Home » Towns » South Australia » Eyre Peninsula » Port Lincoln, SA

Port Lincoln, SA

Major Eyre Peninsula fishing port known as the "Seafood Capital of Australia".

Port Lincoln is located on Boston Bay (a bay which is more than three and a half times the size of Sydney Harbour and, thus, the largest natural harbour in Australia) and nestled on the easterly side of the Eyre Peninsula, Port Lincoln has grown because it has been the most important grain and fishing port on the peninsula. It is considered by many to be idyllic with an annual rainfall of 488 mm and a near-perfect Mediterranean climate of cool winters and warm, dry summers. Today it is a successful commercial centre which is economically driven by the grain-handling facilities (the foreshore is dominated by the 47-metre-high grain silos which can load barley and wheat at a rate of 1500 tonnes per hour); the canning and fish processing works; lambs, wool and beef, fertiliser production and, in recent times, the vast wealth which has been made as a result of tuna farming for the Japanese market. Port Lincoln has Australia's largest commercial fishing fleet (which makes it one of the wealthiest cities in Australia) and fish farming has grown so that there are now tuna farms, kingfish farms, mussel farms, abalone farms, oyster farms and even seahorse farms in the area. The primary appeal of the city lies in its exceptional seafood restaurants; its excellent opportunities for fishing; and the range of water-based activities which an attractive city on a protected bay can offer. In the 1830s it was considered as a possible state capital. Only the lack of a reliable water supply prevented it from becoming the capital of South Australia.


Port Lincoln is located 647 km due west of Adelaide via Port Augusta. It is 50 minutes by plane from Adelaide airport and 342 km south-west of Port Augusta at the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula.


Origin of Name

When Matthew Flinders reached the harbour in February, 1802 he named it "in honour of my native province". Flinders had been born at Donington in Lincolnshire on 16 March 1774. He named the bay, island and point after his home town of Boston and Cape Donington was named after his birthplace.


Things to See and Do

The Statue of Makybe Diva
Port Lincoln has many wealthy local residents. Probably the most famous in recent years has been Croatian-born Tony Santic. Santic is a local tuna farmer. A few years ago he reportedly sold 337 tonnes of his tuna fishing quota for $72 million, or $214,000 a tonne, to Melbourne businessman Victor Smorgon, using part of it to buy a pregnant English mare. The horse later gave birth to Makybe Diva, whose name was made from the first two letters of the names of five women who worked at Mr Santic's Port Lincoln factory, Tony's Tuna. Makybe Diva was a wonder horse which won the Melbourne Cup three times in three consecutive years. A feat that had never previously been achieved and is unlikely to be beaten. The town celebrates Makybe Diva with a life-sized bronze statue sculpted by local artist, Ken Martin, which stands, proud and prominent, on the town's foreshore. It cost $180,000 and was funded by the tuna industry and the local council. Locals like to joke that it must be the only statue of a horse that never actually visited the place where it has been installed.

Port Lincoln's Large Houses
Port Lincoln's fishermen have made fortunes out of the tuna industry and some of them have built massive houses. In the 1990s of the houses were named 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty', after the television series, and stories of extravagant lifestyles abound. It has been rumoured that one tuna fisherman, envious of his competitor's large house, took an architect to view it and said 'Build me a house that is worth $100 000 more than that'. These houses can be viewed in the area to the north east of the town. Some can be seen from the harbour foreshore. As if to confirm this wealth a visit to the harbour will instantly reveal millions of dollars worth of tuna fishing boats. It should never be underestimated that the deep sea fishermen of Port Lincoln are very, very wealthy men. The money which can be made from tuna fishing verges on the fantastic. The Japanese pay huge sums for specially prepared tuna for sashimi and this has resulted in many of the tuna fishermen becoming multimillionaires.

