About 140km north of Coffin Bay, tiny Elliston (population 380) is a small fishing town on soporific Waterloo Bay, with a beautiful swimming beach (swim out to the pontoon), free seaside barbecues and a fishing jetty (hope the whiting are hungry). There's a bakery, country pub, caravan park…all the essentials. The steep limestone cliffs south of town were the site of a notorious massacre in 1849, when local Wirangu people were pushed to their deaths. The Elliston Massacre Reconciliation Monument is a poignant reminder of this devastating event – and caused a surprising amount of controversy when it was unveiled in 2017. Debate over the number of people killed, the circumstances leading up to their murder, and the language to be used on the monument, exposed latent racial tensions and made international news.
At Venus Bay (population 140), there are sheltered beaches (and the not-so-sheltered Mt Camel Beach – deep sand, big waves, big salmon), a gaggle of pelicans, a small caravan park and the obligatory fishing jetty.
Elliston Visitor Information Centre can direct you towards the Great Ocean Tourist Drive just north of town – a 10km detour to Anxious Bay via some anxiety-relieving ocean scenery (or inducing, if you get too close to the cliffs). En route you'll pass Blackfellows, which boasts some of the west coast's best surf. From here you can eyeball the 36-sq-km Flinders Island 35km offshore, where there's a sheep station and some seriously remote accommodation.
At diminutive Baird Bay, 30km west of the Flinders Hwy, Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience runs boat trips where you can swim with sea lions and dolphins. The approach is very 'hands-off' and unintrusive, though research suggests that human interaction with sea mammals does potentially alter behavioural and breeding patterns. Accommodation is also available.
If you'd rather stay high-and-dry, the road to Point Labatt, 43km south of Streaky Bay, takes you to one of the few permanent sea-lion colonies on the Australian mainland; ogle them from the clifftops (with binoculars).
A few kilometres down the Point Labatt road are the globular Murphy's Haystacks, an improbable congregation of 'inselbergs' − colourful, weather-sculpted granite outcrops, which are an estimated 1500 million years old.