Sir Joseph Banks Group to Port Augusta

HMS Investigator

HMS Investigator


The Sir Joseph Banks Group lie 20 nm ENE from Port Lincoln between 34°29’S to 34°43’S and 136°10’E to 136°28’E. It is a declared Marine Conservation Park covering an area of 2,627 sq. km and consists of about 20 islands, islets, and rocks divided into two main parts. This beautiful chain of islands offers a range of lovely sheltered bays, golden sand beaches, and reefs teeming with marine life that are also the South Australian breeding ground for Cape Barren Geese. Nearby Dangerous Reef hosts one of the largest breeding colonies of Australian sea lions.

The northern part, with the exception of Kirkby and Dalby islets in the west, and Winceby in the north, stand on a bank with depths of less than 9 metres.

The southern part of the group consists of Sibsey and English Islands to the west; and Stickney Island 5 nm SE of them; and then the cluster of Duffield, Spilsby, Boucaut Islands and Seal Rock another 3 nm ENE of Stickney. Then lastly, Buffalo Reef, the eastern most of the Banks Group, 7 nm SE of Boucaut.

The islands are all low-lying limestone capping granite platforms that is often exposed along shorelines and in adjacent shallow and drying reefs.

Tidal range of up to 1.60 metres significantly affects navigability in the shallower areas, especially in the northern group. Maximum land heights above chart datum are 30 metres or less, except the southern end of Reevesby (32 m) and Spilsby (41 m). And only on these islands is there any vegetation higher than low shrub.

In the 1790s, a young Matthew Flinders voyaged to New South Wales in the Reliance, and later with George Bass, he explored sections of the colony in an eight foot rowing boat called Tom Thumb. The pair was then given command of the 35 foot sloop Norfolk, in which they proved that Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was in fact an island.

When Flinders returned to England, he proposed a survey of the ‘unknown coast’ of New Holland, and his proposal was forwarded to the influential Sir Joseph Banks, who recommended the voyage be undertaken by Matthew Flinders. The proposal was approved by King George III.

A few years after that, in March 1802, after being promoted from lieutenant to commodore, Flinders was in command of HMS Investigator and ordering her away from the Port Lincoln area after naming it in honour of Lincolnshire, his home county. At six that evening, a group of low-lying islands lay ahead. The Investigator lowered an anchor in ten fathoms just north of Kirkby Island while Flinders recorded, “These I name, SIR JOSEPH BANKS’ GROUP, in compliment to the Right Honourable president of the Royal Society.”

Regard all GPS locations as approximate, even though our positions were taken from a modern chartplotter.

Spilsby Island
34°40.15’S ~ 136°19.70’E

Shelter from NE through E to SE in 7 m weed and sand.
For shelter from SW and S: Anchor off the northern shore to the east of the sand spit, in weed on a sand bottom.

Our mate John shows his anchor at 34°39.96’S ~ 136°19.90’E – too much swell there for us.

A sand spit extends about 370 m NNW from the NW corner of Spilsby, which is the largest and highest island in the Banks Group. Banyandah visited this island in a dead calm. The following morning we drift sailed over the shallow spit between Spilsby and Duffield Islet. Not advisable without the right conditions, local knowledge or shallow draught. We drift fished off the north side of this bank and caught flathead, snook, and squid.

Dangers: A large area of foul ground extends at least one mile south-west from Spilsby and should be avoided. We saw breakers there, popping out a flat sea that our surfing friend Timmy says are wicked!
It’s reported that between Spilsby and Boucaut Islet is all shoal and rocky ground best avoided! Sometimes breaks according to The Australia Pilot.

Stickney Island
34°40.92’S ~ 136°16.52’E

Shelter from NW through N to E in depths of about 10 m sand and rock.
We used a trip line here because we had a predawn start and didn’t want to chance being stuck.

This is not a big island, but there is in a deep inlet bounded by the island to the west and north, and a drying reef connected to a rocky islet to the east. The shoreline is rock. The bottom is moderately steep-to.

If sheltering from SW and S winds: There is a very pretty cove, open to the NNE, with a sandy beach at its head; anchor in mixed sand and weed.

Attractions: Strikingly beautiful island with heaps of sea lions, dolphins, and sea birds. Good fishing.

Sibsey Island
34°38.46’S ~ 136°10.79’E

Shelter from NE through E to S in 5-7 m sand patches

A small, very pretty cove with steep rocky sides. Scramble landing is possible.

Swimming is not recommended. The nearby English Island is home to large numbers of Sea-lion, some of which also haul out on Sibsey. The rich sea-life around these islands attracts top predators like white pointer sharks.

