Spirit of Eyre Peninsula 12-Day Cycling Tour
South Australia’s best summer guided bike ride
South Australia's Eyre Peninsula is one of those regions that should be added to the list of best cycling destinations in Australia if not the world.
So where is the Eyre Peninsula? If you take a map of Australia and fold it in half from east to west, Eyre Peninsula is the shark tooth at the bottom to the right of the fold.
Australia’s First Peoples have lived here for tens of thousands of years with archaeological evidence dating their occupation to greater than 40,000 years. By contrast Europeans first visited the region in 1802. The peninsula is named after Sir Edward John Eyre (pronounced "air") who in 1839, at the age of 24, was the first to map the land. His discoveries opened the region to settlers and by the 1870s much of the peninsula was being farmed.
Celebrated for its delicious and abundant seafood and adventure experiences, the Eyre Peninsula’s rugged and unspoilt coastline, historic towns and ports, national parks, gently rolling country and bike friendly roads make this a perfect destination for cycling.
Our bicycle journey starts in the century old frontier town of Ceduna on the ‘West Coast’ finishing 12 days later in Cowell on the Spencer Gulf. (See Travel Connections below)
Travelling mostly on sealed roads our 12-day biking tour keeps to the coastline following the Seafood Frontier touring route with a couple of detours into the interior. This is relatively easy terrain with some hills rising no more than 250 metres above sea level. Some of the points of interest that we will be visiting are only accessible using well-formed unsealed roads and these are outlined in the itinerary below.
Every Mulga tour is achievable by the average cyclist with the focus on enjoying each day, not stacking up the kilometres or racing the clock. Our goal is to soak in the scenery, marvel at fascinating stories, then recharge the batteries with a good feed and a good rest.
You’ll be struck by the Mulga difference!
What is included:
- 13 nights accommodation in 3 or 4 star properties
- Pre-tour accommodation in Ceduna (Monday 30 November, 2020)
- 5 x 2 night stays (so you do not need to pack each morning)
- All meals (except breakfast on Day 9, lunch on Days 5 & 9, and dinner on Days 1, 3, 5 & 9)
- End of tour celebration dinner
- Day trip to Coffin Bay with oyster tasting
- Transfer from Cowell to Adelaide at the end of the tour
- Hot/cold drinks and copious snacks from the support vehicle
- Daily photos to capture your memories
- Daily maps and elevation profiles
- Support vehicles every day - ride as much or as little as you please
- Custom-built support trailer for safe carriage of your bike and luggage
- Luggage transfer between your accommodation
- UHF radio link between yourself and the support vehicle
- Mechanical support (conditions apply)
- Tour guides - the owners of Mulga Tours are with you every day
- Find out … How to get to Ceduna and home from Cowell
Heading south east this morning we will be following the shoreline and exploring two coastal Conservation Parks - Wittelbee and Laura Bay, each prime examples of the original vegetation that once covered South Australia's western coastline. There is 23 km of unsealed road to Laura Bay.
From its earliest days of settlement in the 1860s and well before the development of a fast road network, the ‘West Coast’ was dependent on sailing vessels to deliver supplies and take the grain and the wool clip to Port Adelaide.
Before the port was built at Thevenard, Laura Bay was an important part of this trade where wool and bags of grain were loaded onto the ketches by hand. Until a jetty was constructed (removed in 1937) the ketches either beached themselves to unload their cargo before refloating at high tide, or smaller vessels were used to transfer the cargo to vessels moored offshore.
Today the sheltered Laura Bay, with its mangrove lined tidal flats, protects an important feeding ground for sea birds. The mallee behind the sand hills is a haven for many species of honeyeater, white-fronted chats, flocks of swooping swallows, galahs and several species of parrots.
Shortly after leaving Laura Bay we turn onto the Flinders Highway and head south for Smoky Bay.
