Walk the Yorke is a long distance walking trail around 500km in length between Port Wakefield and Moonta Bay on stunning Narungga Country/Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. Endurance comes to mind with longish days between towns or campsites and the challenge lies sometimes in the terrain being too flat, exposed and too hard for the feet rather than hills and inclines and creek crossings that many bushwalks offer.
So after a pretty stressful 18 months since COVID changed our world, we decided to take a break. To take a nice long walk. A therapeutic healing from within and with nature kind of walk. Lots of fresh air each day, camping, cooking simple one pot meals to sustain ourselves and nothing more to think about except walk, eat, sleep repeat.
We convinced the in-laws to be our support crew and dog sitter for 4 weeks and we sneakily marketed this to them as relaxing weekends away with us with covert tasks such as bringing our much-needed food and fuel supplies, helping us with catch up sections and anything else we had forgotten every 5-7 days or so. What a great way to explore stunning Narungga Country and Yorke Peninsula we thought. They thought so too.
Welcome to Chapter 4 of our Walk the Yorke End to End Adventure.
If you missed Chapter 1 Port Wakefield to Coobowie click here.
If you missed Chapter 2 Coobowie to Stenhouse Bay click here.
If you missed Chapter 3 Stenhouse Bay to Point Turton click here.
We pick up our End to End adventure from here…..
Day 19 TRACTORS
Point Turton to Port Minlacowie 21km (7.5 hours)
A very restful and cosy night in our tents but oh so wet and dewy. The camp kitchen at the Point Turton Caravan Park was a great little spot for us to sort ourselves and try to dry things outside once the sun was up. We may have eaten some leftover chocolate bars with breakfast today after our recent stock up in Corny Point. So good.
We knew we would be walking a long section on the beach today and I decided to take the boots off and get a bit earthed. It felt amazing. I was worried my feet would hurt differently as it is not common for my legs to carry the weight of a big pack and walk without shoes. But I surprised myself and my feet relished the freedom and sensory experience.
The beach was wide with the tide out and we spotted another seal in the distant shore and loads of birds like pied and sooty oyster catchers, herons, cormorants and pelicans. As we approached Hardwicke Bay the colourful tractors appeared on the beach waiting for their boats and skippers to return. So cute. A friendly black Labrador also joined us for a bit before being called back to its owners. We almost had company for lunch.
Once up and off the beach there were a couple of shelters to choose from for our lunch break. We dried the tent as best we could as the wind had turned up as it normally did around lunchtime.
We loved looking at the old shacks as we walked out of Hardwicke Bay – the ramshackle fibro ones right on the beach front. Then it was through the dunes and back on the beach for the final 7km with a bit of rock hopping and seaweed negotiating.
We found camp well before sunset today and actually managed to set up and eat dinner while it was still light. Just because the day started with a chocolate bar it only felt right to end it with one too. We would have a friend and colleague Linda join us tonight for the final sections to Moonta Bay. She arrived just on sunset, setting up and having a quick chat with us as the temperature dropped rapidly.
Day 20 EXTREMES
Port Minlacowie to Port Rickaby 21km (6 hours)
My undies had ice on them. I had done a bit of washing the night before and as I stepped out the tent they were hanging on the guide rope with icicles on the top. I could hear soft and gentle snores coming from Linda’s tent. It was a super early start to meet our support crew today who would only have a couple of hours with us in Port Rickaby.
The start of the day was just soo cold. We could hardly move once out the tent, our fingers were numb as we tried to pack up like bears shocked out of winter hibernation. I couldn’t string a sentence together and at times stood staring into space as Ian collected tent pegs and rolled things up. I was completely useless. We all mentioned the lack of sleep due to feeling chilly even in our thermals and down sleeping bags. We willed the sun to come up and help us defrost. We walked about 600m along beach to the WTY shelter for the coffee and breakfast fix we so desperately needed. I started to return to human form.
Instead of running from storms today, we had a slightly different enemy: time. Our support crew was meeting us in Port Rickaby at 2pm. It would be a push to finish our days walking by then, but added to that was the number of things we had to do while they were with us before they drove back to Adelaide later that day.
Once we left the shelter, we were soon delayering as we warmed up – despite the icy start, the day was going to be in full sun and almost 20 degrees. We covered a short section of beach to Cockle Beach and then we took a scrubby track behind the dunes past Watson Beach to Parsons Beach. We discovered holiday houses and a 2km rocky beach that led us to Bluff Beach for lunch. Getting around a gorgeous rocky headland we rounded the corner to find a crowd of people at the shelters and toilets – it was a Friends of the Heysen Trail group – we hadn’t seen a group of walkers this big on the whole trail so far. We chatted briefly with some of the walkers (love our hiking community) and decided on a cold lunch (the clock was ticking).
