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Marion Bay to the Flinders Ranges

...via Minlaton, Moonta Bay and Port Pirie

sunny 33 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

Since we had not seen Marion Bay itself on our way in, our first target was the bay. It proved to be a lovely arc of beach with clear blue sea. There was a short walk up to a high point from which we had great views in all directions.

Marion Bay and the Yorke Peninsula looked worth the trip after all!

Panoramic view over Marion Bay from lookout point

Panoramic view over Marion Bay from lookout point

Rocky coast on seaward side of the bay

Rocky coast on seaward side of the bay

View of cliffs on seaward side of the bay

View of cliffs on seaward side of the bay

The pier in Marion Bay

The pier in Marion Bay

The pier is long and was empty

The pier is long and was empty

Other than the drear drive between Ardrossan and Minlaton, the peninsula has been delightful and has lovely beaches as well as offering good fishing areas - so we are told. Not being fisherfolk we can't vouch for that but there did seem to be a lot of fishing boats and people with rods, so it does seem likely that it is good. There are so many other places of interest, even just on the 'foot of the 'boot' (the peninsula is shaped a bit like Italy) that we could easily have spent much more time in the area.

Acknowledgements to Mapcarta

Acknowledgements to Mapcarta

Right by Marion Bay is Innes National Park (9,200 hectares, running from Marion Bay to the 'top of the toes' on the map), not a park we had heard of but one which we enjoyed immensely.

Shortly after leaving the Visitor Centre, we were driving along and saw a large bird soaring above the cliff. We stopped, grabbed our cameras and recognised the bird as a beautiful osprey which was sailing serenely up and down the coast. We watched it until it dipped out of sight behind some rocks and did not reappear. A little further round we pulled into a camping site from which we hoped that we may see where the osprey had come down but our luck was out. However, we were able to look down onto a lovely tempting beach at Ethel Beach (named after the wreck of the Ethel).

Our friendly osprey

Our friendly osprey

A view over Ethel Beach

A view over Ethel Beach

Both Innes and Inneston are named after William Innes who discovered gypsum there and founded the town of Inneston as a base for the mining operations.

As it was by now getting towards lunch time, we drove on for about three kilometres and found a lovely picnic spot at West Cape. The picnic site looked over peninsulas (peninsulae?) and islands in Pondalowie Bay (Pondalowie is an Aboriginal word meaning 'stony waterhole'). The weather was fine with a light breeze. Pretty well all the park roads travel through low bush (known as 'remnant bushland), mainly acacia and melaleuca with scattered eucalypts. the road undulates a little but mostly follows a contour around the cliffs off the headland which forms the park. The slight variations in vegetation and magnificent views maintained our interest and enjoyment of the park, a real eye-opener.

Steve trudging over yet another dune

Steve trudging over yet another dune

Rugged coastline near West Cape

Rugged coastline near West Cape

Panoramic view from West Cape lighthouse to Pondalowie Bay (the roof is at the picnic site)

Panoramic view from West Cape lighthouse to Pondalowie Bay (the roof is at the picnic site)

Some of the flat islands formed from sedimentary rock in Pondalawie Bay

Some of the flat islands formed from sedimentary rock in Pondalawie Bay

Some leucospermum flowers, just to show there is more than I suggested above!

Some leucospermum flowers, just to show there is more than I suggested above!

We continued to the end of the road and climbed a small rise to look down onto Browns Beach (I can't find the origin of this name but would guess that it was named for an early settler). You may by now have gathered that we are not beach and bathing types but we do enjoy the scenery. Browns was tempting as it was just about empty, as so many of the beaches in this area seem to be. However, we still had much to see. On our way back, we stopped at Shell Beach where Judith walked on to the beach area while I looked for birds. At the entrance to the drive to the beach parking area is an old Shepherd's Hut (now leased as basic holiday accommodation) and I took some photos of that before looking across the road and catching sight of a bird on top of a tree. It turned out to be a new one for us, a brown falcon. I only managed to take a couple of photographs before a grey currawong swooped down and chased the falcon away - not a popular move Mr Currawong!

