Walk the Yorke Trail
The Walk the Yorke 500km walking and cycling trail has just been opened (Dec. 2015) from the town of Port Wakefield to Moonta Bay in South Australia. It follows the coast in most places with lots of beaches to traverse by walkers. For bikes it follows the coast as near as possible.
The Yorke Peninsula, which is shaped like a foot, covers an area of approx. 5834 sq. km’s and has a population of around 12,000, which is boosted considerably in the summer holiday season. It consists of small towns and villages that service the holiday population, fishing industry and farming enterprises.
The trail runs from Port Wakefield around the coast to Moonta Bay, however we decided to miss out the first small section as well as the last, having travelled that way many times before. You could also call this the Seafood Trail as every where you go people are fishing for Squid and Whiting or chasing Blue Swimmer Crabs. At times we later thought of calling it a few other names then simply settled for “Sandy Bike”.
The link to a map of the area is here
We found some very basic maps on-line at the Visit Yorke Peninsula website and with a good knowledge of the area from our many previous trips, we set off on our Focus MTB’s and BOB trailers, with the intention of riding in the morning and exploring in the afternoons. Seemed simple enough, but was it ?
Day 1 Ardrossan to Pt Vincent. 50 km.
We had located a very helpful guy at YP Self Storage through the Ardrosssan Caravan Park and Mark was able to offer secure storage of our car for 2 weeks at a very reasonable cost. He knows the Peninsula well and offered to help us or any other walkers or bike riders on the trail. So keep his mobile number handy if you are on the trail (0419 822 301).
With the car stored we hooked up the trailers with each of us carrying about 12kg of gear plus water. We had been warned that there was a section of about 1.5km that was not open on the trail so we decided to ride to that point and then detour via road.
Our first encounter with the “compacted gravel trail” gave us an indication that this would not be such an easy ride. The trail is laid with gravel but hadn’t been compacted and the deep gravel made riding difficult. After the front wheel washed out a couple of times we opted to ride on the edge of the trail.
We came across the first of the new built rest areas for the trail.
What started as a nice trail then got “interesting” as we found some rather unusual sections of the trail.
Soon the trail arrived at a gully. It seems the trail stopped here but I’m not sure where it goes after that and following a sand track we could see our destination in the distance but this was not the trail.
Then climbing back up cliff I found the trail again at the top. It seems it stops one side of the gully and starts again on the other side. We found out later that this section was still being constructed so it should be much better in the near future.
We found some interesting obstacles. Landowners gates that partially blocked the trail entrance when opened and walking stiles on the shared walking/bike trail (not easy to get over with a loaded bike). Again this is a section that is not completed so there should be improvement in the future.
We looked at the closed section of the trail and diverted to the nearby road.
The journey continued through James Well and Rogues Point which are small seaside villages. We stopped at Pine Point for a late lunch at the General Store.
Then onward past Black Point and its’ sandy beach, following the old coast road into Port Julia and to Pt Vincent which was our first overnight stop.
We came across friends Ken and Janet who were staying in the Caravan Park so it was cold beers and good coffee all round.
The first part of the track is not yet properly compacted or leveled in some places and there where several unrideable sections before Pine Point. After that the Old Coast Rd is a quite good dirt/limestone road and traverses close to the sea making for nice riding and good coastal views.
Day 2 Port Vincent to Edithburgh 48 km
The trail follows along local roads until the walkers divert on a beach walk to Devils Gully Shelter.
We picked up the bike section on good secondary roads and headed the 18 km to Stansbury. Our lunch stop, in the centre of the town was at the highly recommended Blue Lime Cafe, which is a great place to watch the world go by (slowly).
After refueling it was onward with good trails and local roads to Wool Bay and then past the wheat silos of Port Giles.
The track is along the cliffs for much of the way and we had the choice of following it as it meandered along the cliff tops or follow the unsealed road next to it.
Coobowie was the next stop to see what remains of the General Store after a recent fire. Not much left !. Here we join onto the Coobowie to Edithburgh walking trail which keeps you off of the main road. At Edithburgh we hit the Location Cafe, in the main street, for a late afternoon snack and good coffee. We camped at the Edithburgh Caravan Park on a nice grassed site and explored along the jetty precinct and nearby coastline, with a strengthening SE wind.
This part of the track is very well signposted and follows along interesting bush areas with many opportunities to view the coastline. There are also many signs along the way giving details of the history,flora and fauna etc. The track is not well compacted in many areas but certainly infinitely better than Day 1.
Day 3 Edithburgh to Pt Moorowie 35 km.
We left camp heading along the coastal track into a 25 knot headwind while watching the Wattle Point wind farm in action.
