Granite Island National Park
Granite Island is situated a short walk or horse tram ride from the heart of Victor Harbor on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula. With over 700,000 visitors annually, it is the most visited park in South Australia.
The Horse Tram on the Causeway
Granite Island, characterised by its huge granite boulders tinged with orange and green lichen, has a uniquely distinctive history. The island has a cultural history based on the beliefs of the Ramindjeri group dating back countless generations, as well as a European history dating back to 1802 when Englishman Captain Matthew Flinders on the Investigator and Captain Nicolas Baudin on Le Geographé discovered the area.
Granite Island is part of the local Ramindjeri Aboriginal landscape, and is identified as Kaiki rather than Granite Island. The island has always been of great importance to this indigenous group, as the male Supreme Creator Ngurunderi is believed to have created the island by throwing a spear into the sea. The Ngurunderi Dreaming extends from the upper reaches of the River Murray, to Kangaroo Island.
The meeting between Flinders and Baudin at Encounter Bay in 1802 marked the beginning of enormous change at Granite Island and surrounding areas. In his journal, Flinders described how he prepared his crew for action and instructed his crew to hoist a white flag of truce. Like Nicolas Baudin who hoisted the French and English flags from his ship Le Geographé, Matthew Flinders hoped for a peaceful encounter.
The view from Granite Island to the mainland last century
To the relief of both captains, the exchange was peaceful. Flinders boarded the French ship and the two captains exchanged information about their explorations. They learned that they had been given the same task to chart the 'unknown coast' of Terra Australis. In recognition of the meeting, Flinders named the area Encounter Bay.
From this point on, Victor Harbor became recognised for its whaling and sealing opportunities. In the early nineteenth century, Encounter Bay attracted large numbers of whales and seals. Whaling stations were erected on Granite Island and the Bluff to pursue the Southern Right Whale. The Ramindjeri people were regarded as competent whalers and were employed as harpooners and whale spotters.
Whaling at Victor Harbor produced whale oil, one of South Australia's first exports. Business was good and Encounter Bay was the most productive of the colony's whaling stations. However, by the last years, whalers were only finding two to three whales each winter. In 1872 the industry closed down.
Victor Harbor was thought to be better than other harbors in the colony. It was also conveniently close to the River Murray trade. For this reason, Victor Harbor was considered to be South Australia's capital city. The town's bid to become the capital city saw the construction of Granite Island's causeway, jetties and breakwater. Victor Harbor was unsuccessful in this bid. Shipping continued successfully, however. Products like wool and wheat traveled down the River Murray by boat, then by steam train to Victor Harbor and across to Granite Island by horse-drawn tram. They were loaded onto the ships bound for ports around the world. By the end of the century, the railways were rapidly expanding and the need for shipping was reduced.
Visiting the Park
How To Get There
Granite Island is located off the coast of Victor Harbor, approximately 100 km south of Adelaide.
Exploring the Park
The Kaiki Walk will take you around the perimeter of Granite Island. Discover more about the island's wildlife and history from the signs along the trail. The walk is 1.5 km in length and takes approximately 40 minutes to complete. There are several lookouts and seats along the way.
Granite Island Café
Between June and October, you might be lucky enough to spot a Southern Right Whale in Encounter Bay. For further information visit the SA Whale Centre in Victor Harbor, or phone (61 8) 8552 5644.
Little Penguin Guided Tours
Granite Island offers guided penguin tours at dusk. All guided tours include admission into the Penguin Interpretation Centre. Start times vary between 6:00 pm in winter and 9:00 pm in summer.
For tour details telephone (61 8) 8552 7555
Fishing is best from the jetty, breakwater and causeway. To avoid disturbing Little Penguins, do not fish from the north shore in the two hours after sunset, when they are returning from the sea to their burrows.
Café and Restaurant
A variety of meals, snacks and refreshments are available from the Granite Island Café and Port of Call Restaurant. A gift shop and toilets are also located here.
Caring for the Park
The Penguin Watching Code Little Penguins are easily seen after dusk, but are vulnerable to disturbance. Follow the Penguin Watching Code to help protect them:
Penguins have right of way Keep at least five metres from penguins and their burrows Penguins are disturbed by bright lights from camera flashes and torches. Please don't use them.
Granite Island is home to some 2,000 Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) that live, rest and breed there. Like the other islands in Encounter Bay, Granite Island has good places to nest and raise chicks.
Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) are built to swim with a streamlined body. Their wings serve as flippers, their tails act like rudders and their feathers provide insulation and waterproofing.
Why don't they live on the mainland?
Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) are swift swimmers in the sea, but on land they are vulnerable to cats, rats, dogs and foxes. The sea between the mainland and the island provides a barrier from such predators.
Long distance swimmers
Once penguins become independent adults and leave the nest, they spend the first 2 years of their life travelling the seas (one penguin that was tagged near Granite Island was found in Tasmania). When Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) are ready to breed they generally return to the place where they were born (often to the same nesting area). Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) usually feed on fish within 15 km of Granite Island. Sometimes, however they have been known to venture up to 200 km from the island. They normally fish within 5 metres of the surface but sometimes dive around depths of between 5 and 20 metres. The maximum dive depth is approximately 60 metres.
Are they nocturnal?
Even though penguins are more easily seen at night than during the day, they are not nocutural. Penguins use most of their energy during the day, fishing out at sea.
What do they eat?
Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) eat squid and small fish like pilchards and whitebait.
The boulders, crevices and coastal vegetation of Granite Island shelter and protect Little Penguins (150Kb PDF) from predators such as foxes, dogs and cats. Other birdlife is also seen at Granite Island, including seabirds such as Pacific Gulls, Crested Terns, Black-faced Cormorants and Australian Kestrels. New Zealand Fur-seals and Australian Sea-lions sometime visit the area and 'haul out' on neighbouring Seal Rock and West Island.
Wildlife doesn't stop at the shoreline. The surrounding waters are home to an interesting array of marine life including the Southern Right Whale , the endangered Leafy Seadragon (South Australia's Marine Emblem) and the rare Acorn Worm.
The Granite of Granite Island
Granite Island granite
Granite Island was once connected to the mainland. It has survived the force of the ocean while the land that once surrounded it eroded away. The granite that makes up the Island was formed about 10 km below the surface of the earth.
Extreme pressure in the earth's crust folded layers of sediment. At the same time, extreme heat melted the base rock. The molten rock was forced upwards into weak points in the earth's crust - Granite Island was located at one of these weak points. The molten rock cooled and hardened into granite. This happened about 480 million years ago. Over millions of years, the thick layers of sediment that covered the granite were gradually eroded away by water, exposing the granite beneath.
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH)