I thought we’d made a huge mistake.
We had four days left of what had been a spectacular South Australian road trip and intended to finalize it at the Yorke Peninsula. I knew nothing about the place as information online was sparse but the recommendation came from a trusted native of the state. The destination was Marion Bay, mostly because of its proximity to Innes National Park. Driving from Adelaide, we made a stop at Minlaton to get a few groceries. We’d been fighting the strong winds all day, but now a threatening dark sky joined the party.
“There’s no way this can be good.” My thoughts were as gloomy as the clouds above. The three-hour drive did little to change my mindset. Sand dunes, the occasional house or factory, and a great deal of farmland didn’t match the vision in my head in the slightest. An occasional view of the angry southern ocean allowed hope to flicker. The best part of the day was getting our bags, gear, & supplies into our rental house before the heavens opened and dumped all available precipitation on us. The wind was a ravenous wolf that howled all night long, shaking the house.
At the visitor information center of Innes National Park, which sits aside Marion Bay at the southwest tip of Yorke Peninsula, the friendliest ranger I’ve ever met told us that it was a good time to spot baby emus, or in her words “stripeys.”
“And don’t miss the sunset at West Cape. The sun’s rays reflect off the lighthouse and it is an amazing view!” Her enthusiasm was infectious.
We made notes on the map she gave us and paid the entrance fee. Optimism played hide and seek between the clouds. I charged my camera batteries and hoped for the best.
The next morning came with sunlight—defying the weather report. My husband and I walked around Marion Bay to check out the village before investigating the park. As we stood on Penguin Point looking over the vast ocean filled with silvery sunlight, my heart lifted. The wind was still with us, but the rain was holding off. After a few photos of the early morning fishermen, we headed for the park. All I could think about was finding the stripeys.
The first highlight near the park entrance is Stenhouse Bay which has a stunning jetty reaching out over the emerald sea. Just as we got out of the car to have a look, the rain decided to pummel us. Simply rain or wind alone rarely stop me from hiking. The combination, which makes photo-taking impossible, usually puts an end to my plan. In this case, we drove on to see what else we could find. I’m pretty sure that was all according to someone’s plan because the next thing I saw was a very large emu walking straight towards me. He wasn’t threatening, just extremely curious. As I sat there collecting video, I realized how much fresh emu poo was on the road. This guy apparently had lots of company. See him here.
As we drove on to Cape Spencer, rain subsided but the wind kicked it up about ten notches. With the rolling ocean below mixing up foam and waves like I have never seen before, we fought our way to the lighthouse. I am not a small person and I’m telling you it was a fight. I kept thinking how glad I was that I didn’t have any small children because I was knocked off balance more than once! The view, however, was worth the effort. More video, more shared smiles with my husband. Without saying it (because it was nearly impossible to talk!), we knew we were onto something good. Blown away by Cape Spencer video
Back on the gravel road, we happened upon a whole group of emus—causing me to Google, “What do you call a cluster of emus?” Again I took out the video camera as the mob of emus (yes, really, a “mob” is the correct term), ran off over the cliff like the Keystone Cops. It was thrilling to see so many at once when before we’d maybe found one or two together at most. The mob consisted of at least ten birds (video link). Perhaps they put the word out that we were harmless as they ran off because around the next corner, finally, a mother and her baby walked roadside without too much concern for us. The stripeys are beautiful little creatures with white racing stripes and short, fuzz-like feathers. The must have been staying out of the wind or this little guy would have been sent flying.
But the surprises didn’t end there. We found ourselves looking onto a large gray lake with houses around it and decided this must be the “ghost town” we’d been told of. As we decided to take a closer look at Inneston, the mining colony that had once been the home of 200 people, the sun flipped on its power switch. The lake, which had been dull and gray a few moments before was now shining a brilliant blue. The difference was remarkable. Reading the historic markers, we learned that this had been a gypsum mine until the 1930’s. That was the reason for the mesmerizing sparkle.
While Innes National Park isn’t a massive park like others we’ve been to, it holds some of the most dramatic coastline I have ever seen. There is nowhere this is more apparent than West Cape. We’d come to investigate our sunset location, but ended up finding a picnic spot that we simply couldn’t leave. I must have taken at least a hundred photos of the lighthouse and the surrounding scenery—trying to make sure I would never forget it. When we came back that evening to capture the setting sun, I have never been cold and so happy at the same time. Two kangaroos bounced past and I watch my husband set up his tripod from below before joining him. There is no other word for it but thrilling.
Besides learning what a baby emu looks like and just how powerful the force of the southern ocean is, I realized how often I jump to incorrect conclusions. I’d been thinking that we would be stuck inside for the remainder of our days together when in fact, the Yorke Peninsula literally blew me away. I cannot remember a time when I’ve been so incredibly wrong about something having to do with travel but I won’t soon forget it. Perhaps that’s the reason this place made such an impression on me to begin with, because my expectations were so low. I don’t plan on going around expecting the worst, but I will sure as hell remember to keep hoping for the best.
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