From here we took stairs down to a pretty white sandy beach and rock hopped our way off the beach at Barkers Rocks shelter and campground. The markers led us to a 5km inland trail through the Barkers Rocks reserve and it was suddenly hot and still. We were so glad when it turned back toward the beach and we finished the last and very pretty section into Port Rickaby. It was an asphalt trail to the jetty with hypnotic rolling surf – gorgeous.
The rest of our afternoon was a bit of a blur as the support crew had kindly brought barista coffee, buns, Gulliver for cuddles and our food for the remaining walking days. It was a fast operation though and the tasks we had to perform for turnaround were many and varied including payroll, emails, clothing exchange, meal restocking and menu planning. Poor Gulliver only got about 30 kisses on the head before jumping in the car and returning home.
The caravan park here served hot food so it was definitely a night for hot chips and no cooking. Plus cabin beds and a hot shower. The weather was good for drying wet things and a brilliant sunset ended a highly productive day for us. We love Port Rickaby (and our support crew)!
Day 21 GOLDEN NORTH
Port Rickaby to Port Victoria 23km (7 hours)
Somehow we still froze in that cabin. Probably missed a blanket on the bed after finding one in the wardrobe in the morning but the only consolation was hearing the waves all night just outside our cabin. Magic.
The trail hit the road initially before walking on beach for the rest of the day. It was cathartic to be back on the sand to find rhythm and chat the day away amongst ourselves. My feet had recovered so well after the little microsurgeries and they enjoyed the firm sand once again. We freaked a seal out that was sleeping in the seaweed on a remote section and as we approached walkers coming towards us from the other direction with a couple of gorgeous dogs we thought we would warn them.
As it turned out, we had bumped into walkers who were training for Larapinta and one was actually booked onto one of our Big Heart trips scheduled for next month. When this was realised, we stopped for a good chat and before we knew it, we had been offered a stay in Balgowan the following night with showers, beds and meals. It was an incredible moment where the jackpot had been hit on every level – we were not used to accepting this kind of gesture. An oath of Pay it Forward was taken. Phone numbers were exchanged and the hospitality wheels were in motion.
Our next stop would be lunch not far from our meeting with our new friends. The WTY shelter was inland at a campsite so we took the road in and broke for a meal here. It was beautiful sunny weather. The beach lured us back for the afternoon looking more and more swimmable as we rounded a headland. We crossed dune into Rifle Butt Beach (terrible name but absolutely gorgeous) and up again into Port Victoria. This last section had the feet a little unhappy about hard surfaces after so much beach and as we passed the golf club and boat ramp, we were glad to see the jetty and caravan park up ahead.
The kiosk was open so it was a great way to end the day with GOLDEN NORTH icecreams as these had become quite the favoured treat and the flavour list was discussed a lot on the long sections. With enough light to set up camp in the caravan park we were ready to enjoy the sunset. Linda had morphed into a hot chip seeking hiker (as much as us!) and took the liberty to seek the chips before we had even thought about showers or cooking dinner.
The funniest/not funniest part of our day was Ian getting stuck in the amenities block when he went for a shower. The pin pad lock had jammed and while Linda and I could hear some yelling while we were showering it wasn’t until I had gotten back to the tent to find a text message telling me he was locked in. I only just got him out using all sorts of door opening variations – it would have been a long night waiting for a locksmith! We wedged the door open and hoped that would stop the same thing happening to someone else after we reported it to the caravan parks after hours managers. A bit of drama to end the day with but thankfully we all landed in tents for sleep (some of us more wired than others).
Day 22 KIND BRUCE
Port Victoria to Balgowan 21km (6 hours)
A different day again today. We left Port Victoria along coastal trail and road before entering Point Pearce Community land with wombat burrows and farmland. The trail passed over roads and included a WTY shelter where we had a morning tea break.
Without knowing our exact location for this day, we had previously been invited to call into the Point Pearce Community for a meeting and with incredible coincidence and timing, we were able to arrive in time on foot. It’s important to note that an invitation and permit is needed to visit the Point Pearce Community. The signs ask all walkers to remain on the trail as it passes through Narungga private land.
After a lovely meeting and lunch, we headed back out to the trail.
But the day was young and we had even more to look forward to. Bruce had kindly requested dietary requirements and a roast chicken was on the menu. It was hard to contain our excitement. When we arrived the dogs, Pepper and Nellie, were excited to see us and us them. We had a predinner cuppa and sat with Bruce for an entertaining evening of stories, meaningful conversations and banter. Plus dinner was a winner. A delicious roast that we polished off (sorry to the dogs they really missed out on leftovers) plus hot showers and beds. We felt like royalty.
Day 23 DUNE CAMPING
Balgowan to Cape Elizabeth 23km (7 hours)
A massively beautiful sleep and we were warm. The gourmet breakfast blew our minds. Poached eggs on home baked (yes I will repeat) HOME BAKED bread. Plus filtered coffee and fresh bananas. We felt so spoilt and so grateful. Porridge was finally off the menu for today. We departed with full bellies and with huge thanks and gratitude to Bruce.
