Oysters are polarizing. It’s either a yes or a hard no- rarely a ‘meh.’ Are you a lover of this sexy little bivalve or do you fear the slime?
Known for pristine waters and an abundance of wildlife, this hamlet is an idyllic spot that’s quintessentially small-town seaside Australia. Only 35 minutes from Port Lincoln, South Australia, on the southern extremity of the breathtaking Eyre Peninsula, it’s a gorgeous drive and you’ll be stopping for photos along the way, believe me on that one. Named for Sir Isacc Coffin, who helped Matthew Flinders prepare for his arduous sail to Australia, it’s home to what many call the best oysters in the country.
Upon arriving at the oyster farm (they also offer pick-ups and drop-offs from Port Lincoln for $40pp) you’ll be sized up and helped into your waterproof waders, which are provided with the tour. It’s not a great look, (nor smell) but these waterproof potato-sack-looking ensembles are necessary for keeping you dry in the oyster leases because that’s where the magic happens. The sea is clear and cool, and very clean. Sheltered from pollution by its location, the oyster beds actually serve to clean the water in which they grow with each little creature filtering 30-50 gallons / 110-190 litres of water each day.
‘Eating a raw oyster is like French kissing a mermaid’–Tom Robbins, American Novelist
Once you space-walk your buoyant self out to the floating tasting table, aka the Saltwater Pavillion, you’ll have a seat and browse the menu. Oysters, plucked right out of the ocean, are the stars of the show. Offering Pacific (salty, creamy, sweet) and Angasi (flat-shelled, richer and ‘gamier’ in flavor….more on them in a bit) varieties, the tasting is included in the price of the tour, though you’ll also have the opportunity to throw back some fresh and in-season local seafood including snapper, sand crab, squid, prawns, mussels and ocean jacket should you wish to live like Kanye. The experience offers several options and can be specified to your desires. Ranging in price from $40pp for the basic tour and tasting, to $120pp which pairs an ambrosial Reisling with extra oysters and a large seafood platter. Not sure about you but I say, ‘Get in my belly’ to allllllll the seafood yummies.
Now, those Angasi oysters that you’ll get to sample? They’ve got an intriguing little story. Native to South Australia, and known colloquially as mud oysters, they were fished to the brink of extinction by early European settlers. (The Pacific oyster wasn’t introduced until the 1950’s.) Small lease farmers interested in a bit of biodiversity observed some wild ones and thought, ‘why not give it a go?’ Thus far, things are looking up, though slowly- and there is a commercial interest in the revival of this indigenous little creature. Additionally, the Australian Nature Conservancy is determined to restore historical sites of the Angasi reefs where they once flourished. With a beautiful caramel and elephant gray wavy flat shell, they are distinctive looking and taste like oysters do, but much more so. Representing only .03-.04% of all Australian oyster production, they are highly regarded for their relative scarcity and deliciousness. Though they will likely never be as prolific as the Pacifics and Sydney Rocks, they are making some gains.
Part of the tour is learning about the area of Coffin Bay and its history, the basics of oyster farming and the uber important shucking technique. So far, no one has impaled themselves with the oyster knife, so don’t be the first, mmmkay? The method is to push (into the shell with the tip of the knife) and twist the knife sideways. Push and twist, push and twist. You don’t want to lose the delicious briny liquor inside of the oyster so make sure the bowl shape is on bottom. Once you’ve done that, you’ll run the knife straight through to the other side to release the adductor muscle, and then repeat for the underside. All that’s left now is to swig those babies back. No matter how you most enjoy them, natural and fresh from the shell just like Poseidon made them, with a bit of mignonette sauce or hosting a squeeze of citrus and chili, you’re going to love this unique experience.
This tour was independently paid for. For information about Oyster Farm Tours in Coffin Bay, S.A. go to http://oysterfarmtours.com.au/