Popular with walkers, beach fishers and occasionally a few hang gliding enthusiasts, the scenic beach is also part of the second leg of the 1200km long Heysen Trail.
Accessing the beach from the car park at the western end of the beach near Tunkalilla Road requires a steep walk down to the beach, resulting in the inevitable steep ascent back up to the car. Accessing the beach on foot, as part of the Heysen Trail is a challenging walk from Tappanappa campground, through Boat Harbour Beach and along Backstairs Passage. The walk along the cliff tops and scramble up the rocky hillsides to the beach provides stunning views of The Pages Islands and back to Kangaroo Island as well as a bird eye view of the rocky coast below.
Mist from the sea and unusual rocks on Tunkalilla Beach. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The walk along the waters edge is an experience, which makes the steep descent worth the effort. With the wind blowing the mist from the sea, dolphins escorting walkers along the water's edge and seals frequently surfing the waves, Tunkalilla is a truly beautiful beach. The residents of the two houses located near the beachfront must have a relaxing vantage point to enjoy the sea views.
A dolphin escort along the water's edge. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
A campsite existed near the beach but has now been closed down due to the impact of human activities on the sand dunes and coastal vegetation. Moderate to high waves, strong rips and rocks make Tunkalilla a potentially dangerous place to swim, although the rip holes are popular with fishers. There are no facilities on the beach, so taking adequate food and water is essential.
Today, Tunkalilla Beach is a quiet beach, away from the crowds but back in 5 October 1934, the Danish ship M.V. Victoria ran aground near Tunkalilla Beach. Carrying thirty crew and two passengers, the vessel was transporting 5700 tonnes of phosphate from the Pacific island of Makatea to Wallaroo. According to the records, the six-year-old ship hit the sand and rocks about 50 metres from the shore, after failing to see the lights during a storm, at around 10:30pm. Tugboats from Port Adelaide attempted to move the 117-metre long ship from the sand, but were unable to move the 4,500 tons of steel before the boat sprang a leak. Captain Jacobsen called abandon ship soon after, on the Sunday afternoon.
M. V. Victoria runs aground at Tunkalilla Beach. B18663-2. State Library of South Australia.
Captain J. G. Arnold was subsequently awarded the contract for the salvage work on the Victoria. A team of salvage workers, living in tents on the beach, worked day and night in six-hour shifts to remove the debris. A flying fox and winches were used to retrieve equipment from the vessel. The salvage operation was difficult, the engine room was filled with water to a depth of 5 metres, which required substantial pumping to enable the salvage work to continue. Due to the steep gradient of the surrounding land, tractors were used to remove the salvaged goods, which were then sent to Port Adelaide in heavy motor trucks. An emergency steering wheel and siren were sent to the Port Adelaide Maritime museum from the wreck, which lays parallel to the shore, just past the break.
Salvage Tent City at Tunkalilla beach in 1934. B25253, State Library of South Australia
Heysen Trail walkers are fortunate to have this isolated beach included as part of the walk. Although the hill climb to continue on the trail is extremely difficult, the view from the top is rewarding and there is the sense of satisfaction of having made it to the summit.
If you continue along the Heysen Trail, this is the hill you need to climb. It's tough. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The drive from Adelaide, down South Road, to Tunkalilla Beach will take almost two hours. To get to the beach, turn onto Cole Road/Range Road at Delamere, then onto Tunkalilla Road to the beach. The beach can also be reached from Victor Harbor via Range Road.
At the end of the beach sat this kangaroo. He was not moving for anyone. Photo: Hazel Cochrane