7 Wonderful Walks in Innes National Park

Last Updated on May 4, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

West Cape Lighthouse and Heli-pad, Innes National Park, South Australia
West Cape Lighthouse and Heli-pad, Innes National Park, South Australia

Sand dunes and shipwrecks.  A wild and windswept heli-pad. Magnificent cliffs, an old wooden railway transport line and exotic lighthouses. Historic ruins and a sailor a long way from home.  None of these are visible from the entrance to Innes National Park.

And you can’t see them from the ~30 km of road winding through the park.

To discover the history, see the sights and uncover the mysteries you’ve got to go behind the scenes and take one or more of the 7 sensational walks in Innes National Park.

Kangaroo, Innes National Park
(One of MANY) Kangaroo, Innes National Park

Although the superb view from almost any vantage point along that road is SO distracting you’ll be tempted to keep driving from lookout to lookout, take the walks for an even better chance of scenic overload!

AND as well as the attractions above, there’s wildlife, spring wildflowers, history and some of South Australia’s most spectacular coastal scenery – including Public Loos so scenic some of them are in MY BOOK!

SO … take the trails teaser tour TODAY!

Rhinos Head, Innes National Park
Rhinos Head, Stenhouse Bay, Innes National Park

1 Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk (2 km circuit)

On a fine day the view over the Stenhouse Bay jetty takes some beating in the scenic stakes. That’s why it’s usually our first stopping off point after entering the park a few kilometres south-west of Marion Bay.

Coast from Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk
Coast from Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk

From the park entrance it’s only a short drive to the jetty – and the town that the Waratah Gypsum Company built in 1900, although there’s not much of it left.

Grave Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk
First Vietnamese person to visit Yorke Peninsula

It’s also the trailhead for the Lookout Walk – a 2 km circuit that shows off what IS left and the track passes rusting machinery; interpretive signs explaining the bay’s historic significance; and 9 lookouts showcasing the spectacular views to the islands in Investigator Strait and the Rhino’s Head (see above)!

Which has to be one of Australia’s most OBVIOUS place names!

But the most memorable thing for me on this walk isn’t the scenery, wildflowers or wildlife. It’s the grave of a sailor buried in this lonely outpost far from home.

Rest in peace, Dao Thanh.

2 Cape Spencer Lighthouse (600 m return)

Cape Spencer and Althorp Island Lighthouses, Innes National Park
Cape Spencer and Althorp Island Lighthouses, Innes National Park

This is the shortest of the walks in Innes National Park.

The track from the car park to the lighthouse on the Cape runs along a ridgetop with massive cliffs on one side and exposed slopes running down to the pounding seas below on the other. I didn’t need the signs warning walkers not to go too close to the edge – it’s a sheer drop off way Way WAY down to the water.

Cliffs at Cape Spencer, Innes National park
HIGH Cliffs at Cape Spencer, Innes National park

No photo is worth taking the fall!! Does that mean I’m not a REAL photographer??

Directly across the strait from the lighthouse are the Althorp Islands, site of several shipwrecks and another lighthouse – a stunning two-lighthouse view! And with a coastline THIS rugged in all directions, the lighthouse/shipwreck thing starts to make sense.

Inneston Salt Lake
Inneston Salt Lake, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia


3 Inneston Historic Walk (2km circuit)

If you’ve already walked the previous two trails, the historic township of Inneston (you’ll NEVER guess the name of the bloke who founded it was William Innes!), provides a welcome break from the relentlessly staggering coastal scenery.

Although it’s got it’s own attractions …

Bakery Ruin, Inneston
Bakery Ruin, Inneston

Tragically, while the town that once supported the budding gypsum mining industry was at one stage big enough to support its own bakery, neither are operational today. But the walking track shows off the town’s highlights, including restored buildings, Inneston Lake, spectacular spring wildflowers – the freesias are particularly fabulous – and wildlife such as emus, malleefowl and kangaroos.

Emu and chicks at Innes National Park
Emu and chicks at Innes National Park

You’ve probably realised by now you won’t be able to complete all these walks in one day. So if you’re looking for a cool place to stay, try Inneston’s heritage accommodation – if you can live without TV or mobile access, that is!

4 Thomson-Pfitzner Plaster Trail (7.6 km)

Once upon a time, the walk from the trailhead at Inneston – an extension of the historic trail (above) – meant getting to Rhino’s Tavern at Stenhouse Bay 3.8 km away in time for lunch before returning along this old wooden railway line that once connected the two towns.

Sadly, the tavern has now closed so carry enough food, water and supplies for a 7.6 km return trek. But it’s an easy walk through the trees and along the embankment upon which the railway line was built, with fragments of the gypsum cargo lying among the leaf litter – and spring orchids – where they fell many years ago.

On the Thomas-Pfitzner Plaster Trail, Innes National Park
On the Thompson-Pfitzner Plaster Trail, Innes National Park

Not much of the railway track remains today, but there’s a sense of the past that lingers along the line where horses once drew heavy loads of gypsum from the mining sites to the Stenhouse Bay jetty.