The highway is named in honour of Captain Matthew Flinders (1774–1814) one of the world's most accomplished navigators and hydrographers. In January 1802 in the ship Investigator he began to explore and map the ‘unknown southern coast’ of New Holland. He is credited as the first to circumnavigate the continent and for suggesting the name ‘Australia’.
Flinders passed Smoky Bay on 6 February 1802 naming it Smoky because of all the cooking fires belonging to the Aborigines along the shoreline.
Oysters thrive in the waters surrounding Smoky Bay and the bay is an important contributor to South Australia’s Seafood Frontier.
After lunch we will return to Ceduna in the vehicles with time to explore the town.
Things to do in Ceduna:
- Ceduna Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre
- The Encounter Cycling Path and Pinky Point Lookout
- Ceduna Oyster Barn
Our morning begins in the support vehicles to return to where we left off yesterday at Smoky Bay.
Our riding route today continues south-east along the Flinders Highway through undulating cereal farmland and low mallee vegetation and on to Streaky Bay for a two night stay. We will be stopping for lunch in the small hamlet of Haslem.
Keep an eye out for the tall white grain silos as we approach Streaky Bay, a common indicator on the peninsula that a town is nearby. Streaky Bay is a pleasant bay front town and the business hub for an agricultural district farming cereal crops supported by sheep and beef. Fishing and aquaculture industries are also important, as is tourism.
Flinders named Streaky Bay on 5 February, 1802, due to the streaks that he saw in the water across the bay (caused by the reflection of light on seaweed or algae).
Things to do in Streaky Bay:
- The Streaky Bay Historic Walk
- Make an Appointment to see The Powerhouse Museum
- Visit Bayfunktion Café
No need to pack this morning as we will be returning in the vehicles at the end of our ride later this afternoon.
Our bike ride will take us through a mix of environments from untouched bushland and coastal dunes with abundant bird life, to salt lakes and cleared grain and grazing country. If you are lucky today you may even see a small flock of Mulga Parrots, the colourful bird we use as the logo for Mulga Bicycle Tours.
Our first stop is the small hamlet of Sceale Bay (pronounced Scale). On a warm summers day it is very easy to be tempted by the Bay’s wide sandy beaches and calm crystal clear waters.
Shortly after leaving Sceale Bay we leave the bitumen and join Calca Road, a good unsealed road (27km), that follows the 1880s mail route between Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay. Our goal is Murphy's Haystacks, an unusual outcrop of pink granite boulders. There are many stories behind their name, one tells of an agricultural expert from the early 1900s who advocated that to produce good quantities of hay farmers should harrow their land. Whilst travelling by horse drawn coach he noticed the rock formations in the distance and informed the driver and passengers that this farmer must harrow his land to produce so much hay. As the ‘haystacks’ were located on a property owned by a Mr Murphy, they became known as Murphy’s Haystacks.
Murphy’s Haystacks are one of the iconic symbols of South Australia.
After the short downhill run from Murphy’s Haystacks we turn onto the Flinders Highway and head for our final destination for today - Port Kenny.
Continuing south on the Flinders Highway our first place of interest will be Woolshed Cave that has formed in the coloured sandstone cliffs overlooking the Great Australian Bight. This is untouched coastline at its very best with sandstone cliffs topped with limestone and white sand hills. The cave is 6km from the highway along a well formed unsealed road.
Returning to the highway we head south again and for the next 25 kilometres we will be skirting the edge of Lake Newland Conservation Park, the largest wetland on the peninsula. Bordered by a very dominant range of white sand hills the natural saline lakes and lagoons are fed by fresh water springs and extend the entire length of the park. As well as the park preserving an important bird habitat, the wider area we will pass through is also an important Water Protection Zone, recognising the importance of the area to the Eyre Peninsula’s underground water supply.
Along the highway there are a number of old cemeteries, which are the only reminders of now non-existent settlements that used to service the road between Port Lincoln and Ceduna. One of these old town localities is Colton where there is only the old school house and church still standing.
