This historic port city on the southern tip of South Australia's Eyre Peninsula is a most welcome addition to South Australia's cruise offering. This once sleepy fishing village has come leaps and bounds in recent years thanks, in the main, due to the skyrocketing price of the local Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) which is now farmed and exported direct to Japan. Billed as 'The Seafood Capital of Australia', there's a whole lot more to Port Lincoln than just big fish. Lobster (crayfish), abalone, mussels and oysters abound, as well as an abundance of other highly desirable fish species such as snapper, kingfish and South Australia's famous King George whiting. Add to that an emerging wine region as well as craft beer and you have a location definitely worth an exploration.
Port of Port Lincoln
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All ships will dock at the port facility at Brennan's Wharf, which serves all ship types including bulk grain loading. This is about 20 minutes' walk (1.3 km) to the Visitor Information Centre in the centre of town. A free shuttle is provided on cruise ship days. You will also find legions of uniformed volunteers out in force to guide you into town and through the attractions.
Despite some comments about its state of repair, the multi-use pier seems perfectly satisfactory for the purpose and does not present any hazards. Even though Port Lincoln is a small city (population: 16,000) and offers easy walking, a free shuttle bus service is available to the compact town centre, which contains all important services such as ATMs, banks, cafes, post office, supermarket and a public library that offers visitors free Wi-Fi (closed Saturdays).
Good to Know
Port Lincoln has a natural deep water harbour, Boston Bay, so has no trouble accommodating full-size cruise ships during the annual October to April cruise season. The 2018/19 season saw seven ships make 14 port visits, so this is not yet a busy cruise port, but activity is set to increase as South Australian cruising enjoys a resurgence with more frequent port calls by the major lines and even a period of home porting by CMV out of Adelaide.
Because cruise visitation is such an important economic boost to this town's economy, many attractions will open outside normal advertised hours to accommodate visitors. Hence, treat opening hours below as a guide only.
Walking around the town centre of Port Lincoln can be regarded as quite safe and no special precautions are required. That said, always be aware of personal safety whenever you walk in unfamiliar ports.
By Taxi: Two local taxi companies serve Port Lincoln and can easily be hailed, or ordered by smartphone or telephone. Expect cruise days to be busy and it may be quicker to walk around town.
On Foot: Port Lincoln town centre is an easy walk from the pier on flat terrain. Restaurants and beaches, likewise, are a gentle stroll. Other attractions may be a little farther away.
Shuttle Bus: Free transfers are provided on cruise days taking guests to the central shopping precinct and visitor centre.
City Loop Bus Service: This service is provided especially on cruise ship days to assist visitors to get between all the major sites. It's $30 for an all-day ticket and is an excellent way for many passengers and crew to see attractions outside of the CBD. This 'hop-on, hop-off' service waits about 30 to 40 minutes at each stop so passengers can spend as little or as much time as they like at each stop.
An onboard guide gives a quick rundown on what to expect at each stop. The route includes the Port Lincoln Railway Museum, Cruisers Hub Cafe at the Port Lincoln Marina, The Fresh Fish Place, Mill Cottage and Settlers Cottage museums and Axel Stenross Maritime Museum. It also includes a photo opportunity at Winters Hill before returning to the start of the Loop service at the stop in front of the Makybe Diva statue.
Hire Cars: Local branches of the big car hire companies are responding to the cruise market and supplying pre-booked vehicles to passengers as they disembark. This arrangement is still finding its feet, but is likely to increase in popularity in line with anticipated demand. If this appeals to you, be sure to book well in advance.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Australian dollars (AUD) in cash will always get you by, but you can expect that most popular credit cards will be accepted. ATMs can be found at several points along the main street as well as the mall (near the supermarket) and hotels. American Express and Diners Club cardholders may find some traders do not accept these cards. Both Visa and Mastercard are the most universally accepted cards.
Port Lincoln is a regional Australian town and some of the locals speak in a thick Aussie accent, which can be challenging for some overseas visitors. "Air ya garn (mate)?" is a common greeting and translates to "How are you going?" And "Youse right there?" is another way of saying, "Can I help you?" and is frequently used by everyone from waiters to retail staff. But hey, this is 'Straya, after all. Don't be afraid to smile and ask, 'Pardon me?' if you are unclear as to what has been said.
