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Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park

  • Swimming
  • Scuba / Snorkelling
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Bird Watching
  • Boating

About

The park includes several offshore islands and takes in the deep waters of Investigator Strait and the rugged north coast of Kangaroo Island. The mixing of cold and warm waters in the park produces dynamic ecosystems and contributes to the rich marine life, with the park hosting many known spawning, nursery and feeding grounds, particularly for King George whiting.

Fishing is very popular within the park and can be undertaken in the majority of the park, including all jetties and most beaches, but is prohibited in sanctuary zones.  Sanctuary zones are the core conservation areas, created in key locations such as Gleeson's Landing, Chinaman's Hat, Orcades Bank and Waterfall Creek. Sanctuary zones protect all animals and plants from harm.

There are plenty of opportunities to fish, both on shore and further out by boat, while divers can explore the important habitats for reef fish including the colourful harlequin fish, western blue devil and western blue groper.

Australian sea lions and long-nosed fur seals often bask in the sun in the Althorpe Islands Conservation Park that sits within the park. Bird enthusiasts should look out along the cliffs where osprey and white-bellied sea eagles nest and feed, or along the remote beaches where hooded plovers breed,

There are numerous access points for the Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park including Hardwicke Bay, Point Turton, Corny Point, Gleeson's Landing, Innes National Park (Browns Beach, Pondalowie and Stenhouse Bay) and Marion Bay.

More information:

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact details

Innes National Park - Natural Resource Centre
Phone: (+61 8) 8854 3200
Email: DEWInnesNationalPark@sa.gov.au
Address: CMB Stenhouse Bay, SA, 5575
After hours regional duty officer: 0417 883 678

When to visit

The waters of the Southern Spencer gulf can be hit by large swells from the Southern Ocean. There are strong tides and currents that flow along most of the coastline and out into Investigator Straight.  Generally the north facing Hardwicke Bay coastline and sheltered bays are calmer than the surf beaches along the southern tip of Yorke Peninsula. Weather and tide reports are great place to start planning a visit, see the Bureau of meteorology Marine page for forecasts and observations.

Getting there

Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park stretches for many kilometres of coast and has multiple access points, try these popular locations: 

• Hardwicke Bay

• Point Turton

• Corny Point

• Gleeson's Landing

• Daily Head

Innes National Park (Browns beach, Pondalowie Bay and Stenhouse Bay- entry permit required)

• Marion Bay

• Western River Cove (Kangaroo Island)

Underwater species

Diving surveys in the Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park have recorded hundreds of species of fish, invertebrate animals and plants and shorebirds. Check out some of these species in a snorkeller's guide to plants and animals.

If you want more technical information please refer to our baseline reports on Enviro Data SA.

Sanctuary zones

There are four Sanctuary Zones and one Rock Lobster Sanctuary in Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park, each one unique and designed to protect important habitats, marine species, breeding grounds or refuge areas. These are important conservation areas where fishing and all other extractive activities are not allowed.

Gleesons Landing Rock Lobster Sanctuary Zone

This sanctuary zone was established to protect rock lobsters by PIRSA fisheries.

Chinamans Hat Sanctuary Zone

This sanctuary zone extends off the Innes National Park shoreline past the distinctive Chinamans Hat Island and beyond Seal Island into Investigator strait.  Shore based line fishing is still allowed from Chinamans Hat beach, however beyond casting distance all marine life is protected. In the bay behind the island, the water conditions are often calm enough to enjoy a snorkel or dive. Diving in this zone will reveal a mix of habitats from seagrass beds, to large limestone caves. The bottom is covered with low profile reefs, dispersed with sand, seagrass and  kelp beds, habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including the charismatic blue groper and his harem of  green females.  You will often be joined by ocean sweep and see Redfish darting behind boulders, and if you look under ledges you might see an iridescent Blue Devil fish, while less than a foot long they can live for over 30 years.  In the shallows it is common to see schools of fish or a stingray searching the sand for food and if you are lucky a leafy sea dragon swaying amongst the kelp.

Orcades Banks Sanctuary Zone

This sanctuary zone lies in the middle of Investigator strait, nearly 10 nautical miles off the coast and will only be reached in large boats.  It is an area of deep water where whiting spawning has been reported.

Waterfall Creek Sanctuary Zone

This is a very small sanctuary on the north coast of the remote western end of Kangaroo Island.  Large blue groper are known to live in this zone.

Dogs allowed (on lead)

Dogs are welcome in marine parks but please check with the relevant local council as by-laws may vary.

Facilities

Along the shoreline boundary of the marine park there are numerous, council and privately owned, facilities that might be useful to marine users especially jetties, boat ramps and carparks. 