The Story of the Tuna Millionaires
The southern bluefin tuna has showered the fishing families of Port Lincoln with unimaginable riches. Back in the 1980s Port Lincoln was a hardworking fishing and grain town. It was canning tuna for sandwiches and cat food and its huge grain silos were shipping wheat to the rest of the world. Today, the migrant men (mostly from the Balkans), just simple fishermen - men such as Tony Santic, owner of triple Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva, and Dinko Lukin, whose son Dean was an Olympic weightlifting champion - are netting millions, courtesy of licences to catch tuna for the Japanese market.
The German-born Hagen Stehr likes to boast that when he sits down for his Thursday get-together at a Port Lincoln cafe with his old mates Sam Sarin, Mario Valcic and Joe Puglisi, they are worth more than a billion dollars between them. That’s more than $250 million each. Not bad for a four humble fisherman. They got very, very rich because Japanese culinary culture prizes southern bluefin as a source of raw fish for sashimi. Japan's love of southern bluefin pays about $250 million a year to Port Lincoln fishermen.
It is a hard, but hugely rewarding, occupation. The small number of boat owners leave Port Lincoln between December and February for the deep ocean of the Great Australian Bight, where schools of juvenile fish weighing from 20 to 40 kilograms swim past on a journey from the Java Sea to New Zealand.
Whole schools are captured by boats trailing purse-shaped nets, which carefully drift their catch to within 15 kilometres of Port Lincoln, where they are released into large pontoons. For the next few months they are fattened on sardines, redbait, mackerel or squid. This harnessing was pioneered in the early 1990s by Dinko Lukin, who herded the tuna into pens, and Joey Puglisi, who developed the lucrative Japanese market.
These days, owning a tuna quota - the right to fish a certain tonnage - is a ticket to great riches. Prime tuna sells for $50 or more a kilo and a whole fish air freighted to Tokyo can be worth $2500. One fish sold for over $1 million in 2013. Ninety-two per cent of Australia's southern bluefin tuna licences are owned by Port Lincoln fishermen, who were granted them free when compulsory quotas were introduced according to who was actively fishing.

Dean Lukin - Australia's First Weightlifting Olympic Gold Medallist
Port Lincoln came to the attention of Australians in 1984 when a local tuna fisherman, Dean Lukin, with the accidental assistance of an Eastern European and USSR boycott of the Los Angeles Games (most weightlifting events prior to the boycott had been won by Russians and Eastern Europeans), won Australia's first weightlifting gold medal at an Olympic Games. This fascination with the country's first weightlifting gold medal led to investigations of Port Lincoln where it was found that, as a result of tuna fishing (at the time tuna was yielding $40,000 a tonne in Japan) local fishermen were becoming multimillionaires. They were building houses to match their wealth and it was claimed that there were more millionaires per head of population on Port Lincoln than any other city in Australia.

Lincoln Cove Marina
Located 2 km to the south of the town's centre is the newest development - the Lincoln Cove Marina. It is worth visiting because it is unique. On one level there are hugely expensive houses located along the canal arms of the marina. Instead of their being luxury yachts moored outside the marina is home to the deep sea bluefin tuna fleet. The incongruity is amazing. Opulent houses fronted by tough fishing boats ready to test themselves against the harshness of the Great Southern Ocean.

Fishermen's Memorial
Located opposite the Marina Hotel in Jubilee Drive (on the walkway near the water) is the Fishermen's Memorial. The front of the sculpture represents families left behind and the other side represents the mourning embraced by waves and fish. The memorial was built from donated West Coast granite, by sculptor Marijan Bekic. Bekic has explained that the memorial's design was influenced by people he met in Port Lincoln who had lost loved ones at sea. It incorporates feelings of endless waiting and hoping. There are rocks onto which the names of people lost at sea are carved. The rocks are leaning, representing the ocean's waves, and reflecting the harshness of the fishing business.

Mill Cottage Museum
The National Trust's Mill Cottage Museum is located in Flinders Park at 20 Flinders Highway. The original limestone cottage was built in 1866 by local storekeeper, John Bishop. Bishop's family continued to live there until the house was handed over by Amy Bishop (she was an artist who never married) to the National Trust in 1971. Open from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm Sunday and 10.00 am - 2.00 pm Wednesday. Tel: (08) 8682 5637. The museum currently houses an interesting collection Bishop family artefacts, paintings by Amy Bishop, and local memorabilia including furniture which was brought from England in 1839. For more details check out http://community.history.sa.gov.au/mill-cottage-museum. A downloadable brochure is available at https://www.portlincoln.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/2-68-T4%20Mill%20Cottage%20Museum%20Brochure%2020150625.pdf.

Settlers' Cottage Museum
Located near Mill Cottage Museum in Flinders Park is the Settlers' Cottage Museum. It is a modern building which was opened in 1987 and which stores a collection of historical artefacts (scrapbooks, photographs, newspapers) and memorabilia from the southern Eyre Peninsula, tel: (08) 8682 3975. Open Sundays 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm. Check out http://community.history.sa.gov.au/settlers-cottage for more information.

