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  1. Travel Type Road Trip
  2. Route features: Wildlife, Nature, Coastlines
  3. Activity level Low activity

Southern Ocean Drive: See the Fleurieu, Limestone Coast and Kangaroo Island

Traversing the coast from the land of natural wonders on the Limestone Coast, to the untouched wilderness of Kangaroo Island and the sea and vines of the Fleurieu Peninsula, there’s something to discover around every bend. Download the Southern Ocean Drive map, and hit the road to uncover some of Australia’s best wineries, most breathtaking beaches and jaw-dropping geological marvels. Here’s our guide to the best things to see and do along the Southern Ocean Drive.

Umpherston Sinkhole
Umpherston Sinkhole

MOUNT GAMBIER TO ROBE

Mount Gambier is the start of the Southern Ocean Drive - a geological wonderland, home to extinct volcanoes, dazzling sapphire waters and an underground garden of Eden.

Mount Gambier's crown jewel, the famed Blue Lake/Warwar, was once an active volcano but today, molten rock has given way to a 72-metre-deep lake filled with cobalt blue water. It’s lesser-known little cousin, aptly named Little Blue Lake, is equally as impressive - plus you can dive right into its depths. Mount Gambier’s wonders continue underground in the centre of town, where you can descend into a subterranean oasis at Umpherston Sinkhole/Balumbul.

Just 20 minutes’ drive from Mount Gambier, the otherworldly Piccaninnie Ponds are world-renowned by divers, with three unique diving hotspots all fed by freshwater natural springs. Divers are well catered for on the Limestone Coast with renowned dive-site, Kilsby Sinkhole, just half an hour away. The ultimate destination for lovers of bold red wine, the Coonawarra wine region produces world-famous cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. More than 25 cellar doors pack the relatively small region, so set up camp for the night at Bellwether and spend a day tasting your way around renowned wineries including Penley Estate, Brand’s Laira, Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Katnook Estate.

Feeling hungry? Nestled among the sea of vines, Penola is a picture-perfect country town dishing up a smorgasbord of food and wine experiences. Enjoy a long lunch overlooking the vineyards at Hollick Estates, or venture further to Mayura Station and dine at The Tasting Room, the ultimate paddock to plate experience featuring multi-award-winning wagyu beef. Further along the drive is Tantanoola Cave, an impressive cave thousands of years in the making, with countless hanging stalactites and floor to ceiling crystal columns - making it one of Australia’s most beautiful caves. Continue down to Robe, a charming seaside town with long sandy white beaches, cosmopolitan cafes and glam galleries. 

Coorong National Park
Coorong National Park

ROBE TO VICTOR HARBOR

Forests and sinkholes gives way to a coastal paradise. 

Explore towering sand dunes, meander down quiet waterways and roam along snow-white sandy beaches whne you visit Coroong National Park. Stretching some 130km down the coast from the Limestone Coast to the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Coorong encompasses a string of saltwater lagoons and wetlands brimming with wildlife. Australian film lovers will also recognise it as the site where Storm Boy was filmed.

Nearby is the home of the oldest recorded cabernet sauvignon vines in the world and fifth-generation wine making families, Langhorne Creek. Think sprawling vineyards and ancient gum trees lining lush river banks. 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 frolicking in the waters between Victor and Goolwa. A stone’s throw away is the neighbouring seaside town of Port Elliot where you’ll discover some of the best beaches in South Australia plus homewares shops, stylish cafes and chic, beachside cottages. 

Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island
Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island

VICTOR HARBOR TO KANGAROO ISLAND

From the edge of the mainland, it's time to hop on over to Kangaroo Island.

From Victor Harbor, continue down the coastline to Deep Creek Conservation Park. A popular hiking spot for locals, here you can discover more than 15 walking trails featuring dramatic coastal views, waterfalls, pristine beaches and lots of wildlife like Kangaroos and koalas along the way. Spend the night at Southern Ocean Retreats in the heart of the park and jump on a guided walk with Southern Ocean Walk to traverse the historic Heysen Trail through some of the most breathtaking sections of the park with the knowledge of an experienced local.

For the ultimate luxury, settle down at Naiko Retreat and soak in views of the Southern Ocean from the tub of your own luxury beach side abode. Then it's time to drive onto the SeaLink Ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw and start exploring the famous Kangaroo Island. Home to Australia's best beach for 2023 - Stokes Bay - and ranked as the #2 must visit destination by global travel authority, Lonely Planet, in its 2024 Top Regions Hotlist, it's no surprise that Kangaroo Island is at the top of many people's road trip bucket list. You can expect raw and rugged coastlines - including Vivonne Bay (also once voted best beach in Australia), natural wonders like Flinders Chase National Park and Remarkable Rocks and destination dining. 

Coonawarra wine region
Coonawarra wine region

KANGAROO ISLAND TO MCLAREN VALE

Return to the mainland and discover a playground of sea and vines. 

Return on the ferry to the Fleurieu Peninsula and drive up to Aldinga, stopping in at Second Valley and Rapid Bay. Less crowded than Bondi, more pristine than Palm Beach and trumping Byron Bay for authenticity, Aldinga rates up there with the best seaside suburbs in Australia. Flanked by Sellicks and Port Willunga beaches, around here a decent patch of sand and surf is never far away. Find your own slice of beachside bliss, pull up the car and roll out the shade for a day parked on the beach.

Just 15 minutes away is one of Australia's most famous wine regions - McLaren Vale. Imagine if Willy Wonka was a wine, not chocolate, lover and we reckon the result would be something very similar to the d’Arenberg Cube. Seemingly floating above the vineyards, this otherworldly cellar door offers one of the most iconic and unique wine tasting destinations in Australia. Maxwell Wines is an idyllic location for an unforgettable food and wine experience. The stunning limestone building is complemented by large picture windows, and breath-taking views overlooking the rolling hills of McLaren Vale.

'Community' Artwork by Gabriel Stengle

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