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 3 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.
So our brief little return to Adelaide for work meant a longish car drive for our support crew who dropped us back just outside Dhilba Guraanda – Innes National Park. A session of carbing up was in order and the Marion Bay Tavern delivered a fast lunch. We somehow dodged the showers while in the pub and by mid-afternoon had our tent up just before the rain settled in for a few hours. It was a very slippery campground at Stenhouse Bay and note to tent campers, you will need a drill to get your tent pegs in. We pick up our End to End adventure from here…..
Day 15 EMUS
Stenhouse Bay to Shell Beach 23km (7 hours)
Our coldest night yet on the trail so far. A freezing night but oh so lovely to be right by the symphony of waves again hitting Little Emu Beach. With a very wet pack up we were slow to get on the trail. Much of today would be a rarity on Walk the Yorke – inland walking on bush trails. This was also a step back in time as we covered the historical epicentre of the gypsum mining times that tell a story of life in the early 1900’s in the bustling little towns of Stenhouse Bay and Inneston.
Nature really turned on a show with climbing sundews, fungi, mallee woodland and tiny spider webs amongst the green mossy soil all in drippy dewy sunshine. It felt nice to be with the trees. We also spotted a Mallee Fowl nest (empty) and emus who were not expecting humans and did a fluffy bum dance while trying to retreat. We had faffed a lot this morning with getting ready and then took time choosing from various trails that all reach the same spot to Inneston, so time was not on our side in terms of getting to our planned campsite at Gym Beach.
By lunchtime we reached Pondalowie Campground where we ate a basic lunch and dried the gear so that we had a chance of a dry tent later. Having visited and walked here many times as a younger person and with our walking groups, the love and connection to Pondie is real. Though we faced a bit of stinky seaweed, the sooty oyster catchers were out, a few surfers too but our friends the dolphins were taking the afternoon off. Passing the familiar boat wreck turned art gallery, we sighed (and selfied) and headed up and over the boardwalk surprised that the regular residents were off on another adventure as well today.
We still had about 5km to go on the gravel road when we realised our spreadsheet that had been amended for the 8th time had an error on it and there was no way we would be able to cover the still 15km stretch to Gym Beach as we had left so late that morning. Having so many campgrounds in the National Park to choose from meant we could stop at Shell Beach or Browns Beach instead and call it a day.
When we reached Shell Beach we loved it so much we stayed. Camped under trees in grounds only suitable for tents meant no caravans or camper trailers. It was peaceful and we had it all to ourselves. The beach could be heard in the distance. With sunset on the way, we made camp weary and dealing with some blisters and squished toes after earlier sock and sole adjustments. It was soon realised too that deodorant had been forgotten and it was going to be a pongy stretch of walking ahead. This would allow underarms and socks to compete in the ultimate stink off.
Day 16 A GYM WORKOUT
Shell Beach to Daly Head 28km (10 hours)
What a gorgeous place to awake in. A still night and solid sleep. Winning. Sunrise was a cracker between the trees and with a big day ahead we woke early getting ready by headtorch. Initially we had a bit of gravel road to cover before reaching the trail to Gym Beach that hugs the giant sand dunes that threaten to eat up the trail. We encountered more emus with fluffy bums a flapping. The rains had created a beautiful nature show with moss and fungi.
With my feet giving grief, some blisters had to be pinned and socks changed by the time we reached Gym Beach. From past times walking here we knew what was ahead and it was a lot of soft sand that move the feet in boots differently to walking on roads. We clambered awkwardly down a rocky trail to Gym Beach and into the wind. The sand was soft and the waters choppy with a westerly and north westerly messing up the waves. It was a head wind and full sun. After seeing ourselves in mirrors over the break, we realised we had become a pair of pandas and tried to cover our faces using our Buffs as we weren’t carrying suncream.
Shells were everywhere here and cool ones too. It was hard not to pick them up. But the beach walk here was shortish really and as the tide was high it was up and over the dunes where the marker was laying on the ground and easily missed up top. Having walked this section many times on day walks we knew the cliff top and dune walking would be tricky with minimal markers and an undefined trail. Plus all the rain had created more vegetation that sadly we had to walk on to continue. It was great to see beautiful purple pigface and coastal bonefruit in abundance.
We negotiated a few fences and enjoyed spectacular views (this is really is an AMAZING section for cliff top walking) reaching the Formby Bay shelter for lunch and this was by far the funkiest little shelter and so much fun to sit under and take in. While clothes were optional, we kept our kit on (the wind was chilly).
We knew the afternoon was going to be a tough 7km soft sandy beach along Formby Bay. It was another dig deep kinda finish as the beach just went on and on. The benefits were a gym workout like no other. We came across what looked like a giant pile of whale vomit (might actually be decomposing whale blubber according to rangers) a couple of seals and 300 steps to get off the beach. What a climb. Once up top we still had a bit more walking before reaching our campground at Daly Head. Here the sunset would have to be one of the best we had experienced on the trail yet. The colours were amazing. We ate a huge dinner to match the huge day, retiring as soon as it got dark in our tents to recover.
Day 17 ARE YOU LICHEN MY ROCKS
Daly Head to Corny Point 30km (11 hours)
Ok so the spreadsheet and the Walk the Yorke maps led us astray today. It was a much further walk than we thought and while we had prepared for a 24km today it was really going to be 30km. We started early to another incredible sunrise (this was fast becoming a favourite camp spot) getting on the trail before other campers were really up and about. It was down to Gleesons Landing with another beach walk. The lobster sanctuary here was interesting too. Gleesons is also another campsite but we were glad we stayed at Daly Head, so much more scenic!
