The Pages Island Expedition. 21st – 24th April 2023

By Greg Adams

The Pages islands expedition was the brainchild of Phil Doddridge, an ambitious adventure starting at Victor Harbor and ending at Second Valley via Tunkalilla Beach, The Pages, Pink Bay, KI, Antechamber Bay, and Cape Jervis.

The weather gods needed to be on our side, and they were, providing the perfect wind and weather conditions for this epic adventure. The only real problem was a strong ground swell.

Day 1 – Victor Harbor to Ballaparudda Beach

Seven paddlers, Phil and Pat Doddridge, Tresh Pearce, Karl Meyer, Giresh Chandran, Gordon Begg, and I met at the Bluff boat ramp, Victor Harbor at 8am on Friday the 21st of April.

Conditions were perfect, the sun was shining, and the wind was absent. We managed to be on the water and left by 9am passing The Bluff, West Island and rounding Newland Head after 2 hours paddling.

Beach Ballaparudda

Waitpinga and Parsons beaches had a large oily swell rolling in and a grey sky above, creating an eerie atmosphere.

Karl and Tresh paddled in close near the surf zone to experience the power of the swell as we continued approx. 1 km out to sea, waiting for them to join us again at Parsons beach.

Looking for a place to land

Leaving Parsons beach, we realised that landing at Tunkalilla beach with this size swell would be very difficult. There were two options, Callawonga and Ballaparudda beaches, just prior to reaching Tunkalilla. Arriving at Ballaparudda, the closest, 23km from Victor Harbor, it looked quite manageable. We decided that this would be tonight’s camp.

Tresh, Gordon, and Pat successfully made the first landings. Then Karl, I, Giresh, and Phil attempted landing. All capsized in the difficult conditions. Phil’s kayak nosedived into the sand bar causing a fatal fracture in the bow. The kayak was then swept into the rocks on the western shore. All in all, with four in the water it was a disastrous landing attempt. No one was hurt and all gear was salvaged beside the fatally damaged kayak.

Thoughts were with Phil as he had planned the expedition and now, he would have to abandon after only one day on the water.

With Karl’s local knowledge, he managed to wrangle access for his daughter, Sahara to drive down the beach through paddocks to extract Phil and Pat and their kayaks the following morning. Once things settled down, a comfortable campsite was established, and much discussion of the days adventures was had around the campfire.

Day 2, Saturday – Ballaparudda Beach to Pink Bay via The Pages

North Pages

With a healthy respect for Ballaparudda’s sandbar, the remaining paddlers said their farewells to Phil and Pat and headed out through the surf zone one at a time, Tresh leading.

Within 30 min all were out and prepared for the 16km paddle to North Pages Island in calm conditions with virtually no wind. We were heading slightly east of the islands to counter the flooding tide which worked perfectly, paddling in a tight group, and chatting, we headed south. The closest island was reached in 3 hours and there was a reasonable swell running. A fishing boat was anchored nearby, and we explored the lee of a barren, guano covered, granite island. Australian Sea Lions, screaming Gannets and Terns greeted us, this is a wild place!

Heading around the eastern side to the southern islands, we encountered clapotis waves which kept us very alert. As we paddled between the islands, large boils were appearing indicating submerged bombies. Not a place to hang around. The southern island had a lighthouse and tower. It seemed smaller but just as inhospitable. There is meant to be a place to land on one of the islands, but it was not obvious. A quick feed and discussion and we then headed to Cape Willoughby, 16km away.

To Cape Willoughby

For the first hour we had amazing conditions, blue sky and oily seas and paddling with a flood tide, 7 kph was a comfortable pace. We noticed the tide was drawing us towards Antechamber Bay and on this course, we were potentially going to run into a dangerous shoal called “The Scraper”. Gordon made the decision to head for Cape St Albans. The sea and wind picked up as we got closer to St Albans. We were then working hard against the flood tide to try to get to the cape. The tide was about to change but we were fighting a strong current. My computer was telling me we were not making much headway.

Once we got close to Cape St Albans the tide went slack and we had a beautiful 4km paddle along the cliffs to Pink Bay in the late afternoon. A 16km paddle turned into 24km taking 4.5 hours.

