Barossa to Fleurieu Peninsula, SA
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
We’d just completed a fabulous trip to the Flinders Ranges in S.A. and while looking at the map once more, the thought of exploring the Fleurieu Peninsula with its French sounding name was tempting. Or was it the enthusiasm from fellow travellers urging us to visit this special peninsula so close to Adelaide?
Another check showed how near it was to the world-famous Barossa Valley, noted as one of the premier wine growing regions. The more I looked the more the idea appealed: a trip that would feature wine, whales and a wonderland. Furthermore, Kangaroo Island was only some 45 minutes from the mainland by fast Sealink ferry and this, I hoped, would be the perfect finale for a trip that would showcase some of the best attractions and produce that this amazing state has to offer.
Here was history and heritage combined; from Indigenous history, to whaling and a chance meeting in Encounter Bay between two famous seafaring explorers, both of whom would cement their names forever in history books. Who would have believed that despite the war between France and England, Mathew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin would drop anchor off Victor Harbor, share rum, and then go about their exploration without a shot being fired? Matthew Flinders even gave his French counterpart advice as to where kangaroos could be found, as well a source of fresh water.
Our first stop was at Nuriootpa or ‘Nuri’ as the locals affectionately call it – one of Barossa’s finest towns and sometimes referred to as the Garden of Eden. We drove to nearby Tanunda and the road bordering the wineries was lined with brilliant red roses for its entire length. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere and it was so appealing and welcoming.
Soon we pulled up at the Seppeltsfield Winery but what we were really looking for was a Jam Factory. It didn’t take long to figure out that this factory had nothing to do with jam but everything to do with clever artisans making leather shoes and belts, a man who works with fire and steel to make knives, displays of ceramics, basket weaving and so on. Apparently the first venture of this kind started in Adelaide in an old jam factory and has now spread to the Barossa.
To get a handle on this part of the Barossa we drove up to the Mengler Hill Lookout with its spectacular 180 degree views. Drop into the Tanunda information centre in the main street for a brochure on the lookout and the huge Barossa Sculpture Park. Of the seventeen sculptures, the one of the white Eagle’s head called ‘Dreaming’ caught my attention, symbolic as it was of the days when eagles rode the thermals into the Barossa.
Soon it was a case of heading out through the myriad wineries around Anguston on our way to the Fleurieu Peninsula. Take your time as with a van on the back the roads can be twisty and some bridges are narrow but you’ll be rewarded with wonderful countryside views and travel through quaint townships.
Base number two would be at Port Elliot Big 4 Holiday Park. Even before we met Kate, who is the owner, caravanners we met had been singing its praises, and we could see why, with its frontages only metres from the white sandy shores of Horseshoe Bay and walking tracks to the Port Elliot township.
VICTOR HARBOR TO GRANITE ISLAND
We’d been told about Victor Harbor (not Harbour, as locals will point out). We met Ian, who’s in charge of the horse-drawn tramway here to Granite Island. He was busily cleaning the carriage for this one-horsepower trip, and then I noticed a petite young woman wearing a backpack and riding cap clopping along to the start of the tramway astride a huge Clydesdale horse. She dismounted and led the horse to where he could busily chomp away on his breakfast.
There were now two young women in the small building that houses the horses, and both, I learned, were passionate about horses – country girls through and through with a refreshing and pleasant manner that’s not all that common nowadays. From an early age they grew up with horses, lived on farms and one even had a huge menagerie of animals. They worked the horses’ hooves and preened them to look their best and the Clydesdales, huge powerful animals that they are, took everything in their stride.
Soon it was all aboard for a leisurely clip clop ride in the tram that ran along the steel rails across a long wooden jetty that joins the mainland to Granite Island. Ian came along as our host and we sat atop the tram, enjoying salty sea breezes and amazing views back to the foreshore of Victor Harbor. There’s a café on the island and at least a coffee or tea here before the return journey is highly recommended.
It may only have been a one horse power tram ride but the views alone were worth the price of admission and everyone I spoke to loved the ride.
As if this adventure was not enough we decided to explore the nearby South Australian Whale Centre. Housed in a building that was once the railway goods shed (with walls still showing black soot from when steam trains used to enter to unload) the Whale Centre has three floors detailing the whaling history here. You’ll get a fascinating insight into life aboard ‘the Sea Shepard’, one of several ships patrolling the oceans on the lookout for whaling ships, and be awed by the massive jawbone of a whale. It’s fun to look at the whales’ patterns of migration via an interactive board that lights up to clearly show the path they take. In winter, whales make their way on a 5000km journey from Antarctica to mate and give birth in Encounter Bay. People from around the globe are attracted to these majestic masters of the ocean.
Pacing ourselves we headed for Goolwa which didn’t disappoint. Your first stop should be at the Goolwa information centre staffed by friendly, knowledgeable locals who can help plan your trips, make tour bookings, provide information sheets and free maps and there are souvenirs as well.
Explore the heritage of Goolwa’s main street with its cafes and shops. We found a motor museum and plenty more to see as we headed to the Wharf Precinct and the paddle steamer Oscar W. Here’s your chance to cruise the lower Murray River on the 105 year old wood-fired paddle steamer. There’s also an engaging Riverboat Centre. Entry is free and you’ll see a video of life on paddle steamers, view historic photos and examine hand-made models of the vessels. Volunteers who work on cruises are happy to talk and love what they do.
