A BRILLIANT BLEND
SHANE MENSFORTH shines the spotlight on South Australia’s unique boating lifestyle – from houseboats on the Murray to the state’s 5000km coastline...
South Australia boasts more than 5000km of coastline. It’s quite unique and considerably different from the rest of the country. As well as an extensive shoreline fronting ocean water, SA has two gulfs – Spencer and St Vincent – which are essentially vast, shallow inlets. It’s on and around these gulfs that most boating and fishing takes place.
Happily, SA’s boating facilities are now generally first class. Small, but well-equipped marinas have sprung up in most coastal regional centres and there’s high-quality infrastructure in place for boaters of all persuasions. SA is no longer the poor relative when it comes to cruising, long-range fishing or inshore watersports.
Situated at the foot of Eyre Peninsula, Port Lincoln offers the most diverse range of boating options in the state. This thriving town was built on commercial fishing and still boasts one of the largest professional fishing fleets in the country.
Lincoln Cove Marina is the hub of boating in Port Lincoln, offering high-quality permanent and short-term berths and a host of associated marine facilities.
There are two multi-lane boat ramps – one just north of the town and the other just a short drive to the east. These will handle trailerboats of any size and at all stages of the tide.
The waters of the lower Spencer Gulf are easily accessible from Lincoln Cove. This is a yachties’ paradise, as well as a mecca for bluewater anglers. Southern bluefin tuna are the most revered target species, but there are yellowtail kingfish, samsonfish, big snapper and King George whiting available in good numbers.
As the state’s largest regional city, Whyalla boasts the sort of facilities most boaters are looking for. Its marina, located on the city foreshore, is equipped with a terrific multi-lane launching ramp with wash-down facilities, fish cleaning station and expansive car/trailer park.
Outside in upper Spencer Gulf there’s plenty of scope for fishing, sailing and cruising, all of which attract thousands of visiting boaters each year.
Point Lowly, located across False Bay and within easy trailerboat distance of the Whyalla marina, is a very popular destination when the weather is fine. There’s a small boat ramp here adjacent to the lighthouse and plenty of excellent fishing nearby. Big snapper – fish over the magic 30lb (13.6kg) mark – are the Holy Grail for those boat fishing out of Whyalla, and there is always the chance of hooking one in upper Spencer Gulf.
Although it isn’t well served in terms of boating facilities, Marion Bay attracts visiting boaters and anglers like a magnet. It’s situated about a three-hour drive from Adelaide on lower Yorke Peninsula, and provides access to great bluewater fishing. There are plenty of cruising options as well, with a couple of substantial islands within reach when conditions are favourable.
Wedge Island is certainly worth a visit. It offers a safe anchorage in prevailing summer winds, as well as fabulous fishing for giant King George whiting. There’s great diving around Wedge Island too, but the possibility of a great white shark encounter deters many from getting wet!
Marion Bay’s boat ramp is problematic with any winds from the easterly quarter, and also when the tide is right down. It’s essentially a 4WD-only launching ramp, and most locals resort to tractors to ensure safe and trouble-free launch and retrieve.
Situated at the very tip of Fleurieu Peninsula and a comfortable two-hour drive from Adelaide, the Cape provides a handy jumping-off point for those keen to visit Kangaroo Island, Investigator Strait or Backstairs Passage.
The boat ramp and small, protected harbour are excellent, but there is nowhere for yachties or cruisers to overnight. Wirrina Marina, just a few miles north of Cape Jervis, offers a safe, protected anchorage and short or long-term berths.
Backstairs Passage, which separates Fleurieu Peninsula from Kangaroo Island, is subject to large tidal fluctuations and local wind patterns. It’s not a waterway for inexperienced boaters unless weather conditions are perfect.
The Pages Islands, situated at the eastern end of the Passage, are spectacular for those with larger boats. The fishing is good and there are substantial sealion colonies on both islands for lovers of marine mammals.
Freshwater cruising and fishing are comparatively limited in South Australia. The River Murray is easily the most popular inland waterway and it sees thousands of visiting boaters annually. Houseboats are abundant, particularly in Mannum, which is just an hour’s drive from Adelaide.
Waterskiing, wakeboarding and kneeboarding are the most common River Murray pursuits, but there are also a few nice native fish to be caught by those with small boats. There’s good launching in Mannum, and although the water rarely runs clear these days, it’s still a great location for a weekend or extended stay.
MOST IMAGES COURTESY: South Australian Tourism Commission