The Fleurieu Peninsula was named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who dedicated his finding to another French explorer called Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu. This beautiful region south east of Adelaide is the perfect getaway from the rush and fury of the city.
All the towns on the Peninsula are easy-going and friendly, with a fully stocked pub and reliable bakery. The south coast is popular all year round, with turquoise beaches to enjoy during summer and whale watching during the winter months. The western coast is extremely scenic and is lined with rugged cliffs, rocky coves and walking trails with breath-taking views.
The food and wine culture is imminent, with lots of quality restaurants, cafés, cheeseries, wineries and other gourmet delights. Make sure you check out the McLaren Vale wine region for some excellent cellar doors and the odd brewery or three!
We were more than happy to spend two weeks lazing about in Port Elliot while we gave the Troopy a rest and alternator replacement, but we did make time to check out the surrounding towns, like Victor Harbor, Goolwa and overindulged on schnitzel night at the Middleton Tavern.
Points of Interest
Deep Creek Conservation Park
Deep Creek Conservation Park is the largest portion of natural vegetation on the Fleurieu Peninsula, with rocky cliffs, dense forest and excellent ocean views.
Check out our post on camping in Deep Creek Conservation Park.
Alexandrina Cheese Company
Awarded Best Overall Tourism Attraction 2010, this fantastic location offers cheese tasting and sales, as well as their very own Alexandrinashire Tea, which includes a slice of baked cheesecake and your choice of coffee or milkshake.
This wine region is only 35km south of Adelaide and is renowned for its Shiraz varieties. The land was initially used for growing cereal crops but in 1838, two fellows planted grape vines and the rest is history.
Check out our post on the McLaren Vale Wine Region.
A bit too pricey for us to visit but we hear it’s great over there… it better be for the ferry price! We had a perfectly adequate view of the island from Deep Creek Conservation Park and felt no great need to visit the island and sully its ecosystem with our presence.
This is the place where we hung out the most… partially because the Troopy wasn’t feeling well, but mainly because it was such a beautiful town.
The main street had everything you need – a grocery store, fresh produce outlet, a pub, bakery, café, a fish and chip shop and charcoal chicken that smelt incredible – but the beaches were the main drawcard.
We hung out at the Port Elliot Beach House YHA, which overlooked Horseshoe bay and it was only 5 minutes from town by foot.
The main attraction – beautiful clean sand with crystal blue water that dolphins often visit to find a fishy snack. There is a jetty to the side that the kids jump off into the water, or you can try your luck with fishing. There are about 38 shipwrecks in the bay, all of which occurred when Port Elliot was a trading port before their figured out that it was too precarious and made Victor Harbor the main port.
Ladies Bay & Green Bay
Ladies Bay is a secluded beach on the side of Horseshoe Bay and is right next to the breakwater, so you can either snorkel on the inside of the breakwater or try your luck with abalone on the ocean side. We spent most of our beach time here.
Green Bay is a beautiful location hidden amongst rocky cliffs and while the waves crash over the nearby rocks, it’s a great place to lie in the sun and read a book before having a quick dip to cool off. It is also an awesome place to spend New Years Eve.
Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre – The Causeway, 08 8551 0777
The host of SA’s Schoolies week in November, this is the largest and only city on the Peninsula. Originally called Port Victor, the name of the town was changed in 1921 because there was another location on the Eyre Peninsula called Port Victoria, and this caused confusion and almost resulted in a shipwreck. When the name was in the process of being changed, a spelling error by the Surveyor General of South Australia caused Victor Harbor to be spelt without the U, where as Victor Harbour railway station is spelt with the U.
The bay where the city sits was first explored by Matthew Flinders in 1802. He bumped into French explorer Nicolas Baudin, and after exchanging notes on the area, Flinders named the bay Encounter Bay.
The Horse Drawn Tram to Granite Island
The Granite Island Recreation and Nature Park is located off the coast of Victor Harbor and offers a few walking trails to explore the island. While it used to be home to little penguins, tourism has caused their numbers to dwindle, so we decided to keep off the island and play our small, possibly insignificant part in conserving the wild life.
In 1867, the Causeway to Granite Island was built so people could walk to the island, and as its popularity rose, they decided to use an unused double ended, double deck tram to transport people to the island. In 1894, the first load of people was carted to the island and these days, it’s a popular attraction to see a big double-decker tram dragged by a huge Clydesdale horse.
Each tram weighs about 4.8 tonne and uses roller bearings to minimise the effort required to pull them along. The ones used today were built in 1986 to include extra windows and headroom. The horses work three 3 hour shifts a week and are considered to be part of the team – each one has a profile picture on the website.
It costs $6 per adult to get to the island, or you can buy a return ticket for $8. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the island on the tram and they depart the mainland every hour between 10:30am and 3:30pm.
