The only thing Mark Stock will be taking with him when he closes the door on his two shacks in the Coorong National Park is a pinboard full of fading photographs taken during the 40 years his family enjoyed staying there. 

Everything else will remain in the more than 100-year-old former fishermen’s cottages at remote Barker Knoll.

From the old wood burner that provides both hot water and what Mr Stock says are the best-tasting roasts in the world, to the 44-year-old Primus stove that has never failed.

Even the old transistor radio, that in the early days was the only connection the Stocks had with the outside world, will remain with the shacks.

Mark Stock bought the old fisherman’s cottage for $400 in the 1970s.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

The shacks owned by the Stock family are the first at Barker Knoll to come onto the market. 

For a long time, they were life-tenured and unable to be sold until recent legislative changes.

A $400 buy-in

Mr Stock bought the first of his two shacks in the 1970s for $400.

The shacks are original constructions of corrugated iron, wooden boards made from old barges, and ceilings from old wool bales, but there are modern conveniences now, including solar panels, an inverter and a decent television and mobile phone signal.

“There are another three or four here [at Barker Knoll] that all the fisherman lived in,” Mr Stock said. 

“They used to row back to Goolwa with their fish, row back up the river before the barrages went in.”

Mr Stock said he bought the shack from an old fisher who “had it for quite a while”.

“He was a fisherman who lived up the Mundoo,” he said.

“We were fishing and he said, ‘I’ll sell it to you, Stocky’, so I bought it for $400.

“At the time it took us a while to pay it off because we were down here not making much money fishing but having a damn good time.”

When the owner of the neighbouring one-room cottage, known as the Loveshack, decided to sell up in the 1980s, Mr Stock bought it for what he thought was a rip-off price of $5,000.

The shacks have survived despite government attempts in the past to remove them.(Supplied: Alastair Johnson)

Since then, the 11 shacks at Barker Knoll have survived efforts by governments and councils to remove them.

Real estate agent Alastair Johnson said trying to put a value on them was extremely hard as there had been nothing comparable on the market for years.

“They normally pass down through families and haven’t been able to be sold before,” he said.

The shacks are being sold on a 30-year leasehold basis but the new owner will have to install a holding tank to deal with wastewater within the first five years.

‘Best times of our lives’

Barker Knoll sits about 1 kilometre east of the Murray Mouth, at the tip of a stretch of sandhills known by locals as the Sahara, which separates the calm waters of the Coorong from the wild Southern Ocean.

Mr Stock and his wife have lived at the shack full-time at different moments over the years, and for stretches of up to eight months.

“We fished with Mo, the old fisherman,” Mr Stock said.

“[It] was probably the best times of our lives.”

The shacks were visited by the makers of the 2019 version of the Australian classic movie, Storm Boy, and inspired the set they built nearby.

“They built that building up at Sahara and it was just — immaculate — just like these are,” Mr Stock said.

The shacks can only be reached via boat from Goolwa or the Mundoo Channel, or via a long 4WD trek along the Younghusband Peninsula.

Mr Stock said although the location was remote, snug as it was behind the sand hills, it made for a tranquil and sheltered setting.

“You just sit down here. It’s so calm. The only wind that bugs us is the north-easterly,” he said.

Holding onto memories

The photo board that Mr Stock will be taking with him is filled with fading photographs of his wife, Mary, their children Tom and Anna and their friends, and of Mo, the last of the fishermen to live there.

The photo board is full of the memories of family holidays and the original shackies.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

“Tom and Anna first came over here as babies,” he said.

“They’d get up in the morning when they were little kids and they were just gone. If they were hungry they’d come back for lunch. If not, we’d see them at dinnertime.

“They’d be out in the sandhills, the Sahara. The kids just bringing their mates down, having a ball here.”

There’s a photo of the mouth of the Murray River when it completely closed over in the 1980s, the only time Mr Stock drove to the shacks instead of coming by boat — or as far as he could go before he became bogged in the sand.

The shacks are just visible as you look across the Coorong from the edge of Hindmarsh Island.(ABC South East SA: Caroline Horn)

Chuckling, he pointed to a picture of iconic Australian documentary maker Alby Mangels, who came to the shacks while making a movie about the area. 

“He reckoned he came up on the Coorong on the camels. Bullshit. They came over on a barge,” Mr Stock said.

Mr Stock said he would not be sad when it was time to hand over the shacks.

“Your life changes,” he said.

“My daughter lives away and my son, he’s not interested.

“It’s just time. Give someone else a go.”