Port Lincoln has come a long way from the rough fishing town that revolutionised Australia's aquaculture industry – the McMansions around the marina will attest to that. But seafood is still the lifeblood of the town, which is said to be home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country.
The compact town centre stretches along the foreshore, between the Port Lincoln Hotel and the huge grain silos that service the many farms of the Eyre Peninsula and serve as a reminder that this is still very much a country town. You’re as likely to encounter farmers as fishermen on the main street, but not all of that produce gets exported – in the last five years a range of cosy cafes and fine-dining restaurants have transformed Port Lincoln’s food scene from country town to regional dining centre.
Line and Label
The fireplaces set into South African bluestone walls give off a pronounced alpine chalet vibe but one look outside will quickly dismiss any such notions. Set on a 5.2-hectare vineyard overlooking the town, the balcony has views stretching over the neighbouring hills and down to the Southern Ocean. Thanks to a processor’s licence, chef Josh Harris buys the catch of the day each morning from fishermen working those waters, and this often finds its way onto the menu in the form of a daily “tempter”. The strong emphasis on local produce means no duck or chicken, but you might find alternatives such as pâté made from deer liver on the ever-changing menu. Garden plots and greenhouses next door provide a range of micro-herbs and vegetables, and the wines grown onsite are accompanied by an excellent selection from further afield.
31 Whillas Road, Port Lincoln
(08) 8682 6635
Since beginning Boston Bay Smallgoods in 2016, Jason Stephenson has seen his smallgoods and fresh pork stocked in Adelaide restaurants such as Press, Osteria Oggi, Africola and Magill Estate. Now he’s opened his own restaurant, and the 24-month-old Berkshire jamon hanging on the wall gives an idea of the focus. The pork-heavy menu also has room for seafood and other proteins, and you can expect hearty meals with a sense of humour such as the “constructed burger”. The first section of the restaurant is open now, and it will eventually include a takeaway window and chef’s table next to a charcoal grill, which will be used by some of the well-connected Stephenson’s chef friends over summer.
28 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln
(08) 7609 1236
The Fresh Fish Place
You’ll find seafood everywhere you look in Port Lincoln, and a lot of it comes through The Fresh Fish Place – more than 40 tons of King George whiting alone each year. The retail store has a range of smoked, pickled and frozen products and specially designed Italian cabinets keep the fresh fish on display from drying out. You can expect local fishermen to unload their catch out back while you’re eating at the onsite Fish Cafe, which keeps things simple. Owner Craig McCathie knows “there’s no real big secret to fish and chips – use fresh, good-quality product, keep your oil new and use thin batter – it’s about the fish, not the batter.”
20 Proper Bay Road, Port Lincoln
(08) 8682 2166
The Rogue and Rascal (And The Rebel)
Like a slice of Peel Street transplanted to the Port, this welcoming cafe is the bustling hub of Port Lincoln’s esplanade. Local Eyre Roasted coffee is accompanied by colourful meals that blur the line between brunch and lunch. It’s so popular the wine bar owners Jemma Schilling and Elouise Dukalskis intended to run in the venue had to move upstairs. The weekend-only small bar And The Rebel, in a former council chamber, has an excellent South Australian wine list and rotating cocktail selection. There's live music inside, and views out over the foreshore and Boston Bay from one of the only balconies in town you don’t have to hire out.
62 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln
(08) 8683 5003
Beer Garden Brewing
As well as the Southern Ocean, Port Lincoln is also surrounded by some of the state’s best farming land. Beer Garden Brewing owners Janie and Mark Butterworth use plenty of local barley and wheat in their 10 brews, which can all be found on tap. The large shed is home to the onsite brewery and you can sometimes see Prancing Pony's old fire-brewing kettle in operation, alongside the Eyre Roasted coffee roaster – the four-bean blend is used in the deliciously smooth Original Sin Coffee Stout.
28 London St, Port Lincoln
(08) 8683 5303
You'll probably hear Anthea Thomas before you see her. This store is stocked with her own brands of ethically produced clothing and beauty products alongside a range of health foods. There's also a compact kitchen inside – a great spot to relax with a cold press juice or fresh fruit smoothie. Everything in the store is organic and vegan, and on Fridays there's a delivery of donuts from Cherry Darlings.
24 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln
(08) 8682 2111
Oyster Farm Tours
The small but charming town of Coffin Bay is synonymous with oysters. There are plenty of ways to try them in the region but you'd be hard-pressed to find any that are fresher than the ones on this tour. While most oyster farms are a half hour boat ride out in the waters, Ben and Kim simply give you a set of waders to keep you dry and invite you to walk out to the town lease just metres from the shore. There you get a quick lesson on the history of the area and the oyster industry before being handed a shucking knife and a few tips – just make sure you tackle the oysters before getting stuck into the champagne.
113 Esplanade, Coffin Bay
0488 139 032
The waters off Port Lincoln have been the setting for many a movie scene featuring great white sharks, and most of them concentrate on the massive rows of teeth and culminate in a feeding frenzy. So it's a bit of a surprise to find that seeing one in real life is nothing like that. Adventure Bay Charters entice the sharks in by appealing to their curiosity with a range of noises rather than throwing out burley – apparently they're big fans of AC/DC. But unlike most hard-rock concerts, there's not a hint of aggression as these leviathans rise from the deep and circle the boat, and the experience of seeing one up close is utterly thrilling.
2 S Quay Blvd, Port Lincoln
(08) 8682 2979
Set on 96 hectares of regenerating bushland, these two eco-cottages are completely off grid. Features such as the Japanese bath combine practical water-saving measures with a touch of luxury. Huge double-glazed windows look out onto the surrounding bush that has bounced back after the 2005 bushfires and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, especially birds – more than 100 species have been recorded on the property. Approximately half an hour from both Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln, it's an ideal base for both and the names of the two eco-cottages indicate their contrasting locations. Owner Michael Coates sums up the difference nicely: “Up on ‘The Ridge’, you feel like you’re on top of the world and in ‘The Valley’, you feel like you’re the only one in the world.”
Pope Drive, Charlton Gully
0427 277 417
Port Lincoln Hotel
It's impossible to miss the Port Lincoln Hotel as it's the town's only high-rise. Located at the opposite end of the foreshore to the grain silos, the higher floors give wonderful views directly east out over Boston Bay – just make sure to ask for one of the ocean view rooms. Downstairs you can hire bikes from the lobby, which are the perfect way to explore the compact town.
1 Lincoln Highway, Port Lincoln
(08) 8621 2000
Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area is one of the region's most exclusive accommodation options: there are just five campsites and you'll need a high-clearance 4WD to access them. The track is slow going in places, but once you arrive your reward is a sheltered cove with white sand and turquoise water that looks like it belongs on a postcard. Dolphins are regular visitors and the thick scrub surrounding the campsites is alive with fairy wrens and honeyeaters. Just remember to bring all provisions and plenty of water, as the only facility is a long drop toilet and it’s a long drive back into town.
Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area
(08) 8688 3111