Pink Bay is paradise! (don’t tell anyone). Camp was set and I found out that I had left my tent poles and pegs back at the previous camp. Ben Weigl joined us, paddling from Cape Jervis to Pink Bay in 4.5 hours. He, Tresh, and Karl were going to leave us and explore the south coast of KI the following day, Giresh, Gordon, and I were heading to Antechamber Bay. A beach campfire rounded out a big eventful day.

Day 3, Sunday Pink Bay to Antechamber Bay

Pink Bay from Gazebo

We bid farewell to Tresh, Karl, and Ben at 9am the next morning and we went for a walk to Cape Willoughby. From the lighthouse we could see the trio sailing towards Cape Hart, an awesome sight.

We spent a leisurely morning exploring the lighthouse and surrounds returning to camp for lunch and a departure to Antechamber Bay by 1pm to catch the end of the flood tide. It was nice to have a bit of a rest day and only a couple of hours on the water. Passing Cape St Albans was exciting with lots of turbulence and at times travelling with the flood tide at up to 9.5 kmph. An awesome beach camp was made in Antechamber Bay on a glorious afternoon. A walk up the river and through the campground then back along the beach was the end to another perfect day.

Day 4, Monday – Antechamber Bay to Second Valley

Steam rises from the sea at sunrise, Antechamber Bay

Phil had contacted us and had decided to paddle down to Cape Jervis (from Second Valley), wait for us and complete the final leg together. The tide was due to flood at 10.30am. Gordon recommended that we head off at 9am and get as far across Backstairs Passage before the flood tide kicked in and assist us to Cape Jervis and beyond.

The sea was like a mill pond and the first 2.5 hours were a dream. But nothing is ever that easy. 8km from Cape Jervis, a 15kt (27km) northerly head wind blew against the flood tide. The sun was in our eyes and the sea was a crazy mess. It was a tough 1-hour + slog to the shelter of Cape Jervis. It felt like we were not moving but with the flood tide we were easily travelling at over 7kph and at one stage at 10.5kph. What a relief it was to paddle into the harbour and meet Phil, who was lounging on the beach in glorious sunshine. A stark contrast to where we had been.

After a 1-hour break, we headed around the corner and into the gulf. The plan was to camp on Morgan’s beach or a smaller one further north but because of the long weekend, Morgan’s was crowded with car campers. So, we decided to press on and with light winds, sunshine and a following tide, paddling cannot be better.

Because of the high tide the second beach option was not suitable, so decided to press on to Second Valley. We landed at 5.30pm on a balmy evening, finishing the expedition with the final night spent in Giresh’s holiday shack. Perfect.

Overall Statistics

  • Day 1, Friday – Victor Harbor to Ballaparudda Beach – 4 hrs, 23km
  • Day 2, Saturday – Ballaparudda Beach to Pink Bay via The Pages – 7.30 hrs, 40km
  • Day 3, Sunday Pink Bay to Antechamber Bay – 2 hrs, 10km
  • Day 4, Monday – Antechamber Bay to Second Valley – 7.30 hrs, 40km
  • Total distance travelled 113km,
  • 21 hours paddling including breaks on the water.
  • Average moving speed 5.8kph over the 4 days.

Departing from Cape Jervis

Crossing Backstairs Passage – Cape Jervis to Antechamber Bay and Return — 18/19th March 2023

The adrenaline has finally stopped racing through my veins to allow me to tackle the promised trip report of our crossing of Backstairs Passage to Antechamber Bay and return on the weekend of 18/19th Mar 2023. What a paddle, with a SE gusting to 20Kn and seas over 2m at some stages. All paddlers did extremely well without any incidents, but special recognition should go to our two crossing first-timers: Abelardo Pardo and Simon Delaine.  Talk about jumping into the deep end!  Conditions in Antechamber Bay didn’t look too bad at departure, but steadily escalated during the return crossing.


It was a great turn-out with twelve (12) paddlers participating. The trip was led by Phil Doddridge with Charlie Walker, Matt Eldred, Mark Loram, Mike Dunn, Peter Vincent, Anthony Aardenburg and Bella, Tresh Pearce, Abelardo Pardo, Simon Delaine and recent member Karl Meyer following Phil’s lead. Similar to our crossing in March 2022, the trip was aimed at demonstrating the splitting of the tide to achieve the most efficient crossing.

