Coorong National Park is a wetland of international significance, mainly thanks to its large numbers of waterbirds.
Coorong National Park is a wetland of international significance, mainly thanks to its large numbers of waterbirds. Up to 238 species have been recorded and it is the largest permanent breeding ground for Australian pelicans. There can be as many as 5000 of them in December. Small migratory birds which breed in the Siberian Arctic also travel 13,000km to spend summer in the Coorong.
With mixed vegetation of coastal heath and Mallee scrub, the 50,000ha Coorong National Park is an important archaeological site, having evidence of Ngarrindjeri occupation over many thousands of years.
Coorong, which is Aboriginal for "narrow neck", is 135km long and 5km at its widest. It has a lagoon in the north and the south, and the Younghusband Peninsula separates the lagoons from the ocean.
Locals say to get the best from this special place, go no further than an outing with David Dadd. The former ferry operator has lived there for 25 years and has always had a passion for reading, particularly anything involving nature.
He knows the park inside out and has been taking 4WD tours through there for 12 years. He is able to offer knowledge on anything and everything social history, plants, birds, geology, common seashells and anything else you might come across.
When David isn't taking people through the park, he does voluntary and contract bird surveys for National Parks and Wildlife, and is also a biodiversity officer for the local land care action group.
You are collected in Meningie and travel south along Seven Mile Road, a dirt track sprinkled with shacks. This is where you will get your first view of the Coorong. Next stop is Parnka Point which divides the lagoons. This is where you stop for morning tea.
At Jacks Point, a one kilometre walk will give you a view of the pelican breeding islands. It is forbidden for anyone to approach closer than 200m, with David being the exception. He says the birds are quite sociable and he bands them, making it possible for them to be tracked as far away as Queensland, Darwin and Papua New Guinea.
You could also be lucky enough to see an active mallee fowl nest. They are the only mound-building bird living outside the tropics.
Before reaching the ocean, you drive over 30m high dunes. The 13 dunes system found in the Limestone Coast region is an excellent example of sea level fluctuations formed over 700,000 years ago in the ice ages. Younghusband Peninsula is the most recently formed.
At 90 Mile Beach, you will walk on metre-thick shells. They are generated in seagrass meadows. There are hundreds of thousands of hectares of the grass in the sea, almost reaching the continental shelf.
On the way back, you will come across Chinaman's Well, a site from the gold rush days. The well's water was used on market gardens, growing vegetables for passers-by en route to Victoria to seek their wealth.