Food and Drink
Besides Port Lincoln's plentiful seafood there's a long tradition of agriculture and farming in the region. Stock up on local pork and bacon, Eyre Peninsula grain-fed beef and lamb, locally grown fruits and vegetables, olive oil, honey, chocolates, nuts and bakery products made from locally grown and milled grain. Restaurants, hotels and cafes along the beachfront (Tasman Terrace) provide ample variety for visitors to find something to satisfy. Fish lovers should sample the local King George Whiting, with its light and delicate white flesh. It is regarded as one of the best eating fish anywhere. Lightly crumbed is the popular method, but grilled is good, too. Avoid battered and/or deep-fried as this can mute the fine flavours.
The Fresh Fish Place: An eatery and attraction all in one, this is relatively new on the tourism scene and includes a factory tour, some fish and seafood education as well as tastings. It's the place to go to find the widest range of fresh seafood available. You can even sample the famous southern bluefin tuna or take home a small jar. Enjoy local wine, beer and produce all under the one roof. (20 Proper Bay Rd, Port Lincoln; +61 8 8682 2166; Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 6 pm, Saturdays 8.30am to 2pm. Closed Sundays, but expect these hours to vary on cruise days)
Line & Label: A little bit out of town at the Peter Teakle Winery (formerly Delacolline Winery Estate), Executive Chef, Josh Harris and his team are gaining a reputation for fine cuisine using a majority of local produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden, plus Kingfish, calamari, beef, Razor Clam, Vongole and more. (+61 8 8682 6635; 31 Whillas Rd, Port Lincoln; open from noon till late, Thursday to Saturday; Sundays noon to 6pm)
The Rogue & Rascal: This casual cafe is perfect for a quick, healthy bite in a beachfront setting. Outdoor seating and, most importantly, great coffee. (62 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln; +61 8 8683 5003; open daily 7 am to 5 pm)
Del Giorno's: Great waterfront place for Italian favourites such as pizza, pasta and gelato plus seafood in an outdoor setting. (80 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln; +61 8 8683 0577; open Monday to Saturdays 7.30 am to late; Sundays 8.30 am to late)
Marina Hotel: Surround yourself with expensive yachts and powerboats as you enjoy excellent pub favourites or a seafood platter with a local twist. There's outdoor dining, a lively bar and sun deck with loungers. (13 Jubilee Drive, Port Lincoln; +61 8682 6141; open daily for breakfast 7 am to 10 am; lunch noon to 2.30pm; dinner 6 pm to 9 pm. There is a grazing menu on offer from 2.30 pm to 9 pm on weekends only)
Sarin's Restaurant & Bar/Bistro: You'll find all-day dining here in a contemporary hotel (pub) environment serving popular comfort food such as steaks and burgers as well as local premium seafood. (1 Lincoln Hwy, Port Lincoln; +68 8621 2026; open daily 7 am to 10 pm)
Local Beer and Wine: As you may have discovered, Australians are fast gaining a reputation for quality wine and beer and this would be an ideal opportunity to try either or both. Local wineries, Boston Bay, Peter Teakle and Lincoln Estates all produce commendable wines, although Boston Bay seem to gain the most attention. If you are lunching in town, this would be the perfect pit stop. Local sustainable brewers, Beer Garden Brewery, use all local grains and crystal clear rainwater for their nine beer and ale types, which you can sample on tap at the family-run premises, which are just a few minutes' walk from the pier in London St.
Port Lincoln Gourmet Box Co creates boxes of the region's best produce. For about AU$100 you get wine, various jarred and pickled seafood, sweets, honey, coffee and more. These are prepared especially for cruise visitors by a local female entrepreneur who sells them on the foreshore. A range of nautical and fish-themed pieces are available from the gift shop at The Fresh Fish Place. (Port Lincoln Gourmet Box Co; 17 Porter St, Port Lincoln; +61 8 8682 3872)
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