Friday 24 September 2021

Heysen Trail. Cape Jervis to Mt Lofty- 200km, 8 days. South Australia.

The Heysen Trail: currently the longest marked footpath in Australia at around 1100 kilometres.

Wholly within South Australia, it waggles it's way up from the Southern Ocean to the mountain desert of the Flinder's Ranges. 

Diversity is the buzz word for this trail and you get the whole shooting match; 

  • windswept coast
  • vineyards 
  • lush green paddocks full of fat cows and fatter sheep
  • steep sided pockets of protected rocky natural areas complete with twisted eucalyptus trees and bouncing fauna 
  • trail towns for resupply just when you need them 
  • and quiet country lanes to connect it all up.

The Heysen is oft derided and overlooked in favour of 'proper trails' such as the Bibbulmun and the Larapinta, but, ah, not really so much over the past 2 years.  Traffic is increasing.

The 'thing' and the hiatus on international - and indeed at times, interstate travel- has prompted a sizable contingent of thru hikers and section walkers (like myself) to swing in to Adelaide and check it out bro.

"Too much road walking!" I've heard.  "It's just bloody farmland." More negativity.

"You live in Tasmania!  Why would you want to go hike that trail?"  

Well, you see; I'm stimulated by the unknown and just a wee bit bored of busy, bogan soaked Tasmania and I had the idea buried somewhere in the back of my monkey brain to knock off sections of the Heysen a chunk at a time over a few years.

I've stumbled over the Heysen a few times in the past 2 decades whilst wandering around South Australia and I ran some of the Northern section a few years ago during a 100 mile Ultramarathon in the Flinders Ranges.  

Virgin announced direct flights from Launceston to Adelaide for $59 for September (hell yeah!) and I grabbed a seat on the inaugural flight out.  

Fuckin after it.

Map sourced from Google maps.

The Southern Terminus of the Heysen Trail, located just North of the ferry dock on the East side. 

Map showing the wiggly 200 kilometre section from Cape Jervis to Mt Lofty East of Adelaide.
Map sourced from

Getting to Cape Jervis:

Cape Jervis is the kick off point for the Kangaroo Island ferry and Sealink is the company that operates the big boat that services the sea route between the mainland and the island.  I've been told it's very swish over there, I shall have to check it out one day very soon and wander around and make myself known to the locals and take pretty pictures and shit.  

Anyhow, Sealink nudges a bus up and down the road between Cape Jervis and Adelaide daily to drop off and collect passengers.  
I rode the 3:30pm coach South toggle down for timetable, it costs $27 cash to the driver, departs at the Adelaide Central Bus Station and takes around 1 hour, 40 minutes of stop-start traffic-light induced fun times to get you to the ferry terminal.

Navigation and Information:

I ordered the first 2 maps of the 8 sheet series from the excellent  Friends of the Heysen Trail.  site here

They were mostly solid.  There have been a few reroutes here and there and at times the signage can be a tad vague but for the most part I bumbled along fine.  The Gaia app was of immense help once or twice when I was a tad uncertain.

Many hikers purchase the Guthook App download for the Heysen which includes user feedback concerning water availability and track notes.

The Heysen Trail Thru Hiker Facebook Group is handy for up to date tips too.

Daily Mileage:

Arrival from Adelaide to Cape Jervis: 2km?  Wild campsite before Fishery Beach

  • Day 1: 30km Wild Campsite on Hillside before Boat Harbor Beach
  • Day 2: 30km Wild Campsite Ridgeway Hill Cliffs
  • Day 3: 41km Heysen's Rest B&B
  • Day 4: 26km Mt Compass Caravan Park
  • Day 5: 31km Wild Campsite Kuipto Forest
  • Day 6: 36km Wild Campsite Mylor Conservation Park
  • Day 7: 9km   Stirling Golf Club Motel
  • Day 8: 7km   Mt Lofty

Total: 212km

These are just my slightly hazy, indefinite estimates.  Not to be taken seriously or as gospel.  
I really don't care.  😃

It's about what you see and how you feel not how far you go, isn't it.

I tripped over dozens of Stumpy Tail lizards on the coastal section of the Heysen.

Inman Valley General Store, highly recommend the Fish & Chips you legends.  Water is available over the road from the small water tanks on the right, behind the hall.

Mt Cone water tank was a welcome lunch stop to pull up for a bit and cook up a meal so I didn't roar into Mt Compass village filthy hungry.

General Observations:

The first 3 days on the coastal section heading due East wind along clifftop trail to drop onto pristine isolated beaches and climb back up again.  I encountered far too many school kids on day 1 and then not a soul thereafter.  The wind was unreal at times and Kangaroo Island is always somewhere in your field of vision until you head North and leave the beach for good.

Water is easily obtained from the various car camping and hiker walk in sites.
A fair chunk of the Heysen traverses private land and it is big up's and gracious thanks to these generous folk that allow Heysen walkers to access their properties and cross their fence stiles, otherwise the trail would be one big long boring road bash.
Resupply is possible at: 
  • Kilometre 70;     (+ 7km side trail) Victor Harbor 
  • Kilometre 90;     Inman Valley (meals only) 
  • Kilometre 105;   (+ short road walk) Myponga 
  • Kilometre 128;   (+ short sketchy highway walk) Mt Compass 
  • Kilometre 187;   Mylor (meals only) 
  • Kilometre 195;   Bridgewater
  • Kilometre 206;   Mt Lofty (meals only)


  • I slowed down and rested up on the last 2 days knowing I was bailing out on Mt Lofty.  Regular bus services North of Norton Summit can be a bit erratic so I chose to exit on Lofty, walking down to Burnside and the knot of cafes and shops via the Long Ridge Track, spotting a koala on the way. 😉

  • There is a plethora of trails leading off Mt Lofty and a whole bunch of sweaty, lycra clad bodies running and riding them most of the time.  Take your pick.

  • The sheer variety of vegetation and landscapes really rocked my interest during this walk.  The Fleurieu Peninsula is a truly appealing and interesting region and deserving of slow, pedestrian exploration.

  • Mobile reception is kind of available for most of the trail, handy when phoning ahead to book a room or call a cab.

  • I stealth camped far away from people.  When the weather was stable the star watching was fuckin amazing and the natural silence incredible.

  • Already looking forward to jumping back on the trail next year and heading North for another 2 or 3 hundred kilometres.

The pictures from my shitty phone camera don't convey the views from Mt Lofty in all their glory however I reckon they are worth a few minutes of your time on a fine day.

Map showing the entire 1100 kilometre route of the Heysen Trail from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge. 
Map sourced from and Google Maps.