This stunning coastal gem on the Eyre Peninsula lives and breathes the sea, writes Lee Atkinson.
At the southern tip of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula - the triangle of land jutting into the Southern Ocean between Adelaide and the Great Australian Bight - Port Lincoln has one of the country's most dramatic coastlines, fantastic wildlife-watching opportunities, and some of the best seafood in the country.
What it's known for
Port Lincoln is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in the southern hemisphere and is famous for its tuna. The annual Tunarama Festival on the Australia Day long weekend celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. The headline event is the World Championship Tuna Toss, when crowds gather to see who can throw a 10-kilogram tuna the furthest (the world record is more than 37 metres). You can swim with tuna year round on a three-hour tour to a pontoon in a bluefin tuna pen, where you can feed the fish. Tuna are one of the world's fastest fish, and the experience of having dozens of monster-size fish charging at your face at what seems like a million miles an hour is utterly surreal (and a lot of fun!). Adults from $80, children from $50. Bookings are essential. 1300 008 862, swimwiththetuna.com.au.
What you didn't know ...
It's not just the fish that are fast in Port Lincoln. Makybe Diva, the first horse to win the Melbourne Cup three times in a row (2003-05), is owned by South Australian tuna fisherman Tony Santic, who named her after the first two letters in five of his employees' names (Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane and Vanessa). There is a life-size bronze sculpture of the great racehorse on the Port Lincoln waterfront.
The new Port Lincoln YHA not only offers dorm-style backpacker accommodation, but a range of great-value private rooms with en suite for $105. The new purpose-built hostel features airconditioning, a large self-catering kitchen, a separate TV and reading room, a common room, and a themed bar named "scubar". yha.com.au.
If coming face to face with your dinner under water doesn't thrill you, why not try a cage dive with a great white shark? A full-day trip costs between $395 and $495, and you don't have to be a certified diver to do it. You may have to be certifiably crazy, however. Two companies offer shark-cage dive tours out of Port Lincoln: adventure baycharters.com.au and sharkcage diving.com.au. A less-scary alternative is swimming with sea lions. Known as the puppy dogs of the sea, they are insatiably curious, love to play and will often mimic your actions, diving and surfacing with you. Half-day tours cost $195 for adults, $135 for kids (they must be good swimmers), and are also run by adventurebaycharters.com.au.
Where to eat
The best place to try the local tuna is Sarin's at the Port Lincoln Hotel. Try it as a sashimi entree with wakami salad (a type of seaweed) or crusted with sesame seeds on a crispy noodle base for mains. Alternatively, you can opt for the EP (Eyre Peninsula) Seafood Tasting Plate, with Coffin Bay oysters, Port Lincoln tuna, local kingfish, mussels and squid. Open for lunch and dinner daily. 1 Lincoln Highway, Port Lincoln, 1300 766 100. You'll also find good local tuna at the friendly Pier Hotel, as well as plate-size schnitzels and steaks. Lunch and dinner daily. 33 Tasman Terrace, (08) 8682 1322.
Where to stay
The Port Lincoln Hotel is in the heart of town opposite Boston Bay, but pay extra to get an ocean-view room with a balcony, otherwise all you'll enjoy is a view of the car park. Ocean-view double rooms start about $175. 1300 766 100, portlincolnhotel.com.au. Thirty-five minutes' drive from town, Tanonga Luxury Eco Lodges has two cabins with knockout views of the 200-hectare property. Rates start at $310 a night for two people, with a minimum two-night stay. Charlton Gully, near Port Lincoln. (08) 8684 5066, tanonga.com.au.
How to get there
Port Lincoln is about 650 kilometres south-west of Adelaide via Port Augusta, or about 400 kilometres if you take the ferry from Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula to Cowell on the Eyre. seasa.com.au. Regional Express (rex.com.au) and Qantas (qantas.com.au) operate daily services to Port Lincoln.
More information visitportlincoln.net