Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published September 3rd 2018
Cliffs, Crevasses, Caves and Coves
If you're lucky enough to be visiting Port Lincoln and love your nature to be wild, then a must for your travel list is a drive through Whalers Way. The privately owned land on the tip of the Eyre Peninsula offers some of the most spectacular and dramatic coastal views in the state.
The coastal drive of Whalers Way can be easily explored in a day. The map shows 34 separate points of interest to visit. They all have something a bit different about them - some show magical rock pools that are perfect for a summer's dip, others show the effects of erosion from the wild seas. There are caves and blowholes and there's also plenty of wild flora and fauna around too. A lot of the places have names that link the area with the state's whaling history. Some locations have names such as "Thar She Blows Lookout", "Right Whale Crevasse" and "Harpoon Bay". Other site names relate to the early pioneer families who settled in the area. We spent so much time exploring each lookout spot that we ran out of time and missed some of the spots at the far western end of the drive. We weren't equipped for camping and really didn't want to get lost in the sanctuary after dark. There is no water, no street lights, no facilities (apart from a clean and well kept long drop toilet at the main entrance gate) and no phone or internet signal either. You will need to BYO everything! For those who wish to stay a night or two and have their own caravan on tow or have camping equipment with them, there are 2 basic bush campsites within the area for public use. Services at each campsite are minimal and I believe that a camping permit is required.
The drive down to Whalers Way is mostly bitumen and becomes dirt just a few km out from the entrance gate - this road is well looked after and is easy to drive on.
Once you're through the locked gates of Whalers Way and onto private property the road is a lot more rugged, but still driveable for most cars. The main road has sidetracks which lead to car parking areas for each sightseeing spot, but we didn't quite trust all of those tracks. Most were full of deep ruts and large boulders. We treated each road and sidetrack with a lot of caution and chose to park on the main road and walk to each lookout point.
The day we were there was a cold but beautiful blue sky day. We saw only 2 or 3 other cars for the whole day and saw more emus than people!
The ancient rocky coastline is a series of natural bays and headlands - some of the rocky promontories are aged at 130 million years old and believed to be among the oldest rock formations in South Australia.
Whalers Way is a declared Historic Reserve and is very isolated. We paid heed to the signs and various warnings posted. Most are due to cliff erosion and the danger of collapse.
Many lives have been lost in the area, particularly at Cape Carnot where rogue waves can strike without warning. The spray from some waves at spots along the coast can rise as high as 46 metres.
Mathew Flinders was the first white person to see this coastline in February 1802 and experienced the fury of the ocean first hand. Eight of his crew perished in the sea near an area he named Cape Catastrophe. All 8 were presumed to have been taken by sharks. Flinders and the French navigators who also came to our shores treated this stretch of coastline with enormous respect.
Whaling was a short-lived enterprise in the area. A whaling station, owned by the South Australian Company, operated for only 4 years - from 1837 to 1841. 30 whalers, named Bay Whalers, lived and worked in this harsh environment and there is still some evidence today of their life and times at Whalers Way.
Despite the area's history and important geological significance, it wasn't until 1969 that Robert Theakstone began working to declare the 2,600 acres of privately owned land a Historic Reserve and Wilderness Sanctuary.
Whalers Way should definitely be high on your list of places to go when you're visiting the Eyre Peninsula. Wear good walking shoes, take a hat and water and don't forget your camera! There are no board-walks in Whalers Way and the "beach" access points we saw were a ladder secured to the cliff face. It tells a story of its remoteness and adds to the area's naturally unspoilt beauty.
Whalers Way is approximately 35kms south-west of Port Lincoln, which is about 650 kilometres from Adelaide in South Australia.
NOTE: You must get a key from the Visitor Information Centre in Port Lincoln before you go - there is no ticketing office at Whalers Way and no way to get in through the gate without a key. The key costs $30 per car with a $10 deposit charge added. You'll get a detailed map with your key, which will show just how much there is to see while on the drive! There's a key drop system at the Visitor Information Centre for those who return back from their drive after hours.