Innes National Park

Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 19:15

Stephen L (Clare) SA

From rugged coastlines that have claimed many sailing vessels over the years, to the ruins at Inneston that was once an important Gypsum Mining venture, Innes National Park has many special feature to attract visitors into the area. If you are into water based activities, you will be rewarded to some great surfing locations as well as deserted beaches where you can cast your rod and try your luck at beach fishing.

Fuel Notes
The nearby town of Marion Bay offer all types of fuel and this will be more that enough for you to explore all of Innes National Park.

Supplies and Facilities
There are no facilities within the Innes National, but the nearby holiday seaside town of Marion Bay has basic supplies and fuel, while the larger towns of Yorketown and Warooka will have all facilities that you may require.

Time to Visit
Warm and sunny days during our summer months provide perfect conditions for camping and fishing or just relaxing on the many deserted beaches. Autumn months brings milder weather condition to the Park, with many perfect days for bushwalking and sightseeing. The Winter months bring wild conditions to the rugged coastline and winter rain transform the Park to a fresh green look, while Spring in the park will transform the 330 odd species of Native Plants into colour. So it does not matter what time of the year that you plan to visit Innes National Park, the Park is perfect 365 a year.

A valid entry permit is required to enter and visit the attractions within the Innes National Park. The permit can be obtained at the Visitor Centre at Stenhouse Bay, where friendly staff are on hand to answers any questions that you may wish to ask. For those that prefer to do the ‘Self Registration’, there is a small information bay where there are envelopes on hand to fill in with your details. Permits are must be displayed on the inside of your vehicles windscreen so Rangers are able to see the permit. The same applies for camping permits for any of the locations within the Park.

Innes National Park is noted for its wild and rugged coastline and its many secluded beaches that are perfect for surfing, beach fishing for the keen fisherman and just strolling along the beach. The ruins of the once thriving small town of Inneston reflect the areas Gypsum Mining history and a visit there could not be complete with doing the easy to follow Inneston Historic Walk. There are a number of other recommended walk in the park, as well as visiting the three Lighthouse that can be found in the park. Divers will be able to dive on the many shipwrecks that these waters have made a final resting place for around 40 sailing vessels and lonely graves for many a sailor.

For thousands of years, the lands around and including Innes National Park where the home and the food bowl for the Narungga Aboriginal people. Within this greater Narungga Nation, four clans were spread throughout the Yorke Peninsula. The Kurnara ruled the north, the Windera in the east, the Wari in the west and the Dilpa in the south. Like all Aboriginal groups around Australia, the area around Innes National Park played an important part in the Dreaming stories of the Narungga people and Corroborees and meetings were help to settle disputes and to share their Dreaming Stories, that were past down from one generation to the next. Following white colonisation of the area, so came disease and the general displacement of the Narungga people with the segregation of the groups. In 1868 the Morovian Missionary established the Point Pearce Mission for the Narungga and other Groups from other area, with the local Narungga people calling the Point Pearce Mission Bookooyanna, and the regions last full blood Aboriginal died in 1935. Narungga Aboriginal people still live at Point Pearce Mission, as well as other towns throughout the Yorke Peninsula and still continue to practice their culture, language and traditional associations with the land, with over 1000 words and phrases of the Narungga people still spoken today. There are currently 21 sites listed on the Central Archive for Innes National Park, being archaeological and burial , with one site listed as significant, relating to the the Ngarna creation Dreaming Story.

The first believed white person to visit the area and name many features in and around the Yorke Peninsula area was Matthew Flinders, who named Spencer Gulf and Cape Spencer in March 1802 after George John, the Earle of Spencer and President of the Board of Admiralty. The first unofficial settlement in the area was believed to have been round ten years before the founding of the free Colony of South Australia in 1836. This small settlement was by a group of sealers who were mainly escaped convicts and deserted sailors and were described as a complete set of pirates that raided many Aboriginal camps and kidnapped at force young girls and women as sex slaves.

The first permanent occupation by a white person in the Innes National Park area was by Mr William Burrage, who in 1847 occupied land in the Cape Spencer area for the purpose of grazing stock The land that Mr Burrage occupied became available for lease in 1851 and by 1855 he held two leases of land in the Cape Spencer area. With the increase in stock numbers came the pressures for more reliable water sources, so wells were sunk at Pondalowie Bay and Browns Beach. With increase volumes of reliable water, other sheep stations were established at Cape Spencer, Carribie and Stone Hut in the 1860’s.

With the discovery of copper at Moonta in 1859, the Yorke Peninsula saw a considerable increase of people that now lived on the Yorke Peninsula, which in turn affected the number of people and activities in the Innes National Park area. One very important piece of communications linked the bottom end of the Yorke Peninsula with the outside world, with a telephone landline being constructed in 1883 from Yorketown to Cape Spencer via Cable Bay. This may seen nothing special, but it must be remembered that the telephone had only been invented for only 10 years before the construction of the line.

