If you’ve never heard of Goolwa, take note. The historic river port is the end of the line for the mighty Murray River – and a beautiful place to start a holiday.
Just over an hour’s drive south of Adelaide, Goolwa is in the happy position of being both a seaside and riverside town. The high street runs perpendicular to the Goolwa Channel, part of the Murray Mouth system, while the southern suburbs overlook the surf beach. It makes a great combination for holidaymakers: there’s boating, kayaking, river cruising, beachcombing and surfing. But Goolwa offers more than just water and watersports; this historic port town has a strong regional arts scene and, in 2007, gained acclaim as the first Cittaslow, or slow town, accredited outside Europe. An extension of the Italian ideals of “slow food”, Cittaslow towns place culture, heritage, sustainability, community and lifestyle at the fore. Goolwa’s Cittaslow movement holds a local farmers market, maintains a community garden and hosts an array of events including an annual Smoke Off and, once a month in summer, a free evening mini-festival called At The Wharf. Here, people gather on the deck of Signal Point to kick back in the waning sun, listening to the tunes of a live band. Kids roll down the grassy knoll, couples sip wine and sample fare from local food trucks (in particular the garlicky cockles from the Bombora cockle cart). For a town with little more than one short main street, Goolwa punches above its weight, offering history, culture, food, sand and surf all in one quaint package.
Where to eat
The best coffee in town – and arguably the tastiest casual food – is at Motherduck on Cadell Street. This bustling café is a favourite with locals; even early on a Sunday morning many of the tables are reserved. The breakfast menu is served until 3pm – perfect for when you feel like bacon, spinach and haloumi waffles for lunch.
Things to do
Pedal the day away
Book The Australasian’s two bikes in advance to enjoy a day of exploration on the Encounter Bikeway, a 30-kilometre trail from Goolwa’s Laffin Point to Rosetta Head (or The Bluff) in Encounter Bay.
Take to the water
Get on the water with The Big Duck Boat Tours. With daily speedboat cruises departing from the Causeway at Victor Harbour, you’ll take in views of striking coastline, as well as get close to dolphins, seals, sea-lions and, in season, whales.
Go on a self-guided wine tour
Sample the local wines of Currency Creek, the small wine region right on the doorstep of Goolwa. There are three notables: One Paddock Wines, about 20 minutes out of Goolwa, worth a visit for the array of refreshing whites and casual Sunday lunches; Shaw Family Vintners cellar door Signal Point in Goolwa; and No. 58 Cellar Door & Gallery in nearby Port Elliot, serving Thunderbird and Mount Billy wines alongside platter-style lunches in a pretty vineyard setting.