The map shows a shared path for walkers and bike riders all the way along the coast today with two short beach section for walkers at Sheoak Beach and Kemp Bay. We calculated that the wind would soon be a side-tailwind as we left Sultana Point.
Ofcourse we hadn’t thought that the map would route us through a totally unrideable sand track that was often only 1 metre wide. The photo below was taken before it got bad.
We saw 2 sets of bike tyre tracks and wondered how they had got through. We walked the trail for a few hundred metres but found no improvement and our view from the top of a nearby sand dune didn’t show any sign of a good track. Without any track notes to guide us we decided to divert as this could be a 5km. sand track. We pulled out our own maps and backtracked to an unsealed and quite corrugated road that bought us past that section.
We were back on the WTY trail again and headed along the coast road to Wattle Point Shelter. We saw 2 cyclist coming towards us and found that they had made the bike tracks we saw in the sand section, the day before. They said it was hard going even with an unloaded bike but said that the track eventually opened out into an old 4WD track.
We pulled into the Sheoak Beach shelter for snacks and water refills. Hmm…not much water in this tank. There seems to be a design fault here…no drain pipe connection to the gutter.
The side wind was now howling and the sea was all white caps as we set off for Troubridge Hill Lighthouse. There was no sheltering from the wind along this section which follows the clifftop road. The wind was getting so strong that we were often pushed sideways across the road. Luckily we only saw 1 car on the road that day. We sheltered in the doorway of the Lighthouse for lunch with a good view of the sea and surrounding areas.
After lunch the wind shifted more to a tailwind and we made excellent time along the coast road to Port Moorowie.
Except of course the map and trail markers sent us off into the bush again. I walked along the “track” for a while and cant even find any signs of previous use and again it’s sandy and unrideable.
You can’t be serious !! I do a pretty John McEnroe impersonation.
I pull out our maps and worked out a path to Pt Moorowie.
There are lots of salt lakes along this section, many turning pink as they evaporate.
Today was a mixture of deep sand shared tracks, coastal roads and walking trails along the beach. Great views of the wild ocean and a mixture of wind conditions. Luckily we ride full suspension Mountain Bikes as often the roads where rough and corrugated but this is pretty normal on the Peninsula. The maps need work as some sections are not suitable for bikes.
Day 4 Mozzie Flat to Foul Bay 40 km
Today we rode the South Coast Road which forms part of the Scenic Way. The walkers take to the beach along Sturt Bay and Foul Bay. We got glimpses of the ocean along the road but it was mainly scrub along both sides of the road. We did see more traffic today with 3 vehicles, with madly barking working dogs in the back, passing us. Thankfully the wind had moderated and we spent a pleasant day along this recently graded road.
We had settled into a good riding routine by now with regular drink stops and time for Robyn to do her morning stretching program. A farmers’ vehicle with working dogs hanging out the back, passed us and all looked a little mystified at her morning postures.
We rode past the small village of Foul Bay stopping briefly at the Foul Bay shelter to air out our tent that was still wet from last night dew.
We wandered down the track and had a look at the walkers track that follows the beach.
…and then onto Hillocks Drive where there is a campground and store.
The track for walkers is interesting with long beach walks but bike riders stay on the coastal road. There are many opportunities to divert to the beach. The South Coast Road had been recently graded and the going was easy.
Day 5 Into Marion Bay 26 km
We were back on the South Coast Road again with a gentle tailwind and we quickly covered the 26km, talking about the bakery and coffee shop. The last 16km or so was with a direct tailwind and we took advantage of the good roads to get into Marion Bay township in time for a late lunch at the local eatery. Marion Bay also boasts a great Tavern, General store, Caravan Park and is the gateway to the Innes National Park.
We met the main road to Marion Bay and started thinking of our stomachs again. It’s funny how life on the bike revolves around food and coffee.
Refueled, we checked into the Caravan Park and wandered along the beachfront. Dinner was great pizza at the Marion Bay Tavern accompanied by a nice red wine.
We rode a well graded secondary road which is part of the tourist trail. The scenery was probably not rated as spectacular but we saw lots of wildlife. Kangaroos, lizards, crows, currawongs, black shouldered kites and wedge tailed eagles just to mention a few. There are also places where you can divert towards the coast to check out the seascapes.
Day 6 Marion bay to Gym Beach 30 km.
We know this area well and it is definitely the highlight of the trip. We explored some of the areas within the National Park and then returned to Marion Bay and took the sealed road for 10 km to the Gym Beach turnoff and then the dirt road 5 km to Gym Beach campsite.
