DAY ONE - THREE
Eyre Peninsula, a gigantic triangle of land pointing out into the pristine Southern Ocean, is Australia's seafood Mecca with everything from King George whiting and snapper to tasty tuna and kingfish, blue swimmer crabs, sand crabs, squid and garfish available all along the coast.
The first is a long but interesting drive of around 700km via Port Augusta, taking in the central Eyre Peninsula grain-belt towns of Kimba and Wudinna, turning off the main Eyre Highway to Streaky Bay. The other is to fly from Adelaide to Port Lincoln and pick up a vehicle – there's lots of great 4WD off-road driving ahead if you want it. Then it's a 300km run to Streaky Bay and the real start of your seafood safari.
The best way to plan your seafood safari is to consider the bounty within your reach – and where to find it:
Wildcatch abalone: Abalone is an exotic treat, with wild-caught green-lip abalone – shucked and extra-large - selling for up to $250 a kilo. It’s expensive because divers must enter dangerous, often shark-infested, waters to carefully hand-harvest each shell. It's a competitive, somewhat secretive industry with a lot of money at stake, so the closest you'll get to one will be when it’s served on a plate.
See it, taste it: It's loved by Asian diners and nearly all the local catch goes overseas – but there’s still plenty left for you. Beautiful Streaky Bay in the region's northwest corner has a fish processing operation, Streaky Bay Seafood, and its own abalone brand called 2Brothers Abalone which is available at their retail outlet along with a wide range of other local seafood, including scallops, oysters, mussels, southern rock lobster and the region's famed blue swimmer crabs.
Prawns: Driving the beautiful stretch of coastal road that runs past Coffin Bay and into Port Lincoln. Your first stop in Port Lincoln is a visit to the Marina to savour some of the 2000 tonnes of wild King Prawns caught in the cold, clean waters of the Spencer Gulf and the Great Australian Bight.
See it, taste it: Fred's Marina Cruises at Port Lincoln Marina offers one of the most charming maritime tours in Australia. Old-salt Captain Fred, in his little electric cruise boat, is dwarfed by the largest commercial fishing fleet in Australia, but he serves up an array of industry knowledge and history – as well as some freshly cooked crustaceans.
King George whiting: Whiting is a fabled South Australian fish and they don't come much bigger than off the coast of Eyre Peninsula. They're part of a seafood group that includes other popular local delicacies such as garfish, snapper, tommy ruff and southern calamari (squid). There are more than 50 species of marine scale fish here, making it the most diverse fishery in Australia and the nation's largest provider.
See it, taste it: No small amount of the day's catch goes straight from the boat to The Fresh Fish Place in Port Lincoln – the region's biggest seafood wholesaler, supplying 100 local restaurants and outlets. Take a behind-the-scenes tour to watch the catch of the day being prepared, including some high-speed whiting filleting action. You'll also taste in-house smoked fish as well as pickled octopus. The shop and restaurant sells all manner of prime seafood, such as reef snapper, snook and shark - and if you want to know how best to prepare them, join the Fresh Fish Place cooking school, held once a month with guest chefs at the stoves.
Tuna: Southern Bluefin Tuna is a signature species that is now inextricably bound up with Port Lincoln's history and its many spectacular fortunes. Local fishermen and entrepreneurs figured out a way of catching wild tuna, rearing them in huge floating ponds and selling them to the Japanese, who pay top dollar for premium fish. It's often been said that Port Lincoln now has more millionaires per head than any other in Australia.
See it, taste it: You won't go wrong with Fred's Marina Tour (see 'Prawns'), but if you're keen to get up close you could sign up with a Why Not? Fishing Charter, which offers a day's deep sea fishing between January and April when you could hook a wild tuna that grows up to 260kg. Get ready for a fight if you do. Perhaps it's easy to try tuna sashimi at the evergreen Del Giorno's on Lincoln's foreshore or the 1802 Oyster Bar and Bistro in Coffin Bay.
Oysters:Eyre Peninsula's Pacific oysters are grown all along the coastline and are famous for their creamy, plump flesh and ocean-fresh flavour. Oysters are grown at Cowell, Streaky Bay, Smoky Bay, Denial Bay and St Peter Island, but it's the Coffin Bay name that's most familiar being the largest oyster growing region, its waterways constantly nourished by nutrient enriched, super clean seawater. Keep an eye out, too, for the increasingly popular native Angasi oyster.
See it, taste it: Collect oysters straight from the racks on a Goin' Off Safari. Operator David 'Lunch' Doudle will also help you harvest some other local seafood accompaniments, including cockles, mussels and a wild salmon if you get lucky with the beach rod. He'll even cook it for you, right there on the beach or back at your accommodation.
Southern rock lobster: Ugly but magnificent, this valuable crustacean is exported live, especially to Asia where it’s prized for its sweet firm flesh and extraordinary colour. Be warned, prices are usually stratospheric due to insatiable demand from China. Local lobsters can easily grow to 8kg – so be prepared to shell out.
See it, taste it: Lobster is sold at live from November to May at Mori Seafood in the Port Lincoln Marina, where it is also processed for export. Alternatively, a more economical choice are crayfish 'spiders' at the Fresh Fish Place – lobsters minus head and tails, leaving body and legs. They're not as pretty, but still great eating.
Kingfish: Sweet, firm and exquisite when served raw, yellowtail kingfish is one of the most delicious fish around. Again, the Japanese have been quick to appreciate it, highly prizing the hiramasa kingfish, fabulous examples of which swim in the Spencer Gulf.
See it, taste it: Adventure Bay Charters offers a Seafood Bay Cruise, when guests motor into Boston Bay for two hours to learn about aquaculture, with visits to hiramasa kingfish farm, tuna ponds and a mussel farm. Tastings happen during the experience – and kingfish sashimi is a must-taste highlight.
Port Lincoln is an ideal base for further exploration – Anchorage Holiday Apartments overlooking the marina are typical of the many luxury apartments available. Or there’s plenty of hotel accommodation – the Port Lincoln Hotel is a good place to start. Further afield along the west coast there are excellent caravan parks and holiday rental. Furthest west of all is the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel Motel.
In Streaky Bay, The Oceanfront eco-friendly rammed earth studio apartments are a touch of luxury right on the water's edge.
On Eyre Peninsula a good starting point is Port Lincoln's Seafood Centre for everything from fresh seafood to seafood pies and fish and chips – and cooking classes. Try tuna sashimi at Port Lincoln's evergreen Del Giorno's on the foreshore or Sarin's Restaurant on the shores of Boston Bay. Streaky Bay is home to one of the very best eating experiences on Eyre Peninsula, a character-filled waterfront shed called Mocean where you can dine on wild blacklip abalone. And Coffin Bay, one of the prettiest coastal towns you'll find, is famous for its oysters - try the 1802 Oyster Bar and Bistro.