After we paid $6.50 each for our one-stop ticket, we waited at the station for the historic Cockle Train to roll in. We thought this would be an old steam engine train with the round face and chimney that went TOOT TOOT but what arrived looked like all the other trains that you can find in cities. These railcars were actually restored passenger cars from the 1960s, but they were definitely no Cockle Train, which should have been operating due to the school holiday period. Regardless, the coastal scenery was nice, the train still went TOOT TOOT and took us home so we can’t complain too much.
The railway runs from Goolwa to Victor Harbor and dates back to 1854. The railway was constructed to connect the Murray trade with the coast and originally stopped at Port Elliot. After a few shipwrecks, it was decided that Port Elliot was a terrible place to set up a port so they extended the line to Victor Harbor, which was opened for business in 1864. Horse-drawn trams were used at this time and records show that there were 29 horses working the tracks in 1875. Horses were replaced with steam in 1884, the same year that the railway was connected to Adelaide via Strathalbyn.
Urimbirra Wildlife Park
Wow – what an awesome and interactive place! They have heaps of native Australian animals that you can feed, they hold crocodile feeding shows, koala petting and snake handling.
Check out our post on Urimbirra Wildlife Park.
Goolwa Visitor Information Centre – LOT 4 Goolwa Terrace, 1300466 592
Located at the mouth of the Murray River, it was originally surveyed to be the state’s capital but due to the treachery of the Murray Mouth, it would have made shipping very difficult. Goolwa means ‘elbow’ in Ngarrindjeri, the local Aboriginal language, and while it’s a small town, there are lots of historical buildings, colourful art installations and a great bakery with award winning pies that is open daily from 6am.
If you like fishing, Goolwa is the best place to go cockling. Drive out onto Goolwa Beach, dig in the sand and grab your fishing bait. Don’t forget that cockles need to be 3.5cm long. Check out our post on cockling in Goolwa.
Steam Exchange Brewery
This is the oldest full grain brewery on the Fleurieu Peninsula and since becoming the Steam Exchange Brewery in 2006, it has won over 25 medals for their beer. We thought it was worth a try and purchased four tasters at $3 each, despite the brewery lacking atmosphere and giving the impression of being a little snobby and antisocial.
- Steam Ale – a litghter yellow than the IPA, fizzy and fresh with a bitter aftertaste.
- IPA – a rich colour of golden syrup, this beer was thick and fruity with a bitter, hoppy taste that was almost burnt from the roasted malt.
- Stout – a very dark beer with no head, it had a hint of coffee and butter and reminded Dave of a Black Russian.
- Truffles – a dessert beer, it was dark with a good, frothy head that started off sweet and creamy but mellowed out into a rich cappuccino finish with a gentle fizz.
In between Goolwa and Port Elliot, Middleton is the ‘middle’ town between Goolwa and Victor Harbor and is only 4km from Port Elliot. It’s a small town with a bakery and a few bed and breakfast places, and is another spot to sight whales during the winter months.
It has a great pub – the Middleton Tavern – that does $11.90 Schnitzels on Thursday night. The price includes a choice of four toppings for your schnitzel and unlimited access to the salad bar. We fed ourselves to the point of discomfort and left the establishment with a hint of regret but a whole lotta schnitzel and salad in our belly!
Strathalbyn Visitor Information Centre – 20 South Terrace, 1300 007 842
This little town was established by rich people from Scotland who came to Australia in 1839. The best land in the Angas Valley was purchased and the town was plotted out and blocks of land were prepared for sale. The town grew as people passed through, heading for the Victorian goldfields, and later on to catch the horse-drawn trams to Victor Harbor.
Information on historic walking trails are available from the Visitor Centre and guide you past churches, banks, bakeries and other old buildings.
This small town is in the middle of a wine region and has the oldest recorded Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world! Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to take advantage of this premium SA wine region (due to Troopy troubles)…
This little town on the edge of Mount Compass is lined with creative shops, galleries, cafés, wholefood outlets and colourful art, with the town benches comprising of twisted pieces of wood. The main attraction are the three pubs:
- The Old Bush Pub is considered to be the top pub and is apparently good for atmosphere.
- The Wilunga Pub in the centre of town is the middle pub and a young bloke from the Goodieson Brewery said they do the best Parmi.
- The Alma Hotel is the bottom pub. It has a great beer garden so we stopped for a pint and it was here that we chose to have dinner – purely because of their cheap $11.90 schnitzel night. They also do curry nights, steak nights and seafood nights.
Once we ordered, the grub came out quick – a freshly cooked schnitzel with a jug of coagulated onion gravy, chicken-salted chips and plain lettuce. We did have unlimited access to the salad bar, which included potato salad, spinach, pumpkin and quinoa salad, antipasto and bread.
We had a massive feed and were particularly impressed with the crispy crust and juicy centre of the schnitzel.
Accommodation on the Fleurieu Peninsula
Port Elliot Beach House YHA – 13 The Strand, 08 8554 1885
This place was awesome – so close to the beach and town, it has all the facilities you need in a beautifully spacious and historic building. The ace thing is that you can hire the whole place out – group holidays, christmas parties, fundraisers, bucks and hens weekends, birthdays…
Check out our post on the Port Elliot Beach House YHA.