Monday, December 4, 2017


My day started with phone calls from the grandchildren wishing me a happy birthday..  Willow wasn’t really interested in what presents I got, she was more interested in what sort of birthday cake Poppy was going to make for me.  So cute…..

We had planned to go check out Murphy’s Haystacks this morning… They were about 40kms south of the popular fishing and tourist town of Streaky Bay on SA’s Eyre Peninsular, they stand like a crooked set of giant’s molars on a hilltop just 2km off the Flinders Hwy.

They are amazing granite rock formations on private property.  They really are quite amazing as there is nothing else like them around, just lots of rolling hills and then these fine examples of inselberg formations jutting up out of the ground.   

 It is believed that these granite rocks got their name sometime between 1902 and 1914. Folklore has them named after a Scottish agricultural expert who spotted the crop of remarkable rocks from the local mail coach. The Scotsman obviously had a fertile imagination. “That man must harrow,” he commented to his fellow travellers. “Look at all the hay he has saved.” The original farmer of the land was a Mr. Murphy and to this day the landmark is known as Murphy's Hay Stacks.

Of course they’ve nothing to do with haymaking and are in fact great examples of weathered pink granite inselberg formations (German for “island-mountain”). They’re part of a larger mass called the Hiltaba Granite, named for the Hiltaba Station in the southwest Gawler Ranges, under which much of the mass lies.

The granite was originally hidden deep in the Earth’s crust, probably some 7-10 km below the surface, but over eons the overlying rocks have worn to be transported and deposited on the surrounding continental shelf and inland basins.

The granite hills of the district, including the haystacks, were buried by calcareous dune sand and gradual weathering has shaped the granite to reveal the weird and wonky pillars and boulders we see today. 

Lichens, growing on the surface, paint these rocks with bright red colour making them extremely colourful in the bright sun.  I can only imagine how wonderful they would look with the  afternoon setting sun on them.

They are terribly impressive and worth the detour to see.  We spent a good hour walking around them all, photographing them and talking with other tourists we met along the way.

We also ran into Nick and Melissa again today, these are a couple of Queenslanders from the Sunshine Coast,  we met in Kunnurra and we have met up with them now a couple of times on our trek around Western Australia and then again, at Cedunna when they were camping in the same Caravan Park as us….

Interesting that, as before, the land, where these haystacks are standing, is owned by Denis Murphy, a grandson of Murphy from 1900s.  He often visits his granite haystacks and loves to chat with the tourists…. He had a good chat to Steve and filled him in on farming in the region as well as his rather large family…. 10 children in all….

From here we were off to the Point Labatt Conservation Park.  It is one of the only breeding sea-lion colonies on Australia’s mainland.  From the clifftop vantage  viewing area  above the colony, we were able to witness these mammals in their natural habitat.

The Australian sea-lions are found in no other country in the world and are one of our most endangered marine mammals and rarest seals.  Point Labatt is the only place on the mainland where Australian seal pups can be seen learning to swim, play and rest on the beach.  It is also one of the few places in and around Australia where they are protected from land predators and which provide a safe environment for the sea-lion pups to develop.

Interestingly, the females from this colony always return here to breed often using the same patch of beach each year.  Males wander far and wide sometimes to colonies hundreds of kilometres away.

Mother Seal feeding her Pup
This seal was calling for her Pup
 Most pupping and mating occurs in the prohibited area at the base of the cliffs here.  During these times the bulls become aggressive and territorial.  They vigorously defend their mate from other males.  The bulls stay ashore for weeks during the breeding season, too busy fighting and mating to eat….

At Point Labatt, pups are born every 18 months, mid winter one year, and then mid summer the next.  The pups weight around 7kgs at birth.  They depend entirely on their mother’s milk for the first year.  After that they start chasing and occasionally catching fish.  Bay sea-lions take to the sea for the first time around 4 weeks of age.

