South Australia’s coastline offers tourists some of the most amazingly diverse experiences. From Kangaroo Island in the southeast of the state to the town of Ceduna on the north-west coast, visitors are treated to an endless horizon of white sandy beaches, uninhabited islands and sheltered bays.
And it just so happens True North Adventure Cruises is an expert when it comes to where to go and what to see on water and land along the South Australian coastline.
Each year, the luxury-cruise specialist takes guests on its flagship True North pocket cruise ship on a Southern Safari voyage of discovery, combining a unique mix of adventure, history and relaxation. It’s also a gourmet’s delight, with opportunities to sample the Barossa Valley’s finest wines, sumptuous southern bluefin tuna in Port Lincoln, Coffin Bay oysters and delectable King George whiting and blue swimmer crab from beautiful Streaky Bay.
For the more adventurous, there’s plenty of excitement on offer in the shape of cage diving with great white sharks off the Neptune Islands and swimming with seals at Stokes Bay. Guests can also picnic on the beach with only penguins for company, or try their hand at fishing for snapper and flathead. Or they can take a hike, strolling to the top of Pearson Island, while there’s always the option to take in the view from True North’s tenders as local guides point out the area’s unique wildlife.
The adventure begins – especially for wine lovers – with a coach pick-up from the tour’s hotel in the heart of Adelaide for a day of touring the famed Barossa Valley wine region. Wine has been a way of life in the Barossa since 1842 and the region actually incorporates both the Barossa and Eden Valleys, making it one of few areas in Australia to have neighbouring warm- and cool-climate growth conditions.
With more than 750 grape-growing families, many sixth generation, supplying quality grapes to more than 170 wine companies throughout the region, the Barossa is among the great wine-growing areas of the world.
The Southern Safari’s featured Barossa winery is Seppeltsfield, home to the world’s largest unbroken collection of fortified wines, a collection which dates back to 1878.
The winery is considered a national treasure and a living museum of Australian wine history and the visit includes a tour of the original 1851 Seppelt family homestead. In the Centenary Cellar, visitors can enjoy a private tasting before a sumptuous lunch at Fino, which is located in Seppeltsfield’s original bottling hall.
Following lunch is a visit to the JamFactory, a contemporary craft and design studio, gallery and shop where guests can interact with local artists and stroll through the gallery and shop housed in a renovated 1850s stable.
On the return trip in the afternoon, guests will visit Penfolds’s historic Magill Estate, nestled in the foothills of Adelaide and with views over the city. Magill Estate is the birthplace of Penfolds, with a rich history dating back to 1844, and visitors will indulge in a luxurious experience of storytelling and tasting.
The end of an exciting and feature-packed day will find guests onboard True North enjoying a welcome-aboard cocktail and settling into their cabins for the evening cruise to Kangaroo Island, one of the world’s last unspoiled natural refuges.
Much of the island’s native bushland remains undisturbed and more than a third has been set aside for conservation. Local wildlife includes some of Australia’s most iconic species, such as koalas, platypuses, echidnas, sea lions, penguins, goannas, kangaroos, emus and wallabies.
Geographically, Kangaroo Island is distinctly beautiful, featuring pristine beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, intriguing rock formations and sleepy seaside cottages.
Guests will enjoy a road trip to the island’s remote south-western tip and to Flinders Chase National Park. Features include the Remarkable Rocks, an impressive natural sculpture, and the stunning views from the boardwalk at Admiral Arch, where local seals frolic.
Returning to True North at Kingscote, guests will savour the first of many superb lunches as they cruise to American River. Curiously, this quiet fishing village is neither American, nor a river. The village is actually named after a group of American sealers, who landed here in 1803 and mistakenly referred to the narrow inlet as a river. The area is renowned for bird-watching and fishing, and guests will be able to chance their luck as True North will overnight in this stunning and tranquil anchorage.
The third day of the cruise will see guests explore the island’s north coast, where farmlands roll down to deserted sandy coves at places like Emu Bay, Stokes Bay, Cape Dutton and Cape Forbes. Activities will include snorkelling, beach combing and close encounters with seals and dolphins. This part of the coast is also known for its monster whiting, so guests will be encouraged to wet a line in the hope of catching something for the evening’s dinner.
The following day will see the Safari relocate north to the waters of Port Lincoln, with the hardier and more adventurous guests taking up the opportunity to dive with one of the peak oceanic carnivores – great white sharks. An experienced local operator will ensure guests can enjoy the experience in complete safety in a metal cage while huge great white sharks cruise the water within arm’s reach.
But if the idea of diving with giant sharks takes some guests outside their comfort zone, there will be ample opportunity to engage in somewhat less confronting activities, such as exploring the nearby Gambier Islands, where fishing is an option. Expert local guides will help guests try their chances hooking up to tasty whiting and snapper.
Other activities will include morning and afternoon sightseeing excursions to explore the local history and geography of the area.
Port Lincoln is famous as a major tuna fishing area, with the industry generating vast wealth on the back of lucrative Japanese markets. The prices paid for high-grade tuna can be spectacular indeed – fish prepared specifically for sashimi can command in excess of $150,000 per tonne. As a result, many local fishermen have become millionaires.
Fish farming has also become an important local industry – tuna, kingfish, mussels, oysters, abalone and lobsters are all ‘grown’ locally and guides will provide guests with an entertaining introduction to local commercial fishing and aquaculture.
An afternoon tour of Port Lincoln will round out the activities for the day, with guests enjoying a sunset sashimi tasting aboard True North, where they’ll no doubt recount the many and varied experiences of the day.
An overnight cruise will see guests wake the following morning in beautiful Coffin Bay. This part of the Eyre Peninsula is widely admired for its pristine beauty, featuring endless tranquil bays fringed with brilliant sandy beaches and surrounded by protected national parks. More recently, the area has developed a reputation for producing succulent oysters.
Guests will be invited to take a hike in Coffin Bay National Park, or visit the township of Coffin Bay, including the fully restored Mount Dutton Bay woolshed and the Kellidie Bay oyster leases.
There will also be the opportunity to join the crew ashore for a beach picnic on Gallipoli Beach, a beach with striking similarities to its namesake Turkish beach that spawned the ANZAC legend. It’s also the setting for the film Gallipoli.
After lunch, guests will enjoy a leisurely cruise to Greeny Island, a bluewater home to schools of monster tuna, huge Samson fish and giant yellowtail kingfish. Following a relaxing cruise around the island, guests will indulge in a feast of delicious True North-style Coffin Bay oysters.
The next day will see True North anchored off the remote Pearson Islands on South Australia’s west coast. The islands have changed little since they were first discovered by Matthew Flinders in 1802, and are well known for their giant whiting, big Australian salmon and succulent flathead. Deeper waters will challenge anglers in search of snapper, blue groper, bluefin and muscular kingfish.
Other optional activities will include swimming at the many inviting beaches and visiting local seal colonies. At night, the seals are known for catching fish attracted by the ship’s lights.
Next port of call will be the Franklin Islands and nearby Saint Francis Island. For something a little different, guests can join one of True North’s accomplished chefs for the morning to learn how to catch, prepare and cook the revered blue manna crab. The islands feature many sheltered bays and millions of shearwaters that nest in shallow burrows. Guests can spend the day exploring, fishing, snorkelling and diving as they prepare for their last night aboard True North.
The following morning will see guests disembark in Ceduna for light aircraft transfers to Adelaide and beyond.