Elliston, our destination today, is an isolated township at the centre of South Australia’s wild West Coast. Set on the shores of the spectacular Waterloo Bay with its quiet beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs Elliston is famed for beautiful sunsets. We will be spending two nights here.
We have no formal itinerary for today with the day being set aside for you to simply lay on the beach or explore the rich maritime, agricultural or artistic heritage of Elliston.
Things to do in Elliston:
- Go swimming in Waterloo Bay
- Walk to the heritage listed Elliston Jetty
- Walk or cycle the Elliston Coastal Trail and see the Sculptures on the Cliffs
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first – it says “Cycling Distance 122km”. Admittedly this is on the high side for one of our tours but it is not practical to break the journey up into smaller bites. Therefore to maintain our promise that “our bike tours are achievable by the average cyclist” we have plans to uplift the group over part of the route so we can all still have time to stop and explore along the way.
As we continue south along the Flinders Highway the landscape creates a feeling of isolated vastness. This part of the peninsula can be a very quiet place, it is beautiful but at the same time it seems uninviting. As you pass the road to Nowhere Else you cannot help but get the feeling you are travelling through a very lonely place.
But if you look closely you can see that European settlers have been working this country for a long time. Apart from the clearing of the land, the most obvious signs are the long drystone walls dating back to the 1850s. … They must have been very resilient to achieve what they did by hand so many years ago.
Leaving the west coast for the last time we turn inland along the Bratten Way and after a short climb (to 122 metres above sea level), we wind our way through a patchwork of brilliantly white salt lakes with uninterrupted views to the hills in the south. If you haven’t stopped to take a photo today you will now.
After the salt lakes the country quickly becomes gentler and more inviting and it is not long before the white silos appear indicating Cummins, our destination for the next two nights, is not far away.
Things to do in Cummins:
- Take a walk around the historic town and visit Railway Triangle Park.
- Visit Cummins Christmas Wonderland
- Take a break at Five Loaves Bakery
Rather than riding the bikes today we will be experiencing a “taste” of the region with a day trip to Coffin Bay. As well as the stunning coastal scenery, Coffin Bay is well known for its oyster growing industry.
The day will include:
- a visit to Coffin Bay National Park including Point Avoid
- a tour of an oyster lease with ‘Pure Coffin Bay Oysters’
We will return to Cummins by mid afternoon leaving time for you to explore the township.
We leave Cummins and turn south on the Tod Highway through prime grain country. We are heading for Wanilla Conservation Park, a Sugar Gum woodland which is an example of how the southern Eyre Peninsula looked before it was cleared for farming. Our side trip into the park, along 23km of well-formed unsealed road, takes us to a little visited hilltop (235 metres) with panoramic views along the spine of the peninsula. If the seasons have been kind, a profusion of wildflowers and native birds will hopefully provide an added bonus.
After lunch we re-join the Flinders Highway and head south-east for Port Lincoln. 20 km from our destination the highway follows a sweeping left and then a right bend through the middle of Big Swamp a nationally significant listed wetland. Common species include Cape Barren Geese, Black Swan, Australian Shelduck, Chestnut Teal and White-faced Heron.
Shortly after Big Swamp we leave the main road into Port Lincoln and continue along a narrower, quieter but hillier Flinders Highway to Winters Hill Lookout. This is the highest accessible point overlooking Port Lincoln and although the last kilometre looks challenging the full circle views from the top are well worth the effort. The trip to the top is not compulsory with views over Port Lincoln, Boston Harbour and the Spencer Gulf available from lower down. No matter where you stop to admire the view the reward for all the climbing is the 4km descent into Port Lincoln where we will stay two nights.
- Please Note: In 2019, Viterra Australia who handles much of the grain produced in South Australia, decided to freight the grain between Cummins and Port Lincoln by road, rather than by rail which had been the case in previous years. This has resulted in a vastly increased number of trucks travelling on both the Tod and Flinders Highways between Cummins and Port Lincoln. If this arrangement continues, for the safety of all our guests and staff we will uplift the group over the two sections of today's route being used by grain trucks. This is the only section of our 12-day route impacted by the extra truck movements.