Axel Stenross Maritime Museum
Located at 97 Lincoln Highway, and celebrating the lives of Finnish boat builders Axel Stenross and Frank Laakso who arrived in Port Lincoln in 1927, this museum includes maritime artefacts, carved wooden dinghies, old tools used in manual boat construction, a working slipway, as well as photographs and newspaper articles relating to local maritime history, tel: (08) 8682 3624 or check out details at http://www.axelstenross.com.au/. It is open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday 9.00 am - 4.30 pm and Saturday 1.00 pm - 4.30 pm. Volunteers help with additional information.

M.B. Kotz Collection of Stationary Engines
Located at 24 Baltimore Street behind an attractive suburban house is a collection of stationary petrol and oil engines and early farm equipment all of which has been restored to working order. The exhibition is on display every day from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm, tel: (08) 8683 0349 or 0428 837 884.

Railway Museum
Located in Railway Place in the original, limestone Port Lincoln Railway Station (1926) is a museum which celebrates the history of railways on the Eyre Peninsula. The museum website explains: "The Museum includes an extensive photographic collection, a large collection of plans and other official documents from the SAR and AN days on Eyre Peninsula, and a display of memorabilia related to the railways on Eyre Peninsula. It is well worth a visit, either as a casual observer or for more detailed research." The museum is open every Wednesday year round, 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm (except Good Friday and Christmas Day), most Sundays in SA school holidays, 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm and 8:30 am - 4:00 pm on days when cruise ships are in town (except for ships with fewer than 1,000 passengers). For more information and telephone numbers check out the website at https://www.eprps.org.au.

Port Lincoln RSL Museum
Located at 14 Hallett Place, the RSL Museum is a rare display of memorabilia which is spread through the RSL Club with exhibits in the foyer, the main room by the bar and in the pool room. "The collection includes uniforms, medals, photographs, documents, flags, guns and other military equipment as well as a number of items ‘souvenired’ by military personnel such as rock from Gallipoli and pieces from the POW built Burma railway. There are also various local Honour Rolls displayed in the foyer and items relating to the history of the RSL sub branch in Port Lincoln." Check https://explore.history.sa.gov.au/organisation/port-lincoln-rsl-museum for more information. When the museum opened in 2020 the ABC did a report on the curator and some of the unique stories behind the collection. Check https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-12/port-lincoln-rsl-museum-opens/12446954. One particularly fascinating account was of "a sheepskin vest from World War II that belonged to Donald May, who grew up at Nunjikompita, near Ceduna, and flew with the Royal Air Force. [The curator] had to connect the puzzle pieces to bring his story to life.
"I've traced him back to when he was eight years old and being raised on the farm through a letter he wrote to the local paper about his kittens," Ms Hentschke said.
His story ended in tragedy, but his life is now on show.

Old Mill Lookout
Located at Dorset Place this historic  structure (1846) was built as part of a flour mill complex but never used for that purpose. Now serving as a lookout tower with views of the city and of Boston Bay, it is within walking distance of the city centre. Turn off the Flinders Highway into Gloucester Terrace then left into Dorset Place.

Constantia Designer Craftsmen
Constantia is a group of Master Craftsmen with a world-class reputation for fine furniture design and manufacture. The company was selected to design and build the Central Table and Hansard Desk for the House of Representatives in the new Parliament House in Canberra. Today the company manufactures a full range of top quality, organic timber finishing products. The company offer a guided tour of their operation so that visitors can view the process of converting raw timber to completed works, via design, construction, final polishing and presentation in the showroom. They are located at 42-44 Proper Bay Road at the southern end of town, tel: (08) 8682 3977 or for tours 0449 994 003. Tours are available by appointment.

Parnkalla and Investigator Trails
The Parnkalla and Investigator Walking Trails pass through Port Lincoln to Lincoln National Park and wind their way around the edges of Port Lincoln’s natural harbour. The Parnkalla Trail (it is 14 km long) carries the name of the Aboriginal people whose dreaming was intertwined with Port Lincoln and the Investigator is the name of Matthew Flinders' vessel. The trails pass through natural bushland and offer good birdwatching opportunities.


Other Attractions in the Area

Sea Lion Tour
A half day tour which leaves Lincoln Cover Marina, travels across Boston Bay, then heads south around Cape Donnington to Hopkins Island where the Sea Lions reside. It is not permitted to go onshore but the curious creatures enter the water and frolic around the boat. People on the tour can don wetsuits, mask and snorkel and enter the water and make contact with the animals. Sea Lions are endangered and the permit is strict. Check out http://www.sharkcagediving.com.au/sea-lion-tours.