We then took the unloaded bikes to the track that links Browns Beach and Gym Beach and forms the actual WTY trail connecting to Marion Bay. Although we had been told it was rideable with some sandy sections we found it would have been hard work fully loaded, but certainly a great day trip if you are in the area.
Here’s the start of Gym Beach Hike.
We followed the trail back towards Browns Beach after having dropped the trailers in the campsite.
It was then time to explore along the deserted beaches and have a swim to cool off.
We spent time wandering the beaches and enjoyed an early evening swim.
This is the best coastal section of the Yorke Peninsula so you should really think about spending another day here. There are sealed roads most of the way and the excellent unsealed roads through to Browns beach. We opted to have a look around the Innes National Park and then backtrack to Marion Bay where we took the sealed road to Gym Beach, however you may choose the adventure track from Browns Beach.
Day 7 Gym Beach to Corny Point 42 km
We returned to the Marion Bay Road as the walkers headed off along the spectacular beaches towards Daly Heads and then Berry Bay and Corny Point. This area is known for its’ surf breaks and Daly Head has been proclaimed a National Surf Reserve.
For us it was some easy km’s along the sealed Marion Bay Road before diverting into Daly Heads and Gleesons Landing. Unfortunately the surf wasn’t up to its normal standards due to the wind but it made a nice ride through open farming land to view the rugged coastline.
Sorry I had a camera problem so no photos until Corny Point.
In need of a good feed we hit the Corny Point General Store for burger and chips as well as cold drinks and coffee. We sat in a small shelter eating and conversing with the curious locals who were interested in the bikes and trailers.
We rode 2 km to the Caravan Park where we had stayed about 25 years previously. Dinner was just up the road at the Howling Dog Inn which is a very small tavern and eatery. It was named after reading notes from Matthew Flinders who explored this coastline. He had seen fires from the local aborigines and heard dogs howling at night. 203 years later the dogs of Corny Point started howling and continued for 2 nights before mysteriously stopping. So the tavern that was then being constructed became the Howling Dog Inn.
The track today mainly follows good sealed and unsealed roads. You need to go off trail to visit the Daly Heads area but it’s worth the effort just to see the rugged coastline. Further on is Berry Bay which is a great place for a relaxing swim or try a little bodysurfing if your up to it.
Day 8 Corny Point to Port Turton 32 km
Today we leave the walkers to a beach walk of 10 km or so to Burners Beach. We took the Corny Point Rd north to Burners Beach shelter. The road is a little corrugated but we made good time. There is a turnoff soon after the shelter where the walking and riding tracks merge onto a shared path.
We headed bush onto a narrow track that has lots of branches just at the right height to whack you in the head.
We seem to have lost the markers along here somewhere, probably while dodging branches or riding over limestone rock sections. I glimpsed a dirt track just a few metres away and with a little bit of bush bashing we are on a dirt farm track. It seems to head in the right direction so off we went, eventually finding a WTY marker on the road. Another few km’s and we come out at Pt Souttar where we joined the North Coast Rd.
From here the track follows alongside the road and we alternate between road and track finding the least corrugations. We know we are getting close when we pass the local swimming hole.
We arrive at Point Turton which is a small holiday town with a Marina boat ramp, Tavern and Bakery. We try to check into the Caravan Park but find they are booked out. Our friends Ken and Janet had just moved there for a week so we find them and Ken “the fixer” is able to organise a space for our tent in the park.
Again we are plied with cold beer and good coffee and decide to take a rest day here. A visit to the Tavern and the bakery is required with talk of award-winning Vanilla Slices and good Tavern meals. We were not disappointed.
The track follows the Corny Point Rd which although corrugated in places is good for riding. The same can’t be said for the start of the shared track as it needs lots of tree pruning to make it acceptable, but the track that we rode later was quite good. The North Coast Rd is rough but there is plenty of ways to find a smoother path using the road and adjoining track.
Day 9 Pt Turton to Pt Rickeby 52 km
The day starts well as we make one more visit to the bakery and then continue along the sealed road towards a turnoff to the beach that is shown on the map. Again I think the map is wrong as it shows that we join the walkers who have been on the beach since leaving Pt Turton.
Sure enough, we turn off onto a dirt road to find that it indeed leads to the beach. Nice views for a morning stop but not where we should be. OK, we backtrack and locate a marker where we should have turned. Of course this track is not on the map so we try riding along it for a while until it turns into a sand pit and my front wheel washes out giving me another unplanned dismount. I disconnect the trailer and try riding it unloaded but again the sand gets the better of me.
Out with our maps and we make it back to the Beegoodye Wells rd. After a few km’s we find the WTY markers reappear on our left so we dive into the scrub after them. We meander along the trail which runs on and off the road until we reach Hardwicke Bay, which is a small holiday village inhabited by a few full-time residents.