One of the two navigation lights in the Banks Group is at the highest point on Sibsey Island.

A beautiful screen saver and wall poster of this anchorage is available here free.

Sibsey Island

Hareby and Blyth Islands
34°34.17’S ~ 136°17.16’E

Shelter from E to SE
Anchor north of Hareby Island, as close to the sandbanks as draught permits.

Dangers: Rocks extend from the east of both islands. Take note of above-water rock about 750 m NE of Hareby with rocks between. These are dangerous hazards for the unwary.

Langton Island and Smith Rock
34°35.52’S ~ 136°15.26’E

Shelter from SE through S to SW.

North of the spit extending east, which continues underwater as a rocky spine towards Smith Rock awash at high water about half a mile NE. Gradual increasing depth in-between with supposedly a safe passage of 4 m depth. Plenty of sea-lions, approach cautiously.

Reevesby Island
Named by Matthew Flinders on 6 March 1802 for ‘Revesby’, a Lincolnshire village.
Banyandah experienced calm to full gale at this island.

Derilict Homestead

Reevesby Lagoon
The semi-protected waters between Reevesby, Lusby, Partney, and Marum Island are locally called “home base.” By moving from one spot to another, moderately good shelter can be obtained from any wind direction. Holding in the lagoon can be unreliable, being generally limestone interspersed with sandy patches. Depths are generally less than 6 metres.

Caution: Lusby Island is connected to Reevesby by shallow drying reef. And another partly drying reef runs west and north towards Partney reducing the safe passage into the lagoon to ½ nm wide. Stay close south of Partney Island as this passage can be difficult to see. Partney and Marum are also joined by shallow reefs. From Partney, a sand spit extends east towards Reevesby, while a drying rock and large sand spit extending from Reevesby restricts the passage between. An unlit pole marks the central point of these drying rocks. Aim for mid-channel: 34°31.31’S ~ 136°16.03’E

Attractions: The homestead and machinery sheds are in a dangerous condition, but well worth a visit.
Dangers: Tiger Snakes and Death Adders are reportedly thick on these islands, although we saw none when we walked across and around the islands.

Homestead Bay
Mooring at 34°32.19’S ~ 136°16.45’E

Shelter from NNE through E to S
Anchor off middle of sandy beach. There are a few moorings fairly close to the beach. Take one and give it a tug so you sleep well when the wind howls.

Northern Bay
34°30.83’S ~ 136°16.56’E

Morton Bay
34°30.23’S ~ 136°17.44’E

Shelter from SSE through S to SW
The best anchorage in SW weather. Bottom is heavy weed interspersed with patches of sand.

East Coast Reevesby:
McCoy Bay
34°30.47’S ~ 136°17.84’E

Shelter from SW through W to N
The large northern bay is better for more northerly winds.

Haystack Bay
34°32.09’S ~ 136°16.96’E

The semi-circular bay to the south is better for south-westerly winds.

NOTE: There is a narrow 400 m wide passage between the rocky southern coast of Reevesby and the large sandbank extending from Blyth that is reported to be 4 or 5 metres deep.

Anchorages North of Port Lincoln

Information thanks to John and Inara of Desiree, and other reliable sources such as:
Experienced yachtsmen, charter skippers, fishermen, and publications.

John says the north Spencer is delightfully beautiful with distant views of the Flinders Ranges and numerous gunk holes to spend a night or two. Summer and early autumn, the night breeze is often easterly, therefore locals favour the eastern shore. More of John and Inara’s recommendations for Spencer Gulf are here.

From the Joseph Banks Group, in a SW wind John heads to Franklin Harbour/Cowell, bypassing Arno Bay unless the wind is west when he might anchor in Arno Bay, otherwise that bay is too rollie and the entrance to the tiny Arno Bay Marina too tricky. With winds N through E to SE, John prefers sailing to Port Victoria.

Franklin Harbour/Cowell
33°41.24’S ~ 136°56.16’E

Cowell is situated on Franklin Harbour approximately halfway between Port Augusta and Port Lincoln. One of the safest and best fishing areas in South Australia, Franklin Harbour is a land-locked bay with a narrow entrance.
Anchorage: Good holding in all winds off the north side of the boat launching harbour near a finger pier good for dinghy access. Watch for shoaling water just past finger pier.
Entrance: Following the leads found on Entrance Island in a NW direction to another set of leads and channel markers south around the island. There is a shallow 2.5 m deep anchorage with strong currents behind the island. Or take another set of leads and channel marker to NE, and then NW to town.
Facilities: all the usual shopping, post office, and pubs. A very nice bakery. Foreshore developments include boardwalk and sheltered BBQ area that includes an adventure playground and public toilets with access for disabled.
Fishing: The waters of Franklin Harbour offer spotted and silver whiting, snapper, squid, mullet, flathead, garfish, snook, tommy ruff and blue crabs. The southern waters are accessed through a tortuous channel for keel boats.