Other than glimpses of the sea near Inneston and Stenhouse Bay, this walk is another opportunity to escape the superb coastal scenery – if you need to!!

5 West Cape Headland Hike (1 km circuit)

If you were still wondering about the lighthouse/shipwreck thing first encountered at Cape Spencer, West Cape will leave you in no doubt.

Islands in Pondalowie Bay, Innes National Park, South Australia
Islands in Pondalowie Bay, Innes National Park, South Australia

The stretch of (almost) deserted beach stretching out below the long, wooden stairway down to the sand many metres below is an impressive sight. But the view’s even better from the top of the Cape, where a trail to the lighthouse goes just a little closer to the cliffs than I’m comfortable with, especially when the wind is strong!

Hold on to your children – unless they happen to be particularly noisy, naughty or nasty – it’s sometimes hard to stay fully upright when the wind’s up. There probably won’t be many days when a helicopter could land on the heli-pad next to the unusual lighthouse atop this windswept spot (see first photo above), but it’s nice to know it’s sometimes possible.

West Cape Beach and Loo
Scenic Loo, West Cape, Innes National Park

But the sight (and site!) of one of Australia’s most scenic public loos, with beach views in one direction and the scenic splendour of Pondalowie Bay in the other make braving the wind worthwhile.

6 Royston Head (4km return)

If trails along the top of high cliffs with no barriers between you and the sea a LONG way below make you nervous, then the Royston Head walk isn’t likely to make you feel any better. But swallow that fear, if you can – this is one of the most spectacular spots in the park.

In my humble opinion.

Royston Head, Innes National Park, Yorke Peninsula SA
Royston Head, Innes National Park, Yorke Peninsula SA

The walk winds up from Dolphin Beach through the dunes before reaching the exposed cliff tops of the Head – an interesting range of habitats, vegetation and wildlife that you’ll promptly forget when faced with the awesome view at the end of the hike!

That’s why this is one of my favourite walks in Innes National Park!

7 Gym Beach (11 km return)

Although it’s part of Innes National Park, Gym Beach isn’t accessible via the main road through the park. The alternate route from Marion Bay gives access – but then there’s no direct road access to the rest of the park without returning to Marion Bay.

Dunes, Innes National Park
Dunes, Innes National Park

Luckily, the hike starting near Browns Beach along the back of the dunes is an introduction to the varied coastal vegetation habitats as well as providing access to Gym Beach. Although it’s a LONG way to go for a swim!

Browns Beach, Innes National Park
Browns Beach, Innes National Park

Strangely enough, the walk can be done without laying eyes on either beach – although doing that would deprive you of two of South Australia’s BEST beaches!

Walks in Innes National Park are suitable for most people – and if I can do them all, then so can you! Enjoy!!

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


WHERE: Innes National Park is at the south-western tip of the Yorke Peninsula, and is around 300 km south-west of Adelaide

WHAT to do: Walking trails, Beaches, Surfing, Fishing, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Camping, Historic Ruins

Sleepy Lizard
Sleepy Lizard

WHEN: All year round

COST: Park entry fees ($10 per car/$8 concession as at April 2015) and Camping fees apply, and must be pre-booked and paid online HERE

STAY: The park has several camping areas. Heritage Accommodation is also available at Inneston. Nearby Marion Bay has a range of accommodation, including a caravan park.  Other Yorke Peninsula Towns also offer accommodation.

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    1. If you’re looking for a family holiday with activities and scenery amidst superb natural attractions, the Yorke Peninsula is an excellent choice, Anne! Hope you make it sometime!! In the meantime, keep watching – I regularly post about it because I’m lucky enough to go there frequently!!!

  1. Oh what fabulous walks. I so would love to do them or even just one but sadly The Other Half has given up walking and travelling.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Diane. A couple of these walks are quite short and simple – and sometimes the view from the car park is as good as doing the walk. I know reading about these places on my blog isn’t quite the same thing, but I hope it continues to take you to wonderful places!

    1. The Eyre Peninsula is still on my list too, Linda – I’ve crossed it, but haven’t done all the good bits! See you there one day??? But hope you’re not having a jinx-journey like your Whistler tour at the time 😀

  2. At Inneston Salt Lake, someone has left their papoose carrier behind (*~*)

    Royston Head looks so beautiful. I can see I’m going to have to get to Innes National Park one day.

    1. HAha, you’ve got a keen eye, River!! The park has so much sensational scenery, wonderful wildlife and amazing accommodation you won’t regret a visit!

  3. Wonderfully windswept walks, Red. I enjoyed this immensely!
    I love sheer coastal cliffs, and these remind me of the beautiful West Cape Howe National Park near our old cottage in Torbay, Western Australia.

