Fowlers Bay is a small fishing town off the Eyre Highway in South Australia. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Nullarbor Plain, not far from Ceduna. While it was once an active port town, the small community is now mostly known for its abundant waters of the Great Australian Bight which is home to plenty of fish and marine life.
While the town has limited facilities, it makes for a great place to stop on the journey across the Nullarbor. If you’re planning a trip to the Far West Coast, here’s everything that you need to know about Fowlers Bay.
About Fowlers Bay
Fowlers Bay is a pleasant little town off the Eyre Highway not far to the west of Ceduna. It’s at the eastern extremity of the Nullarbor Plain in The Great Australian Bight. Fowlers Bay has a small community with a total population of just over 50, shared with Coorabie. It was once a bustling port town part of the greater Yalata station until the 1960s.
Today, the town is a popular place for keen anglers who come to fish off the jetty, the shore, rocky headland or from boats launched in the bay. It’s known for Mulloway, Whiting, Garfish and Tommy Ruff, which are commonly caught in the bay.
It’s also well-known by travellers as one of the best places for whale watching tours in winter.
The town also makes for a quiet alternative overnight stop off the Eyre Highway, with all the essential amenities and facilities for travellers looking for a rest from driving. It also makes for a great base from which to explore more of the Far West Coast, including surfing spots and secluded beaches.
Travelling to Fowlers Bay
Most travellers reach Fowlers Bay via the Eyre Highway, which travels from Port Augusta across the Nullarbor Plain to Norseman in Western Australia. Fowlers Bay is just 20km off the highway on the coast, making it a quiet spot to take a break from the long drive.
A stop in Fowlers Bay is often part of a much longer trip on the Eyre Highway from South Australia to Western Australia. It’s just 142km from Ceduna, which is the nearest large town. In the other direction, it’s 371km from the small community of Eucla across the border in Western Australia.
History of Fowlers Bay
This part of the Far West Coast was inhabited by the Wirangu and Mirning Aboriginal people prior to the arrival of European settlers. The coastline on this part of the Great Australian Bight was first mapped by Francois Thijssen, a Dutch captain in 1627. However, it wasn’t until Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Australia that he named the town and bay after his lieutenant, Robert Fowler. Although the name Fowlers Bay was not made official until 1940.
Edward John Eyre used Fowlers Bay as a camp in 1840 during his journey across the Nullarbor Plain with his Aboriginal companion, Wylie. By the 1860s, the first pastoral leases were established in the area and was known as Yalata station. The town opened a post office, court house, hotel and police station in the second half of the 19th century. The port in town was used up until the 1960s, until the last ship berthed at Fowlers Bay in 1966.
Interestingly, Fowlers Bay also has a link to the famous story of Gulliver’s Travels. The story was published in 1726 by Jonathon Swift and describes Gulliver being washed up on the shores of the fictitious, Lilliput. The latitude and longitude of this place are identical to Fowlers Bay. On his final voyage, he also lands on a land ruled by the Houyhnms, of which the latitude and longitude are in the ocean just south of Fowlers Bay. It’s been thought that perhaps Swift knew of the Dutch exploration of the coast way back in the 17th century!
Nearby attractions and things to do in Fowlers Bay
If you decide to spend a night or more in Fowlers Bay, there are a few things to do to keep you busy. From fishing to surfing and trying to spot whales off the coast, here are some of the best things to do in Fowlers Bay.
By far one of the most popular things to do in Fowlers Bay is go fishing. The waters off the coast of the Great Australian Bight here are abundant with plenty of species like Mulloway, Whiting, Garfish, Snook and Tommy Ruff. There is a jetty in town and it’s possible to launch a boat off the beach. Otherwise, beach fishing can be enjoyed in Fowlers Bay town or Scott’s Bay just to the west of town.
If you’re really keen, you can also join a fishing charter from Fowlers Bay. There are experienced operators launching from the town who can take you out and almost guarantee you a catch.
There are a few underrated surf spots near Fowlers Bay if you want to head out and try some surfing. Shelly Beach just to the east of town is a little surf beach which is perfect for beginners with gentle waves. If you’re looking for something more advanced then you can try the waves off Scott Point, which is backed by sand dunes in the Fowlers Bay Conservation Park to the west of town. There’s also camping available here if you want to stay close to the breaks.
If you’re willing to travel further afield, you can always head to the world-famous Cactus Beach back towards Penong off the Eyre Highway. This epic spot is known around the country as one of the best surfing destinations for experienced surfers.
The big sand dunes on the coast around Fowlers Bay are perfect for some sandboarding. This fun activity is great for the whole family to enjoy with kilometres of sandy mountains to explore. Sandboards are available to hire at the kiosk in the caravan park.
Whale watching tours
Whale sightings in Fowlers Bay occur during the winter months from June until September each year. There are telescopes on the Esplanade in town for anyone to try their luck. However, the best way to get close to these impressive mammals is to join a whale watching tour. Some of the best whale watching tours on the Eyre Peninsula launch from Fowlers Bay, making it one of the best things to do on the Far West Coast. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, if you’re able to time your visit with the cooler months of the year.
Nullarbor Link Golf Course
This is the longest golf course in the world beginning from Ceduna and heading west across the Nullarbor Plain. The 18-hole course covers an incredible 1365km across two states. Hole 4: Wombat Hole Par 5 520m is located at Nundroo on the eastern side of the roadhouse. It’s considered the most difficult hole in the course and is a great place to head for a hit of golf not far from Fowlers Bay.
Scotdesco Aboriginal Community
Just 40km east of Fowlers Bay on the Eyre Highway is the 25, 000-acre Scotdesco Aboriginal Community. It’s open to the public and offers accommodation, conference facilities, cultural experiences and a photo op of the Big Wombat.
The Scott family grew up in Eucla and around Fowlers Bay until settling in Bookabie in the 1930s. In 1992, the family purchased the farm, and their descendants still reside and manage it today. The Big Wombat on the farm was built by local artists and has become a popular tourist stop.
Fowlers Bay facilities
Being a very small town, there’s only basic facilities here for travellers. You will find picnic areas on the Esplanade, public toilets, playgrounds for the kids and a public laundromat in town. However, most other supplies are very limited with very few operating businesses.
There is a kiosk available at the caravan park selling fish bait, ice, some basic groceries, toiletries, snacks, gas swap n go, and souvenirs. There’s also diesel available in town, but the nearest petrol outlet is in Nundroo 32km away. It’s best to make sure that you’re fully stocked up on most essentials before heading to Fowlers Bay to avoid being stuck without something important, but as always, support the businesses on the ground wherever you stop to keep these facilities available.