View over Browns Beach

View over Browns Beach

White-browed scrubwren near the parking for Browns Beach

White-browed scrubwren near the parking for Browns Beach

View down steps to fisherman on Shell Beach

View down steps to fisherman on Shell Beach

Some plants help to stabilise the dunes

Some plants help to stabilise the dunes

The old Shepherd's Hut

The old Shepherd's Hut

Grey currawong about to unseat the brown falcon

Grey currawong about to unseat the brown falcon

We had a quick peek at Dolphin Beach before pulling into a car park with the thought to walk to Royston Head. The head is believed to have been named by Matthew Flinders after Lord Royston, eldest son of Lord Hardwicke. We started along this route but at that time it was quite warm and the path was very uneven and exposed so and both of us had clear messages from our knees that we should skip this walk - and never mind what George would have said for once! We then drove to Pondalowie Surf Break car park where we walked along a boardwalk to a point where we had superb views over Pondalowie Bay. On the way back I stopped to try to take a photograph of a variegated wren, the first we had seen on the trip. When I got back to the car, Judith told me I had missed two young women strip naked in the car park ready to change into swimming gear. Two naked women versus one flighty wren - I think I drew the short straw that day!

Dolphin Beach

Dolphin Beach

Boardwalk down to Pondalowie Surf Break

Boardwalk down to Pondalowie Surf Break

Beach at Pondalowie Surf Break with abandoned boat

Beach at Pondalowie Surf Break with abandoned boat

About 9km along the road, we came to a turning away from the coast to Inneston Historic Township. We parked and started to walk along the track as a recce for the following day, when we saw more variegated wrens, this time only a little more co-operative. They are beautiful little birds and I hope we get some more good sightings before we leave.

A scruffy-looking variegated fairy-wren (sub-adult plumage perhaps?)

A scruffy-looking variegated fairy-wren (sub-adult plumage perhaps?)

A rusted relic on the shores of Inneston Lake

A rusted relic on the shores of Inneston Lake

Inneston Cricket Ground!  Not quite up to Test Match standard these days?

Inneston Cricket Ground! Not quite up to Test Match standard these days?

The following morning, we drove out into the park again but this time stopped just after the Visitor Station at a car park overlooking Stenhouse Bay and the site of the wreck of the Hougomont. My knee was giving me grief at that stage so Judith walked down for a closer look at the wreck from the jetty below (I had taken painkillers but they had not kicked in at that stage).

Stenhouse Bay with jetty

Stenhouse Bay with jetty

Judith on the jetty

Judith on the jetty

View from end of the jetty towards the old gypsum workings

View from end of the jetty towards the old gypsum workings

Part of the old gypspum mining area, which ceased operations in in the 1970s

Part of the old gypspum mining area, which ceased operations in in the 1970s

To quote from Wikipedia, "Stenhouse Bay was named after Andrew Stenhouse who was a principal of the Permasite Manufacturing Co. Pty Ltd, which held 'leases for mining gypsum north of Cape Spencer'".

The Hougomont wreck can be quite confusing. There was a Hougoumont which had a somewhat chequered career, including being the last ship to transport convicts to Western Australia. However, the Hougomont was named after the Chateau d'Hougoumont where the battle of Waterloo was fought but in the naming, somehow dropped a 'u'. This vessel was damaged several times at sea until finally in 1932 she was dismasted in a squall in the Southern Ocean. Her skipper refused offers of help and limped to Adelaide where the ship was assessed as being damaged beyond repair. Everything of value was removed and the following year, she was towed to Stenhouse Bay where she was scuttled as a breakwater.