    Bay emus! So sweet.
    And, that picture of the kangaroo in a sea of green is one the best images of a roo I’ve ever seen.
    Something about the composition of that shot is truly lovely – well done!
    Happy Easter! 🙂

    1. Haha, maybe a virtual walk is the best way to take a walk, Vicki!! The Yorke Peninsula is a little bit like a smaller version of parts of the WA coast, although I’m not familiar with the NP you mention (but it’s on the list). And you have the fabulous photo cropping tool to thank for the kanga pic 😀 Hope your Easter is going fabulously!!

  4. Oh, Red, really, 20 years ago (actually really! 1995 we visited for the first time for 6 months!) this info would´ve been so great! Now I have it about 20 years in advance! 😉
    Can´t wait to be a “grey Nomad”, pack and visit all those beautiful places!
    Love the emu-pic 🙂 And the blue ocean! And seeing where the loo really is…

    1. Just be a ‘Red’ nomad like me, Iris! It’s easy to change your hair colour 😀 And start keeping a list – I’ve got a LOT more to show you, my friend! Happy Easter!!

  5. We never got down to the south-western tip of the Yorke Peninsula as it was as windy as hell and we decided to take shelter and head north. After seeing these magnificent photos I am very sorry we didn’t stick around. I agree that Royston Head is very spectacular. 🙂

    1. There’s not much you can do when the wind is bad, Kathy, except wait for it to let up a bit! Anywhere you missed last time around means an incentive to go back, right?!?! Happy Easter!!

  6. Hi Marion, love to see your views as always.. this one would appeal to Pat so much he is a keen walker (walked the entirety of the Bibbulmun Track) and it looks like Aimee is following in his footsteps, literally 🙂 Not sure what happened to me, I like walking a lot, but a couple of hours is just fine 🙂

    1. I’m probably more like you, Grace! I mean, where are the bakeries along the Bibbulmun Track?!?!?! We’ve done all these walks – but over many visits and many years. Hope your Easter is awesome!!

  7. Amazing, the sea water is crystal clear and the sand is so white! I suppose there are some famous white beaches in Australia, such as White Heaven Beach, but they are just part of Aussie beautiful beaches. I’m happy to explore breathtaking sights which are far away from me.

    …And if I have a chance to visit West Cape Lighthouse someday, I’ll make it sure to be careful of winds. It’s windy in Tokyo this week and people are worried that the winds blow away cherry blossoms blooming fully now. But the wind is a breeze when compared with the strong winds which block up helicopters!!

    1. We have one of the longest coastlines of any country in the world, Kozue – so there are a LOT of beautiful beaches, and many of them are deserted! I hope there’s still some cherry blossom left – it would be a shame for it all to go too quickly! Have a lovely weekend, my friend!

  8. Although not really here, but I like that Australia has so many miles and miles of beautiful deserted beaches. You cleverly captured some rusting steel to reinforce it is a salt lake.

    1. Hahaha, is that what I did, Andrew?? I thought I was just being arty-farty!!! I’m continually amazed at the deserted beach thing – anywhere else and these gorgeous seaside spots would be JUMPING!! Happy Easter, my friend!

  9. A smashing post Red.

    I love a national park that has a ghost town, a lone grave and sheer cliffs with strong winds for naughty children. The Thomson-Pfitzner Plaster Trail sounds especially interesting. So much to do down the Yorke and that’s only the tip! I was confronted with the option of heading down this way once, but we took the inland route. You’ve inspired me to head back.

    1. The whole Yorke Peninsula is one of my favourite OZ places, Andy! It’s like a microcosm of many of the coastal attractions around the country. And if I’ve inspired you to visit one day, then my work is done. Just tell them I sent you, hahaha!!!

    1. HHHMMMmmm… do I mind free publicity and that someone likes my post enough to share it? That’s a no-brainer, Lizzy! Thanx so much and Happy Easter to you too! Looking forward to having a catch-up-on-my-blog-reading weekend!!

  10. Lovely scenery! All of the walks sound interesting and beautiful although I’m not fond of a really strong wind blowing against me. I hope you didn’t almost step on that lizard in the last picture. It seems to be blending with its surroundings very well. Christie

    1. I’m not a big fan of wind either, Christie – so it’s just as well the windy walk is only a short one!!! Although it’s not windy ALL the time 😀 It’s VERY easy to step on sleepy lizards, and sadly, they’re often run over because they come out onto the road where it’s warm. People also see the scales and mistake them for snakes!

  11. This looks like a terrific park where one could spend many days walking and exploring. Your photos are terrific, as usual. Did you go for a swim at that beach? It doesn’t exactly look crowded.

    1. I’m sure the beach will be crowded over Easter, TFG – but I’ve never seen many people there!! At least there’s a vantage point for shark-spotting – it’s a LONG way down from the car park!! I didn’t go swimming, but the water was so clear it was very tempting! It’s also a very popular fishing spot for mullet and salmon! Thanx for your kind comment!!

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