Isuzu i-Venture Club: Eyre Peninsula
July 30, 2019
Carsales heads off-road with Isuzu to explore the Eyre Peninsula via D-MAX and MU-X. Planning a first trip off-road can be daunting for a new four-wheel drive owner, but initiatives like Isuzu’s I-Venture Club are a great way to learn what you need to know.
The Eyre Peninsula is remote, even to South Australians. Its fishing capital town of Port Lincoln, where we began our off-road adventure, is more than 650km from Adelaide — around seven hours’ driving time.
Port Lincoln was originally pegged as South Australia’s capital city until it was discovered that there wasn’t enough fresh drinking water to sustain a growing population.
Today it is the seafood capital of Australia, hosting its annual Tunarama festival in January and exporting the finest Sashimi grade fish around the world.
Port Lincoln is also the gateway to some of South Australia’s most stunning scenery, and just minutes outside of the town is Lincoln National Park, where we start our off-road driving adventure.
Day 1 – Port Lincoln National Park
Our Eyre Peninsula adventure off-road trip saw us saddle up in the Isuzu D-MAX LS-T.
The D-MAX’s 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine is a powerful unit which has all the oomph needed to propel the 2000kg dual-cab up steep dunes.
Over the course of the three days, the Isuzu D-MAX LS-T also proved itself more than capable of tackling some very rugged terrain. Off-road and on the sunny beaches of South Australia, this 4×4 ute is really at home.
Day one saw the group head into Lincoln National Park. Early in the trip, tour leaders guided drivers to lower the tyre pressures to somewhere in the region of 18psi.
Newcomers to off-roading might baulk at such low pressures but they’re essential to increase the contact patch of the tyre (thus increase the area over which the car’s weight is distributed). But it proved to be just the ticket for traversing the soft sand.
The importance of the correct tyre pressures became evident as we encountered more than one stranded motorist needing to be extracted by the skilled I-Venture Club tour leaders. The lesson was the same — deflate their tyres then tow them or extract them using recovery boards.
The tour through Port Lincoln Park took the group down the Sleaford to Wanna 4WD trail, a winding track that included driving on an interesting mixture of surfaces, including thick sand hills and rocky headlands.
This provided a great opportunity to use the Isuzu’s proper transfer-case 4×4 system and 4WD-L gearing. And for everyone get to grips with driving in sand.
Day 2 – Coffin Bay
After a night on the beach enjoying a Western sunset (along with beers and toasted marshmallows), the day began on foot along Coffin Bay’s Oyster Walk and onto Long Beach.
Coffin Bay is a small town around 45km from Port Lincoln and is most renowned for its aquaculture, particularly oysters that are farmed in the calm waters of the bay. It’s also a popular spot with tourists who swell its population from 600 in the off-season to around 4000 in the summer.
Boating, fishing and swimming are all popular pastimes here, as well as sightseeing and, of course, four-wheel drive activities in the adjacent Coffin Bay National Park.
A visit to Coffin Bay isn’t complete without a visit to an oyster farm, which the Isuzu I-Venture Club arranged. Donning waders, the group walked out to a floating pontoon for an overview of the region’s oyster industry and a quick lesson in shucking and a delicious tasting.
After lunch on the beach it was time to saddle up for an afternoon’s drive into the Coffin Bay National Park and across moonscape-like dunes to visit Gunyah Beach.
Some of this driving was particularly challenging with steep dunes requiring both speed and momentum as well as outright enthusiasm to conquer in one go.
As we headed out of the dunes the reward for the driving effort was a breathtaking view of Gunyah Beach, but the challenging driving wasn’t over with soft wet sand grabbing one of our vehicles as we set up for a filming opportunity.
This provided another chance for the group to witness a recovery, but that’s all part of the program to build up knowledge and confidence for the participants to tackle a drive like this again.
Day 3 – Seven Mile Beach
As always on a fun trip like this one, our last day of the tour came around too quickly. We headed into the Coffin Bay National Park for a second day, this time taking a leisurely meander on tarmac roads to lookouts including Point Avoid and Golden Island.
There’s 24km of bitumen in the national park which enables those in two-wheel drive vehicles to access some of the stunning scenery. But it’s no secret the best of the vistas are reserved for four-wheel drive owners or those accessing the area by boat.
A trail drive from Yangie Bay takes vehicles down a scrub track and across more deep sand and coastal sections. It heads past Black Springs (a 4WD campsite for the adventurous and experienced traveller) and bursts open onto Seven Mile Beach, where white sand stretches as far as the eye can see.
Following closely in the tracks set out ahead of us, our drive hugged the shoreline before we encountered our final lunch stop.
Like an oasis in the middle of the park, the I-Venture Club had laid on an impressive spread with BBQ prawns, kingfish sashimi and yet more oysters all on the menu.
It was a mean feat getting our vehicles onto the beach so I imagine it was quite the challenge to get a full gourmet kitchen there.
But that’s the joy of participating in a facilitated program like the Isuzu I-Venture Club. All of the heavy-lifting and complex arrangements are made for you and catering is all thought through by somebody else.
The Coffin Bay trip was one of the most adventurous programs yet run by Isuzu and an extraordinary way for owners (some of whom had travelled as far as Perth and Brisbane) to put their vehicles through their paces in a controlled environment.
At just $1750 per couple, I reckon it represents pretty good value too.
All the guests needed to do was to get themselves and their vehicle to the start point.
Article by Andrea Matthews.