We had hoped to see plenty of wildlife while camping at Innes National Park during, but we never expected the wildlife to steal from us.
Home to more than 100 types of birds and 10 mammals, Innes (recently renamed Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park) is a sanctuary for native wildlife on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. It is bordered by the Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park which is rich with marine life, some of which can be seen from the shore. Together, the two parks’ most famous residents are kangaroos, emus, dolphins and whales.
4 Good locations to spot kangaroos
Kangaroos are common in the park and easy to spot if you are walking on one of the Innes’ many trails. They are used to campers, so just be careful what you leave out at your campsite!
Inneston Historic Walk
A mob of kangaroos was resting in the tall grasses near the old bakery of Inneston. Less curious of the humans than we were of them, they comfortably kept us at distance. The kangaroos were pretty active at dusk; however, if you are keen to walk the trail after dark (with a good torch) then you might spot some tammar wallabies. The tiny wallabies became extinct on the Australian mainland during the 1920s and were reintroduced to the park in 2004.
West Cape Headland Hike
The West Cape Headland Hike is an easy 30-minute walk around the West Cape lighthouse. It has spectacular 360-degree-views of the coastline, offshore islands in the Spencer Gulf, and inland across the park. We spotted two kangaroos on the out-and-back section of the walk (before/after the loop). It was an awesome image to see the kangaroo peaking above the scrub against the backdrop of the ocean.
Casuarina Campground beach access path
We spotted a mob of six Western Grey kangaroos on the beach access path from Casuarina Campground. The path cuts through the coastal dune system and the dune vegetation. While walking towards the beach, our path was blocked by a large kangaroo. It watched us approach with a mild curiosity before slowly joining the others in the shade of a bush on the side of the path.
Our group spent four nights in the Casuarina Campground on two neighbouring sites over Easter long weekend. On the Saturday night, our third night there, our friend was woken up by a noise outside their tent. Her momma-bear instincts kicked in, so she left the tent to investigate. She discovered a large kangaroo inspecting the non-perishables we had left in bags on the table, in particular the hot cross buns.
She was able to shoo the kangaroo away from the campsite, but in the process it knocked over some cans and managed to rip one of the hot cross buns out of the package. The noise from the cans woke up their toddler and the kangaroo bounded off through the fencing with the hot cross bun as a prize.
Easter morning, she retold the story while we enjoyed what was left of our hot cross buns. Later that day we spotted a kangaroo about a metre from the campsite. As we sat quietly, it approached our site slowly and eventually sat about an arm’s length away for several minutes before heading off into the bushes as the centre of the campground.
That night, we did a better job of hiding the food but our friend was woken up again, this time by two kangaroos! Apparently, the first one was so excited by his find the previous night that he brought a friend to with him to see what loot they could grab. They still made off with a banana, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as good as the hot cross bun!
Bird life, including emus, is abundant in the park. There are hooded plover and malleefowl, both endangered species. Pelicans and seagulls can be found in the park, as can ospreys which breed on the cliffs and can be seen hunting along the coast.
The emus can be hard to spot; they blend in so well to the surroundings. Their plumage is a brown outer layer with a sandy under layer that mirrors the brown grass and sandy ground in the park. They are also a similar height to many of the small trees and large bushes in the park. With their skinny heads which sit atop their long necks and bushy bodies, they could easily be mistaken for a branch sticking up from a bush. We did manage to see a pair near the visitors’ centre, but only because they were walking through a relatively open area.
Dolphins and other marine life
The waters of the Spencer Gulf are full of fascinating marine life. During the winter, it is possible to see Southern right whales, humpback and orcas. Fur seals, Australian Sea lions and dolphins are common most of the year.
Dolphin-spotting was easy during Easter long weekend. From the Ethel Beach lookout, we saw a pod of dolphins swimming just beyond the break. Another pod came close to the beach at Pondalowie Bay. The pod swam north and south along the shoreline for about half-an-hour before heading into the deeper waters of the gulf.
Dolphin Bay lives up to its name. There was a pair of dolphins swimming in the calm, shallow waters near the beach. At one point, they came within a metre of two teens standing waist deep in the water, much to the teens’ delight.
In addition to the dolphins, we encountered skates, a type of ray, swimming in the southern part of Pondalowie Bay. The strong tide in that part of the bay churns up the sand on the ocean floor, making the sand-coloured skates difficult to see. I was knee deep in the murky water when one brushed my ankle and foot. (I was out of the water shortly after.)
Innes lived up to its reputation as a place to see some of the amazing wildlife living in South Australia, but the skates and kangaroos made the visit an adventure.
Other posts in the Innes National Park Series:
Innes is located on the south-western tip – or toe – of Yorke Peninsula. It is about 300km, or a three-hour drive, from the City of Adelaide.
Driving is really the only way to get to Innes.
From Adelaide, head north towards Port Wakefield via the Northern Connector (M2) and the Port Wakefield Highway (A1). Keep left past Port Wakefield to take the Copper Coast Highway (B85) for a few kilometres before turning left at the roundabout onto the Yorke Highway (B86).
Continue to follow the Yorke Highway as it heads inland after James Well. Pass through Minlaton and Warooka, following the signs to Marion Bay.
Alternatively, follow the east coast of the peninsula for a bit longer, staying left after James Well to take the St Vincent Highway (B88). After Stansbury, follow the signs to Yorketown then head towards Warooka and Marion Bay.
After Marion Bay, the Yorke Highway heads straight into the national park.
There are plenty of excellent small towns on the Yorke Peninsula. However, even if you plan to head straight to Innes, with a three-hour drive you are probably still going to need to stop for fuel, food or the bathroom.
- Port Wakefield: A popular spot to stop, it gets very busy on a long weekend as it is the jumping off point for several destinations. Port Wakefield has several petrol stations and a few bakeries. Follow the long lines for the good ones.
- Ardrossan: Has a good bakery and a Foodland.
- Minlaton: Home to Watsacowie Brewing Company
- Port Vincent: Has a good fish and chips shop on the coast and a small IGA for essentials.
- Marion Bay: The last fuel stop before the park. There is also a pub.
Opening Hours and Fees
The park is open daily, except on Catastrophic Fire Danger days. It may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.
The Visitor Information Centre is open daily from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Vehicle entry fees apply per day.
Regular: $11 per vehicle
Concession: $9 per vehicle
Campers only need to pay the entry fee once for the duration of their stay.
Food & Beverage
There are picnic areas and BBQ facilities available. However, as a national park, visitors to Innes should leave no trace. There is no water or food available to purchase in the park, and there are no bins – visitors are expected to take their rubbish with them.
Innes is quite remote. Mobile phone coverage gets spotty in areas.