Following the successful first leg of our Gulf to Gulf trip to SA’s Fleurieu Peninsula, Bazz and I had planned to make the long trek through to the NT. A chance discussion with an old fishing mate of mine, however, put that original plan on ice and saw us heading to SA’s Eyre Peninsula, destination Port Lincoln. Here, we were told, we could swim with tuna, dive with great white sharks, and do a lot of other stuff that frightened Bazz.
We packed-up the rig, said our goodbyes to the good people of Cape Jervis and were on the road by 9am, fully expecting to arrive in Port Lincoln by mid-afternoon. However, as happened more than a few times on our adventures, that plan didn’t quite pan out. It’s a 750km haul from Cape Jervis to Port Lincoln, and after a couple of hours dawdling around Adelaide, we hit our destination just in time for dinner.
Driving into Port Lincoln along the edges of Boston Bay revealed a waterfront town full of life and excitement. There’s a mix of the old and new in the architecture, as well as a mix of upper- and working-class folk. The town is a bustling spot with a strong mining and agricultural background, but for me, the real appeal lay in the port; the professional and recreational fishing, and the oceanic tourism.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
In Port Lincoln I was reunited with an old fishing buddy. Robert Forster is a member of a well-known local family headed by his mum and dad, Janet and Ron Forster. They run boat charters and adventures allowing punters to swim with sea lions and tuna, all from the Port Lincoln marina.
Robert bravely introduced us two scruffs to his parents in their impressive waterfront home. It was a meeting I won’t forget. We followed Robert inside and found ourselves in an indoor tropical rainforest, complete with a huge macaw that decided Bazz was a bit of a spunk and gave him a kiss while perched on his shoulder. The best part of this house, however, was the aquarium.
I love aquariums, especially when they’re filled with my favourite species, and this tank took up an entire wall of the house. Its volume would probably be three times that of our Goldstream RV camper: about 6m long, floor to ceiling, and filled with an array of southern species, including big mulloway, snapper, giant whiting, trevally, parrot fish, flathead, crabs and crayfish — and all in the lounge room (no need to leave the house to catch dinner then, eh? — Ed).
The Forsters’ hospitality was marvellous and they were kind enough to take us out on the great white encounter we wrote about in a recent issue of Trade-a-Boat. Before Bazz and I knew it, we’d been booked on the Calypso Star to cage-dive with great whites in the Neptune Islands, about a two-hour steam from Port Lincoln.
Following the “fun” we had with the sharks, our swim with the tuna started at a much more civilised hour, since the tuna pen is only a short run into Boston Bay. Forget the images you have of Tuna Cowboys, this is a totally safe snorkel dive in a highly controlled tuna pen. Once you take the plunge, the loudest sound you hear is the shrieks of excitement as 30 to 50kg southern bluefin tuna dart around you at top speed. Bazz and I eventually got the famous “spa bath” — the crew tossed a bucket of squid and pilchards into the water, which then erupted in a feeding frenzy of 100 hungry, snapping tuna.
In the late afternoon, we returned to the hospitality of the Port Lincoln Top Tourist Park, where a quick look in the fridge for a cold Coopers showed little food for dinner. I quickly grabbed a rod and squid jig and told Bazz I’d be back in a little while with dinner. “Yeah, yeah,” he said with disinterest, his head stuck in a laptop as he downloaded the day’s images.
I wandered down to the little rock groyne at the front of the tourist park and bingo — four calamari in about half an hour. We were soon enjoying chilli squid pasta for dinner. Not bad.
Port Lincoln itself is full of culinary delights, and one of the best places for fine food and wine is Boston Bay Estate. As the name suggests, the winery and function centre is right on the edge of a rolling hill overlooking the bay. Its beautiful outlook is enhanced by sprawling gardens and the cellar door that caters for weddings and other parties.
Boston Bay is a marvellous body of water. It’s full of nutrients, fed by the rich Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean, and has high tidal movement with consistent flow and temperature. Aquaculture is a major contributor to the region’s wealth, while kingfish — rated the number one white-flesh sashimi in Japan — are grown locally in pens. They’re also a local delicacy.
Boston Bay Winery’s owner Tony Ford is quite a character, and he twisted our arms into sampling his limited edition Great White Sauvignon Blanc. Yep, I’ve been bitten by a great white — and it was beautiful.
Tony’s brothers are second-generation abalone divers from Port Lincoln. That’s not unusual in itself, but they have to dive in a personal motorised shark cage for safety. I’d like to see the OH&S documentation for that.
There’s something for everyone in this unique coastal port. We didn’t even make it to the sand hills, national parks or nearby Coffin Bay (although we did eat some of the bay’s beautiful oysters). There are maritime, woolshed and railway museums, unique historic treasures, lookouts, 4WD adventures and an endless list of family fun.
Sad to go, we left Port Lincoln with the sound of silent sharks ringing in our ears. Our next stop was Coober Pedy, before heading on to Alice Springs. More long hours at the wheel, but we love that.
BY THE BAY
Boston Bay Winery sits on the edge of the large enclosed waterway just north of Port Lincoln. Its 17 acres of vines blend beautifully on the long, rolling hillside, and Boston Bay claims to be the only vineyard in the world to offer frequent sightings of playful whales in the water at its edges.
Owner Tony Ford (above) is an excellent chef, who treated us to a magnificent lunch at very short notice. We started with a selection of Coffin Bay oysters, followed by the main course of Cleanseas hiramasa kingfish with squid-ink pasta, accompanied by a corn puree, and polenta with mascarpone cheese and fresh figs. The aptly-named Great White Sauvignon Blanc, a limited edition wine that sells out quickly with each vintage, topped off the feast.
Boston Bay also produces Shiraz and Cabernet Merlot varieties. Its dry, seaside location produces very low yield per acre, yet the label’s low pricing does not reflect the quality. Tony has won three major gold medals and numerous other awards for his efforts.
The people at Boston Bay Winery are very community-minded, inviting local charities to help out with the harvest in return for funding. They earn $220 per tonne and have collected more than $250,000 thus far.
Children learn to fish from an early age in Port Lincoln.
A few tasty morsels, like these massive fish gills are dished out by the staff of the Calypso Star to attract great whites.
Cage diving with great white sharks.
The sleek and purposeful Calypso Star.
There's always something interesting to see at the Port Lincoln jetty (pic: Tourism SA).
If getting up close and personal with shariks isn't your thing, you can always meet a few hundred tuna instead.
Port Lincoln's Lost at Sea memorial serves as a reminder to the dangers faced by the town's commercial fishermen.
Bear shifts into work mode at the Goldstream RV's table.
Now that's a lounge room wall.
Ark! Pleased to meet you Bazz.
You don't have to go too far to find seclusion on the Eyre Peninsula (pic: Tourism SA).
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 429, July-Aug 2012. Photos by John Willis; Barry Ashenhurst; Tourism SA.