There’s a surprising amount of history in and around Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park. Known for its beaches, wildlife, and as a great place to camp, the national park also protects a variety of human and natural history.
Innes National Park, located on the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula, has long been a favourite South Australian camping, surfing and fishing destination. The area was once home to gypsum mining operations and takes its English name from the mining company owner and developer, William Robert Innes. It was proclaimed a park in 1970 and has had land added to it in 1977, 1984, 1993 and, most recently, in 2020.
In September 2020, the park was renamed to Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park to mark the 50th anniversary of its proclamation as a national park and to recognise the new co-management agreement with the area’s traditional owners, the Narungga people. They have lived on the land of York Peninsula for thousands of years and maintain strong cultural links to the region.
Dhilba Guuranda means ‘Southern Narungga Region – York Peninsula’.
There are more than 40 shipwrecks on the park’s coast. Many of them lie on the ocean floor, attracting marine life and diving enthusiasts. Several historic wrecks are part of the Investigator Strait Shipwreck Trail. Interpretive signs point out their locations and describe the tragedies that brought the ships to their final resting place.
Several of the ships can be seen from the shore or are resting on the beaches at Innes, including the Ethel, SS Ferret, and O U Dog.
The sailing ship Ethel was built in England in 1876 and met its demise on the Yorke Peninsula coast on 2 January 1904. Bound for Port Adelaide, it passed too close to Cape Spencer in poor visibility and struck a reef, which damaged the rudder. During the night, the ship was driven broadside onto a beach – now known as Ethel Beach – but remained mostly undamaged.
The next day, the SS Ferret, a schooner steamship heading towards Port Adelaide, saw the Ethel and attempted to help refloat the vessel. Unfortunately, Ethel broke free in a strong wind and was flung back onto the beach where it was abandoned for good.
The wreck can be seen on the beach, though a large portion of it is buried in the sand. On a few occasions, a winter storm will wash sand away leaving most of the wreck exposed.
In a bit of irony, the SS Ferret is also wrecked on Ethel Beach. In November 1920, the boat left Port Adelaide bound for Port Victoria. As it passed through Investigator Strait, it was enveloped in a dense fog and lost sight of the area’s several light houses. After getting lost, it ran aground 200 metres from the wreck of the Ethel. The partially buried boiler of the SS Ferret can also be seen on Ethel Beach.
O U Dog
There is little information available on the O U Dog and how it was destroyed. It is not part of the Investigator Strait Shipwreck Trail.
Apparently, it washed-up on the Pondalowie Bay beach in about 2006 and has remained there ever since. Its rusted hull has been graffitied and makes for a colourful contrast to the white sand of the beach.
The Inneston Historic Walk is a 2km loop through the abandoned mining town of Inneston, located on Inneston Lake. Today, it is a ghost town, but several of the buildings have been restored and can be rented for short-term, self-contained accommodation in the park.
Innes is one of the few places in the world where you can see living stromatolites. Essentially living fossils, the 3,000-year-old dome-shaped structures are made up of layers of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and silt. The old layers become impregnated with calcium carbonate and become fossilised.
While the Bahamas and Western Australia are known for having stromatolites, they can also be found around the edges of several salt lakes in Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park. Since it is difficult to trek out to most of the salt lakes in the park, you can also see examples at the park’s visitor centre.
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.