Recently declared along the Chubut shoreline south of Camarones and Reserva Provincial Cabo Dos Bahías , Parque Nacional Patagonia Austral comprises only a strip of Argentina’s South Atlantic coastline, exactly one nautical mile out to sea and 1.5 kilometers (nearly one statute mile) inland. Its easiest access point is the unique Bahía Bustamante, a sort of company town based not on mining but on seaweed!
Dating from about 1952, it once had 500 residents—most of them employees—but now has only about 40 or so. Many of them gather seaweed along the shoreline; it is then dried in the sun and trucked to Gaiman, where a factory processes it into food additives.
All Bahía Bustamante’s streets are named for species of seaweed; only a handful of the houses are occupied, but some of those—the former administrators’ houses—have been transformed into stylishly retrofitted guesthouses at premium prices. At the same time, there are rather cheaper accommodations with private baths and kitchens, and even some hostel facilities. In fact, it’s even possible to camp nearby, and Bustamante’s restaurant serves intriguing meals that often use seaweed as a condiment.
From Bahía Bustamante, it’s possible to take multiple excursions, including one to offshore islands that are part of the new national park and home to thousands of Magellanic penguins, cormorants, dolphin gulls, and steamer ducks as well as large colonies of southern sea lions. This is possible only at high tide, though, as the five-meter tidal range makes it impossible for the flat bottom launch to navigate at low tide.
At low tide, there are other options: Beyond the limits of the new national park, Bustamante possesses a remarkable badlands that features a sprawling petrified forest equivalent to Santa Cruz Province’s Parque Nacional Bosques Petrificados  and Chubut’s own Reserva Provincial Bosque Petrificado José Ormachea.
Accommodations in the guesthouses at Bahía Bustamante (RN 3 Km 1674, tel. 0297/15-625-7500, www.bahiabustamante.com , US$360 s, US$430 d, with full board) are all-inclusive; in the less elaborate Casas de la Estepa (www.casasdeestepa.blogspot.com ), rates are US$120 for up to three people, with kitchen facilities. Hostel-style refugio accommodations, with external baths, cost US$20 pp. Those staying at the cheaper accommodations pay extra for tours to the offshore islands and the petrified forest, on a space-available basis.
Bahía Bustamante is 30 kilometers east of the main highway turnoff by a good gravel road.