The Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park can be found at the very tip of the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia. With gorgeous sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and plenty of wildlife, this park is a perfect place to spend a few days getting lost in nature.
I acknowledge the Narungga people, Traditional Custodians of the land which this post is about and pay my respects to their Elders past & present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
The name of this park has recently changed to from Innes National Park to Dhilba Guuranda – Innes National Park and is co-managed by Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation (NNAC). For brevity the park is referred to as Innes National Park for the rest of this post.
Innes National Park is one of over 300 parks and reserves in South Australia. In SA, 21.5% of the total land is dedicated to National Parks. Check out the National Parks & Wildlife Service or even become a Friend of Parks South Australia and join in with their awesome volunteer conservation program.
Places To Visit
Innes National Park is filled with interesting places to visit. I spent 3 days exploring and they were action-packed! There were only a couple of things I didn’t see so you could cover everything easily in 4 days.
These are all the points of interest to visit in the Innes National Park:
- West Cape Lighthouse
- West Cape Beach
- Cape Spencer Lighthouse
- Stenhouse Bay
- Road View Point (see photo below)
- Pondalowie Break
- Pondalowie Bay
- Pondalowie Wreck
- Shell Beach
- Browns Beach
- Inneston – Historic Township
- Inneston Lake
- Dolphin Beach
- Emu Beach
- Ethel Wreck
- Roysten Head Hike
- Gym Beach
- Chinaman’s Hat
1 DAY ITINERARY
If you only have 1 day to spend in Innes National Park don’t miss these spots:
Stenhouse Bay + Coastal Walk
Road View Point
West Cape Lighthouse Beach
Cape Spencer Lighthouse
2 DAY ITINERARY
The best things to see in 2 days:
Stenhouse Bay + Coastal Walk, Road View Point, West Cape Lighthouse + Beach, Cape Spencer Lighthouse,
Royston Head Hike
3 DAY ITINERARY
You can cover most sights in 3 days:
Stenhouse Bay + Coastal Walk, Road View Point, West Cape Lighthouse + Beach, Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Royston Head Hike, Shell Beach, Pondalowie Break, Ethel Wreck,
Inneston Historic Town
Pondalowie Bay + Wreck
4 DAY ITINERARY
Stenhouse Bay + Coastal Walk, Road View Point, West Cape Lighthouse + Beach, Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Royston Head Hike, Shell Beach, Pondalowie Break, Ethel Wreck, Dolphin Beach, Emu Beach, Inneston Historic Town, Pondalowie Bay + Wreck, Browns Beach, Chinamans Hat,
Gym Beach Hike
Thomson-Pfitzner Plaster Trail Hike
Where to take photos-Innes National Park
The photo opportunities are plentiful in the Innes National Park. With parts of the coast facing different directions there are some great options for catching a fabulous sunset (or sunrise if you’re an early riser).
The turquoise waters have to be seen to be believed! The powerful waves are constantly sculpting the coast and forming sheer cliffs and fascinating rock formations.
The Cape Spencer Lighthouse was one of my favourite Innes National Park Photography spots offering spectacular cliffs on either side of the lighthouse.
West Cape Lookout is another top pick for photographers with the interesting metal lighthouse and a lookout with 360-degree views.
The cliffs at Pondalowie break were copping a battering from the waves when I visited making super impressive splashes that made for a great photo and don’t miss the Boat Wrecked on the beach at Pondalowie Bay.
Investigator Strait Shipwreck Trail
The Investigator Strait is the stretch of water that lies between southern Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. Between 1849 and 1982, a total of 26 vessels are known to have been wrecked in these waters. The Investigator Strait Shipwreck Trail was established to showcase some of the more prominent shipwrecks in this area. Download a PDF guide here.
Where to Stay
When choosing where to stay in the Innes National Park you have 3 main options:
- Marion Bay
The Innes National Park is so beautiful that you don’t want to leave. Well, you don’t have to if you choose to camp! There are 8 different campsites available which need to be prebooked ahead of time. All the info you need is here.
Marion Bay is right on the doorstep of Innes National Park and is a great place to stay when visiting the Yorke Peninsula. There is a big range of cabins available for rent. I stayed at Marion Bay Holiday Villas which was just $100 a night for a two-bedroom villa with all the necessities.