- Port Lincoln Hotel
- You may choose to upgrade to an Ocean View room when booking
Port Lincoln is home to the nation's largest commercial fishing fleet and is famous for its seafood harvested from around the peninsula and in the Great Australian Bight. It is the uncontested Seafood Capital of Australia with a large variety of fresh seafood available in the cafes and restaurants including oysters, muscles, abalone, King George whiting, southern rock lobster and blue fin tuna to name a few. Marketed as South Australia’s Seafood Frontier this is definitely a town for the seafood connoisseur.
Port Lincoln is also home to one of Eyre Peninsula’s signature and bucket list experiences – cage diving with Great White Sharks. There are only two other locations in the world where you can have this experience and you do not need to have scuba qualifications to get wet. It is also possible go underwater and stay dry in a glass aqua sub.
If you would like to experience cage diving with Great White Sharks today contact Adventure Bay Charters. To avoid disappointment we recommend you book with Adventure Bay Charters as soon as possible.
Other things to do in Port Lincoln:
- Visit some of the many art galleries, museums and cafés
- Play a round of golf at the Port Lincoln Golf Club
- Taste some local craft beers at Beer Garden Brewing
- Indulge in the local seafood at one of the many cafes and restaurants
- Take a 30 minute Joy Flight in a Waco YMF5-C biplane
Our route today includes a scenic side trip, with 24 km of unsealed road, into the Koppio Hills before we re-join the Lincoln Highway for the predominantly downhill 22 km ride into Tumby Bay. Coloured gold in summer, the rolling Koppio Hills with their splendid gum trees and birdlife are not to be missed.
On our way we will be taking a break at the Tod River Reservoir. The reservoir was built in the early 1920s in response to the demand for water by the railway. The Tod River is the only stream on the peninsula with reliable flows, and for a long time the reservoir supplied drinking water to Port Lincoln. The demand for drinking water is now serviced by a series of bore fields throughout the peninsula.
Leaving the reservoir we follow the Tod River for a number of kilometres before arriving at the Koppio Smithy National Trust Museum for lunch. This is the Eyre Peninsula’s foremost early settlers museum and is built around an original cottage and a blacksmith shop that serviced the horse and bullock teams at the turn of the 19th century.
After lunch we will backtrack a few kilometres before riding to Bailla Hill with its sweeping coastal views over Spencer Gulf to the Sir Joseph Banks Group of Islands. As you take in the view look for the white silos of Tumby Bay where we will be stopping to inspect the silo art.
Things to do in Tumby Bay:
- Take a walk around town and see the amazing murals painted on buildings
- Walk to the Tumby Bay Lookout
On our journey around the edge of Eyre Peninsula you will find that nearly all the coastal towns have or had a jetty. Today the jetties are maintained for recreational purposes but they were first built to unload and load cargo. The Tumby Bay jetty has a similar heritage but instead of agriculture driving the need for its construction it was the discovery of copper at Lipson in 1868, 12 km north west of Tumby Bay.
We will be passing Lipson on our way to Arno Bay. In 1870 Lipson was destined to become a major town. But as quickly as the mine opened it closed and the town never got to realise its potential. Today, travellers on the Lincoln Highway seem oblivious to Lipson as they zoom past in their cars. We will, however, take a short detour to see what remains.
Lunch today will be at Port Neill, an attractive holiday destination on the edge of Mottled Cove.
We will be stopping tonight in Arno Bay, a sleepy little village and the smallest of our overnight stops on this tour. Its origins are as a busy port for the local farming districts but the port lost its importance when the silos were built in the 1960s enabling trucks to replace the ships. It is now principally a holiday destination.
A more recent business in Arno Bay is the Clean Seas Yellowtail Kingfish hatchery that produces fingerlings for its open sea pens near Port Lincoln. Clean Seas has become the largest producer of aquaculture Yellowtail Kingfish outside Japan.