Jetties

  • Point Turton
  • Stenhouse Bay
  • Marion Bay

Boat ramps

Useful information

Traditional owners

The Narungga people have lived on Yorke Peninsula for many thousands of years and they know the land intimately – its physical features, animal and plant life and water resources. The Narungga nation was made up of four clans: the Kurnara in the north of the peninsula; Windera in the east; Wari in the west; and Dilpa in the south. Today, the Narungga people continue to maintain strong cultural links to the region.

Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations.  At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.

In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.

Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia. 

See and do

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

  • Have a beach picnic at Chinaman's Hat Island beach and in calm weather the bay is great spot to swim or snorkel surrounded by fish in a sanctuary zone.

  • Check out the jetties at Point Turton, Marion Bay or Stenhouse Bay, good for a walk or to wet a line and see whats biting.

  • Watch ospreys diving into the surf as they hunt for their dinner.

  • Catch a wave! Southern Yorke Peninsula is one of the Australia's best surfing locations and includes a National Surfing Reserve at Daly Head.

Boating

Fishing

Fishing is very popular within the park. Fishing access has been maintained at all jetties, popular beaches and key fishing destinations such as Browns Beach, Hardwicke Bay & Marion Bay.

Get started at these spots 

  • Beach fishing for salmon at Browns Beach.
  • Jetty fishing for squid at Stenhouse Bay Jetty.

  • Boat fishing for snapper & whiting in Investigator Strait.

Important information 

Surfing

There are numerous surfing breaks located along the coastline of the southern Yorke Peninsula.  Checking local swell, tide and wind conditions will assist with finding the break that is suitable to each individuals ability level.

The Yorkes Classic, one of South Australia's most prestigious surfing events, is held in Innes National Park every October long weekend. 

South Australia's first National Surfing Reserve in also located in the Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park at Daly Head.

Snorkelling and diving

Chinaman’s Hat Island in Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park is a great place to dive if the swell is small, it is home to a vast array of reef and rocky ledges, reef fish and stingrays and the sheltered bay is a good spot to snorkel on calm days.

Tips for enjoying diving in SA’s marine park 

  • Diving is a reasonably safe marine sport, but like anything involving the water, it’s important to be prepared. You should always consult a local dive shop or someone with recent experience in the area before attempting any dive.
  • Although diving is allowed in sanctuary zones, try to avoid damaging sensitive sea floor animals like sponges and habitat through contact and fin damage.
  • Many regional centres have local dive charter operators. Check local guides for services and package deals. 

Marine wildlife

Dolphins, long nose fur seals and Australian sea lion sightings are common along the coast especially around the off-shore islands.  During winter it is possible to catch sight of a passing Southern right whale on its way to the Great Australian Bight.  Humpbacks and orcas have also been seen in these waters.

Beach driving and 4WDriving

Due to the rugged and often steep nature of the coastline, there is limited vehicle access to most of the beaches.  However some of the coastal towns with sheltered beaches have beach access for boat launching and offer limited access to 4WDs.  Check the local rules, beach conditions and tides.  Whenever beach driving remember to stick to the hard sand at low tide, as hooded plovers are known to nest and feed chicks in the sands above the high tide mark. 

Standard road rules apply when driving on beaches, including the laws for speed limits, drink driving, vehicle registration, drivers licences and seat belts.

Be careful if driving on the beach, and only do so at low tide. Remember tides are unpredictable and can turn quickly. You may only drive on the beach between the high and low water mark. There is no vehicle access to the sand dunes.

Beach combing and shorebirds

Along the coastline, of the Southern Spencer Gulf Marine park, please do not disturb animals on the shore and those living in rock pools, best to leave your bucket at home. 

Remember it is illegal to remove any bottom-dwelling organisms from any intertidal rocky reef in South Australia. This area is measured from the high water mark to a water depth of 2 meters. Learn more about protecting intertidal reefs.

Useful links and resources

Volunteering

Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources Northern and Yorke – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.

Safety

Water safety

The ocean is an unpredictable environment, when undertaking water activities you are doing so at your own risk.

Strong currents and rips can make swimming and surfing dangerous in some areas throughout Encounter Marine Park.

Be aware that so-called 'freak' or irregular waves can wash over rocks and reefs with no warning and with enough force to sweep people into the sea.  Weather, wind and wave conditions can change quickly.  Always check the weather before heading out. Check the Bureau of Meteorology marine page for forecasts and observations.