Inneston is a historic town which has abandoned buildings that have been restored back to their original charm where you can spend the night. Once a thriving mining town from 1913 to 1930 – today Inneston is a sleepy reminder of these bygone days. You can book your stay here.
Facilities, Vegan Tips & Eco Travel Tips
When visiting the Innes National Park you will need to be pretty self-sufficient. You will find public bathrooms (long drop style) at the campgrounds and at the car park for the West Cape Lookout and there are a couple of BBQs available at the Pondalowie Campground & near Emu Beach.
A detailed map showing all facilities in the park can be found here.
Waste & Recycling
There is only one rubbish & recycling station in the park which can be found near Stenhouse Bay. You will need to be prepared to take your waste and recycling with you so bring a couple of bags with you.
Eating Vegan in the Innes National Park
There is nowhere to buy food or drinks in the park so you will need to bring all your food with you. I stocked up on supplies before I left Adelaide which was lucky because the options are very slim in Marion Bay.
-There is one general store that had very basic food. I bought a packet of BBQ shapes and resisted buying a vegan Magnum which I was surprised to see there.
-One morning I ventured to Studio Surf which is the gallery and cafe of a local artist. The art was beautiful and I enjoyed a long black as soy milk was not an option.
– The Marion Bay Tavern has some vegan options on the menu is a really nice venue to mix with the locals and enjoy a beer after a hard days sightseeing.
If you are a coffee addict like me bring your own coffee making tools. I had my Aeropress so made my coffee to go each morning. A thermos would be a great idea to be able to make a warm cuppa throughout the day.
Eco Travel – Innes National Park
The National Park is home to many plants and animals and their habitat can be very delicate so always stay on the trails and be considerate around wildlife.
- Always take your rubbish with you and leave no trace behind.
- Walking and biking in the park are a great option to not produce any carbon emissions.
- If driving, go with a group as possible to drop your carbon emission per person and look into carbon offset programs.
How to get around Innes National Park
- By foot – Walk the Yorke
- Bike – Bring your own bike.
- Car – Entry permit for vehicle
Walk The Yorke
Walk The Yorke is an initiative by the Yorke Peninsula Council to connect the entire Yorke Peninsula with a 500km walking trail. The section that includes the Innes National Park is Marion Bay to Gleesons Landing which stretches for 53.1km. Walkers & cyclists are exempt from park entrance fees but as the walk is over 13 hours if you wish to spend the night be sure to book in advance. Download a PDF trail map here.
If you are after a more leisurely walking option there are some shorter trails.
- Inneston Historic Walk (1-hour loop, 2km)
This popular trail takes you back to the early 1900s and the gypsum-mining era. Interpretive signs tell the story of the close-knit community of Inneston. Beware of unstable ruins.
Access: just inside the gate at the Inneston car park.
- Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk (1-hour loop, 2km)
Follow the cliff tops through low, closed coastal heath. The spectacular views over Investigator Strait and the offshore islands are among the best in the park. Read the informative signs along the way to learn about the history of Stenhouse Bay.
Access: Stenhouse Jetty car park.
- West Cape Headland Hike (30 min loop, 1 km)
A short hike taking in spectacular coastal views across the Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park and off-shore islands. The loop trail helps you navigate through fragile coastal vegetation to the lighthouse at the head of the cape where you’ll have exhilarating views of the high-energy coastline.
Access: West Cape car park.
- Royston Head Hike (2 hours return, 4km)
You’ll have amazing views of the rugged peninsula coast from the lookout point on the cliffs at Royston Head.
Access: Royston Head Hike car park, along the road to Dolphin Beach.
- Thomson-Pfitzner Plaster Trail Hike (3 hours return, 7.6km)
This hike follows the old wooden railway line that runs from Inneston to Stenhouse Bay, with a series of interpretive signs depicting the local environment and history.
Access: just after the horse stable ruins at Inneston, or in the reverse direction from Stenhouse Bay.
- Gym Beach Hike (4 hours return, 11km)
A diverse hike through the unique flora and high sand dune areas between Browns Beach and Gym Beach. You may see a variety of birdlife and native orchids as you pass through the dense mallee vegetation.