Things to do in Arno Bay:
- Before the sun goes down take a walk along the 3km Arno Bay Mangrove Boardwalk. Winding through dense mangroves, mudflats and over samphire, the boardwalk showcases a special and not so obvious part of Arno Bay.
The final leg of our tour takes us inland to the township of Cleve, the regional service centre for the surrounding eastern Eyre Peninsula.
This is one of the oldest established areas on the peninsula with the landscape looking very different to when the first European settlers arrived. Today the only evidence of the original native vegetation is what is left growing on either side of the road as we ride from Arno Bay to Cleve. Sheep production and the growing of wheat, barley, canola and peas are very dominant activities with tourism playing a minor role in the Cleve economy.
After a lunch in Cleve it is time to turn east along the Birdseye Highway to our final destination of Cowell.
The highway is named after Sylvia Birdseye (1902-1962) an outback bus driver who in 1926 started the Eyre Peninsula Motor Service linking Adelaide to the West Coast before there were well formed roads. She would drive 3,200 kilometres a week and for townships like Cleve she provided an important lifeline with “Send it by Birdseye” becoming a household phrase. Sylvia was able to undertake any necessary repairs and it is said she could change a heavy vehicle tyre in four minutes … We are not sure we can change a bicycle tyre in 4 minutes!
Leaving Cleve, the Birdseye Highway skirts the edge of the hills providing views over the farmland and back to Spencer Gulf. After a short climb the Mt Millar Wind Farm comes into view indicating there is only one more climb before a well deserved 9 km downhill run into Cowell. The perfect end to our 12-day Eyre Peninsula bike ride around the edge of the Eyre Peninsula.
We’ll finish the day with an end of tour celebration dinner.
Things to do in Cowell:
- Take a walk on the Cowell Foreshore Boardwalk
- Visit Cowell's new silo mural
- Learn about and explore Cowell on the Cowell township historical walk
Today your tour ends at checkout.
Mulga Bicycle Tours is offering complimentary travel from Cowell to Adelaide. For more information see … How to get home from Cowell.
- Your booking fee is not refundable, but is transferrable with at least 61 days’ notice.
- Guests are responsible for choosing a trip that suits their abilities, fitness level, and state of health. See How Mulga Bicycle Tours Grades Its Tours for more information.
- Guests are also responsible for ensuring they are adequately and appropriately prepared both physically and mentally for the tour. If you have any health issues or doubts prior to the tour, you should seek appropriate medical advice and contact us.
- A list of mandatory safety equipment that you must bring with you on tour can be found in section 10 of our Terms and Conditions. We will ask to see your safety equipment prior to the commencement of the tour and we may also check it during the tour. If an item is missing or we form the view that a safety item does not comply, we may decide to exclude you from joining the tour or riding until you have acquired the necessary safety item or it has been serviced or recharged.
- We are unable to delay the start of the tour for anyone who does not have the appropriate safety equipment.
- We make every effort to stick to our plans, but tour details, such as non-riding activities, accommodation, menus, and sometimes routes, are subject to change.
- For the safety of our guests and staff Mulga Tours will cancel riding on days where we consider conditions are such that it is unsafe to ride. This may be due to high or low temperatures, high or gusty winds, heavy rain, low visibility or any other condition or circumstances which we consider makes riding unsafe. In these circumstances we will transfer guests to our next destination by vehicle.
- Fire Danger Rating. Mulga Tours will cancel riding on days when a fire danger rating of Severe, Extreme, Code Red or Catastrophic has been declared. On these days we will transfer guests to our next destination by vehicle.
- Guests must read all correspondence and information provided by Mulga Tours before and during their tour.
- Hotel credit card pre-authorisations. The tour price includes the cost of your accommodation each night of the tour. At check-in some accommodation providers may require you to provide a credit card pre-authorisation to cover expenses you may incur on top of the accommodation costs covered by Mulga.
- You may choose to hire a bicycle from us. The price of hire will be added to the tour price.