OYSTERS as big as a plate, well almost, the freshest of prawns and tuna that can swim at speeds illegal on most Australian roads are some of the highlights of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.
One of the best ways to discover all this pristine coastal region has to offer is to take a road trip.
And it’s even better when you are behind the wheel of a sleek red Audi RS 5 cabriolet — on loan.
The triangular peninsula is bound by Spencer Gulf on the east, the Great Australian Bight on the west and the Gawler Ranges to the north.
Follow the coastline with the wind in your hair and the sun on your back and you can’t help but be impressed by the huge expanses of blue seas, rugged white beaches and azure skies.
It’s a place where you can also get off the beaten track and follow a dusty road to an isolated bay where you can be the first to leave your footprints in the sand and not meet another soul.
The beaches are often surrounded by national parks with lots of native wildlife such as kangaroos, emus, soaring eagles and rare native fauna species.
The Eyre Peninsula is, however, renowned for its marine life and it’s no wonder it is called Australia’s seafood frontier.
The pristine waters produce more than 60 per cent of the state’s seafood with a smorgasbord of oysters, prawns, abalone, tuna, rock lobster and other marine delicacies.
Port Lincoln, known as the seafood capital of Australia, is a great place to start a road trip.
Home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in the southern hemisphere, world-famous tuna and Melbourne Cup racehorse extraordinaire, Makybe Diva, it’s a colourful town.
On the foreshore there’s even a bronze statue of the mighty horse owned by South Australian tuna fisherman Tony Santic, who named her after the first two letters in five of his employees’ names — Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane and Vanessa.
The Port Lincoln Hotel, which overlooks Boston Bay, is a great place to stay and you can savour the fruits of the sea in Sarin’s restaurant, where the giant king oysters at $100 a pop are on the menu.
The large seafood platters are also popular but I settle for delicious Coffin Bay oysters and blue fin tuna. Next day I feel just a tad guilty about last night’s dinner order as I swim with the tuna.
The popular Swim with the Tuna Tour heads out from the Port Lincoln marina, where you can see the material rewards of the tuna and abalone industries with many impressive mansions lining the waterways.
It is quite eerie hopping into a pen of 50-kilogram tuna as they dart around at lightning speed, fortunately stopping just in front of you and changing direction.
There’s also an underwater viewing platform and touch pond with various marine life.
Continuing on our seafood trail we dine at Del Giorno’s Cafe, which is located on the Port Lincoln foreshore and has a reputation for great King George whiting and hiramasa kingfish.
It doesn’t disappoint with the freshest of fish and other seafood treats.
Next morning we hit the road under blue skies and warm temperatures and the new Audi lives up to its reputation as sheer luxury on wheels.
With the press of a button the soft-top opens and closes within 17 seconds even when driving at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
Like a child in a lolly shop, I can’t resist trying everything that opens and shuts.
It has a great sound system and the Beach Boys tunes the perfect choice as we follow the coastline.
Coffin Bay is our lunch stop and it is easy to see why the population swells from 500 to 3000 every summer — it is the perfect seaside village.
The pristine waters are ideal for sailing, swimming, waterskiing and skin diving.
Coffin Bay is known for its world-famous oysters, which are large, plump and tasty and appear on the menus of some of the top restaurants.
For a great meal The Oysterbeds cafe is recommended. Chef and owner Marion Trethewey’s menu is impressive and she has a great following.
Sitting outside enjoying fresh oysters and squid while looking at the view is a moment to be savoured.
Coffin Bay National Park is our next stop with its beautiful scenery and beaches where you might just see pods of dolphins, sea lions, fur seals and colourful birdlife.
Not content to just see marine life from afar we head to world renowned Baird Bay, where Alan Payne operates his much-awarded Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience.
Wetsuit on, face mask and snorkel in place, we ease into the blue waters of Baird Bay just as a group of playful sea lions tumble through the waves around us.
The cute mammals have a great time twisting and turning while other family members, hefty bulls, calves and pups watch from the shore and sea-ravaged rocks.
Next we move to where dolphins are often sighted and right on cue they arrive and again we slip into the water.
I gaze through the clear blue waters and see a group of bottlenose dolphins checking us out — they then resume their aerial antics diving through waves and simply having fun.
Baird Bay, which covers about 3800 hectares, is also great for bushwalking, bird watching, camping and fishing. We venture to Streaky Bay, another picturesque coastal township where the population also swells in summer.
And no wonder as it is home to long beaches where you can snorkel in sheltered waters along the foreshore, an eco-friendly golf course and walking and cycling paths.
Home for two nights is the comfortable Streaky Bay Motel and Villas, and it’s only a short stroll to the foreshore. For some of the best seafood head to Mocean Cafe overlooking Streaky Bay jetty and is a popular haunt with locals and visitors alike.
Chef Hardy Weyrauch and partner Margii Caldwell swapped seven years of hospitality in the Flinders Ranges for the seaside when they took over the cafe in 2008.
With a flourishing herb garden at the front door, they offer a great selection of seafood but it’s fresh fish and chips and the wonderful sea breeze that has me hankering to return. Our drive ends at Ceduna, known as the oyster capital of the world. We pick up a dozen fresh oysters and head to the end of the jetty to see what all the fuss is about.
Sadly reality sets in as the Audi is returned, but the good news is we have a supply of the Eyre Peninsula’s best seafood on ice to be enjoyed with memories of this colourful seafood frontier.
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