Shark Cage Diving
This tour leaves the Port Lincoln Marina at 6.30 am and travels to the Neptune Islands. After three hours it reaches the New Zealand fur seal colony at the Neptune Islands where shark cage divers enter a cage (it holds eight) and where they spend 45 minutes only millimetres away from the Great White Sharks. Check out http://www.sharkcagediving.com.au/shark-tours/ for more details.

Boston Island
Boston Island is located 5 km offshore, between Port Lincoln and Cape Donington. First sighted by Matthew Flinders in 1802 the island was settled as early as 1840 when an old slab cottage, which is still standing, was built.

Winters Hill Lookout
Located 5 km from the city centre, the Winters Hill Lookout (follow the Flinders Highway out of the town centre and turn right onto Winters Hill Road) offers panoramic views across Boston Bay towards Boston Island and out to Donington Island and Cape Donington with Port Lincoln stretching out below. It allows the visitor an excellent overview of the whole Port Lincoln-Boston Bay area.

Roseview Gardens
Located 10 km north-west of Port Lincoln's at 132 Little Swamp Lane, is Roseview Garden which features 600 rose bushes as well as perennials, annuals, trees, bushes and shrubs in a park setting. It sells emu oils, leathers and cosmetics in a craft shop. There are also fish ponds, birds, a coffee shop and picnic areas with barbecue facilities. They are open daily from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm.

Glen-Forest Tourist Park and Vineyard
Located 15 km north (just 15 minutes drive) of Port Lincoln in Clarkes Lane at Green Patch, Glen-Forest Tourist Park and Vineyard is a 400-acre farm (162 ha) with 120 acres dedicated to an animal park and 80 acres to a vineyard. It is ideal for family picnics. The animal park includes  koalas, dingos, kangaroos, wombats, sheep, goats, emus, camels, horses, cows, water buffalos, ostriches, ducks, peacocks and a bird aviary. Other facilities include a putt-putt golf course, free barbecues, undercover picnic areas and Segway Rides. Open daily from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. For more information tel: (08) 8683 4034 or 0419 818 157. The website http://www.visitglenforest.com/index.php has additional details.

Lincoln National Park
Lincoln National Park, a 29,000 ha park of granite headlands, sheltered bays and offshore islands, is located on the southern most tip of the Eyre Peninsula. It was dedicated in 1941. Located 13 km south west of Port Lincoln, it is accessible by 2WD vehicles along the north coast to Surfleet Cove; by 4WD vehicles to Maclaren Point, Taylors Landing, Memory Cove, West Point, Cape Catastrophe, Wanna and along the Sleaford-Wanna Track; and by extensive walking tracks around Cape Donington Lighthouse and along the northern and southern beaches. The main features of the park are its picturesque coastline. A walk to the Flinders Monument vantage point on Stamford Hill, commands magnificent views over the rugged coast, surrounding bays, off-shore islands, and across the water to Port Lincoln. The  park has many geographical features which, tragically, bear names given to them by Matthew Flinders when he explored and charted this coastline. Cape Catastrophe, Memory Cove and eight of the nearby islands bear names of special significance as it was here that eight crewmen died when their cutter went down in heavy seas while they were exploring the coast. The islands, all located off the southern and eastern coasts of the park, are named Thistle, Taylor, Grindle, Little, Lewis, Hopkin, Smith and Williams - sad reminders of the disaster. A range of brochures can be downloaded from http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Eyre_Peninsula/lincoln-national-park including the excellent Lincoln National Park and Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area. This brochure notes: "There is plenty to see and do in Lincoln National Park and Memory Cove - boating, fishing, beach combing, swimming, bird watching and nature walks are all popular activities. Campgrounds in the park offer easy access to the beaches, bays and walking trails, with some accessible by 2WD vehicle. Lincoln National Park and Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area protect the coastal vegetation of the lower Eyre Peninsula and provide a safe refuge for rare wildlife.

Memory Cove
Although much of the park is accessible by conventional vehicle there are a number of 4WD roads including an outstanding drive out to Memory Cove which passes through land once cleared in an attempt to farm the peninsula. This road passes the limestone cliffs on the southern edge of the park. This is a wilderness area and entry is by key and permit from the Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre, tel: (08) 8683 3544 or 1300 788 378. Memory Cove, which was named by Flinders as a reminder of the tragic accident which took the lives of his eight crewmen, has a replica of a copper plate which Flinders left on a post. The original plate, which is now housed in the Adelaide Public Library, had the following inscription: "Memory Cove. H.M.S. Investigator, M. Flinders Comr. anchored here on 22nd February 1802. Mr John Thistle, the Master, Mr William Taylor, Midn and six of the crew were most unfortunately drowned near this place from being upset in a boat. The wreck of the boat was found, but their bodies were not recovered. Nautici Cavete!" The Latin at the end means 'Sailor Beware!' The brochure describes the experience of Memory Cove as a "magnificent and secluded bay with a pure white sandy beach, cradled between densely vegetated headlands. Memory Cove provides a very special camping or day-visit wilderness experience."

