Spend six days on the Southern Ocean Drive: eat, drink and experience some of the best South Australia has to offer.
BY MARK CHIPPERFIELD
Delicious seafood, vast wetlands, extinct volcanoes, and vineyards are just some of the highlights on the Southern Ocean Drive. This exhilarating road trip will take you from Adelaide across the Victorian border to Portland via McLaren Vale, Kangaroo Island, the Coorong, Coonawarra and Mount Gambier. The journey can be completed in six days, but allow more time if you can, just to get a good look at everything.
Day 1: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island
Adelaide is known as the '20-minute city' and that’s about the time you’ll need to leave suburbia behind. A few minutes later and you’ll be feasting your eyes on manicured vineyards. Stop at McLaren Vale for some wine tasting. Apart from established brands such as d’Arenberg, Wirra Wirra and Primo Estate, you’ll find artisan winemakers like Samuel’s Gorge, SC Pannell and Oliver’s Taranga. The region also offers microbreweries and some excellent restaurants. Nearby you'll find fine swimming beaches if you're keen for a dip. Drive south to Cape Jervis and board the Kangaroo Island ferry – the crossing takes around 45 minutes. The eastern tip of the island, near the Penneshaw ferry terminal, offers sheltered beaches, national parks, cute townships, oyster farms and boutique vineyards.
Day 2: Kangaroo Island
Given its impressive size, you’ll struggle to see everything on Kangaroo Island
in a single day. Highlights include Admirals Arch, Remarkable Rocks and the Seal Bay Conservation Park – all located on the island’s south coast. Join a guided walk at Seal Bay and get up close and personal with the large colony of Australian sea lions.
Day 3: Kangaroo Island to Victor Harbor
Back on the mainland, take a hike through the stringy bark forests of Deep Creek Conservation Park and be greeted by the local western grey kangaroos. Next stop is Victor Harbor, a holiday town known for its horse-drawn tram, penguin colony and surf beaches. If you happen to arrive between May and October you may be lucky enough to see southern right and humpback whales frollicking in the waters between Victor and Goolwa.
"Eat, drink, see and experience some of the best South Australia has to offer."
Day 4: Victor Harbor to Robe
For nature lovers, this section is the highlight of the entire trip, taking in the mouth of the Murray, Lake Alexandrina and the vast expanse of saltwater lagoons and sand dunes known as the Coorong. Goolwa, at the mouth of the Murray, offers cruises and canoe tours of the Coorong. The end point of this remarkable journey is the heritage fishing port of Robe – celebrated for its Southern Rock Lobster.
Day 5: Robe to Coonawarra
Inland from Robe is the compact wine region of Coonawarra, famous for its full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. There are several friendly cellar doors here to tickle your fancy. The township of Penola is closely associated with Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop and a special centre has been created to honour her life and work. To the north are the World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves, containing the remains of Australian megafauna dating back 500,000 years.
Day 6: Coonawarra to Mount Gambier
From Penola it’s a short drive to Mount Gambier. A small detour will take you to the Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park – guided tours are available. Foodies, meanwhile, can sample premium quality Wagyu beef at Mayura Station. Mount Gambier, with its famous Blue Lake (an old volcanic crater), Centenary Tower and Cave Gardens, is a good place to break your journey before tackling the final leg to Portland.