The Jewel in the Toe – Innes National Park, South Australia
Visit Innes National Park on a fine day and if you don’t end up with a photo that looks almost exactly like the one above, you’re just not trying!
But joining the ‘Entrance to Innes National Park’ photo club isn’t the only reason to visit this smallish 9400+ hectare National Park around 300 km from Adelaide on the toe of the ‘ill shaped leg’ (take the link to see it on the map) that is South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.
Although I’d been to this magic little park several times over the last few years, it wasn’t until September 2013 we actually stayed there. And in a rare break with tradition, we left the camper trailer at home and stayed in the restored Engineers cottage in historic Inneston for a few days, right inside the park with entry fees included in the tariff.
If only I could say that this meant getting up early for sunrise shots, but alas …
However, being on site made our exploration MUCH more leisurely!
So let me give you my updated insider’s TOP 7 things to do – a true traveller’s teaser taste of all that’s GREAT about this FAAAABULOUS spot!
1. The Wildlife
Thanks to a close encounter at Inneston, I know EXACTLY what to do if attacked by an emu! Just raise your hands above your head, and walk backwards until you get to a place where you can run like hell!!
You might have to forget the photo …
Getting a little too close to an emu with chicks during spring hatching season isn’t recommended. In a civilised gender role reversal rarely seen elsewhere in the animal kingdom, it’s the male who sits on the eggs and cares for the young – the female is long gone by then!
But hard core twitchers* come here for the rare Western Whipbird – the reason for the park’s proclamation in 1970, it’s virtually the whipbird’s southernmost limit and one of the few habitats preventing it from being a Western Australian endemic. It’s also a known nesting area for Malleefowl with regular sightings in and around Inneston.
And if you don’t see a kangaroo somewhere in the park, don’t bother buying a lottery ticket … you’re obviously the world’s most unlucky person!
2. The Scenery
If magnificent (and nearly empty) beaches, rugged rocky cliffs, towering sand dunes, coastal vegetation, jewel like islands, lakes and wild coastlines leave you cold, then Innes National Park probably isn’t for you.
But while you’re gazing out over the Great Southern Ocean at a cliff top lookout, bear in mind that if not for the sea spray, waves and curvature of the earth, you’d be able to see clear to Antarctica!
3. The History
The four clans of the Aboriginal Narungga nation maintain strong cultural links to the Yorke Peninsula area, and the historic campsites and shell middens found in the park.
Charted by Matthew Flinders over 200 years ago, the remains of civilisation from the area’s early 1900’s settlement are scattered throughout the park, including the not-quite-ghost-town of Inneston, unsurprisingly established by William Innes. In its heyday, Inneston’s Gypsum mining, with a port at nearby Stenhouse Bay supported a peak population of around 200.
Interpretive signage along the Investigator Strait Shipwreck trail tells tales of the treacherous rocks, reefs and unpredictable weather that sank many ships. Down on Ethel beach, the ever-diminishing remains of the Ethel, wrecked in 1904, show how dangerous these waters can be.
4. The Lighthouses
And that’s where the lighthouses come in! There’s good reason why the lighthouses at Cape Spencer (see photo above) and West Cape – both accessible by short walking trails – are still operational, with Cape Spencer lighting up the night sky a short distance from our accommodation at Inneston.
But the unusual designs of all-metal West Cape and rectangular Cape Spencer lighthouses AND the amazing vistas from Cape Spencer over the cliffs and out to the Althorpe group of islands (where the Althorpe Island lighthouse overlooks 6 shipwrecks) and the panorama from West Cape across Pondalowie Bay (see photo below) make them worth re-visiting at any time of day!!
5. The Wildflowers
It’s worth visiting the park in a good season just for the bright RED Cocky’s Tongue lining the roads. And the RED Correa.
But believe it or not, there are also a few NOT RED wildflowers in Spring (Sept-Nov down here!) and half the fun of a walk in the park is finding them. Heavily perfumed and delicately coloured Freesias are everywhere – especially in what were once the settled areas,
their beauty a compelling argument against getting rid of non-natives!
If you’re lucky enough to visit in spring, be warned! Wandering the tracks around Inneston can put you in quite serious danger of wildflower overload!
6. The Beaches
Just how many miles of empty, unspoiled beach stretching off into the middle distance can you take? While access to some of the beaches may take a little effort with steep and treacherous tracks, who wouldn’t want to try to make it down to Browns Beach? Where yes, there ARE two other people …
Or to explore the Ethel Wreck (see photo above)??
But I’ll leave it to you to decide if a bad weather day makes the West Cape beach more or less of an attraction!!
7. The Walks
Exploring Innes National Park on foot is one of the best ways to experience everything.
Wander the 11 km round trip Gym Beach walk or the 4km return Royston Head hike for wildflowers, amazing coastal scenery and beaches. Do the 1 km loop West Cape Headland hike right past the lighthouse and that awesome view. Walk through Inneston and along the Thomson-Pfitzner Plaster trail for a taste of history, wildflowers and wildlife, and the short South Cape lighthouse walk for scenery.
And do the Stenhouse Bay Lookout walk for ALL of the above.
Yes, it’s SO sounding like you’re going to need to spend more than a day here, right? And given my total lack of photo manipulation skills, this really IS what it looks like. So if it seems as if the jewel-like Innes National Park with its bountiful natural attractions is just a little too good to be true, then my work is done.
But I don’t think I could prove electronic photo theft of my first shot given the omnipresence of ‘Entrance to Innes National Park’ shots on the web!
* Twitcher = Birdwatcher! Go figure!!