Ava Abiad is a gastronaut in the galaxy of food and wine. The Adelaide-based journalist has joined Wine Tourist Magazine team, where she is delighted to share her adventures amongst the vines.
The Eyre Peninsula is the elite fisherman’s basket in central South Australia -- the stronghold of the tuna and prawn industry, crawling with crayfish, home to endless oyster beds and the location of Discovery Channel’s “Abalone Wars,” a constant fight on the ocean floor between man, weather and shark.
These bountiful waters are made for the thrill-seeker, whether it’s on a surfboard, reeling in a monster fish or diving in to get up close and personal with the star of “Jaws.” This part of South Australia is home to more sharks per square mile than almost anywhere else in the world, dominated by the largest predatory fish species, The Great White, which measures up to 20 feet and 5,000 pounds.
Photographs By: The Lincoln Hotel
The largest settlement in the area is Port Lincoln, a 40-minute flight from the state capital of Adelaide. While the seas are treacherous in winter, summer takes the sting out of the otherwise chilly breeze and pours its shine over some of the world’s most magnificent beaches. Inland, vermilion outback sands stick to every surface, fading into green grazing land and porcelain beaches. The turquoise waters and abundant bays are ideal for sailing and taking in the serenity of rural Australia.
Along the short drive from the airport to the town center, stop off at Boston Bay Wines to set the scene for your summer escape. Gaze at cruising yachts on the harbor, with vistas of Boston Island and even glimpses of migrating whales. Do all this while lifting a glass, of course. The combination of terra rossa and limestone-infused soils of the Eyre Peninsula and the cool climate makes for ideal riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz varieties. The vines here are hand-pruned and blasted by the cool, moist air of the Great Southern Ocean. Visit the cellar door daily from 12 p.m. -- if the flags are flying, the wine is flowing.
During the summer months -- December to March -- Port Lincoln is a hive of activity for marine enthusiasts. The new year brings A Taste of Eyre Peninsula in Coffin Bay on Jan. 3 and the equestrian Ceduna Cup on the 16th. The Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival celebrates the art of the tuna toss (no laughing matter, they weigh up to 570 pounds) from Jan. 22-26, with plenty of gourmet galas and gatherings between the performances of pure masculinity. February 22-25 is time for the Club Marina Lexus Adelaide to Port Lincoln Yacht Race, the peak of sailing and socializing, and March wraps up with the Port Lincoln Cup and the Whyalla Snapper Championship.
With boating activities abounding, Calypso Star Charters’ Shark Cage Diving is at the forefront of sustainable tourism, receiving an Advanced Eco Tourism accreditation. Board at the Marina Hotel pontoon, pick up your coffee and set off to the Neptune Islands on a three-hour cruise. The Calypso Star is often accompanied by pods of dolphins and whales as it gets closer to Neptune’s New Zealand Fur Seal colony. Crystal-clear waters and plenty of seal hunting ground makes for prime shark sighting. In groups of six, you will enter the shark cage and survey the predators for 45 minutes. After your dive, you can retreat to the saloon and sample the fully-licensed bar. Chances are you’ll need to.
Breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are included in your fare. Depending on the action out at sea, you can expect to be back on land between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. that evening. (Visit http://www.sharkcagediving.com.au for more.)
If you’re game to go near the water again, a half-hour road trip lands you in Coffin Bay, the oyster capital of South Australia, where the molluscs can grow to the size of your head. Coffin Bay National Park is ideal for canoeing, picnics and coastal bushwalks. The northern beaches are a 4WD haven, with opportunities for anglers, campers and surfers.
1802 Oyster Bar and Bistro is situated on the Esplanade, overlooking the glorious bay and farms. 1802 serves oysters in more than 15 styles, but our top picks were the natural oysters topped with jalapeno sorbet or the Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir and cinnamon sorbet, crumbed and fried in crushed macadamia nut, and the grilled oysters with blue cheese dressing. Pick up your shot glass and down a Bloody Mary oyster shooter or Bellini, followed by a selection of local tuna, kingfish, King George Whiting or an extravagant seafood platter with local crustaceans and molluscs. Pizza, steak and Mediterranean meat dishes are also available if there are any fussy eaters in your group. (http://www.1802oysterbar.com.au)
If you’re looking to stay in the Coffin Bay area, go no farther than Almonta Park Lodge. Perched on a hilltop, the luxury lodge sleeps eight people who will have the pleasure of panoramic views of the Marble Range and the region’s iconic sand dunes. The kitchen is a gourmet chef’s delight, and the fireplace makes for a cozy escape in South Australia’s frosty winter. (http://www.almontapark.com)
If you have a penchant for long walks through aisles of lavender on your winery visits, make your way to Delacolline Estate Wines. Long lunches dominate Wednesday to Sunday, with a pop of woodfired pizza on Friday nights. You can expect to experience Pristine Oysters farmed in Coffin Bay, local Kinkawooka Mussels and the rest of the cast of “The Little Mermaid” prepared with Italian flavors.
Sunday breakfast is also big business here, with speciality dishes including a fluffy, cast-iron pot of eggs with bacon, grilled steak, poached eggs from on-site hens, salmon, ham and hollandaise and rhubarb-laden bircher muesli. (http://delacollinewines.com.au)
The wine list features the usual suspects of the Eyre Peninsula, including one of Delacolline’s most prized bottle, Maxine’s Wish 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. The lingering heat in the country earth ripened the fruit in their Port Lincoln vineyard to perfection. Follow it up with The Lady of the Hill 2008 Shiraz.
If it’s serenity you seek, the Eyre Peninsula has a few miles of breathtaking beachfront reserved for you, your wine glass and your freshly-shucked oysters. For advice on getting there, visit http://www.southaustralia.com/en/places-to-go/eyre-peninsula.