Further along there was an area where we could pull off and wander through the dunes for a better view of the island known as Chinaman's Hat Island before continuing to Cape Spencer. I was really pleased that I was now able to walk as when we walked round the lighthouse, I looked down and saw what at first I thought was a large gull but it was a fabulous white-bellied sea eagle, what a magnificent bird!

Chinaman's Hat Island

Chinaman's Hat Island

Cape Spencer lighthouse

Cape Spencer lighthouse

White-bellied sea-eagle, as seen in camera

White-bellied sea-eagle, as seen in camera

White-bellied sea-eagle, cropped in

White-bellied sea-eagle, cropped in

View from Cape Spencer over Althorpe Islands to Kangaroo Island

View from Cape Spencer over Althorpe Islands to Kangaroo Island

Cape Spencer was named by...guess who! Matthew Flinders named this cape after George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer who would be an ancestor of the late Princess Diana. The islands offshore are called Althorpe Islands after Earl Spencer's heir. They shold be Althorp but an 'e' was added in error.

After that highlight (the sea-eagle), we returned to Inneston Historic Township but obviously at the wrong time of day as there were no fairy-wrens to delight us (in fact few birds all round), so we had our lunch sitting on a nicely positioned bench overlooking Inneston Lake. There is an old township here which relied on gypsum mining until the Great Depression saw the operations moved to Stenhouse Bay. We walked the two kilometre loop track around the township where there are some ruins and some reconstructed buildings, as well as many relics from the mining days. It was an interesting walk but we saw very little wildlife, probably as the afternoon was a bit warm and birds and animals had the sense to be in the shade out of sight.

Inneston Lake

Inneston Lake

Steve walking back from the lakeshore

Steve walking back from the lakeshore

Colourful vegetation by the lake

Colourful vegetation by the lake

Some of the derelict buildings

Some of the derelict buildings

Judith walking between a restored building and a ruin

Judith walking between a restored building and a ruin

Grey currawong

Grey currawong

As this was a Saturday, there were a few more people around but we were surprised to find the picnic site at West Cape empty, so a good place for a coffee break and to admire the scenery - including an osprey. After that little break we continued to Pondalowie Campground from which we had excellent views of the flat islands in the bay. These are great lumps of sedimentary rock which also form the headlands in the area. As it was a bit breezy by now, we drove round to the lee side and stopped to look at Ethel Beach where the wreck lays exposed on the sands below.

View from West Cape of the sedimentary rock forming the headlands jutting into Pondalowie Bay

View from West Cape of the sedimentary rock forming the headlands jutting into Pondalowie Bay

Another view of the flat islands in Pondalowie Bay from West Cape

Another view of the flat islands in Pondalowie Bay from West Cape

Fishing shacks near Pondalowie Campground

Fishing shacks near Pondalowie Campground

Panoramic view over Pondalowie Bay from the beach near the campground to West Cape

Panoramic view over Pondalowie Bay from the beach near the campground to West Cape

Ethel Beach

Ethel Beach

All that remains of the Ethel

All that remains of the Ethel

The rusting anchor from the Ethel

The rusting anchor from the Ethel

The Ethel, a three-masted iron ship, was en route for South Africa in 1904 when she ran aground in a storm. One man tried to go for help but died in the attempt but the following day all passengers and crew were rescued. Usually, the wreck is covered by sand but for the last few years, heavy weather has tripped away the and, baring the Ethel's bones for us to see. The hull collapsed in the 1980s, so she will gradually disappear.

On the way back to our villa, we stopped briefly at Inneston Historic Township in the forlorn hope of seeing wrens in the afternoon - they foiled us again (Alan & Barb in Launceston will be familiar, from when we all lived in WA and also when we visited them in Canberra), with my chases after photos of fairy-wrens which would often sit up behind me and watch me trying to watch them!

