FROM OYSTERS TO VINEYARDS

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Another long, straight road awaited us for the next leg of the road trip – this time to finish with the Oyster Trail and get on to the vineyards.  A nice combination – oysters and wine!

Last stop on the Oyster road is Cowell – a pretty little town on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula and situated on Franklin Harbour. The waters are sheltered and are very popular for fishing – and oysters.  We found a shack close to the jetty which supplies oysters to various outlets in the town.  On entering we found the proprietor busy shucking the oysters which had just come in from the bay – so without further ado we purchased a couple of dozen and together with fresh lemons and in a cardboard box, we found a table in the park and indulged for lunch!  The verdict?  Excellent!

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Our overnight stop on the way to the Clare Vallety Vineyards was the port town of Whyalla.  Named Hummock Hill in 1802 by Matthew Flinders, the town’s name officially changed to Whyalla in 1902 which is an Aboriginal name possibly meaning “water place”.  The steel industry here is over 100 years old but fishing is also of primary appeal. We were there just before sunset and went up to Hummocks Hill – a local lookout – to witness the change of colours.

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The next day the road was clear and, for a lot of the way, was backed by the beautiful Flinders Ranges.

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We drove through many little towns and villages but the one which captured us was Crystal Brook.  This quiet rural service centre is in the heart of South Australia’s most productive sheep and wheat country and has retained its charming historical links.

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Beautiful shady peppercorn trees line the main street and there are several art pieces in iron, reminders of the part the camels played in this part of the country in the early years.

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The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions where there are heritage towns, boutique wineries, galleries and beautiful scenery.  We had booked lunch at the Skillogallee Winery where we had been before.  The vineyards here are resting – grapes picked and wine made but the vineyards still looked beautiful.

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The road to the boutique winery is shady and winding at the end of which is the restaurant which seats both indoors as well as in the garden.

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The menu features local produce with wine suggestions matched with each dish. Unable to resist the sashimi, I had, yet again, fabulous South Australian Kingfish and tuna served in a very artistic way.

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Then came the wine tasting and purchasing – thank goodness we had a large car !

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Staying in a little apartment in the centre of the town, we were perfectly placed for a choice of restaurants in the evening.  And that is what you do in these regions – eat great food and drink fabulous wine!

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THE OYSTER TRAIL AND PORT LINCOLN

Ceduna is the first major town at the end of the Nullarbor and its pristine waters produce excellent oysters and other quality seafood. It is also the start of the Oyster Drive which goes south to Port Lincoln and up the coast to Cowell.  We endeavoured to taste the oysters – which all taste very different – at each place!

First stop was Thevenard -four kilometres from Ceduna – where we found a little shack shucking fresh oysters for $12 dozen – so with a couple of dozen in the car we headed for a spot by the ocean to indulge.  They were good – very good!

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Next it was off to Smoky Bay, a small settlement where the oysters are also excellent but of a different taste altogether.

Streaky Bay was our overnight stop and here we witnessed one of the most beautiful, calm sunsets we have seen yet.  We walked along the jetty whee the locals were trying their luck fishing and the pelicans were ever hopeful!

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As the sun set and the shadows deepened the reflections became more dramatic.

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Of course, more oysters were on the menu along with King George Whiting and Blue Swimmer Crab.

Next morning more beautiful coastal scenery awaited us at Sceale Bay which is a tiny community and is known for fishing and holiday recreations. The permanent population is 40 and that can triple in holiday periods;

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Coffin Bay is renowned for oysters and on the drive to our favourite restaurant there – 1802 Restaurant – we came across Murphy’s Haystacks which just appears out of nowhere on the landscape.  This 1500 million year old geological wonder is one of the most visited locations on the Eyre Peninsula and is actually on private property.  The unique form of pillars and boulders dates back 100,000 years and are ancient wind worn inselbergs.

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They were buried by calcareous dunes about 30,000 years ago and subsequent erosion has revealed the pink granite forms standing on the hilltop today.