Four of the group (Mark, Simon, Abelardo and Phil) drove down on Friday Night and camped at the Cape Jervis Caravan Park ready for an early morning start. We used this site when training for our Bass Strait crossing and had fond memories of relaxing amongst the pines at the rear of the Park overlooking Backstairs Passage.

A lovely evening soaking up the view and not a ripple seen looking over to Penneshaw. In the evening the highlight was looking up towards the sky and counting the satellites passing overhead – I have never seen so many, there seemed to be a continuous stream passing just below the Southern Cross. A strong wind came up overnight which eased in the morning, but which probably should have been a warning of an approaching front.

Day 1 — The easy one

Enjoying the crossingUp and about around 6am and met the remainder of the group at Cape Jervis Boat Ramp in time for an 8.30am on-water start.

After loading kayaks (I overdid the equipment list again!) and after the safety briefing from Phil we set off at about 8.45am, following the coast east to Lands End to avoid the ferry’s path. We then set our bearing for Cape Coutts and headed out on our adventure, with a few whitecaps between us and the safety of Antechamber Bay; just east of Cape Coutts we were on our way.

A pleasant paddle across but no wind advantage which disappointed those with sails in the group, just a solid slog for 5 hours before we made Antechamber Bay, even explored a bit of the sandy beach to eventually reach Chapman River. Just checking that the mouth hadn’t moved!

Many hands made light work of the portage across the beach and we were soon paddling up the picturesque Chapman River, admiring the paper bark trees and new bridge as we approached campsite no 12 that Mike had kindly booked.

Setting Camp

After setting up camp most of us relaxed, enjoying the location while others went paddling to explore the upper reach of the Chapman River.

Once again the campground was pretty busy so we made an early appearance at the camp kitchen, admiring the stunning views. We had a very pleasant evening there – night solar lights might be handy, a note for future trips! The kitchen is very well set up and we spent the evening discussing kayaking adventures while being entertained by Tresh’s attempts to get his cooker operational.

Soon after we turned in and slept well, being serenaded by several Boobook Owls during the night. In the morning some fairy wrens visited, very elusive but I did manage to get a couple of pics as they checked out my tent.

Day 2 — The not so easy one

On our way to Antechamber BayNo rush in the morning with the plan to be on-water in Chapman River by 10am, bit of drizzle overnight and the additional time was put to good use sponging the tents and gear and getting packed up.  We said our farewells as we paddled under the KI version of Sydney Harbour Bridge and down to the mouth for another portage. The waters in the bay looked calm but the forecast for the crossing was increasing winds 15 to 20Kn SW. The sky towards Deep Creek threatened to bring squalls during our crossing.

The briefing was a bit somber and Phil gave the group the option of returning via the Penneshaw ferry instead of attempting a borderline crossing – we all mulled it over but the mutual decision was to paddle the return as the group was fired up to complete the crossing. These sort of situations are always difficult with experienced kayakers, particularly with several having done crossings in similar conditions.

We split into sail-assisted kayaks and those just going with the swell, although on the starboard beam. We headed off together before separating into two groups, with those sailing heading directly across the passage towards Deep Creek before following the coast back to Cape Jervis while our group of five (5) made a beeline for Cape Jervis. There was no time to relax on the four (4) hour return paddle, it certainly required continuous attention.  Phew, all back in the safety of Cape Jervis boat ramp by 3pm.


Together in the bakerySunday’s return crossing was by far the most challenging that I have done and I breathed a sigh of relief when we all arrived back at Cape Jervis safely, with the sailors having arrived about 15 minutes prior to the non-sail group.

Looking back, the return paddle was probably borderline, but to achieve the crossing without incident is a credit to the experience within the Adelaide Canoe Club. This is due to regular sea kayak training provided to Club members over several years particularly from Phil Doddridge, Bernard Goble and Peter Carter. All of the group are also regular paddlers, both at Club events and privately, regularly working on improving their skills. The paddlers conducted themselves in a very professional manner exhibiting a good appreciation of group dynamics to ensure we all remained safe.

All of us wanted to celebrate and swap stories, so we adjourned to the Yankalilla Bakery to debrief. And yes, the adrenaline was flowing strongly for quite a while afterwards!