Access: campgrounds at Gym Beach and Browns Beach. It can be taken in either direction.
Cycling is a great option for seeing Innes National Park. There is not an option for hiring a bike near the park so you will need to have your own bike or hire elsewhere.
I visited the park with a car and it was easy to get around and see all the sights. The maximum speed in the park is 60km/h and in some places it’s 40km/h. Be cautious of the wildlife. I saw many emus and kangaroos right near the road. Further into the park, near Pondalowie, the road changed from sealed to unsealed. It is safe to drive with a 2WD but if you are planning to rent a car for your visit be aware that many car rental companies will not allow you to drive on unsealed roads.
If you plan to enter the park with a car you need to pay for vehicle entry. Day entry into the Innes National Park provides access to all available areas including walking trails, picnic grounds and day visitor areas. Campers only need to purchase an entry ticket once for the duration of your stay.
Innes National Park Wildlife & Conservation
Innes National Park is a haven for birdlife. The most impressive bird has to be the emu which I saw plenty of during my 3 days in the park and I was lucky to see an emu with 5 tiny chicks on the side of the road.
Common Species: Brush Bronzewing, Brown Currawong, Emu, Rainbow Lorikeet, Malleefowl, Rock Parrot, Spotted Scrubwren, Red Wattlebird, Pacific Gull, Pied Cormorant, Black-Faced Cormorant.
Less Common Species: Australian Boobook, Painted Buttonquail, Cape Barren Goose, Osprey, Little Penguin, Red-capped Robin, Hooded Plover, Wedge-Tailed Eagle, Western Whipbird, White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Chestnut Quail-Thrush, Eastern Reef Egret, Fairy Tern, Little Tern, Peregrine Falcon, Shy Heathwren.
Check out this guide to birds in Innes National Park.
The only mammal I encountered was the Western Grey Kangaroo of which I saw many! There are some other mammals in the park which you may be lucky enough to spot:
Gould’s Wattled Bat
Chocolate Wattled Bat
Southern Right Whales
New Zealand Fur Seal
Western Pygmy Possum
Western Grey Kangaroo
Australian Sea Lion
The Tammar wallaby was once widespread across the Yorke Peninsula but became extinct on the Australian mainland by the 1920s. They were reintroduced to the Innes National Park, in 2004 which now has a growing population of healthy tammar wallabies.
Reptiles & Amphibians
Reptiles found within the national park as of 2003 included marbled gecko, mallee snake-eye, painted dragon, barking gecko, yellow-faced whipsnake, black tiger snake, eastern stone gecko, eastern bearded dragon, bull skink, eastern brown snake, four-toed earless skink, peninsula brown snake, southern four-toed slider, common scaly-foot, dwarf skink, western bluetongue, Adelaide snake-eye, sleepy lizard and prickly dragon.
I visited during winter so there wasn’t any reptile activity but in warmer weather you might have more luck.
I didn’t see much in the way of interesting insects but I have one warning: kangaroo ticks. I saw a warning for this pest at one of the public bathrooms which totally gave me the creeps. If you camp in the park be sure to check your self for ticks as they aren’t fussy and will happily find a new home on a human.
Innes National Park incorporates the largest remnant of native vegetation on the Yorke Peninsula. As of 2003, 333 species of native plants had been recorded in Innes National Park of which 115 species were of conservation significance.
Environmental Project – Marna Banggara
Marna Banggara is an environmental project to create a safe haven for native species. A 25km fence will be constructed in the lower end of the Yorke Peninsula encapsulating 130,000 ha, with plans to construct a second fence in year 10 (enclosing 170,000 ha). With the area closed off, measures can be put in place to reduce the populations of foxes, cats and mice and allow the native species to thrive.
There are plans to reintroduce a number of species which once were abundant in the area but became extinct due to land-clearing, farming and feral pests. Brush-tailed Bettongs (Woylie), Southern Brown Bandicoots, Red-tailed Phascogales and Western Quolls are planned for reintroduction. The project should also help boost the Peninsula’s population of Barn Owls which will help manage the mouse population.
You can learn more about this project here.
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