A RELATIVELY short 200km jaunt southeast of Adelaide, the Coorong, as it’s colloquially known, offers plenty for the off-road tourer.
The fantastic beach driving (the best access point is from Tailem Bend, off the Princes Highway) is an obvious highlight, but there’s also plenty of opportunity to throw a line in, with both beach-based and lagoon-focused fishing on offer (Coorong NP encompasses a lagoon ecosystem; the waters of the Coorong are protected from the Southern Ocean’s swells by the sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula). Salmon and shark are common catches offshore, while flathead and bream are just two species you have the chance to hook in the Coorong’s calm waters.
The ocean-beach drive (speed restrictions apply here, so be aware) is brilliant, but be sure to only tackle it at low tide and to stick to the section of beach between the low and high water marks. You can camp anywhere along the beach in this zone.
Alternatively, you can keep an eye out for post markers that signal a sidetrack that will take you to designated campgrounds on the other side of the dunes, offering a modicum of protection from the coastal winds.
The driving is relatively straightforward (don’t forget to drop tyre pressures), with the sand only becoming particularly treacherous after heavy rain. Don’t forget the ocean beach is a gazetted road, so speed limits apply – and use common sense, as people fishing, swimming and sunning on the beach means slow speeds are a no-brainer.
The beach is also shut down for a short period during spring to assist in the protection of hooded plover nests, so check the park’s website for the latest access info. This shutdown covers the section of beach running from the mouth of the Murray River to Tea Tree Crossing.
Finally, don’t forget some of the water crossings are also tide-dependent, so check the charts first before driving in those areas.
The Coorong’s popularity with visitors is reflected in the number of campgrounds in the park. With 14 to choose from (some are also 2WD-accessible, and there are a few that are boat-access only), spread from Barker Knoll and Godfreys Landing in the north and dotted toward the south along the curve of the Younghusband Peninusla right down to the southernmost, 28 Mile Crossing, there are plenty of options for two nights in this coastal wonderland.
Facilities are varied from campground to campground, with a number of these campgrounds offering access to bushwalks and the park’s many waterways for boating and paddling enthusiasts.
Boaters and kayakers will have a ball here thanks to the 150km of lagoon (the Northern Lagoon and Southern Lagoon are ‘split’ by Parnka Point that nearly touches the peninsula’s Hells Gate, linking up small beaches and the lagoon’s islands, such as Seagull and Wild Dog).
One bushwalk – Godfreys Landing, which is about a 3km hike of around an hour’s length – is boat-access only. There are numerous other short walks that are accessible to everyone, the majority of which are ideal for families as they usually entail only an hour at most and take you past a number of historic and natural sites within the park.
A great family-oriented short wildlife walk is the Jack Point Observatory Walk, a short 20-minute journey through sand dunes to a lookout positioned over the park’s pelican-breeding islands. Another nice one is the Lakes Nature Walk Trail, an hour loop that mixes in lakes, dunes and the ubiquitous mallee scrub.
For the more adventurous hikers, the two-day, 25km (one-way) Nukan Kungun Hike is brilliant. Located in the park’s southern section and running from its northern start point of Salt Creek (accessed via the Princes Highway) to 42 Mile Crossing down south, this trek passes by a chain of lakes that include Chinaman Well Lake (don’t forget to check out the short diversion of Chinaman Historic Walk) and has a number of bush campgrounds just off it.
You can even stretch the hike out another one kilometre and traverse the sand dunes near the 42 Mile Crossing campground, to reach the ocean beach.
Fishing is very popular in the Coorong, and with good reason: the same-named ocean beach provides easy access to deep channels near shore, while the lagoon contains Coorong mullet and mulloway. Note: fishing is not allowed in the marine park sanctuary zones near here, so check access and maps first.
Tight Lines: Is morning fishing best?
Add the fishing and bushwalking to the fact the Coorong is a haven for birds – more than 200 species, including numerous water birds, have been recorded here – and pile all this on top of the beach driving and sublime campgrounds and you’ve got an epic weekend (or longer) in the Coorong.