. Phone (08) 8688 3111. Eyre Peninsula Tourism, 1800 067 739.
Maps Ours is from Hema’s Road Atlas. Contact (07) 3290 0322 for stockists.