After slogging through a busy and difficult year of work and study, it was no surprise when my best friend demanded that we embark on a weekend away. We deserved a little escapade after all (or at least that's what we told ourselves) and we both had Saturday and Sunday free.
However, we had left ourselves limited in options. It was already Friday night when this idea of an adventure popped into our minds, and our bank accounts were barely reaching triple digits. We needed a plan, fast. And our choice of destination had to line up with all three of our vague requirements: 1. Somewhere nearby 2. Somewhere cheap 3. Somewhere isolated
"What about Innes National Park?"
I had hazy memories from my childhood of holidays on the Yorke Peninsula. Crashing my bicycle into the Adrossan bakery shop window, having crabs nipping at my toes in the Stansbury pool, and hitting my head on the Port Vincent pontoon. Nevertheless, I agreed to the destination as I couldn't recall ever reaching Innes and my last trip to the boot-shaped peninsula was over ten years ago.
With an old tent in the boot and a bag of lollies and chocolates (road trip necessities), we headed off on Saturday morning toward Innes. A 300km drive might seem long for some, but for us it was never going to be an issue. Two besties with an aux cord? C'mon. This was bound to end up being a three and a half hour pop music singalong.
Upon arrival to the park, we first headed to Stenhouse Bay to examine the campsite that we had booked online. There wasn't much to see, of course. Just a blank dirt space where we would later pitch our home for the night. But, now we had comfort in the fact our online booking transaction wasn't just a scam, we could embark on some exploration.
First, we zipped down the road to the Stenhouse Bay Jetty. We wandered along the wooden stretch, peeking over the rails into the clear water. The fishermen seemed to be having some successes, and we were beginning to explore angles with our camera, completely unaware of the breathtaking views that existed ahead.
As we drove off from Stenhouse Bay, there were wide views over Chinaman's Hat, a tiny island off the coast that does, in fact, look like a Chinaman's Hat. The main road between destinations was well-constructed, but some of the minor roads leading to specific locations were unsealed. All, however, were accessible in our 2WD.
Chinaman's Hut Island on the left. Image: Emma Jane Warren
As soon as we reached Cape Spencer, I recognised the iconic lighthouse that I had seen many times in Yorke Peninsula travel brochures and online. As you trek along the white path that leads up the lighthouse, you receive 360-degree views of the park, the coast, and the ocean.
Ethel Wreck was a photographer's dream. The beach is named after a large shipwreck that is still visible on the ocean shore. If you walk down the tall staircase onto the sand, you can actually stand amongst the remains of the ship that has been on the beach for more than 100 years.
After reaching and exploring Pondalowie Bay, we called it a day and headed back to Stenhouse to set up our tent. For dinner, we picked the leisurely option. Two city chicks cooking on a trangia was surely going to be a recipe for disaster, and we also thought we had earned a decent meal after putting up the tent. (How many stupid pegs do you have to bend or break until one finally sticks into the ground?)
The Marion Bay Tavern, only nine minutes from Stenhouse Bay, had us sorted. Glasses of wine from $6, pizza from $15, and schnitzels from $18. All with a stunning view of the sunset beaming onto the ocean. It appeared almost compulsory that diners take a stroll along the jetty after their meal, and we followed along with the trend. A few friendly fisherman were still present on the jetty as the stobey pole lights sparkled onto the dark sea.
As we lay in our tent, a theory came to my mind: the more everyday commodities that we take away, the more we appreciate the natural elements of the world. We had no electricity, no showers, no flushable toilets. But we did have the sound of waves lulling us to sleep and the moon acting as a nightlight. And that was enough.
On Sunday, after packing down the tent (a simpler experience than putting it up initially), we pushed on to all the beaches that we missed the day prior. We marvelled at the tall cliffs at West Cape, watched some surfers at the Pondalowie Surf Break, and walked over the red rocks that contrast dramatically against the white sand at Dolphin's Beach.
At Shell Beach, we climbed over hundreds of rocks and discovered a secret rock pool, full of small creatures and warm water. The little spot was deep enough to swim in and shaped like an oval. It was so surreal and naturally beautiful that it was hard to believe it was not manmade.
A small rock pool at Shell Beach. Image: Emma Jane Warren
Brown's Beach was our final point of discovery, the last destination on the main road. The carpark is situated high above the long stretch of beach, permitting a fantastic bird's eye view. After taking some images, it was sadly time to backtrack out of the park and begin the afternoon drive home.
We decided that we will have to return sometime again in the future. There were hikes that we didn't have time to attempt, and waves we didn't get the chance to surf. Yet, the short trip was enough to tickle our temptation for more.