Family touring that won’t break the bank, but will leave you feeling cashed up

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Rock formations, quirky towns, stunning coastlines and low-cost campsites – our adventure from Port Augusta to Smoky Bay made for a memorable trip and gave us the opportunity to explore and relax in this special little corner of South Australia’s
Eyre Peninsula.

Just 68 kilometres from Port Augusta we found ourselves in the famous iron ore mining town of Iron Knob, once a thriving hub for over 3000 BHP workers in Australia’s first iron ore mine. Arriving on a Saturday, we would have believed it if we were told Iron Knob was a ghost town. Not a soul was seen in the few hours we spent exploring this little place. Empty houses, closed shops, rubble where the school once stood and a picnic area on iron ore rocks provided an interesting stop in this unusual town. We did later hear that if we had arrived on a weekday there would have been an opportunity to visit the tourist centre and museum, and tour the mine.

Along the Eyre Highway from Iron Knob we travelled through Kimba where we stopped ‘Half Way Across Australia’ for a photo with the Big Galah.

Our campsite for the night was Pildappa Rock, 15 kilometres north-east of Minnipa along a good dirt road. Arriving at the huge granite tor it was easy to find a quiet campsite at its base, sheltered from the winds. This campsite with its basic facilities including toilets, shelters and gas barbecues is a gem, and donations to camp at the site are appreciated. Pildappa Rock is South Australia’s rival to Wave Rock in Western Australia and for us, who have now seen both, Pildappa is a winner.
As the sun began to disappear behind the horizon we climbed to the top of the rock to watch a stunning sunset causing the rock to glow in shades of orange and gold. After the easy walk to the summit we were rewarded with 360-degree views of the surrounding farmland. The kids were delighted to find rock pools filled with water and they kept busy searching for tadpoles… they used up a bit more of their energy taking the walking track that circumnavigates the base of the rock before settling down for the night.

Continuing along the Eyre Highway we arrived at the curious small town of Poochera, a mecca for entomologists due to the presence of the world’s most primitive ant (aptly known as the Dinosaur Ant). Not huge fans of ants, we were happy to get a quick photo of the Big Ant before we continued on our way. It was a short drive to our next camp, Perlubie Beach. Access was via a dirt road and camping was right on the shore. This low-cost basic campsite was outstanding and a perfect base to explore a bit more of the Eyre Peninsula.

From the campsite it was a quick 20-kilometre drive to Streaky Bay where the small town puts on a big family-friendly event to bring in the New Year. On the foreshore lawns we enjoyed the entertainment and watched the spectacular fireworks display – the biggest in the state outside of Adelaide, it certainly did not disappoint.

On New Year’s Day, Perlubie Beach becomes a hive of activity when people from near and far gather for the annual Perlubie Sports Day.
It certainly turned out to be an event with ‘character and quirkiness all of its own’ as described by its organisers. Dating back to 1914, many of the same events are still held today. We got involved and participated in many of the events which included ocean swims, sprints, volleyball, tug-of-war, the rolling pin toss, and (of course) the sack races. The highlight of the day is the inaugural crab races where locals bet big bucks in support of the next year’s event. Cold drinks, hot food, entertainment from start to finish… we were absolutely thrilled to be a part of it all.

Murphy’s Haystacks are a series of weathered granite outcrops located on private land. The owners allow access for a small fee using an honesty box. These ancient granite rocks were formed underground over 1500 million years ago, and over time they have weathered to form the unusual shapes that now stand proud on the hilltop of this wheat field. The sun was shining and we enjoyed a stroll along the path and took the opportunity to snap a few pictures with these photogenic rocks.

Along Westall Way Scenic Drive, we followed the gravel road to Point Labatt Conservation Park where we hoped to spot a sea lion or two in the only permanent colony on the Australian mainland. From the viewing platform above the colony we were excited to see many of these rare and endangered Australian sea lions lazing about and playing on the rocks below. The scenery along the drive (and from the viewing platforms) of the dramatic cliffs, bays and rugged coastline is incredible.

It was the low-key holiday town of Smoky Bay that was to be our final destination – offering an ideal spot for swimming and fishing along its beautiful sheltered beach and jetty. It’s said if you can’t catch a fish on South Australia’s west coast then you need to find a new hobby… so we threw in a line off the jetty and tried our luck. The result was a few whiting for our pre-dinner snack. Smoky Bay’s one-stop general store offers essential supplies as well as fuel and bait. The author of Gulliver’s Travels wrote: “He was a bold man who first ate an oyster”. There are no bold men in our family so we can’t vouch for the claim, but the Bay is world-renowned for its robust and hearty oysters. If you’re an oyster fan, be sure to indulge your tastebuds while at Smoky Bay.

From inland wonders to coastal beauty, this short trip kept us spoilt for choice. The superb low-cost campsites make the adventure affordable even in peak season. Pack the camping gear and set out to enjoy the beauty of this part of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

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