I had never tried an oyster before.
They made me nervous. They looked slimy and strange and in all honesty, kind of like the snot of the ocean. Why were they considered such a delicacy? I had never understood.
But Coffin Bay is famous around the world for it’s amazing oysters. There are dozens of oyster farms in the town that ship their oysters all around the world. In fact, each week Hong Kong and China receive fresh oysters from Coffin Bay before they even reach Melbourne. That’s just insane isn’t it.
So there had to be something about oysters that I was missing. We decided that while we were in Coffin Bay we would jump onto an oyster farm tour, to learn a little bit about this thriving industry and try some of their infamous oysters for ourselves.
Coffin Bay Oyster Farm Tour
We decided on the Coffin Bay Oyster Farm Tour for our experience. They are highly recommended around the Eyre Peninsula and offer tours that start at just $40 per person or $50 with a glass of wine or beer added to your tour.
We checked in for our tour at Oyster HQ, ordered our included drinks and then were fitted with a pair of waders, which are essentially a pair of waterproof overalls with gumboots at the bottom, designed to keep you completely dry in the water. If you’re visiting on a warm or even slightly sunny day, the waders are super hot and sweaty while you’re at Oyster HQ, but they do definitely start to cool down once you get into the water. The waders have a small pocket on the inside at the top that will stay dry throughout your tour, so you can take your phone and camera with you without worrying about them getting wet.
Once we were all fitted into our waders and ready to go, we were introduced to Soy, our guide for the next hour and a half or so. Soy is from America, but she was working at Coffin Bay Oysters while she took a break from her journey of riding a bicycle across Australia! Yep, you read that correctly. She began her journey in Gippsland at the beginning of the year after being evacuated from the bushfires and is planning to ride her bicycle all the way to Perth and then onto Exmouth. Incredible – you can check out more of her journey here if you’re interested.
Soy shared with us a little bit of history about Coffin Bay and the Eyre Peninsula before getting us into the water and wading out to the farm. Moving through water in waders is a strange feeling. The canvas material sucks to your skin as it gets wet, cooling you down while also feeling like it’s sucking you in. So strange. It’s only a short walk from the shore to the farm, less than 100 metres or so.
There’s a small open bar set up in the water right next to the farm, which is where most of the tour takes place. It’s such a lovely spot, with enough space for about twenty people with beautiful views of the farm and Coffin Bay. We hopped up onto the bench seats, with our feet still dangling into the water, giving us some relief from the heat that day. At the bar we were also joined by Sunny, who was going to help out with the oyster shucking demonstrations.
If you chose to include a drink with your booking they are given out to you as soon as you get to the bar in the water. It’s definitely a good idea to think about this and add a drink to your tour before you leave, because they are all loaded into a basket and Sunny carried them all over through the water. Once you get out to the floating bar there are no other drinks if you want to add one later. And if it’s your first time trying oysters, having a wine chaser might be a good idea.
Once drinks were served Soy gave us a little insight into the history of oyster farming in the Coffin Bay region, including the different types of oysters that are farmed here and a bit about how oysters grow and live. It’s really strange to actually think of that little shell being a living creature, who mates with other oysters, can have young and grows in different ways depending on their environment and the water temperature. But they are, and we found out all about how the life of an oyster works.
Then it was time for a shucking lesson. Soy and Sunny passed out a few different oysters each and gave us a demonstration on how to open them. There’s definitely a technique to it, those shells can be so tough and strong it can be hard to find the right spot for the knife. Once opened the oysters were all ours to try. I was definitely a little bit nervous and hesitant but hey, that’s what we were here for right. There is no where fresher to experience oysters than right here in Coffin Bay, so at least we knew we were trying the best of the best.
Look, in all honesty, oysters definitely weren’t as awful as I thought they would be! In fact, they were actually okay. They were mostly just very salty, and the texture wasn’t as bad as it looks like it could be. I probably won’t be ordering oysters at a restaurant any time soon, but it was great to try them as part of the tour. We got to try a couple of different types of oysters, some of which are only available in Coffin Bay as their lifespan is too short to ship anywhere else.
At the end of the tour we were able to wade out into the farm and check out the different baskets full of oysters in their various stages. The water in the farm is a lot deeper than wading out from Oyster HQ (it came up all the way to my waist), so you’ll definitely get the real feeling of those waders sucking you in. During our tour all the baskets were completely dry, as it was low tide, but depending on the tides at the time of your tour, every trip to the farm is a little bit different. Sometimes it might be completely submerged, giving the oysters time in the water.
You can take your time checking out the farm and then make your way back to the shore when you are ready.
When you make your booking for the Oyster Farm Tour you can also choose to reserve a table at Oyster HQ for afterwards. Definitely check yes to this if you’re thinking of having lunch or a couple of drinks there afterwards, as the restaurant can often fill up before you get back from your tour. They saved us a great table, outside with views over the water. It’s a beautiful spot, with outdoor seating looking over the water and the oyster farm and it has a great menu with all kinds of fresh seafood options, as well as other delicacies.
The Oyster Farm Tour starts from just $40 per person, with options to add drinks and other extras for your time at the Oyster Bar in the water. It’s a good idea to book in advance as the tours are popular with tour groups and visitors and can often be booked out.
Find out more: The Oyster Farm Tour
Coffin Bay National Park
While you’re in Coffin Bay you’re just around the corner from another of South Australia’s beautiful national parks, so make sure you check out Coffin Bay National Park. We stayed here for a couple of nights and it was the perfect base for our time in Coffin Bay.
In addition to being a good place to stay, Coffin Bay also has plenty of amazing spots of it’s own for you to check out. With tall sand dunes, emus and kangaroos wandering everywhere and beautiful white sand beaches, Coffin Bay National Park will definitely exceed your expectations.
You will need a National Parks pass for your visit to Coffin Bay. You can either choose a day pass for $11 per vehicle per day, or if you’re staying for a while (or planning to visit a few national parks around SA) you can purchase a multi-park pass for $44 for 2 months. A multi-park pass gives you unlimited entry into most of the national parks in South Australia.
During our stay we camped at the Yangie Bay Campground. It’s the largest campground with the best facilities, as is the only one that doesn’t require a 4WD to access, and you can camp in with any type of set up (tent, caravan, swag, campervan, etc). Campsites cost $12.50 per site and need to be booked through the National Parks SA website. There is mobile phone reception at the campground, so you can always book in once you get there and find a site you like.
Some of our favourite spots around Coffin Bay National Park include:
- Alamonta Beach – beautiful beach and the most easily accessible beach in Coffin Bay
- Gunyah Beach – drive through the sand dunes to reach an epic deserted beach with great swells for surfing and fishing right off the shore
- Golden Island Lookout – panoramic views from the end of Coffin Bay National Park
Keep an eye out for nasty creepy crawlies though! During our stay we woke up one morning to find a giant huntsman had crawled between our window and fly-screen, which was a very confronting view when we opened up our windows in the morning! And then the following night we found a pretty decent sized scorpion next to our car. That is definitely enough to make you skin crawl.