Snorkelling and diving

Here are some basic but important safety tips when snorkelling or diving: 

  • Always swim with a friend.
  • Make sure your equipment is good and that you are familiar with it.
  • Take care of yourself, hydrated, use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and don't push yourself beyond your comfort or skill zones.
  • Be aware of the ocean, currents and weather conditions.
  • Don't touch marine life.
  • Explore the ocean at your own risk.

Kayaking

Here are some basic but important safety tips for kayaking: 

  • Always paddle with a friend and tell someone else your paddle plan.
  • Make sure your equipment is good and that you are familiar with it.
  • Take care of yourself, hydrated, use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and don't push yourself beyond your comfort or skill zones.
  • Be aware of the ocean, currents, wind and weather conditions.
  • Don't touch marine life.
  • Explore the ocean at your own risk.
  • Follow the boating rules of the area you're in.
  • Wear a personal floatation device (life jacket).

4WDriving

Take extreme care when driving in the park – be aware of soft, shifting sands, blowouts and drop-offs.

Driving on the ocean beach is only permitted between the high and low water mark.

When driving on the beach, it is best to do so at low tide. High tides and storms can cause sections of the beach to become treacherous. Check the tide times for your forward and return journey.

When driving on sand, deflate your tyres as appropriate for your vehicle. Take care when lowering tyre pressure as there is a risk you could roll a tyre off a rim. Also, remember that lower tyre pressure can mean a change in how the vehicle handles. Don’t forget to reinflate your tyres to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure before leaving the park.

Please consider other drivers by not obstructing the flow of traffic.

Marine mammals

Maintaining the legal distance from marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and seals is important, both for our safety and that of the animals.

The animals may be seriously injured if they are struck by a vessel or frightened young may become separated from their mothers. Even if there is no contact, coming too close can disrupt feeding, breeding, and migratory behaviors.

Regular water users should make themselves familiar with all the rules for interacting with marine mammals by viewing the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals – Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010.

In the Water

  • Whale calves: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m.
  • Distressed, stranded or entangled whales: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m.
  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils, and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): never closer than 300m.
    • Other vessels (for example, cabin cruisers, yachts, ‘tinnies’, inflatables, kayaks, windsurfers and kite surfers) outside of Encounter Bay Restricted Area: no closer than 100m
    • Other vessels within 300m of a whale: no anchoring; maximum speed 4 knots; maximum time 60 minutes.
  • Swimmers (including surfers and boogie boarders): no closer than 30m.

On land

  • No closer than 30m (or 50m if the whale is distressed, stranded or entangled).

In the air

  • Planes and remotely piloted aircraft (drones) must be at least 300m from any whale or other marine mammals (additional Civil Aviation Safety Authority restrictions apply).
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters must be at least 500m from any whale or other marine mammals.

Maps

There are a number of resources to help you find where the marine parks are and to locate the zones in each park, whether you’re on land or out in your boat.  Used in combination these products, devices and Apps provide you with approximate real-time location display in accordance with your communication network or GPS capabilities.

It is recommended any geo-referenced pdf maps or GPS files and the appropriate apps are downloaded and installed prior to leaving home due to lack of network connectivity in remote areas.

SA Recreational Fishing Guide app

The SA Recreational Fishing Guide app provides your location in the waters or on beaches in relation to the zones, and keep a look out for signage at nearby boat ramps.

Online interactive map

Explore the marine parks and their zones with our interactive map.

Regional marine parks and zones maps

Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park Sanctuary Zones

'SA Marine Parks Sanctuary Zone Maps' guide.

Marine park management plan maps with zones and coordinates

Downloadable detailed pdf maps of Encounter Marine Park showing legal zone coordinates. It is important to read the pdf map capability statement and disclaimer before using these maps.

Southern Spencer Gulf Marine Park

You can print maps or use your smartphone or tablet to view them using the free Avenza App.

Please be aware that the landward boundaries of Marine Parks are defined as the median high water (unless otherwise specified).  Mapped shoreline is representative only.

Marine park zones GPS coordinates 

You can download GPS files for all marine park zones in a number of formats.  It is important to read the GPS data capability statement and disclaimer before using these maps. 

Find out how to use the GPS coordinates files.

 

 

 

Fees

Entry fees

Come and enjoy this park for free. 

Permits

To help manage marine parks, there are some restrictions on what activities can be undertaken within the parks. 

Marine parks permits may be issued to allow an activity that would otherwise be prohibited by the Marine Parks (Zoning) Regulations. The following activities in sanctuary zones will be given favorable consideration for permits:

  • scientific research
  • competitions and organised sport events
  • tourism operations
  • commercial photography and film making
  • installation of  moorings

More information and applying for a permit.

PDF Park Brochure