Our villa at Marion Bay with the Beast ready for deparrture

Our villa at Marion Bay with the Beast ready for deparrture

As we had decided to shop at Port Pirie before getting out into the Outback again, Gladys opted to take us to Minlaton and then up the west coast of the peninsula. I should add here that we do use maps but find that using a satnav saves the odd domestic dispute! On the way north, we stopped again at Minlaton but this time had a look at the statue of Harry Butler (not the wildlife bloke!) and his aeroplane, the Red Devil. We would like to have had a closer look at the Red Devil but this being a Sunday, the building was closed so we had to content ourselves with trying to take photos through windows.

Statue of Harry Butler

Statue of Harry Butler

Views of the 'Red Devil'

Views of the 'Red Devil'

Harry Butler was an early Australian pilot who became a World War I fighter 'ace'. The 'Red Devil' aeroplane is a Bristol M.1 monoplane and the type was the only monoplane to reach production during that war, albeit not for service on the Western Front. When Harry returned to Australia, he brought with him the 'Red Devil' and an Avro 504-K. In 1919 he flew an air mail run from Adelaide to Minlaton, the first 'over water' flight in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1922 he was seriously injured when he crashed near Minlaton and only flew again once. He died suddenly in 1924 of a cerebral abscess. His 'Red Devil' is the only surviving original aircraft of this type.

The route up the west coast was much more attractive and we stopped at Moonta Bay for a coffee break. This is a lovely area, although very different from Marion Bay. Some distance (and time, in case anyone thinks we only ever eat and drink!) after our break there, I looked for some green on the map not the satnav, note, looking for somewhere to have lunch.

I found a place called Clements Gap Conservation Park which had some nice bush but no picnic tables. However, just beyond the conservation area was a little church, the Clements Gap Soldiers' Memorial Uniting Church, beside which we parked in the shade of a tree and ate our lunch. Birdlife was quite prolific in the area but quite elusive, although I did find a group of white-browed babblers while I was looking at the site of an old school.

Moonta Bay

Moonta Bay

Clememts Gap Soldiers' Memorial Uniting Church

Clememts Gap Soldiers' Memorial Uniting Church

White-browed babbler

White-browed babbler

In the past there was a small but thriving township but the Church, which opened in 1926 as a Methodist Church, is the only building still standing. The school was used from 1892 to 1942 when the site was used for an American Army camp. Relics of both occupations are still on the site. The name, Clements Gap is thought to have been named after a shepherd in the area before 1880.

We continued to Port Pirie to stock up for our stay in the Flinders Ranges and then drove north to just short of Port Augusta and then north-east through some fairly ordinary scenery for some time before we started to get that familiar Outback feel. Our route then took us through some hills with well-wooded areas before we came to a plateau which was fairly bland in appearance yet with a charm of its own. Finally we descended to a more plains-like area where we found Rawnsley Park Station, overlooked by the Rawnsley Range, where we stayed in a very comfortable and well-equipped cabin. On the road to Flinders Ranges, we stopped to let some young emus cross the road to join the adult birds - although some hoon sped past us narrowly missing the emus. There really are some clowns on the road. Close to the cabin we saw peaceful doves and mallee ringneck parrots, very similar to the 28s with which we are familiar for our years in Perth. We looked out across the park to the sun setting on Rawnsley Bluff - a wonderful introduction to this great area.

Emus near the road on the way to the ranges

Emus near the road on the way to the ranges

Part of the flat, dry plateau

Part of the flat, dry plateau

Willy-willies were fairly common

Willy-willies were fairly common

Rawnsley Bluff taken from outside our cabin just after we arrived

Rawnsley Bluff taken from outside our cabin just after we arrived

Chace Range from the drive into the cabin area

Chace Range from the drive into the cabin area

A pair of Peaceful doves near the cabin

A pair of Peaceful doves near the cabin

Sun setting on Rawnsley Bluff

Sun setting on Rawnsley Bluff

Sun setting on Rawnsley Range

Sun setting on Rawnsley Range

Posted by SteveJD 15:01 Archived in Australia

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Great shots a credit to you both.Enjoy your stories..

by Kevin & Jasmine Thompson

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