The camp grounds we look forward to the most are the ones that are remote, 4WD access only and raved about. After exploring the Lincoln National Park for nearly a week, we decided it was high time to explore what we’d hoped to be the most amazing camp site left; Memory Cove.
Everything we’d read and seen about this place meant we had high expectations, which doesn’t always work out well. So, does Memory Cove live up to the hype?
Where is Memory Cove?
You’ll find this place also in the Lincoln National Park, but out along a long, slow track beyond Wanna (which is a truly magic place). It’s about 50km from Port Lincoln, but takes much longer than you’d expect.
You need a key
To get to Memory Cove, you need to get a key, as it has locked gates. You can get this from the visitors centre at Port Lincoln, and you need to pay a $50 deposit for the key, which you get back when you return the key.
The key stops a huge number of people going, and they limit it to a maximum of 15 people per day, or the 5 camp sites.
The gate is located about half way from Port Lincoln to Memory Cove; its possible to drive a fair way down the track, only to be forced to turn back due to the locked gate, so make sure you get a key.
The visitors centre is pretty easy going, and helpful, and you need to take cash for your deposit.
Booking for camping is online, and needs doing well in advance
If you want to stay at Memory Cove, you need to book it online through the South Australia parks website, and you should do it well in advance as its popular. We were recommended to go for at least two nights, with three being better as it’s a fair hike in and you want to make the most of it.
What does it cost to stay?
Camping at Memory Cove is $29.50 per vehicle, per night. It’s considerably more expensive than Engine Point and even the other camp grounds, but a whole new kettle of fish too.
What amenities are at Memory Cove?
Memory Cove has a toilet, a couple of picnic tables and that really is it. The sites are well designated, and there’s no water, rubbish bins or anything like that. We didn’t use the toilet, but were told by a couple of others that it was pretty feral (which doesn’t surprise me given its proximity to town!).
We bumped into a ranger on the way out who told us that they visit once every two weeks normally, or once a week during school holidays, which explains why the toilets get so bad!
It’s a long, slow 4WD track in
When we spoke to people about Memory cove, the usual reaction was a laugh, because of the track in. We were told its super rocky, slow and a good back massage, and the descriptions weren’t too far off the mark.
From Port Lincoln to the turn off to Memory Cove is all either bitumen or really good gravel, and then it deteriorates from there. We didn’t go too far in before deflating our tyres down (24 on the front of the Isuzu Dmax, 28 on the rear and 32 on the hybrid camper).
I also threw it into low range, as I could see we’d never be able to go fast enough to need high range and towing the camper makes the vehicle work pretty hard up hills (and the improved engine braking is much appreciated).
The track is reasonable, until you get closer to the gate where it gets a bit rougher and slower. After the gate is good for a while, and then it deteriorates with some super rocky and slow sections, and a couple of places with wash outs and little steps.
It’s certainly nothing that a completely stock 4WD couldn’t handle, although there are a couple of places you could do damage if you picked a bad line. The rocks seem to be fairly smooth with hardly any really sharp and concerning ones, which is fantastic for running low tyre pressures.
From the gate, it says 19km, and one hour, and its pretty much on the money. We probably took marginally longer (1 hour and 10 minutes) to get there, but we were towing a heavier hybrid and stopped a couple of times to get some photos.
There’s a few places where you can sit on about 30km/h, but for the most part you are doing 20km/h or less, and it is fairly bumpy. None of the humps are massive and overly concerning, but they are big enough that you physically wouldn’t go any faster for fear of breaking something and due to the lack of comfort.
All in all, we were expecting a rougher and more difficult track (and some family who came out later said its much improved), but we did meet a number of people who were swearing at the track, and weren’t overly happy about its condition.
We’ve certainly done rougher tracks (and the one around Fowlers Bay is probably worse) but this is fairly long and relentless, and it takes its toll!
My suggestion is to make sure you have a good mapping system so you can see how little progress you’ve made, and if you don’t have that, put it into google maps before you lose signal so you can see the distance remaining.