It was probably one of the highlights of my day to stand above this colony and watch the sea-lions, sunbathing, swimming, playing and we even got to see a Mother sea-lion feeding her pup.  We also watched a couple of the pups playing in one of the rock pools on the rocky ledge.  All very fascinating and held up captive for a couple of hours

By the time we had finished watching these beautiful animals it was after 1pm, so as we were all feeling a little peckish, we headed for Sceale Bay where we had planned on having a picnic lunch. 
Sceale Bay - our picnic lunch stop

 It too was a lovely bay, with a beautiful sandy beach overlooking turquoise and blue water,  stunning scenery.  Unfortunately our experience in South Australia so far is that they do not have a lot of suitable picnic areas and their rest areas have no toilets.  This bay had one very low picnic table out in full sun…. They just don’t seem to have shelter sheds unless they are on the beach over fish filleting tables. 

Never the less, there was a nice cool breeze, so we enjoyed our picnic before taking off to do the Westall Way Loop Drive.

Without doubt Westall Way is one of Streaky Bay's best kept secrets.  It has the added advantage of being a "ring road" and so you don’t cover the same ground twice. Dotted along Westall Way we found  sandy beaches, rugged limestone cliffs,  pleasant bays and inlets, striking granite boulders covered in golden lichens, secluded granite pools and quite striking seascapes with foaming white breakers

There is Tractor Beach, High Cliff, the surfing beach known as the Granites, the Smooth Pool which is reputed to be an excellent fishing spot,  Point Westall, which was sighted and named by Matthew Flinders on 5 February 1802, after a landscape painter who was one of his crew on board the Investigator,  the white sand dunes at Yanerbie which lie to the south of Smooth Pool, and Speeds Point and Sceales Bay.
Beach at Yanerbie

We approached Westall Way Loop Road from the southern end, so Yanerbie was our first port of call.   Yanerbie was a long stretch of beach lined with massive sand dunes, which would be great to sand surf down.  The beach was covered in layers of washed up sea grass and way too cold for us to want to swim there. 
Then it was on to Speed Point which is fronted by a 100 m wide intertidal rock platform, with wave breaking heavily across the platform.  Spectacular scenery.
Smooth Pool
From here we moved along to Smooth Pools, one of my favourite spots…. Magnificent blue water, and breaking waves made this area a photographer’s paradise and as you can imagine I took plenty of photos…

Smooth Pool itself is an eroding granite shelf that faces the full force of local westerly weather systems. The outcrop extends for several hundreds of meters and at low tide the area is studded with rock pools, some perhaps 2 metres deep.

Next along the Loop was Point Westall,  where we had stunning views along the coastline….

From Point Westall it was on to the Granites.  This was a pretty sheltered beach with sweeping views to High Cliff and The Dreadnoughts.  We were fortunate to visit here on a day with sunshine and  blue skies  which made for some stunning photographs of the area…

The Granities is also a popular surf beach which has a lagoon style rock pool close to shore for families to swim in whilst surfers can catch a good way out the back.  There is a staircase of 110 steps which provides access from the cliff top car park down to the beach below.  We didn’t bother walking down, but enjoyed the view from up top. 
 Then it was on to Highcliffs where sea stacks loom out of the Southern Ocean, before ending at Tractor Beach, which isn’t hard to miss as there is a rusty old tractor located there. 

By now it was close to 5pm, so it was time to head home so that we could at least have a bit of a rest before having to get ready to be out for dinner at the Streaky Bay Hotel at 7pm.  Steve had made reservations for dinner for us all here to celebrate my birthday….  There really wasn’t much choice in Streaky Bay as this was the only restaurant that was open on a Saturday night and they were only open from 6pm to 8.30pm.
Steaky Bay Hotel - where I celebrated my special birthday
Food Buffett... Loved this old tub, especially it's legs
Steve's meal
My dinner...
Kathy's meal
Ian's meal
 Fortunately for us it was a great venue with good meals and well priced.  We have been told that the hotel is actually owned by the community of Streaky Bay, but we are not sure whether that is fact or fiction.   The service was great and the staff were very friendly.  It was a great night out.
Our birthday cake...

Blowing out our candles
Cutting our cake
Steve surprised Ian and I with a birthday cake.  Ian celebrates his birthday on the 1st of December, so we made it a joint event. 
Ladies rest rooms at the Streaky Bay Hotel
 It has been a very full on day, but the only thing that could have made my birthday any better would have been  if our kids and grandchildren could have joined me….

Streaky Bay will always hold a special place in my heart…..


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