An important industry that started in the area in 1889, was the mining of Gypsum from Marion Lake and the construction of the first stage of the Marion Bay jetty and eventually had two steam locomotives and seventy small side tipping tracks to cart the gypsum from he mine site to the jetty for transportation to the outside world by ships. In 1913 the Permasite Company from Melbourne took up several mining lease for the purpose of mining gypsum at Inneston Lake. The company was owned by Messes G Bell, A Stenhouse and W Innes and they went on to name the nearby Stenhouse Bay and built the 200 metre Stenhouse Bay jetty, which eventually went on to have fourteen one ton horse drawn wagons that brought the gypsum from the Inneston Lake mine along a wooden tramway to Stenhouse Bay jetty, where it was loaded onto sailing ships.

The gypsum industry was flourishing and by the early 1900’s, there were approximately 150 living in the small community at Inneston Lake that had a public hall, butcher, bank, post office and bakery, as well as public tennis courts and cricket pitch. Even at this early stage, there were a number of building that had electricity connected and in 1916 a plaster factory was constructed from local limestone and in 1927 Inneston was officially proclaimed a town. The mining of gypsum was the backbone of employment at Inneston Lake and between 1905 and 1973, over 6 million tins of gypsum was mined in the Marion, Inneston and Spider Lakes. Today the old Inneston township is rich in remnants from this mining era and in 1986 it was entered into the Register of the Heritage Act.

For many years, a significant number of people visited the area that is now the Innes National Park and finally on the 5th March 1970, the area was dedicated as a National Park and is currently managed as an IUCN Category 2 Reserve (National Park), including to conserve the important habitat of the Western Whipbird and Mallee Fowl and to protect a number of heritage buildings at Inneston.

As the coast around this section of the southern Yorke Peninsula is exposed and receives unpredictable storms from the Souther Ocean, the need for the construction of Lighthouses became evident, as there were approximately 40 shipwrecks around this section of coastline alone. Even after the construction of lighthouses at Althorpe Island, Cape Spencer and West Cape, there were still a number of sailing vessels that still came to grief. Today the only place that you can still see the remains of a shipwrecked vessel is at Ethel Beach, when in heavy storms in 1904, the 711 ton sailing ship Ethel came to grief. Depending on conditions at the time of your visit, you will either see just pieces of metal structure that was once part of the Ethel, or if times are perfect, much of the hull can be exposed.

Located at the very south-western tip of the Yorke Peninsula and around 300 kilometres by road from Adelaide, lies Innes National Park. Apart from its rugged and spectacular coastal scenery that has claimed around 40 shipwrecks, to the ruins of a bygone Gypsum Mining era that dates back over 100 years, the park incorporates the larges remnant of native vegetation on the Yorke Peninsula. If you are lucky you may hear the calls of the rare and endangered Western Whipbird, or glimpse the once extinct Tammar Wallaby that was reintroduced back into the Park in 2004. From high qualty Heritage accommodation in restored lodges at the Inneston Historic Townships through to secluded bush camping locations scattered around the Park, Innes is the perfect location where you will see nature at its very best. The beaches are very popular for beach fishing and there are some world class surfing locations within the Park.

Like any camping trip, it pays to be fully self sufficient while camping within the National Park. There are well appointed camping locations, but only offer toilet facilities, so water and and all food supplies should be carried into the park. Even though there is the small town of Marion Bay close by, it only has basic supplies and should not be relied upon for any major supplies. All rubbish must be taken out of the Park with you and there is a large refuge station at Stenhouse Bay as you are leaving the Park.

One of major reasons for the proclamation of the Innes National Park was the fact that this area contains the largest area of native vegetation remaining on the Yorke Peninsula, as well as the home to some national endangered species. The park supports approximately 333 native plant species, including 115 species of conservation significance, 111 species of native birds, 10 species of native mammals and 10 species of native reptiles. Also within the park, and only the second location in Australia is where Blue-Green Algae Stromatolite structures (living fossils) can be found growing within a saline environment. Of the birds that can be found within the park, two are very notable, being the Western Whipbird and the Malleefowl.

The Western Whipbird is elusive and rarely seen, but can be heard by its distinctive call. There are four subspecies of the Western Whipbird found that can be found around Australia and all are relatively small and isolated, with the species found in this area being part of the eastern subspecies and classified as regionally rare and is listed as vulnerable to extinction under state and national legislation. The Western Whipbird inhabit areas of dense mallee eucalypts, heath and acacias and prefer vegetation burnt 10 to 25 years ago.

