Monday 3 October – public holiday travelling from Moonta to Marion Bay

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October 3rd 2016
Published: October 4th 2016
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58 Minlaton58 Minlaton58 Minlaton

Doug, Leura & Tom
Monday 3 October – public holiday travelling from Moonta to Marion Bay

It was Labour Day in SA and the wind was still blowing. We fought the wind as we packed our van up. We were certainly a well-oiled machine now. We got away by 9.00am and there were lots of caravan bays empty. It was school holidays in SA so the weather was not helping as we saw many families packing up.

As soon as we drove to Moonta, away from the Bay, we certainly noticed the wind was not gale-force. We headed for Maitland which was half way across Yorke Peninsula. The town was named in 1872 after Lady Jean Maitland, the wife of the First Lord of Kilkerran, a family connection of the governor of South Australia at this time, Sir James Fergusson; the local aborigines calling it "madu waltu", meaning white flint.

Maitland has a grain receiving depot operated by Viterra, serviced only by road. Maitland is also the home base of the Narungga Aboriginal Progress Association.

A few kilometers south of the town, we found the Barley Stacks Winery. It is a large shed which is now the central focus for the regions celebrations, entertainment and weddings as well as a winery. We were impressed with the entrepreneur who owns the property who has been and continues to be a cereal and legume farmer in the area. He knew a lot of farmers in SA including the Shanahans, my brother in law.

Next was Port Victoria. Port Victoria is a town on the west coast of Yorke Peninsula. Port Victoria had a population of about 700. Like many other coastal towns on the peninsula, it has a jetty and used to be a thriving port for the export of grain to England. Its anchorage is sheltered from westerly weather by nearby Wardang Island. The windjammers carrying the bagged grain called at Falmouth, England or Queenstown, Ireland for orders of where the grain was to be taken. Many of the smaller ports were visited only by coastal ketches and schooners.

Port Victoria also had an anchorage offshore for the larger windjammers. These were loaded from the ketches which were in turn loaded at the jetty. The last working sailing ships visited in 1949. As a result, Port Victoria is known as the last of the windjammer ports. This era is illustrated in the Port Victoria Maritime Museum which we saw at the entrance to the jetty.

Unfortunately, the storms have made the jetty impassable. At the local shop we had some lovely gar fish and whiting as well as a lovely cappuccino. It continued to shower for a few minutes then out came the sunshine. My nephew owns a house in Port Victoria so we did the drive-pass to make sure it had been OK in the storms. All was well.

We then headed to Minlaton which is a town my Mum mentioned regularly as it was close to where they lived outside Port Vincent. Minlaton is known as the "Barley capital of the world", due to the rich Barley production in the region. We however saw a lot of legumes and broad bean crops also.

Minlaton is also home to the memorial for Captain Harry Butler A.F.C. The Captain Harry Butler Memorial houses in a glass hangar a static display of the Captain's famous monoplane "Red Devil" and celebrates his life and achievements.

Captain Harry Butler flew his plane, "The Red Devil" from Adelaide to Minlaton carrying airmail on 6 August 1919, and the "Red Devil" is preserved in the memorial. Harry Butler who was born in Minlaton, and as a twenty six-year-old paid his own way to England in 1916 to join the Royal Flying Corps and within months was flying over France. He was awarded the Air Force Cross but returned to Australia after receiving a head wound in active service. He made his way back to the Yorke Peninsula with an AVRO Bi-plane and his beloved plane, the "Red Devil".

Soon he was drawing crowds at his barnstorming displays at fairs around the State and dropping into places like Unley Oval. On August 6th, 1919 he brought the Yorke Peninsula closer to the outside world when he flew the first airmail over water in the Southern Hemisphere.

On January the 11th, 1922 Butler took his Avro Bi-plane for a flight over the wheat fields near Minlaton. While flying at about 1000 metres the engine seized and the plane crashed. He suffered extensive facial injuries and had numerous operations, but never recovered fully and died eighteen months later. He was buried with full military honours on July 31st, 1924. A great man.

We stopped at the Information Centre which was also a “Produce Corner”. It sold the local produce as well as the work of local artists. There were some beautiful pieces of art for sale, all of local scenes. We wanted to visit the Chocolatier but on this public holiday, it was closed. We left the Centre armed with a stack of great information on places we were yet to visit.

We then travelled to Point Turton on the north side of the Peninsula’s “foot’’ and did a quick drive around. We could see this small town was expanding rapidly with a large sub-division being built. Our guess was that it was mainly for holiday makers.

We then drove south to Marion Bay where we booked into the caravan park for the night.

Once all set up we drove down to Stenhouse Bay which is in the Innes National Park. The township of Stenhouse Bay is at the western tip of Yorke Peninsula. It was named after Andrew Stenhouse, who in the 1920s had a business called the Permascite Manufacturing Company. He helped start the gypsum industry in this location.

We walked down to the jetty where we saw the remnants of the gypsum mining operation. The glistening gypsum fragments were shining like mirrors amongst the sand. There were a lot of people fishing off the jetty, it being the final day of the long weekend. It was a beautiful spot even though the wind continued to blow.

In the evening, we decided to visit the Marion Bay Tavern which was recommended to us. It has beautiful beach views. We had a local beer and chatted for a while before returning to our van.

Once again, the wind blew all night but our vans were stable. It rained a couple of times during the night but it didn’t affect us.

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