You cannot take Caravans
If you look on the South Australia Parks website, you are limited to taking 4WD’s and off road camper trailers. Caravans are not permitted (and you’d have a hard time getting one in anyway).
Memory Cove camp sites
As mentioned, there are 5 camp sites at Memory Cove. Number 1 is a long, narrow mini drive way. Number 2 is probably the best site, in terms of size and beach access. 3 is nice, and also has easy beach access.
We stayed in number 4, which is great except you need to reverse any trailers in as its a big dog leg, and it looks directly at number 5. Honestly, I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of them; they are all stunning and you’d be happy with any (providing you fit!).
Memory Cove has fires banned year round, which I think is just a precautionary thing. On total fire bans, you can’t even have a gas burner that’s exposed (which is where an induction cooktop comes into its own!).
The bird life is magic
The bird life at Memory Cove is truly special. We had a heap of blue wrens, and other yellow ones flitting around everywhere, all day. Their song is magic, and you’ll see a heap of ocean bird life. We saw a couple of eagles too, but sitting around camp listening and watching the birds was pretty amazing for us, and our kids.
The wrens in particular seem to be incredibly tame, with them happily landing in your camp site and even walking under your seats if you are careful. They’ll pick up any crumbs left around, and we had a heap of fun trying to get more photos of them.
What is Memory Cove really like?
After reading numerous comments from people who were saying that Memory Cove was in their top 10 places in Australia, and knowing it was behind a key at the end of a long, rough 4WD track I was super excited to see it for myself. Would it be another place that is raved about that really isn’t that special, or would the effort to get in be well and truly worth the reward?
We took a bit of a gamble with the weather, not knowing what it would be like (although it is surrounded and gets great protection) and booked 3 nights.
I was expecting the 4WD track to be a lot worse than what it was, with no sections requiring us to even stop and think about choice of line, and with low tyre pressures we just crawled in without any real concerns.
The beach is magic, and its fairly well protected from 3 sides (although we still had wind on arrival coming down the hill). We had a fair bit of seaweed on the beach in late November, and I assume this all gets taken away in the coming months.
The camp sites are small, but all have decent access to the beach, and asides from your immediate neighbours it is quite private and quiet. Knowing that there can only be 5 campers in at one time is nice, and the beach probably takes the cake for the best in the Lincoln National Park. It would be a clear winner if there was no seaweed, but we’ll forgive it; it truly is incredible.
We spend 3 magic nights relaxing in an amazing camp site with decent shade and water views, and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are camping for a couple of nights and you know what to expect, its certainly worth the drive in.
If you are into fishing, you can catch snapper and Nannygai off the point (and further around), which is pretty rare in this part of the world, for shore based fishing.
Bees, Mice and Rats
Whilst we didn’t experience any of the above, reading the comments online and speaking to locals you should expect to deal with some, or all of the above. I know what its like to camp in swarms of Bee’s, and whilst they aren’t really interested in you, it can be quite unpleasant. Rats and mice are a massive problem for any wiring in your vehicle (and they get into everything), so come prepared.
We did however, get bitten a number of times by March flies, and I made a point of reducing their population whenever they showed some love. They are annoying little things, and are one of the few animals I don’t mind whacking.
Would we recommend a day trip to Memory Cove?
If you are leaving Port Lincoln, you are probably looking at about 2 hours to get to Memory Cove (including letting your tyres down, and stopping once or twice). That means 4 hours in the car if you want to head out for the day only, and that begs the question; is it really worth it?
It’s a great beach, and the area is stunning, but it is a long drive in, and there are nice beaches in the national park that are much, much easier to get to. If you have time, I’d probably still come in for a look, but be under no illusion; its not a 5 second drive up the bitumen!
You can get the key from the information centre the day before, so you can head in earlier which is worth doing.
Book a few nights here if you can
Overall, we truly loved Memory Cove, and as expected it takes the number one place for best camp site in the Lincoln National Park for us. The quietness, remoteness and sheer beauty is as good as it gets in the Lincoln National Park, and we had an absolute ball.
Have you been to Memory Cove? What did you think of it?