We hit another beach but this time it was sharp angled and soft sand – quite the effort to get to Swincer Rocks and with no markers, we took a trail that wasn’t too close to the edge and around the headland. There was a rocky slab that took us away from Swincer and back on the beach but this time a little firmer and easier to walk on to Point Annie. Even though it was windy we ducked into a bit of a swale in the dune and had a good lunch knowing we still had a long way to go. With no stairs off this beach it was a steep slippery climb out and then road walking as there were no markers even though the map showed a cliff top walk. My feet were already telling me they wanted this day to be over so I happily walked on the road until it turned into Gravel Bay. Absolutely stunning. This is where the rocks started to gain more and more of the bright orange lichen.
Cue the best section of the trail so far.
This was such a good little trail that skirted the edges of dune and hill and these brightly coloured rocks. So many beautiful shells and tiny beach after tiny beach divided by these boulders and rocks. I could have played there all day. We reached Berry Bay South and the tide was high. Very high and impassable. I was happy to take the stairs and just get off the sand. My feet were continuing their quest to annoy me on every level. Once we reached Berry Bay North, the trail become undefined dune trail with vegetation and at this point, we had to separate.
It was 3pm and we still had at least 8km to go on beach, dune and road – at our current pace this would mean we would arrive in the dark around 6pm. Ian would continue to follow the trail and I would just leg it to Corny Point. But this is where the map let us down – it makes Corny Point the end of a section but really its Dunn Point and Corny Point is another 4km up the road.
To turn this into a positive, by me walking directly, I was able to call in to the supplies store and buy food – I was famished and consumed an icrecream while waiting for the hot chips to cook. I also bought chocolate, crisps and more naughties as my feet were also telling me tomorrow was going to be a rest day (and eating day) whether Ian agreed or not.
As I left the shop I thought I would turn my phone on and tell Ian I had stocked up and we would reheat the chips when he arrived. I had also bought him an icecream too and hoped that it wouldn’t melt as I walked the last 2.2km to our cabin booked at the caravan park. A few minutes later I turned around to find a figure following me in the distance – it was Ian. He caught up to me (my feet had slowed me down to snail pace) and not realizing I had an icrecream for him (wife of the year award duly accepted) it was like all Christmases had come at once.
We staggered into the Caravan Park at 5.30pm and checked in. In my haste to stock up on food, I had forgotten batteries for my flat headtorch and deodorant. I also needed blister kits and needles to perform microsurgery on my feet. Thankfully the caravan park had these extras (phew) and we collapsed in our cabin to an incredible feast. We may have also purchased more icecream.
Ian agreed. Tomorrow we would rest.
Day 18 SEALS AND SEA TREASURES
Corny Point to Point Turton 30km (9.5 hours)
After a very restful day that involved eating half hourly, we realised our daily calorie intake was probably not nearly enough to match the daily kms we were covering. So our rest days were becoming feast oriented. In shame, I am not going to list what was consumed on this rest day but I will say, nothing was safe, not even slightly stale Kingston biscuits we had bought. The rain and wind also kept us indoors most of the day – another good decision to stay for 2 nights.
So with no real idea on whether my feet would cope with another “big day” I had performed a bit of microsurgery using a push pin and draining some of the bigger issues very carefully on my feet. The relief was fairly instant and as we toddled off on our way out of Corny Point and onto the beach, I had a feeling the intervention might have been a successful one. Feeling confident, we would aim for Point Turton.
The beach was loaded with head high seaweed and stench to match. I just could not stop picking up incredible shells – the tide being out was a blessing. There were giant whelks, jellies, corals and all kinds of sponges and seaweed. Talk about treasures of the deep. I was ridiculously lagging behind Ian and realised I needed to keep moving as the tide would want to come in (eventually) and we had a lot of beach walking today. At one point I could hear sheep baaing in the distance. Farming was never far away on this trail.
In competition to the lichen we had seen in the last section, todays rocks competed with a brilliant green that just glowed under the moody skies that threatened rain. We miraculously avoided the showers while under a shelter at The Pines and then almost stepped on a juvenile seal deep in slumber, camouflaged in seaweed on the trail up off the beach. Luckily it didn’t mind the camera either. But it was just sooo sleepy.
I did find a magnificently perfect large cowrie shell that absolutely made my day. In fact my year. This was going to be a coffee table centrepiece.
We continued along the beach after The Pines and noticed markers using tree branches – one was a memorial and the others we weren’t sure. We saw another seal (this one definitely not wanting a friendship) and we reached Burners Beach around lunchtime. With a Walk the Yorke Shelter positioned on the coast we decided to pop the stove on and enjoy the views of Galway Bay.
Galway Bay would be our final section of beach for today (18km) and it was upstairs and back on road and coastal paths through a short section of scrub for the final 12km.
Our feet adjusted to the new terrain with a few groans and with the scenery a little less interesting, we set our minds to the tavern in Point Turton. Showers blew past us in the distance and rainbows appeared. We did consider camping out of town but there was no water tank and we had not planned ahead enough to carry water for a dry camp so we walked to the caravan park. Sadly no cabins were available so we set up the tent as the sunset and the dew arrived early. The tavern was across the road and with no shame at all, we went in at 5.30pm for an early dinner. We were the only ones in there and we joked we would be finished before anyone else turned up. Great meals and service.
So how did we find this section knowing we had 1 week of walking to go…..
We LOVED the remote sections once we left the National Park even though at times they challenged us navigationally. The distances and times were easy to underestimate on the varying terrain and trail surfaces making for some big days of walking.
Finding solitude and peace amongst the crashing surf and waking to these sounds at campsites made this a memorable patch of walking. The sunsets and sunrises were awe inspiring and having no phone coverage forced us to return to the present. What a gift.
To be continued…
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.
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