The sound of a diesel steam ranger train heralded the arrival of the Cockle Train. This iconic train travels on the first public railway in Australia. A thirty minute journey takes you from Goolwa to Victor Harbor and as the wooden carriages travel through rural countryside with its hay bales and black cattle you’ll also see brilliant blue oceans and white sandy beaches. The romance of travel has never been better.
Kapunda north of the Barossa is well worth a day’s trip. Here you’ll learn about ‘Map the Miner’, MAP stands for son of Cornwall and it was here that their hard rock mining skill paid off. Working in gangs, Cornish miners extracted the purest copper ore in the world. Irish laborers flocked to the mines and, working from their hovels nearby, provided cheap labor – which they found to be a definite improvement over the poverty and starvation in Ireland. German farmers also made their mark in this most inspirational of places.
There’s a free camp over the road called Potts Reserve. We met couples camped there who spent the money they saved on tasting fabulous wines and superb food – now that’s the way to do it! Bleasdale Winery with its giant red gum press and vats is a little further down the road. A short tour through the heart of this winery should be on your list of things to do. Both wineries are proud of their extensive family heritage and that’s what I truly loved.
Kangaroo Island kept calling us so it was time to head off on a pleasant scenic rural drive to Cape Jervis and the Sealink ferries that take you over the waves. There’s a comfortable building and reception here where you can watch the Sealink ferries, the ‘Spirit of Kangaroo Island’ and ‘Sea Lion’ dock and depart. If you want to take your RV across, keep in mind that you must reverse on board but helpful crew members are on hand to make sure that nobody gets into difficulties.
The trip over can take 45 minutes or more and as Kangaroo Island comes into sight you get a good perspective of this, the third largest island in Australia.
As you disembark at Penneshaw you should make your way to the Gateway information centre for bookings, accommodation, free maps and booklets. This is the major information centre so don’t miss it.
Take your time checking out places like Penneshaw and American River before reaching Kingsgate, considered the hub of Kangaroo Island and housing half its population. It’s a good spot to stock up on supplies and fuel. There’s a supermarket, hotels, a bank, cafes and other places to supply your needs.
It was close to 5 o’clock when we arrive so we made our way over to the wharf precinct to take part in the ritual feeding of the pelicans. John’s been doing this job for more than 20 years and comes dressed accordingly with floppy hat, overalls, gumboots and a weather beaten jumper.
I reluctantly accepted his offer of feeding fish to the pelicans, armed as I was with thick rubber gloves. In a flash my right arm disappeared up to the elbow down a pelican’s throat despite my protests that this was my writing hand. This huge black and white, web-footed outlaw was intent on taking no prisoners. As time was of the essence we drove to Flinders Chase National Park about 100km away – allow at least 70 minutes for the trip. Drop into the visitor centre and café as you arrive to pay your permit fee. You might also stay at Rapid Creek camping area nearby with showers, toilets, rubbish removal and large undercover areas.
Wine, whales and a wonderland was a trip full of surprises and exceeded our expectations. I guess it all goes to show that you really should listen to fellow travellers when they rave about idyllic places in SA. They say that SA is a brilliant blend of people and places and they’re absolutely correct.
FRED’S WINE TRAIL
Seppeltsfield Road, Seppeltsfield, SA
Ph: (08) 8568 6200
The Wine House
1509 Langhorne Creek Road, Langhorne Creek, SA
Ph: (08) 8537 3441
Langhorne Creek Road, Langhorne Creek, SA
Ph: (08) 8537 3001
Willsons Road, Macgillivray, SA
Ph: (08) 8553 0900
LOT 51 Seal Bay Road, Seal Bay, SA
Ph: (08) 8559 5108
Victor Harbor, SA
Ph: (08) 8551 0702
Seppeltsfield Road, Seppeltsfield, SA
Ph: (08) 8562 8149
Barossa Sculpture Park
Mengler Hill Road, Bethany, SA
- SOUTH AUSTRALIAN WHALE CENTRE
- ENCOUNTER COAST DISCOVERY CENTRE
- MENGLER HILL LOOKOUT
- GOOLWA MOTOR MUSEUM
Port Elliot Big 4 Holiday Park
Port Elliot Road, Port Elliot, SA
Ph: (08) 8554 2134
Western K.I Caravan Park
Kangaroo Island, SA
Ph: (09) 8559 7201
Barossa Valley Tourist Park
Penrice Road, Nuriootpa, SA
Ph: (08) 8562 1404
Browns Beach Campground
Ph: (08) 8559 2277
Antechamber Bay West Campground
Ph: (08) 8553 2381
Western River Cover
Barossa Valley Information Centre
66-68 Murray St, Tanunda, SA
Ph: (08) 8563 0600
Goolwa Visitor Centre
LOT 4 Goolwa Terrace, Goolwa, SA
Ph: 1300 466 592
Kangaroo Island Gateway
LOT 3 Howard Drive, Penneshaw, SA
Ph: (08) 8553 1185
HOW TO GET THERE
Using Kapunda as a home-base we made our way to various spots around the Fleurieu Peninsula. Port Elliot, situated right next to beautiful Horseshoe Bay, proved another invaluable spot to set up camp and branch out to Goolwa, Victor Harbor and Nuriootpa. Kingscote was our base on Kangaroo Island and if it’s within your budget to get across there, we can’t recommend it highly enough!