After months driving around the country, we initially bypassed the Yorke Peninsula on our way east from Port Lincoln to Adelaide. But after a weekend spent in the capital, grilling friends on their favourite swimming spots in the state, Innes National Park kept coming up. We couldn’t help feeling that we might have missed one of the best places to swim in South Australia.
FOMO got the better of us and we made a last-minute decision to backtrack and head to the tip of the coastline’s middle peninsula. The drive took us about four hours west, to a coastal landscape where rugged cliffs and sandy beaches provided the backdrop. The following day was expected to be 35 degrees and sunny, so conditions were looking good for a hidden rock pool adventure.
Our destination was Shell Beach, where a small campground is tucked into vegetation on the park’s north shore, a couple of hundred metres’ walk from the beach. The desired rock pool is discreetly located among rocky granite platforms on the east side of the beach (turn right at the bottom of the stairs). It’s been made famous by Instagram, and many people have come looking for it via a location-tagged image, with no luck. So we followed another couple down the curving beach and over the rocks, determined to find the photogenic pool. You can’t see it without scrambling around, but it’s not too far around the headland, so keep looking until you find it. It’s there and it’s spectacular.
With water this enchanting, jumping from rocks at the pool’s sides is the perfect entry. We plunge in with little hesitation, the chill of the water taking our breath away. It was a calm day when we visited, but this place can no doubt get pretty wild – it’s tide and weather dependent, and can get swallowed up by the ocean. But on a still, 35-degree morning late in November, it’s a corker. The pool here is protected and impossibly clear, and you can dive down deep to explore an underwater world of small fish, coral, crabs and starfish.
We hear in the peak of summer this secluded spot can get quite busy, but we spend an hour alone before a wetsuited couple arrives with snorkels to dive for abalone. They tell us they are here instead of attending schoolies, and we admire their choice to trade in beer bongs for barnacles.
For us, this place is a real discovery, and absolutely worth the two-day mission in the wrong direction.
Best time to visit
Low tide, November to March
How to get there
Shell Beach is a popular beach and campground on the north shore of Innes National Park (about 20 kilometres from the visitor centre) and the turn-off is well signed. Take the stairs down to the beach and turn right to walk to the far end (east) until it becomes rocky and reefy. The pool is hidden among some tall rocks about 20 metres from the shore.
Easy. Well-maintained unsealed road and beachside parking. The trickiest part is finding the rock pool.
Cost of entry
$10 per vehicle national-park entry fee
Images and copy from Places We Swim by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Hardie Grant Travel, RRP AUD $39.99. Available in stores nationally now. For more follow Caroline and Dillon @placesweswim.