By Mark Eggleton
Eyre Peninsula is big adventure country, the sort of place that leaves kids goggle-eyed with its wild seas, huge sharks and ancient ranges.
But Eyre Peninsula is also just plain big. A sharp triangle of rough-hewn ocean cliffs pointed like an arrowhead into the Southern Ocean as if offering giant directions to the next stop Antarctica. It’s roughly the same size (and shape) as Tasmania, and you’ll easily cover 500km driving from north to south and 400km if you’re crossing east to west at its widest.
Moreover, it’s Australia’s true seafood frontier. Over 65 per cent of the nation’s catch is reeled in or plucked from the region’s waters. Dine in some of the world’s more expensive nosheries and very often you’ll find green-lipped abalone, scallops, prawns, oysters or tuna sourced from the Eyre Peninsula. Yet while its seafood bounty can be savoured around the world, the best way to truly experience Australia’s freshest catch is at the source.
Mocean, Streaky Bay
Bush herbs and spices give creative native zing to fresh seafood, meat dishes and desserts at this iconic oceanfront restaurant set on a spectacular coastline.
“We like it fresh and local and we’re lucky in that we have access to seafood like abalone and whiting in Streaky Bay,” says chef and owner Hardy Weyrauch.
Things to look out for include local oysters dressed with finger lime and mint, lamb crusted with saltbush macadamia dukka, desert lime sorbet, and native apples in the twice-cooked chocolate soufflé.
On the menu from time to time too is a dish of stingray with sea salt and native pepper.
Not everything gets the herb and spicy treatment though, but even the pizzas are topped with as much local produce as the chef can source.
Mocean is on the Eyre Peninsula’s Seafood Trail. It’s the perfect place to sit outdoors and enjoy the views across Streaky Bay Jetty, the golden beach and the glassy bay.
EP Cruises, Streaky Bay
EP Cruises run whale watching tours out of Fowlers Bay between July and early October, but when the summer comes it’s time to join the dolphins and catch your own seafood in Streaky Bay.
It’s all hands on deck from this November when owners Rod and Simone Keogh launch a new five-hour Ocean to Plate Cruise.
“It’s going to be a real culinary discovery,” Simone says. “We will visit oyster farms and taste oysters, collect razor fish, and jump into the water and gather abalone and maybe some blue swimmer crabs too. Then it’s fishing for garfish and tommy rough and trevally.
“A chef onboard will prepare the catch sashimi style and there will be some cooked and preserved seafood too,” she continues. “It will all be paired with some great Port Lincoln wines.”
The company also runs bay cruises, bubbly and oyster cruses, family fun cruises and sunset cocktail cruises.
1802 Oyster Bar, Coffin Bay
With oysters being one of the star attractions of Coffin Bay, it’s no surprise that someone’s come up with the perfect oyster bar.
1802 Oyster Bar serves up 13 different types of oysters, including tasty variations like oysters served with a soy and wasabi dressing topped with pickled ginger. Or what about oysters topped with an icy Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir sorbet with a hint of cinnamon?
“Oysters are definitely a feature of our restaurant but we’re heavily seafood oriented in other ways too, like with our tuna, kingfish, local baby octopus, calamari, and sea urchin when we can get it,” says owner Ben Catterall. “We also have steaks to satisfy the farmers from the inland.”
Among the other taste-bud pleasers include a superb seafood platter for two, featuring Spencer Gulf prawns, oysters, homemade pickled mussels, grilled octopus skewers, blue swimmer crab, panko crumbed kingfish, seared tuna and lemon pepper calamari.
Pure Coffin Bay Oysters, Coffin Bay
Coffin Bay is one of the best places in the world to grow oysters, according to Linda Hanks, who owns and runs Pure Coffin Bay Oysters with her husband Chris.
“We have just a few hundred people living around here, we are surrounded by national park, and it’s 16km by boat to reach the open ocean through crystal-clear water,” she says. “It’s a very strong tidal system too, which means a lot of nutrients are swept past the feeding oysters.”
Pure Coffin Bay Oysters run tours of their property, which grows both Pacific oysters and the native angassi oysters in the bay. The angassis are flatter and have a stronger taste. They take about twice as long to reach maturity, Linda explains.
“You can taste the difference for yourself, you learn how to safely shuck them, and we explain the farming process too,” she continues. “A lot of people still think we catch them rather than farm them.”
Triple Bay Charters, Port Lincoln
King George whiting is what Peter Dennis targets with his paying guests on his fishing trips off Port Lincoln. However, if you want to learn even more about fish then you shouldn’t miss his Aquaculture and Sightseeing Bay Cruise.
First stop is a southern bluefin tuna farm, which houses around 2,500 wild-caught fish being plumped up for the Japanese market.
