"You're bonkers at your age swimming with tuna in the middle
of the ocean. Anyway, where exactly is this place?" mutters
We confessed it did seem a bit wild, although for us the
mystery was why, as regular visitors to Adelaide, we had not
done it sooner.
Port Lincoln had somehow managed to stay under our radar
until now. Maybe that's its secret.
Certainly, its slow pace of life was part of what made it so
No traffic lights, no parking meters or wardens, just
unspoiled character and enough buzz without all the glitz of
other holiday destinations.
Fringed by the blue waters of Boston Bay on the Eyre
Peninsula and wrapped in a cocoon of wildlife, there's a
hospitable ring to the name Port Lincoln. It is a place like
no other, 650km from Adelaide - remote yet still in touch
with the mainland. For the 15,000 residents living here,
finding such idyllic surroundings must surely have been the
Once a sleepy little village, today it's the seafood capital
of Australia and home to the country's largest commercial
fishing fleet driven by tuna fishing, king prawns, rock
lobsters and mussel farms.
Fortunes have been made and lost here - the fortunes, in the
shape of the multimillion-dollar mansions of wealthy
fishermen, are on display for all to see.
Indeed, Port Lincoln boasts more millionaires per capita than
anywhere else in Australia.
An inspection of the tourist brochures highlighted several
must-do experiences. Front and centre of the attractions:
exploring the booming surf beaches, touring aquaculture
industries, a visit to the blue tuna farms and swimming with
Day one and the weather had turned bleak, but determined not
to let this spoil the action, we headed for the
architecturally stunning marina and the heartbeat of Port
Lincoln at Lincoln Cove. Before joining our charter, it
seemed prudent to take a water-taxi tour to familiarise
ourselves with the harbour and the endless canals through
expensive real estate.
Marina Boat Cruises operates an electrically powered launch
that weaves in and out of the canals with quiet precision.
The helmsman's local knowledge proved invaluable, pointing
out the owners of the most expensive fishing boats, which
mansion was part of which multimillion-dollar divorce
settlement and did we realise that an abalone licence can
fetch as much as $8 million ($NZ10.7 million)?
In two short hours, we learnt more about the area than we
could have absorbed in a week.
Next was Adventure Bay Charters, from where we set out for a
blue-fin tuna farm owned and operated by the skipper, Matt
Waller - whose family have been farming the big fish for
three generations. An enormous circular floating holding pen
more like a giant fish-net stocking holds hundreds of
gigantic tuna that are impounded for months to be fattened up
on pilchards before being sold to the lucrative Japanese
market for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For those not keen to enter the pen, you can still feed the
fish with pilchards held with long metal tongs from the
viewing platform, or descend into an underwater observatory
to view the wetsuit squad swimming among the tuna swarms.
We tugged on our wetsuits, snorkels and fins and entered the
water with some trepidation. It felt as if we were
gatecrashing this fish frenzy. Tuna need to swim their length
every second to stay alive and move swiftly and deftly. We
were amazed at their ability to avoid colliding with us.
To them, we must have looked like lumbering tortoises.
Later, we dropped anchor at a private beach where the locals
were out in numbers basking in the sun. Welcome to Hopkins
Island. No sooner had we jumped over the side than we had to
share the water with dozens of sea lions. In an instant, we
were completely encircled and captivated by these intelligent
and playful mammals somersaulting, backflipping and swirling
around us with such amazing grace and speed.
Motoring back to the marina, we reflected on the remarkably
pristine state of what is one of the largest protected
natural harbours in the world. There was not a piece of
plastic or a bit of rubbish in sight.
The next day, we headed west to Coffin Bay, a 45-minute
leisurely drive from Port Lincoln, for what was to be another
Some say there's little to recommend the place beyond its
oyster farms and its remoteness.
At this time of the year, it's eerily quiet. There are only
600 people living here permanently, with most of those having
some sort of involvement with the oyster farms.
Despite the misty conditions, we board Coffin Bay Explorer, a
compact 12m boat, and with 11 of us aboard it's a rush to
find the best vantage point without being drenched by the
salt spray and persistent rain.
Darian, our tour guide, navigates his way past freakish
islands with petrified tree roots, mysterious rock formations
where seals and sea lions huddle, and deserted beaches
alongside the raw national park.
By mid-afternoon, the clouds began to clear and Darian
collected a basket of fresh oysters from his farm for a
tasting. There could hardly be a better afternoon than this,
10km from shore on one of the most stunning estuaries in
Australia and yet we're moored in less than a metre of clear
blue water. It's amazing how a good feed of shellfish can
Rain begins to fall again, and in the distance there is the
sound of thunder.
Returning to shore, we're all quiet, reluctant to break the
spell of tranquillity. This area is so beautiful and remote
and virtually untouched.
Dennis and Rosamund Knill were assisted by Air New
Zealand, Blis Travelguard and Southern Cross Travel
If you go
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to
Adelaide five times a week. Port Lincoln is a 30-minute
flight from Adelaide. Contact Air New Zealand Holidays on
0800 747-222 or log on to www.airnewzealand.co.nz.
Getting around: A rental car is the best
Where to stay: Port Lincoln Hotel offers affordable
Best eats: Sarins (modern Australian), Marina Hotel
(seafood), The Oysterbeds Coffin Bay (seafood)
Background reading: Adelaide and South Australia, by
Susannah Farfor, South Australia Horizons Beyond, by Tony
Further information: South Australia Tourist