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The local legend is that coach driver Charlie Mudge named Murphy’s Haystacks following a remark by a Scottish agricultural advisor who saw the landmark in the distance whilst travelling on the mail coach.  Shimmering like haystacks in the hot afternoon sun, he was very impressed with the sight and remarked “that man must harrow, look at all the hay he has saved!”

At Venus Bay we went to the Needle Eye Lookout for amazing views of towering rugged cliffs and beautiful beaches as well as pounding, rolling surf.

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Here we spotted a pod of dolphins frolicking and playing in the surf.  An artist has carved his work on the granite rocks at the top of the cliff reminding everyone that this is tuna fishing territory.

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More oysters awaited at Coffin Bay – and I have to admit that these are my favourite.  Not too large and salty, they are delicious and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

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Followed by raw tuna Asian style

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This place is an absolute must for anyone travelling along the Eyre Peninsula.  The town is sleepy but swells in holiday periods.  Lots of pelicans keep you company!

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Port Lincoln was our final stop for the day.  This is a seafood lovers paradise with, it is said, the cleanest, freshest and most sought after seafood in the world.  Prized for its superb quality in sushi and sashimi, the majority of the southern bluefin tuna is exported to Japan with some available locally.  We decided to take a boat trip in Boston Bay to view the tuna and kingfish farms – now a multi million dollar business for the town.  The Marina is busy with fishing boats coming and going, some to catch sardines to feed the tuna in the farms, others to catch prawns and other fish.

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The farms are situated in the bay and the tuna are grown there before being caught and exported once they reach the required size.

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Seabirds know when it is feeding time!

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Mussels are also grown out here and are serviced daily by the fishermen.

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We took a little detour to an island where there is an enormous number of seabirds living alongside seals lots of seals many of which were having a roll about in the water.

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Finally we got to taste different sashimi – and shown the correct way to eat it!

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Lunch consisted of…..you guessed it – Sashimi!

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Our oyster experience was not yet finished – more was to come tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

COFFIN BAY, THEAKSTONE’S CREVASSE AND WHALERS WAY – SOUTH AUSTRALIA

No visit to Port Lincoln is complete without a trip to Coffin Bay and a tasting of the famous oysters.  We set off for lunch at a newly opened restaurant but first we took a detour to the beautiful Whaler’s Way and Theakstone’s Crevasse which is some 32 km from Port Lincoln.

Located on private property – owned by the same family since 1860 and old friends of the Ferry family – we obtained the key from Bob Theakstone and navigated the sandy, winding road first to Cape Wiles which was named after the botanist James Wiles who sailed with Flinders in 1802.  This is part of an area known as Whaler’s Way and an old whaling station can still be seen at Fishery Bay.  The Whalers made a living off Southern Right Whale blubber and  today these massive whales once again pass through the waters annually during the winter months.

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Cape Wiles is truly spectacular and dozens of fur seals are often seen splashing around the base of the golden sandstone islands just off the point.

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It was blustery but a beautiful day – so the clan gathered for a photo opportunity!  Then we drove on to Cape Carnot which is at the southwesterly tip of the Eyre Peninsula and named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin in 1802.  The waves are often freakish and have claimed lives.  The full force of the Southern Ocean meets some of the oldest rock formations on the planet and, well known to geologists, these rocks are some 2460 million years old.  We didn’t have time to climb down to them but the view was pretty spectacular.

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Finally we came to Theakstone’s Crevasse, which I first visited in 1969 and it hasn’t changed! It is a deep fissure along a fault line formed over millions of years and is 1-2m wide and 13m deep.  The walls are said to be 9m high.  The crevasse has been scoured by the sea and extends some 30m underground.

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Time was beating us so we made our way out of the property and on to Coffin Bay where we had booked lunch at 1802 – a new restaurant on the foreshore of the pretty village.

