The first of my 2024 cruises – a seven-day cruise on the Grand Princess from Melbourne to South Australia and back – took me to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, places I’ve visited before, then to Port Lincoln, a new place for me. Long settled by Aboriginal people, in 1802, Matthew Flinders named the area after his native county of Lincolnshire in England. From Adelaide it’s a 650km seven-hour drive going round the top of the Spencer Gulf, though just 250km as the crow flies. Or you can just arrive by cruise ship!
Port Lincoln is home to Australia’s largest fishing fleet: tuna, abalone, Spencer Gulf prawns, muscles and oysters are the main catches, much of the harvest going to China and Japan. The city, estimated population about 17,000, is reputed to have the most millionaires per capita in Australia.
The port is quite capable of taking a large ship like the Grand Princess. Above the quay one cannot miss the massive grain handling conveyors and loaders. Ashore the grain silos have a total capacity of around 350,000 tonnes. These days all grain arrives by road train; road trains are not allowed in Port Lincoln when a cruise ship is in port. There have been proposals to rebuild the rail line so that it can handle grain traffic but nothing definite.
The last passenger train ran to Port Lincoln in 1968. The ground floor of the former railway station, built 1926-7, is now the Port Lincoln Railway Museum, opened in 1999. It’s open on Wednesday afternoons, Sunday afternoons during school holidays and all day on cruise ship days like ours, a Friday. Obviously, I took the opportunity to visit.
Princess Cruises offered a number of organised excursions. Most looked expensive to me; for example the ‘Rugged Coastal Discovery’ trip, just over four hours, was A$259.95 (£134) per head. For myself, I took the hour and a half ‘Easy Port Lincoln’ tour, just A$74.95 (£38), a drive round the city passing the fishing harbour with a stop at the Winters Hill lookout. The commentary was excellent.
After a wander round the town centre it was back to the ship and on to Phillip Island.