The Jewel in the Toe – Innes National Park, South Australia

Last Updated on May 5, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

Entering Innes National Park, South Australia
Entering 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 close to the one above, you’re just not trying!

Engineers Cottage, Inneston
Engineers Cottage, Inneston, South Australia

But joining the ‘Entrance to Innes National Park’ photo club isn’t the only reason to visit this smallish 9400+ hectare National Park.  It’s 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 here several times over the last few years, we had never actually stayed there until now. 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 …

Emu with chicks, Inneston SA
He’s NOT HAPPY … Inneston Emu and chicks

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.

Kangaroos at Inneston, South Australia
Say WHAT?  Kangaroos at Inneston, South Australia

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.

Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Innes National Park
Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Innes National Park, South Australia

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.

Inneston, Innes National Park, South Australia
Inneston, Innes National Park, South Australia

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.

Ethel Wreck, Innes National Park, South Australia
Ethel Wreck, Innes National Park, South Australia

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.

Is that a kanga I see before me??  West Cape Lighthouse, Innes National Park, South Australia
Is that a kanga I see before me??  West Cape Lighthouse, Innes National Park, South Australia

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!!

Which is the best?? It’s a near thing – but its scenic public toilet to die for (Yes! It’s in MY BOOK!) gives West Cape the edge!

5.  The Wildflowers

Cocky's Tongue Pop Art
Cocky’s Tongue Pop Art

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!

RED Correa
RED Correa

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 …

Brown's Beach, Innes National Park, South Australia
Brown’s Beach, Innes National Park, South Australia

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!!

A wet day at West Cape, Innes National Park, South Australia
A wet day at West Cape, Innes National Park, South Australia

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.

Althorpe Islands from Stenhouse Bay Lookout
Althorpe Islands from Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk, Innes National Park

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!

Pondalowie Bay from West Cape Lighthouse
Pondalowie Bay from West Cape Lighthouse, Innes National Park

* Twitcher = Birdwatcher! Go figure!!

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  1. I second every word and picture, it really is a park well worth visiting. I certainly loved it there with the sparse coastal vegetation and amazing beaches.

  2. @whiteangel – It has the rare quality of appealing to almost everyone!! Apart from those who can’t cope with unspoiled beauty in remote locations, of course!
    @Massimo – G’day mate from downunder! Where it’s ALL amazing!!!
    @Christine McCann – Thank you so much for your kind comment!! I’m SO happy to ‘meet’ you – it’s amazing to me that something I write down here is seen around the world!
    @eileeninmd – If you don’t see Emus and Kangas in THIS park, you’re SO out of luck!!
    @Optimistic Existentialist – We do give good lighthouse down here in OZ!!!
    @TMWH – I hope you’re jealous enough to visit one day!! Thanx again for leaving a wonderful comment, my friend!! I SO appreciate your visits!
    @Saucy – Hahaha, yes this is one place where there are no bakeries to fall back on!!!! And absorbing the beauty of this whole place makes it very hard to return to reality!
    @River – It’s not that far from Adelaide, but once you’re here Adelaide seems SO far away!!! I hope you make it one day!!!

  3. Pondalowie Bay – the entrance is striking – I love how the islands sit there, just waiting for you to absorb their beauty. I am tuckered out following along with this post. By the time I walked down those stairs at West Cape, I am hoping I had water and a sandwich. 🙂 Lovely Post dear Red.

  4. Gorgeous photos, as usual. I LOVED the blue of that water, and the RED of the flowers. Sounds like an idyllic vacation. I find myself a little jealous!

  5. What a beautiful park, the views of the water are lovely. The critters are wonderful. I love the Emu and the Kangaroos. Gorgeous photos, happy weekend!

  6. Fabulous photos. It’s been ages since I saw an emu father with his brood. Lucky you… even if you did get a bit close for safety. 🙂

    Innes National Park is definitely going on my must-visit list.

  7. Hi, I’ve been enjoying your blog for some time now, but have never left a comment until now. My husband and I enjoy visiting historic lighthouses here in the U.S., and it was really interesting to see the one in this post, and the shipwreck remains. I very much enjoy your fabulous photos and amusing commentary in all of your posts.

