Located on South Australia’s gorgeous Fleurieu Peninsula, my time in Victor Harbor was limited to two days. Surely not enough time to see or do anything worthwhile but I can tell you that what I packed into two days will blow you away. Don’t believe me? Well check out these options, just allow yourself a little more time.
A popular holiday town for generations, Victor Harbor is situated only 83km from Adelaide and is well known for its horse-drawn tram across to Granite Island. The Clydesdales were on a sabbatical while I was there, so I had to walk the 630-metre causeway to access the picturesque island.
Once on Granite Island, you join a guided tour of the Little penguin colony or take part in a unique experience swimming with Southern Bluefin Tuna at Oceanic Victor.
A great way to travel between Victor Harbor and Goolwa is on the historic Cockle Train. Running most weekends and more often during school holidays, the 30-minute ride takes you via Middleton and Port Elliot. If you time it right, the Cockle Train will be steam hauled. If you prefer to use your own power, the 30km Encounter Bikeway links Victor Harbor and Goolwa.
The Bluff offers the best views of Southern Right and Humpback Whales that cruise Encounter Bay between May and October. I enjoyed watching the local surfers brave the cold and catch the waves at Petrel Cove. If you’re keen to give paddleboarding a try, get in touch with Andy from Encounter Water Sports who’ll teach you in the quiet waters of Encounter Lakes before letting you loose on Encounter Bay.
Home of the Wooden Boat Festival and once a booming river port, the historic Goolwa is also the gateway to the mouth of the Murray River and the Coorong National Park beyond. Goolwa Beach is the perfect place to surf some waves, sip on a latte at Bombora @ Goolwa Beach Café or hit the beach in your 4WD.
The old port is where you can hop aboard the 111-year-old PS Oscar W for a cruise, enjoy some crafted beers at the nearby Steam Exchange Brewery or warm your insides with a wee dram from the Fleurieu Distillery.
Take a drive along Barrage Road and explore the workings of the Goolwa Barrage, one of the many concrete structures that control the waters of the Murray and damaging the Coorong.
The Mouth of the Murray
I’ve been wanting to reach the mouth of the Murray River for thirty years and on this trip, I reached it twice!
The first time was with Canoe the Coorong, where Brenton suggested I tackle the 3-hour Sunset Tour departing from Sugars Beach boat ramp on Hindmarsh Island. Meeting Matt our guide at the ramp, we were soon paddling our way across the mouth of the Murray River to Younghusband Peninsula.
Beaching our kayaks, we had enough time to explore a beach that few get to tread. The only way to reach this side is by boat or a difficult and often dangerous 4WD up the Coorong coastline. Before returning to the boat ramp, we enjoyed a picnic of local produce that included some home-baked biscuits from Brenton’s Mum.
The second was by driving the Prado up Sir Richard Peninsula from Goolwa Beach to the mouth. The tide was super low, so the task was made easier, but it was still an amazing drive. A mate of mine from the Pilbara just happened to be in Victor Harbor and was keen to join me on a sojourn up the beach.
Exploring the Back Roads
As many of you know, I enjoy taking the road less travelled to explore a region. I did exactly that out of Victor Harbor and the first thing I stumbled across was Glacier Rock alongside the Inman Valley Road, formed 270 million years ago by ice flow over the Kanmantoo rock formation. Mount Alma Road was a steep climb that afforded stunning views across the rolling hills dotted with tiny sheep before tracking through the Spring Mount Conservation Park.
Turning onto Hindmarsh Tiers Road, I almost missed the sign for Hindmarsh Falls. This time of year, the water flow is small, it would be great to see after a good rain. Another back road led me to Crows Nest lookout that offered panoramic views across to Goolwa, Lake Alexandrina and the Murray Mouth.
My home away from home
While in Victor Harbor, I stayed at the NRMA Beachfront Holiday Park on Victoria Street. The Seaview Family Villa was the most luxurious cabin I’ve ever experienced, and it did offer great views of Encounter Bay. I particularly enjoyed the BBQ on the deck where I cooked up some fresh squid and Snapper purchased from the fishmonger in Port Elliot.
There are several other cabin options available to suit everyone as well as plenty of grassed powered and ensuite sites. The unpowered area is grassed and situated along the front fence, so you’ll have great sea views from there also. There are two camp kitchens and electric BBQ’s available to everyone.
The kids are well looked after too with a large jumping pillow, playground, water park, heated swimming pool with waterslide, games room and bikes for hire. With the walking/bike track right out front of the park, it is easy to burn some energy while taking in stunning views.
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