The other bird that falls within the same category as the Western Whipbird and has gone through a dramatic decline throughout Australia is the Malleefowl. The Malleefowl was once widespread through the southern semi-arid regions of New South Wales, Victoria and Victoria, but for many reasons is now considered vulnerable to extinction on the State and National legislation. Malleefowl build a unique nest, made from large mounds of sand and leaf litter and reach 5 metres in diameter and up to 1 metre high. The male bird has the full time job of ensuring that the nest is kept at the correct temperature of around 33°C before eggs are laid around every 5 - 14 days until the end of summer. During the rest of the year after the eggs have hatched, the birds are involved in nest building and maintenance.

One marsupial that was returned back into the Park, is the very rare and endangered Tammar Wallaby. Prior to the Tammar Wallabies becoming extinct from mainland South Australia by the 1930’s, there were 2 distinct subspecies found in Australia and had been separated for more than 10,000 years and had developed and had developed into quite different forms. Clearing of its natural habitation and predation by foxes lest to the decline within Australia and the only wild population to survive was the Kangaroo Island population.

By chance in 1988, zoologists discovered a small population of the mainland subspecies living on Kawau Island in New Zealand, that were the descendants of a small population that were taken to New Zealand by the former South Australian Governor Sir George Grey back in 1862 fro his personal collection. If it had not been for the ecological restoration of Kawau Island to to eradicate all non native species, these Tammar Wallabies would have been lost for ever.

With the cooperation of the New Zealand Government, 85 wallabies were repatriated and returned to South Australia and in November 2004, 10 mainland South Australian Wallabies were released at Innes National Park, marking the first reintroduced once extinct animal species into the park. The programme was a success and a further 36 Tammar Wallabies were introduced in 2005. All the wallabies were fitted with radio collars and were closely monitored by a special project with National Parks staff and a team from the University of Adelaide. Today the programme has been very successful, with second and third generation wallabies successfully being born in the wild within Innes National Park.

Located at selected locations within Inness National Park, there are campgrounds to cater for all type of campers, from large sites for caravans and campers, to secluded camping spots that are suited for tent camping only. At these locations, you can experience coastal mallee and the early morning calls of the many birds that inhabit the area, to the sound of the surf crashing on the beach. The size of the campground will depend on the location selected, from four sites at Gym Beach through to 52 designated camp sites at Pondalowie Campground. Non of the sites offer power and the only site that allows generators to be used is at Stenhouse Bay Campground, but they must be turned off by 10pm and are not permitted during times of Total Fire Ban days. Small cooking campfires are permitted at designated camp sites and all wood must be brought into the park, as the collection of firewood within Inness National Park is Prohibited. The fire danger season must be observed which is from the 1st November through to the 30th April and on days of Total Fire Bans, all solid, liquid and gas appliances are prohibited.

The location for the campgrounds are as follows:

Pondalowie Campground has 52 sites and only a short walk to the Pondalowie Bay via the Fisherman’s Village and has a Public Telephone within the National Park and is suitable for all types of camping including Caravans, Camper Trailers and tents

Stenhouse Bay Campground has 25 Camp sites and a short walk to Stenhouse Bay Jetty and cliff top walk and is suitable for all types of camping including Caravans, Camper Trailers and tents. There is also a 2nd public telephone at near the former Rhinos Tavern complex.

Cable Beach Campground has 8 sites with Offshore views of the nearby Islands and suitable for tent camping only.

Casuarina Campground has 7 sites set within tall stands of Casuarina Trees and only a short walk through the dunes to access Pondalowie Bay and suitable for tent camping only.

Shell Beach Campgrounds had 8 shady sites and only a short walk to the pretty Shell Beach and suitable for tent camping only.

Browns Beach Campground has 10 sites and is set amongst natural vegetation and bordered by steep sand dunes and a short walk to the popular Browns Beach fishing spot and suitable for tent camping only.

Gym Beach Campground is accessed off of the Corny Point Road and has 4 larger sites, offering complete solitude and the closest of all the camping locations to the beach and suitable for tent camping only.

High quality Heritage Cottage Accommodation is available within the Inneston Historical Site for those that want to experience the Innes National Park, but with all modern day conveniences.

Things to See and Do
Innes National Parks offer many activities from sunning coastal scenery, fishing along the many secluded beaches, the Historical Inneston Township, Lighthouses, the famous Ethel Beach shipwreck dating back to 1904. For those that enjoy hiking, there are 6 hikes ranging from the short 1 kilometre return hike to West Cape Lighthouse through to the longest hike of 11 kilometres return for the Gym Beach Hike.

The Above information that I have written has been verified and authorised by

Kate McNicol

A/Senior Ranger - Yorke
Northern and Yorke Region
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources | South Australian Government

Stephen Langman

September 2013
Smile like a Crocodile
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