A remarkable area of South Australia, the southern Fleurieu Peninsula really is a world away from the arid areas of SA, saved by onshore winds in Summer, the fogs that form from the upslope flows off the ocean, often bath this area in fog and drizzle, even on the hottest of summer days. It was for very much this reason, I chose to explore it in mid April, as while elsewhere is still baked dry, dusty and hot, this area is considerably less so.
The weather I had during my three days down there was remarkably lucky in a way. Whilst temps were hotter than I had hoped, up to about 24 degrees which makes for sweaty work while bushwalking, the stratocumulus skies which plague this area for much of the year were clear. Instead I had a nice vista of cirrus for the entire three day period, which made for some blazing skies at sunrise and set, and visibility was excellent. What took me aback about this area, was whilst the soil was quite dry, the grasses still managed a nicely green appearance, which coming from Clare is unheard of this time of year without significant rain, the heat just kills it off so quickly. It was all I had hoped for.
The stringybark forests at the northern end of the park are quite remarkable, a dense overstory of stringrybark, scattered tree grasses and bracken fern gullies dominate the area. Despite a lack of rain, some fungi activty was present, the area really is quite surreal. Bar a few local areas in other spots of the Fleurieu, the only place I have seen with such ‘lushness’ in South Australia is immediately adjacent to Mount Lofty, in the quite tall stringybark forests, an area in excess of 1100mm annual rainfall. Given this area receives considerably less, in the order of 800-900mm, one can only conclude the drizzles and fog of summer give this area that extra moisture. Another notable feature is the density in branches across the canopy, perhaps a local morphological variance to increase cloud water interception.
Closer to the coast, the forest turns to more of a shrubby consistency, with extremely dense bushland dominating in undisturbed areas. It was nice to see a working demonstration of fire management, with a few areas in different stages of recovery showing incredible diversity in plant life. I particularly liked the bird life, and the tendency towards very small birds, they love to dart through the twisted scrub with amazing agility. I even saw one pluck a mosquito from the air in such a graceful manner two metres in front of me.
I visited the area primarily to do two bushwalks I had heard good things about, and for the most part they didn’t disappoint. The Deep Creek circuit hike which encompasses both the deep creek waterfall and cove, and the Aaron Creek cove hike. They are both recommended as 6+ hour walks, but even at a leisurely pace, stopping for photographs and lunch, they only took 4ish hours. The deep creek circuit crosses the many small tributaries of Deep Creek, but to be honest, feels like more of a walk for the sake of a walk, than for any particularly interesting features other than the waterfall. Views can be okay at times, with a brief view down the gully to the coast, but much of it is walking through thick scrub. The waterfall itself though really surprised me. Whilst the catchment isn’t huge, rainfall here is high enough that it is a reasonable watercourse to encounter, and flows throughout the year, albeit low flows in the dry months. The falls plunge in a small series of steps, before the main drop of maybe 5 metres, into a waterhole. This is notable in itself as it is the largest waterfall derived waterhole I have seen in South Australia and is completely natural, easily deep enough for a swim. Perhaps waterfall gully (near Adelaide) may have had a nice natural waterhole at some stage, but is very artificial now having been dammed. Morialta has a waterhole under its main waterfall, but once again nowhere near the size of this one.
Deep Creek Cove is certainly the gem of the area, fringed to the south by the southern ocean, steep cliffs leading up a reasonable gorge to the north, and a beautiful little lagoon contained within. Within 100m of the shore are small fresh water wetlands, fringed by freshwater reeds and a large area of bracken fern, as is so common in the gullies of the area. The relative calmness and quiet around these small freshwater waterholes is quite a contrast to the waves smashing the rocks 100m away.
Another hike I was looking forward to was the Scotts Creek Cove hike, which follows a nice creek down a deep gully, before climbing a hill and descending down near cliffs into the cove. Along this hike are some really nice white trunked eucalyptus trees, and some impressive areas of bracken fern. The creek itself, which was only trickling would be very nice to see in winter I feel, there is a waterfall and many crossings of the creek as you head down towards the coast. No views until the coast, but walking through the quite lush gullies is a very nice experience, a definite micro climate as you descend into it, I could feel over two steps the temperature drop quite dramatically and moisture increase, micro climates for the win! The cove itself is also quite spectacular, much narrower than Deep Creeks exit, with sheets of rock sliding straight into the ocean at a steep angle, and steep hills to either side of a maybe 30m wide area. I was even fortunate enough to see a pod of dolphins, a dozen or so cruise past and then back as I ate my lunch just offshore.
Another major drawcard for the area are the beaches, which I had time to visit blowhole beach for an arvo which I found to be an extremely nice place. The small beach is very sandy, and has some nice rocky outcrops surrounding which produce awesome wave motions and hide some nice little reefs. Definitely an area I wanna visit during the summer some time.