Generally while touring I’ve got a place in mind that I either want to explore or just need somewhere to camp. But it was while I was heading south from Adelaide that I was drawn to the bottom of the Fleur Peninsula, not for the wineries ( although they looked pretty inviting driving past ) but for the fact that I may see Kangaroo Island.
Little did I know at the time, but the Fleurieu Peninsula is know for its stunning ruggered coastline, white sandy beaches, oodles of wildlife with a few spectacular campsites thrown in.
According to the map, the obvious place to head to was Deep Creek NP for a few days to explore and see what this area has to offer. Being only 100 km south of Adelaide it seemed the perfect option. Bookings are essential online and of course the usual problem was a very poor signal to book down the bottom of the Peninsular.
There are 5 campgrounds within Deep Creek so unless you’ve been here before its a bit hard to work out which is the one for you, and because you need to book online its a bit of gamble. My option was limited the Trig Campground, and boy I wasn’t disappointed. The Trig camp caters for all styles of camping right through to offroad vans where most are private in amounts huge grass trees or with gums screening the other sites.
There’s fire pits in nearly all the sites and several toilets around the camp ground, and if you're lucky enough to snag a site at the popular Stringybark campground they have hot showers. If you're after a bit more comfort, Goondooloo cottage is nearby that was built with ironstone walls, slate floors and tree trunk posts to portray an early settlers cottage, but filled with modern day comforts. It has large panoramic windows overlooking the windswept paddocks towards Pages Island and across the southern ocean.
From Trig campground, there’s several hikes through to local landmarks including Deep creek waterfall and you can cut across to the infamous Heysen Trail that heads all the way up the Flinders Ranges. In fact there’s 15 walking trails in Deep Creek ranging from easy too difficult and some provide spectacular views across to Kangaroo Island, Back Passage and the ruggered Creek Valley.
Two local Aboriginal language groups have a deep spiritual connection to the Fleur area, the Kaurna and the Ngarrindjeri both illustrate through their dream time stories on how the landforms were created. The two groups have lived here for thousands of years off the land and there are restricted areas that have significant importance to the groups and protocols are in place to protect their heritage.
Nearly all the roads into and around Deep Creek are 2wd accessible which does explain why the campsites are always busy, but there’s one track on the western side of the park that’s 4wd only, down to Blowhole Beach. Rated as a medium track for the sheer steepness and the rough rocky sections, its 4wd down and low 4wd back up - as per the sign.
A relative short 5km drive down to the carpark with unrelentless views across the straight to kangaroo Island, its a sheer magic trip to the bottom. They call this Backstairs Passage, a 14km straight of treacherous water between the Fleur peninsula and Dudley peninsula on KI. Very strong and dangerous currents flow through here connecting the Gulf Saint Vincent and to the open Southern Ocean.
What makes this sanctuary so special are the two deep submarine trenches they reach 80m below the surface and are the only two deep trenches in SA. They are unique with giant sponge gardens providing a huge habitat for an array of sea life making this sanctuary zone extraordinary as a refuge for the sea life. Chatting to a local ranger at the car park who was passionate about the area, said they often spot spotted seals, southern right whales and white pointer sharks in the bay below, it's all a matter of being there on the right day.
Also on the western side of the Deep Creek is the Talisker Conservation Park, where you’ll be blown away with some rich mining history. Silver was discovered here in 1862 by a couple of Scottish brothers looking for gold, and named it the ‘Talisker of Scotland’ after a place near their home.
Up until 1872 these mines were the largest producing mines of silver and lead in South Australia, and some even quoted the southern hemisphere at the time. After the minerals dwindled away, arsenic was discovered and was mined until it finally closed in 1925.
Walking around the old stone miners huts, mangers office, the old whim foundations and indeed the fenced off mines, the Talisker mines must of been a huge operation. Cornish miners worked hard across the years, transporting over 36,000 bags of ore to the waiting barges in Fishery Bay. The Cornish carried the bags of ore out into chest deep water onto the barges, then transported to ships in deeper water for transportation.
The mine site is truely amazing where the main mine shaft is over 130 m deep with eight levels connecting the other mines. The mine hit water at 132m deep and the pump struggled to keep the water at bay, so a connecting shaft was dug to act as a drain to let the water out, this can be found on the steep creek walk below the tailing mounds.
Along the trail, find the round kiln built in 1869 that was constituted to supply bricks for other structures. Other buildings such as a miners cottage, the managers office, the long stone flue, the round Cornish boiler next to the engineering shed can all be viewed on the interpretive walk around the hill. Allow a good 2 hours to wander around the 1.5 km loop.
After some time here I headed down to the settlement of Cape Jervis, which is the port for the ferries heading across to Kangaroo Island. Just before 1834, John Haynes established a whaling station at the cape employing 24 men where for a few years they were successful but when Haynes died his operation was sold off.
In 1850 only one whale was caught by another operator and subsequently abandoned. It was in mid 2000 evidence of old stone cottages and the former whaling station was uncovered at Fishery Beach. Fragments of whale bone, chimney and flue remnants were enough evidence to recognise this as the old headmans hut from the whaling days, which according to archaeologist is the only hut identified in Australia to date. There’s only a few stone walls left to find but projects are underway to preserve the site.
Across at the marina at Cape Jervis, the new unusual lighthouse was built in 1972 to replace the original much shorter round one built in 1871. The original light stood only 7 metres high and was fitted with a kerosene wick burner lamp, manned by two lighthouse keepers 24 hours a day. Over the next 100 years, kerosene lamps were changed to incandescent kero vapour lamps, then a gas flashing light in 1927 where the two keepers were withdrawn from service and in 1972 the new 18 metre fully automatic lighthouse was a built. The original base of the 1871 lighthouse has been kept as a memorial where it was originally built.
Its easy to work out the Deep Creek NP is all about nature, and along with the scenery the native wildlife is in abundant with western grey kangaroos, short beaked echidnas, over 100 different bird species along with whales passing by between June and October on their annual migration. Put this park on your to do list when in the area, it really has to be seen to be believed. #woolgoolgaoffroad
WHEN TO VISIT
Early spring or late Autumn would be ideal where the nights are cool with warm days, this would make for the time to explore the trails. During summer the temps hit anywhere towards 35 making the area and the hiking trails very uncomfortable.
WHAT TO DO
During winter and spring whales pass by on their migration to the warmer waters to give birth from the cool Antarctic waters, there’s plenty of vantage points throughout the park. Spend the day or days following anyone of the many hiking trails that create a network of walks across the NP. Head down the Blowhole 4wd track and explore the coastline, spot marine life or throw a line in. Spend the day at the old Talisker silver and lead mine, wandering around the ruins. Explore the history at Cape Jervis light house.