Port Neill
About 40 miles south of Cowell is Port Neill, a small coastal town on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula between the major towns of Whyalla and Port Lincoln. It is 576 km by road from Adelaide.
Anchorage: Surprisingly good in SE to SW winds in a small area between the breakwater and jetty in 2.5 m sand.
Facilities: Basic shopping, pub, mechanic.

Port Victoria
34°29.50’S ~ 137°28.70’E

Shelter from N through E to SE.
Anchor off town jetty in about 4 m of water. One can also anchor behind the reefs just north of Point Gawler. Easiest approach, south of Wardang Island. From the north, there is a very narrow marked channel between Bird Point on Wardang Island and Rocky Island. Eclipse Rock is a danger when approaching Port Victoria – marked by a pole with a green triangle.

Facilities: John says it’s a charming town with good facilities. A small shop at the base of the jetty is open 7 days a week with a pub across the road. Further up the main street is a larger store that also has hardware. A picnic area north of the jetty has town water.

The town calls itself ‘the last of the windjammer ports’ and the main street has rows of Norfolk pines running all the way down to the sea. Another attraction, the waters around Wardang Island hide nine historical shipwrecks available to divers.

Further north, around Cape Elizabeth is Tiparra Bay protected from S through E to NE

33°55.40’S ~ 137°37.26’E

Shelter from N through E to S.
Anchor according to draught in good holding.

There is also a new 154 berth marina: 12.3m berth $30/day – $140/week
Enquiries: call Michael Nance 08 8823 3704

New Marina at Wallaroo

Port Boughton
33°35.91’S ~ 137°55.53’E

Access via marked channel. Tie alongside the jetty or anchor off. Population around 1,000. Historic wheat port now a popular holiday resort. Very welcoming sailing club. Port Broughton has two hotels both located on Bay Street. Easy place to linger, enjoy a lunch, walkabout, plenty to see and do.

Port Pirie
33°07.64’S ~ 138°01.27’E

Shelter from all directions, but John on Desiree only stops occasionally.

Entrance to the port is via a long winding channel. It’s a major port with wharves and plenty of traffic.

Facilities: The city centre is within walking distance. There is a museum and pub with good meals across from the wharf. Showers are available adjacent to the Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club.

Port Augusta Town Pontoon

Port Augusta Town Pontoon

Port Augusta
32°29.35’S ~ 137°45.53’E

Shelter from all directions.

Port Augusta at the head of Spencer Gulf, lies just west of the Flinders Ranges. Located 308 km from Adelaide, it is the most northerly port in South Australia.

During its history Port Augusta has changed from South Australia’s second largest port to a railway hub, and Port Augusta has reinvented itself again as the crossroads of Australia, capital of the outback. A place where tourists heading for Eyre Peninsula, Western Australia, Alice Springs, the Northern Flinders and the Birdsville Track meet and re-provision.

The entrance is via a deep-water channel past the powerhouse. You can tie up at the town pontoon free of charge or anchor off the main jetty.

Facilities: Within 150 m is a Wollies and liquor store. 200 m to the yacht club. There are plenty of nearby shops with all facilities including fuel, showers, and toilets. If alongside the a public wharf, it is recommended that boats not be left unattended. If you have access to a car, there is good sightseeing – for example to Pichi Richi Pass, Quorn, and the Flinders Ranges.

There is no other town in Australia quite like Port Augusta for contrasts. The town is literally on the edge of a desert. To the west lie five huge plateaus where there are dry salt lakes beside the road. Only a few kilometres to the north, the edge of town gives way to flat scrubby land which stretches to the horizon where the beautifully contoured, undulating slopes of the Flinders Ranges rise majestically. They are magical in their beauty, and in spring are impossibly green and fertile. At sunset they are gently coloured with a purplish hue.

© Tujays Publications 2015

South Australia ~ autumn sail around the two gulfs

Take an autumn sail around the two gulfs of South Australia, featuring a meander through the famous Joseph Banks Archipelago. Plenty of wildlife and wild weather. From Adelaide through many of the anchorages to Port Lincoln and the Joseph Banks Group back to Adelaide. Running time: 64 minutes