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Matthew Flinders named the bay in February 1802 in honour of his friend Sir Thomas Coffin who was Naval Commissioner at Sheerness where the “Investigator” was fitted out.  The waters are calm and ideal for oyster farming which has grown over the years.  Surrounded by National and Conservation Parks, this is an ideal family holiday location with lots of fishing, kayaking, walking, water sports and fabulous scenery.  We were there primarily for the oysters and they didn’t disappoint!

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Then it was back to Port Lincoln and a visit to the local winery – Boston Bay Wines which is located on the shores of Boston Bay.

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Love the name of the Sav Blanc – this is the home of The Great White after all!  We didn’t have the time nor the inclination to swim with the sharks but hundreds do!

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Makybe Diva – the famous racehorse, winner of the Melbourne Cup and owned by Port Lincoln identities.  The statue is on the foreshore and this was taken early in the morning on our walk to our breakfast spot.

Farewell to Port Lincoln – you have turned on the best weather and showcased the full beauty of the region which we have  managed to explore in just three days but we all vowed we will return.

BRUNY ISLAND – BEACHES, WILDLIFE, SCENERY AND THE SOUTHERN OCEAN

The moment we drove off the vehicular ferry onto Bruny Island, we felt we had stepped back in time.  This is a stunning island and what is more surprising is that it is the size of Singapore in area which has a population of 6 million or so and yet on Bruny there are only 650 permanent residents.

The road to Adventure Bay, where we had booked a house for a couple of days, is well sealed and the drive takes about 40 minutes.  Along the way found boutique produce such as cheese, wine, chocolates, fudge, salmon and a berry farm which was, sadly, closed as it was out of season.  Undeterred we made our first stop at the oyster farm – this is pure heaven for oyster lovers.  Workers were busy shucking as we got there, visitors were guzzling them down with buckets of wine and there were lots of sauces and accompaniments to tempt every palate.

Tasmania 2015 - 5 of 5Next stop was the Cheese Factory – where tastings were offered and the smell of wood fired sourdough bread was inviting.

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On a little further and we found the chocolate and fudge shop – there the chocolate coated coffee beans won out but the choice was endless.

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The scenery along the road is breathtaking and it is rare to pass another vehicle.  Adventure Bay is towards the southern end of the island and we had to pass along a narrow isthmus which, apparently in days gone by, the local aboriginal tribes crossed regularly hunting for wallabies, fish and penguins.  Now there is a well constructed walkway to the top of the hill affording magnificent views but also providing safe passage as this is also a penguin rookery.

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It’s a long climb – but worth it once at the top!

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I was very moved by the tale of an Aboriginal woman called Truganini. A plaque at the top of the hill commemorates her life which was forever changed by the white invasion.  Her tribal connection went back 30,000 years and yet the arrival of white man brought violence and brutality.  At the age of 17 Truganini witnessed the stabbing murder of her mother by men from a whaling ship, Sealers captured her two sisters, Timber getters killed the man she was to marry and she was repeatedly raped by the men, her brother was killed and her step-mother kidnapped by escaped convicts.  Not surprisingly her father was devastated and died within months.

Following the loss of her entire family, Truganini worked as a guide and interpreter for George Robinson who had been appointed by the colonial government to persuade the Aborigines to peacefully give up their land.  Promises were broken, people were exiled and many died of disease of despair.  Eventually, Truganini spent many years at a settlement on Flinders Island before dying at the age of 64 in Hobart.

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It is hard to imagine those dreadful days when today there is peace and serenity everywhere.

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We arrived at the tiny settlement of Adventure Bay and found our house not far from the beach, up on the hill in a quiet little community.  Wallabies greeted us at the top of the drive and then scurried into the bush.

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The house is cosy and it wasn’t long before we had a log fire burning and a spread of delicacies picked up from the Deli in Hobart and local stores along the way, all washed down with fine Tasmanian wine.  A perfect start to our little stay on Bruny Island.

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