Streaky Bay (including Haslam, Perlubie Beach and Point Labatt)
Tiny town surrounded by beautiful and fascinating coastline
Streaky Bay, which is located 727 km from Adelaide and 303 km from Port Lincoln, is a tiny town on the edge of the only safe deepwater harbour between Port Lincoln and King George Sound in Western Australia. While the town is pleasant, and has a slightly Mediterranean feel, its real attraction is that it is surrounded by some of the most fascinating coastal sites and scenery which the Eyre Peninsula can offer. The old water collector at Haslam, the beach racetrack at Perlubie Beach, the beautiful Smooth Pool on the Westall Way Scenic Drive and the seals lying in the sun on the rocks below Point Labatt make the charms of the township of Streaky Bay seem rather limited and uninviting.
The history of European exploration of the Streaky Bay area starts with the Dutch sailors who accompanied Pieter Nuyts on his 1627 voyage across the Great Australian Bight. Nuyts reached the South Australian coast near Streaky Bay before turning westward and heading to the Dutch East Indies. His visit to the area is recalled on the Pieter Nuyts Monument in the median strip on Bay Road near the Community Hotel.
Nuyts was followed, nearly two centuries later, by Matthew Flinders who in 1802 explored the entire coast of the Eyre Peninsula. It is widely accepted that Flinders named the bay because of the streaky discolouration he noticed in the water. The discolouration was probably nothing more than seaweed.
In 1839 the explorer Edward John Eyre passed through the area. His journey is recalled in Eyre's Water Hole which is located about 3 km out of Streaky Bay on the road to Port Kenny. A sign at the rather neat and modern water hole points out that 'At this spot, Baxter, after crossing the peninsula from Port Augusta waited in dire anxiety to rejoin his leader, Edward John Eyre, who had ridden from Mount Arden via Port Lincoln.'
Around this time two potential settlers travelled through the area and their report on the lack of water, poor soils and thick mallee scrub did much to discourage settlement of the region.
The area was slowly settled in the second half of the nineteenth century. Pastoralists had settled the area by 1854, by the late 1850s whaling was common along the coast, and in the early 1870s the oyster beds in the area were being harvested so successfully that a small oyster factory was established at Streaky Bay.
The township of Streaky Bay was officially proclaimed in 1872. At the time it was called Flinders but the older name of Streaky Bay persisted. There had been a slow settlement of the area during the previous decade. The first trading store had been built in 1862 and the Hospital Cottage, which still stands in the Hospital grounds, was built in 1864.
Streaky Bay Museum
In Montgomerie St (which is two blocks south of the harbour foreshore) is the Streaky Bay Museum. It's in the Old School Building and is run by the National Trust. Exhibits at the museum include displays of Aboriginal artefacts, birds eggs, shells, old furniture, medical equipment and early agricultural machinery. It is a typical folk museum with lots of interesting memorabilia about the local region.
In the grounds is the restored Kelsh Pioneer Cottage which was built of pug and pine in 1886. It still has furniture and domestic utensils dating from the late nineteenth century.
To the north of Streaky Bay lies the tiny, almost inconsequential settlement, of Haslam. It is easy to pass but well worth visiting for it is at Haslam that one of the few corrugated iron water collectors can still be seen. On the side of the road on the edge of town is the corrugated iron water collector which was constructed by the South Australian Government in 1917. Apart from that Haslam is an unimpressive little town with a jetty, a picnic area, toilets, and an attractive beach for swimming and fishing.
Only a few metres away from the water collector is a sign to the Haslam School and Agricultural Museum which is open between 2.00 p.m - 4.00 p.m. on a Sunday or by appointment.
Westall Way Scenic Drive and the Point Labatt Conservation Park
To the south of the town is a truly beautiful stretch of coastline which includes the superb Westall Way Scenic Drive and the Point Labatt Conservation Park.
The road around the coast is a delight. There are dramatic cliffs, pleasant bays and inlets and headlands and rocky outcrops which can be explored. There is High Cliff, the Granites, some large red smooth rocks which lie below a lookout, the Smooth Pool which is reputed to be an excellent fishing spot, the huge white sand dunes which lie to the south of Smooth Pool, and Sceales Bay, a classic holiday place for people who love being isolated, where there is a boat ramp and a small camping area. Further south is Baird Bay and Point Labatt.
To stand on the cliffs at Point Labatt is to experience one of the highlights of any visit to the Eyre Peninsula. The area is strikingly beautiful and there is a real sense of standing on the edge of the world gazing across waters which stretch out across the Great Australian Bight and down into the cold Southern Ocean. But this is only a small part of the appeal because Point Labatt is where the only permanent mainland colony of Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) live. There is an estimated population of about 35-50 seals at the Point and to add to the appeal of the area there is a whale watch between June and October. Notices on the clifftop point out that this is an area where the whales breed. As well there is a notice covering the history of the area: 'Point Labatt Conservation Park. Matthew Flinders, in the Investigator, was the first European to explore, map and name this coastline for England in 1802. About the same time Nicholas Baudin in Le Geographe charted this coast for France. This reserve protects the only permanent sea lion colony on the Australian mainland. The Marine Reserve off shore ensures minimum disturbance to the seals and the reef fish upon which they depend for food. This area was declared a Conservation Park in 1973.'
There is another seal colony off the coast of South Australia at Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island. The seals grow to 4 metres in length and can weigh as much as 200 kg. From the lookout, especially if you don't have binoculars, they look like slugs on the rocks below. Normally docile they can be surprisingly agile and aggressive particularly during the breeding season.
The road from Point Labatt back to the Flinders Highway (good local maps of the dirt roads are available in either the Streaky Bay Tourist Book or the Discover Streaky Bay brochure - both are readily available in the town) passes the fascinating granite outcrops known as Murphy's Haystacks. It is difficult to see the outcrops from the road and people wishing to visit them should get specific directions in Streaky Bay. The 'haystacks' (some of them really do look like old fashioned haystacks) are a series of dramatically weathered granite outcrops which are possibly as much as 1500 million years old. They were named after Dennis Murphy, the property owner, by the local mail coach driver who used to point them out to passengers during the trip from Streaky Bay to Port Kenny.