“They catch them weighing around 19.5kg and they are sold at 42kg after quite a few feeds of pilchards,” Dennis says. “They are caught in the Great Australian Bight and further afield and towed here in cages.”
This knowledgeable and entertaining guide then steers his boat through unbeatable ocean scenery to a kingfish farm.
“The fish are grown out from about half an inch long to 4kg in about 18 months,” he continues.
After creeping past a mussel farm for a look, and before heading back to the mainland, guests have the chance to taste some A-grade sashimi tuna while anchored off Boston Island.
Sarins Restaurant, Port Lincoln
People come from all over the world to go cage diving with great white sharks off Port Lincoln. Many of them stay at the Port Lincoln Hotel, which is home to Sarin’s Restaurant.
Here you can sink your teeth into another star attraction – the restaurant’s famous tuna rosettes.
“I use Japanese wakami seaweed layered in a Chinese spoon with a thin slice of southern bluefin tuna, some wasabi mayonnaise, and spring onion on top,” explains executive chef, David Pedro. “It’s one spoon in your mouth and thanks for coming.”
Other signature dishes include the sesame-crusted southern bluefin tuna steak with capers, and the slow-braised peppered goat legs with creamy mash.
You might find it very difficult to choose though, because the menu is just so varied and intriguing.
Sarin’s Restaurant has glorious views of the ocean from walls of glass, and a welcoming beer garden dining area too.
Del Giorno’s Café Restaurant, Port Lincoln
Good honest local seafood is what makes Del Giorno’s a hotspot in Port Lincoln.
Expect casual dining right on the waterfront overlooking Boston Bay, with a café feel during the day and a full restaurant set up come evening.
“We started off as Italian but we’ve evolved into modern Australian with a large focus on local seafood, as well as pizzas, pastas and risottos,” says co-owner Kris Bunder.
“We are proud to say that we use no imported seafood on our menu at all. Our oysters come from Coffin Bay, which is 52km west of here, and everything else is caught between there and here.”
Signature dishes include lightly-crumbed King George whiting, pan-seared southern bluefin tuna steaks, and a pot of mussels with chips and home-made mayonnaise.
The pizza marinara, with Spencer Gulf king prawns, southern calamari and mussels, make a big splash with its customers too.
The Fresh Fish Place, Port Lincoln
Head to the largest supplier of seafood in the Eyre Peninsula for a behind the scenes tour with tastings, run most weekday mornings.
Visitors get to eyeball the retail space with its many species of fresh fish, crayfish, smoked fish, prawns and oysters. Then they head to the processing area to see how the catch is received, packed and stored.
“We might be filleting tuna or yellowtail king fish and definitely King George whiting. You can learn how to shuck oysters too,” says Sandy Harder who runs the operation with her husband, Craig McCathie.
Following the tour you get to taste a range of fresh, and in-house pickled and smoked products. Pickled offerings include baby octopus, chilli and lime torpedo squid, lobster, and sand crab. Smoked seafood includes Coffin Bay oysters, mussels and king prawns.
The Fresh Fish Place also runs popular cooking classes once a month.
You can fall into a nice comfortable bed after a meal at this bistro overlooking the waterfront. The sunsets from the wall to ceiling windows or the patio can be spectacular, and sometimes you can even watch sea lions playing in the water as you eat.
“We basically serve good, home cooked, bistro-type food which is clearly good value for money,” says head chef, Mick Holien. “One of the biggest sellers is our braised lamb shank in a rich tomato and rosemary jus, but we also sell an enormous amount of local seafood, including Smoky Bay oysters.”
Other highlights include the local garfish in beer batter, the King George whiting, and the Boston Bay mussels in a tomato and chilli broth. The menu is extensive with lots of meat, poultry and pasta dishes too.
“We sell eight types of oysters, and two combination plates of either four types of hot or cold oysters,” he continues. “You can’t get better oysters anywhere.”
If you love seafood and enjoying the fruits of a day’s fishing then this trip courtesy of Goin’ Off Safaris is the one for you.
“We take people to forage for their own seafood, giving them the opportunity to collect cockles, oysters, abalone and fish,” says owner-operator David Doudle.
The experience includes beach fishing for large Australian salmon and flathead, and a visit to the award-winning Boston Bay Wines.
“We can also don a pair of waders and go out to the original oyster lease on Coffin Bay for some oyster tasting,” David continues.
“I also take people out to my secret location. We get kitted up and snorkel in about ten foot of water and pluck a few abalone of the rocks. Most likely we’ll have them for lunch.”
The tour runs from October to May.
Goin’ Off Safaris also offers local exploration tours, wine tours, fishing safaris, and cage diving with great white sharks.