  8. @John – It’s amazing the great advances in public transport these days!!!
    @FC – The theory is about greater height and therefore greater threat! But don’t know if it REALLY worked or if the emu was going to back off anyway … there WERE three of us!!!
    @TFG – Why, thank you!!! It’s always a pleasure – mine – when you visit!!!
    @Rose – I do have rather a lot of lighthouse pix, now that you mention it!!! I’ll have to see what can be done about your request … just don’t hold your breath!
    @Anne – Almost anything off the beaten tourist trail is fine by me … especially when it looks THIS good!!! Although I don’t think all the South Aussies will be happy I’m letting people in on their BIG secret!!
    @Vicki – I’ll see you there sometime then! It’s one of my favourite places!!!

  9. @Sharon – Hahahaha!! I think emus were put on earth to show us humans how things SHOULD be done!! And it’s funny – I get the same feeling from Cape Spencer!!
    @SFlaGuy – Hahaha, you’re WAY too kind, my friend!! Especially when I consider that one of these shots was taken with my old film camera, several others with Pilchard’s old digi-cam and the rest with my current camera! I’ll leave you to work out which are which!! But thanx anyway!
    @Andrew – I think the steps are OHS requirements these days!!! But it IS a wonderful place – I’m glad I seemed to have done it justice, judging by the comments!!
    @Vicki – If you’ve got itchy feet after reading my blog, then my work is done!!!! Hope your Xmas whirlwind is going great – look forward to virtually catching up with you more often!!
    @diane b – Hahaha, there’s only one winery on YP – but it’s still worth a visit!!!
    @Joop Zand – I hope I can inspire you to visit one day!! Anyone who loves photography will LOVE Australia!!!
    @Kate – I know EXACTLY what you mean … I had to narrow down my shots to just these ones!!! VERY difficult!!!

  10. G’day Red! I’ve been MIA and am enjoying catching up on all of your recent posts. Breathtaking images as always, which consistently leave me with itchy feet. I’d love you to do a ‘lighthouse’ post if you have lots of lighthouses that is! (Followers can be so demanding….. 🙂
    Loved the interview in previous post!
    Happy wandering

  11. I’ll bite… is there some reason it’s better to raise your hands above your head when backing away from a grumpy emu? My own [hitherto uninformed] instinct would be to leave my hands down ready to protect the flabb I mean more vulnerable parts of my torso. Is it a height/ look intimidating thing? If so, raising my hands would be pointless.
    I don’t think less of you for retreating… One peck from an emu is enough to make anyone peck themselves.

  12. I’m so behind on catching up on my fave blogs!
    I have just gone back over your recent posts and my stomach did flips at so many of your AMAZING photos, Red!
    Just beautiful, as always.
    The Grampians… oh, be still my heart! Hubby and I have sometimes discussed a weekend there – now it’s a MUST!!
    And, I really enjoyed Andrew’s interview too. Must check out his blog.

    I have long loved lighthouses, and even obsessed about wanting to live in one some years ago. These coastal shots are so good – I can almost smell and taste the salty air and hear the sea birds.
    Makes me miss Albany so, so much.

    Always a true delight to visit your blog, and gives me such a hankering to travel.
    Itchy, itchy feet 🙂

  13. What a very nice places and lovely pictures…… wish i could visit your nice country.

    Thanks for this GREAT post.

    Greetings, Joop

  14. You sure know how to whet the appetite for travelling to Yorke Peninsula. It looks rugged and exciting. I have done the other toe…….Fleurieu Peninsula. (Nice wines)

  15. This truly is a gorgeous place to visit. If I were standing out at that Cape Spencer lighthouse I think I’d feel like was standing at the end of the world. On another note entirely, I must have been an emu in another life. That lifestyle makes perfect sense to me. 🙂

  16. It looks like a place I would like to visit. I don’t like being too far from the sea. I like the last photo the most. How convenient to have steps down to the beach to make things easier for people of a certain age, like me.

  17. Your photography has a really developed a very professional quality. I need to take another class I think to keep up.

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