Not much sign of life here except one solitary tractor on the beach.
On the trail we are taken along a narrow road at the back of a row of holiday houses. Yeah, this would be great fun in holiday season. Narrow road, cars, tractors pulling boats and add a couple of cyclists. Of course we then have a parting with the walkers and are directed up a narrow path that is blocked by a log and onto a deep sand path which brings us back to the road we had come off. My only question is; Why?.
We decide to abandon the map as the WTY path heads off into sandy scrub again and pick up the road to Port Minlacowie and it’s WTY shelter. The area is site of another old grain loading jetty that was built in 1877 and demolished in 1971.
Onward along the good unsealed road to the intersection of Cockle Beach Rd. Here we are directed to a sandy 4WD track for the next 2km. Too sandy to ride so we push the bikes, knowing that we can divert at Watson Beach Rd if the upcoming Bush Track shown on the map is not suitable.
Great stuff !!. The bush track is a walkers path. Well not actually a path as such, more a walk along the fence line in sandy soil. Of course just in case you wanted to ride it, they have put in a walking stile just to make it just a bit more difficult.
I throw away the WTY map, which has 41 km per A4 page, and work out a path to the Parsons Rd and Bluff Rd intersection. When we arrive at the intersection we disregard the map again as it shows us taking another shared trail route at the back of sand dunes (Enough sand for today thanks!). We follow Parsons Rd which becomes Bamboos Rd and narrows to a 4WD track. It’s easy riding along this section and quite interesting bouncing over the limestone outcrops. We see lots of bird life and the burrows of many Wombats and find this a very enjoyable section.
Eventually we come out near the main road to Pt. Rickaby where we book into the local Caravan Park. We get a coffee to sooth the nerves and wonder what the track has in store for us tomorrow.
This section starts with some good track and then has a few problems areas that need re-routing for cyclists to even attempt. The map is also incorrect in places. An interesting day with some good views along the coast and some fun tracks and certainly a diversity of landscapes.
Day 10 Port Rickaby to Pt Victoria 22 km
Today the walkers again head for the beach and we head inland. The road today is reasonable with some corrugated sections. We opt to follow the WTY map again as it seems we head along a fairly simple path. We visit Bamboo Beach and pass the Wauraltee shelter before bouncing our way towards Pt Victoria.
The last few km’s are on a shared path on the coast and I decide to take another track.
We have visited the town many times before as we often kayak to the outlying islands from here. Our first stop is the General Store at the top of the main street where it’s coffee and lunch. We decide on a little luxury tonight and book into the motel which is part of the local pub. This is an ageing complex but it was clean and tidy and the publican is in the throes of renovating. We had a nice meal and a bottle of Goose Island Shiraz (named after an outlying island) while watching the sunset on the newly built deck. Highly recommended.
Now Port Victoria is not really a bustling metropolis even during the summer months, but even less so when we visited in February. You could shoot a cannon down the main street and not hit anyone.
…and here is the cannon you would use.
Day 11 Pt Victoria to Ardrossan. 51 km
We decide that we will return to pick up the car from here. The track to Moonta Bay crosses through the Nharangga Aboriginal Lands to Balgowan and the Pt Hughes/ Moonta Bay region and we have traveled that way before by bike.
So we hit the sealed road to Maitland with the wind at our back and the Bakery on our mind. After an early bakery lunch it’s back on the bike for the 27 km to Ardrossan and the end of a great trip on Yorke Peninsula.
That was 11 days on the bike and 428km. Some hard, some easy but all enjoyable. We didn’t cover every km. of the trail as we decided on a couple of re-routes, but we certainly did the bulk of it. The riding was actually quite good for what is a mix of tracks, unsealed roads and occasional bitumen. The limestone gravel will get better as it compacts and more maintenance work is done. The track is only newly opened and I’m sure the few re-route problems we experienced will be solved in the future.
The track tries to follow the coastline around the peninsula so there are no major climbs and the only really tough sections are the sand encountered in certain sections. You need to be well prepared as there are no bike shops along the route and many of the towns have limited or no facilities. On many days we saw few people, even in the small villages, so be prepared for all eventualities. You get a real variety of scenery from ocean cliff tops and sand dunes to Sheoak forests and open farm land and it’s worth planning a few rest days along the way so that you can explore the country side, especially along the bottom of “the foot”.
So plan a few days or a couple of weeks and get on your bike on “Walk the Yorke”. Maybe combine some walking and riding or just a few day trips and enjoy the scenery. It’s not over populated and the natives are friendly.
Hope you enjoyed the photos.
Ian and Robyn