Mikkira Station
Mirrika Station is located 26 km south-west of Port Lincoln on Fishery Bay Road. It is a combined picnic area, camp ground and natural bushland where the Manna Gum trees are home to colonies of koalas. The Station and Koala Park is centred around Mirrika Station which was first settled in 1842. The original homestead, with its stone walls and its historic bulb garden, has been restored. There are birds (including the Port Lincoln Ringneck Parrot), bushwalks and a restored 1842 homestead, tel: (08) 8685 6020 or check out http://www.mikkirakoalas.com.

Whalers Way
Located 32 km south-west of Port Lincoln is the privately owned Whalers Way (entrance is by keys which are available for a fee from the Visitor Information Centre and a number of service stations). The road runs for 14 km around the coastline and offers excellent views of blowholes, bomboras, dramatic crevasses, capes and cliffs. The whole coastline is pounded by the waves from the southern ocean and the area is home to substantial numbers of kangaroos and emus. Check with Visitor Information but, as a general principle, this is a road from 4WD vehicles only. There is a map of the main features of the drive. Check out https://www.raa.com.au/documents/lower-eyre-peninsula-whalers-way-map. There is an excellent collection of photos at http://www.belglen.com.au/travels/eyre-peninsula-whalers-way-2014/ which will give you a good idea of what the coastline is like.

Koppio Smithy Museum
Located at Koppio 39 km north of Port Lincoln, this extensive collection of agricultural equipment which is spread across 2 ha of rolling hills includes pioneer homes (Glenleigh Cottage dates from 1890), an old school, a 1903 Blacksmith's shop, Calderwoods stationary engines, farming equipment, vintage cars and trucks, horse-drawn vehicles, and a barbed wire display. Tel: (08) 8684 4243. It is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm Tuesday to Sunday.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Nawu First Nation people.

* The first European to explore the area was Matthew Flinders who entered the harbour in February, 1802 and named it 'in honour of my native province'. Flinders had been born at Donington in Lincolnshire on 16 March 1774. He named the bay, island and point after his home town of Boston and Cape Donington was named after his birthplace.

* In 1803 the French explorer, Nicolas Baudin, reached Port Lincoln but he did not land.

* By the 1820s the port was an important resting point for sealers from Kangaroo Island and whalers from Port Jackson who fished and hunted in the Great Southern Ocean.

* When the idea of creating a separate colony of South Australia was first mooted, Port Lincoln was suggested as a suitable state capital.

* Surveyor William Light had already chosen the site of Adelaide when he made a brief visit to Port Lincoln and declared that the harbour entrance was unsafe and there was an absence of fresh water.

* In 1839 the Port Lincoln Special Survey Association was formed and the township was laid out on the south-westerly shores of Boston Bay. The surveyor was Benjamin Pratt Winter.

* The first settlers arrived in March, 1839.

* On 20 March, 1839 Robert Tod explored the area to the north of Port Lincoln and discovered a river which was named the Tod in his honour.

* The Lincoln Hotel, the oldest on the Eyre Peninsula, was built in 1840.

* St Thomas' Anglican Church was built between 1849-50.

* The port's first jetty was built in 1854.

* The Port Lincoln Courthouse dates from 1862.

* The Mill Cottage, now the National Trust Museum, was completed in 1866.

* A modern jetty was constructed in 1875.

* The District Council was created in 1880.

* The completion of the rail links to the large sections of the Eyre Peninsula between 1907 and 1926 ensured the town's continued survival and guaranteed its growth.

* Around this time it became a vital port for the wheat trade from South Australia to Europe.

* In 1959 bulk wheat and grain silos were built at the port.

* In 1971 Port Lincoln was declared a city.

* In 1984 local fisherman, Dean Lukin, won the Super Heavyweight weightlifting division at Olympic Games in Los Angeles.


Visitor Information

Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre, 3 Adelaide Place, Port Lincoln, tel: (08) 8683 3544 or 1300 788 378.


Useful Websites

The official local website is http://www.visitportlincoln.net which has extensive information about food and wine, and accommodation, in the area.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.