Initially it was a cliff top track out of Balgowan and while we missed the more scenic option that Bruce had recommended, we know that it would have been prettier than the trail we walked. We passed a couple of campsites at Tippera Rocks and Bamboos and decided to lunch at the Gap shelter about 11km in. The plan was to walk as far as possible today before hitting the swamps to camp.
Walking along the beach into the Coastal Reserve was interesting after lunch as we had loaded up on water for a dry camp. The sand was soft to start with which worried us as it would have been a slow afternoon but it improved and firmed up with little headlands ahead that rounded each bend on the map. Lots of dead cuttlefish, shark eggs, a baby puffer fish (still puffed up) and shells on display plus so many tyre tracks it’s a miracle any protected bird species could breed here.
The overcast conditions cleared as the day went on. In the end, it was full sun as we neared Nalyappa, the point that we would decide to end our day at. The sun convinced us to pop our feet in the water after we had set up camp in the dunes and OMG it was painfully cold. Hypothermic in fact. We watched seals and dolphins at high tide around the reef just offshore and sunset was divine. Our friends the mozzies decided to join us and it was a few happy and flappy dances later that we decided to call it a night and jump in the tent. We were too tired to dance any more today – the mozzies won.
Day 24 PEBBLES
Cape Elizabeth to Moonta Bay 18km (6 hours)
We accidentally slept in a bit – the birds were up before us!
The night was still and it was a chilly start again with frozen fingers and wet tents. The pack up was quick as we wanted to allow enough time to return home to Adelaide in the afternoon. We skipped breakfast and ate the surplus snacks we had with coffee and tea to get started. Dolphins came and wished us well for our final section. A fitting final serenade from our ocean friends.
It was high tide and the ocean was glassy. We negotiated rocks to get on the beach and around the Cape itself. Love a good rocky scramble! Within about 5km we had reached soft stinky seaweed and marshy kind of beach. Not realising the dune had swept behind the marsh we found ourselves having to jump a deep stream (knee deep) that was too wide.
One of us slipped in with one foot off the bank and another one of us tried to throw our pack over, JUST making it onto the bank. Both shall remain nameless. And it wasn’t Linda.
We spotted about 50 black swans spread across 3 groups – that was unexpected. We returned to the seaweedy beach hoping the sand would appear soon as it had become a bit of a workout since we arrived in the swamp. Coopers Beach delivered firm sand and we were able to catch up on lost time during the wet feet, boots off crossing.
With less than 5km to go, we realised Port Hughes had a kiosk that was open and our premature finish line celebration lunch was enjoyed here. Coffee, hot chips and you guessed it, Golden North icecreams. By this stage we had worked our way through the entire flavour list and were working our way back through our favourites.
This last section we covered in bright afternoon sun is still worth a mention despite the anticlimax finish line. It was a gorgeous cliff top trail from Port Hughes and then onto cute little beaches with pebbles that reminded me of sea glass. That was the thing about the beaches on this entire walk – each had their own quirks and own shells or rocks or features that made every beach unique and different.
Knowing we had only maybe an hour to go, it was a mixture of emotions thinking how far we had walked and just how interrupted our adventure had been over the past month. But despite the barriers, we stuck it out. It was far from perfect however we were so determined to do it and it was now done.
With no finish line to speak of nor shops or cafes open at Moonta Bay as we located the final WTY sign, I popped my feet in the sea, closed my eyes with a huge feeling of gratitude and waited for our cab to arrive…
Without a doubt this trail is a long distance endurance experience. It definitely requires an open mind to varying trail surfaces and feet that can adapt to the changes while carrying a full pack. When not hill fit, this is the trail to consider – we did not train for this and had not carried full packs in a long time prior to this adventure. It definitely hurt in the first few days and every time we set off with a full week of food. We were looked after by some incredible people during this month and we want to make sure they all get a mention here (in order of our walk).
Goldy at Yorke Peninsula Council
Linda and Paul Hurcombe
Point Pearce Community
Bruce at Balgowan
The Support Crew/In Laws: Tony and Jane Murphy and Gulliver
Walk the Yorke is a great way to see Narungga Country and learn about our First Nations people who tended the land and waters for thousands of years prior to invasion. The Yorke Peninsula is more than just fishing, surfing and holiday homes. The beaches here are stunning and varied featuring wild ocean, calm waters and prolific marine life that offers the ultimate connection to all things oceanic. The trail does not need to be walked in its entirety to appreciate all of this. Ticking off sections or walking the highlights gives you a chance to experience some of the incredible landscapes and beauty of this place.
Wondering how you can Walk the Yorke? Contact us for more info or check out our upcoming departures capturing the best sections of this coastal trail.
Big Heart Adventures is a commercial tour operator (CTO). Registered to lead walking adventures along the Walk The Yorke and throughout Australia and overseas. We offer fully guided walking tours and self guided walking adventures.
We look forward to sharing a Big Heart Adventures South Australian Walking Experience with you!