Perched on the Fleurieu Peninsula’s southern coast, just 90 kilometres from Adelaide, Port Elliot is a slice of laidback coastal heaven – but that wasn’t always the case. The town was founded in the early 1850s, intended to be the main ocean port for transporting goods up the Murray River. But the stretch of coastline where Port Elliot was located, Horseshoe Bay (a small cove in the larger Encounter Bay), proved more treacherous than expected. No fewer than seven shipwrecks occurred in the space of 11 years and as a result, Port Elliot lost its trade to Victor Harbor.
Thankfully, maritime catastrophes are long gone and, these days, Port Elliot is a delightful heritage seaside town. On Saturdays, one only needs to observe the snaking lines of barefoot beachgoers outside the famed Port Elliot Bakery to realise this township has a small but thriving local community. As for Horseshoe Bay, it may not have been so easy for boats to navigate, but for swimmers, it’s perfectly sheltered. Doesn’t hurt that it’s damn pretty, too. On hot days, witness the young and young-at-heart frolic on the sand and in the waters. Note though, the weather on the south coast of the Fleurieu can be mercurial: hot and sunshiny one day, chilled and moody the next. Pack for all seasons, even in summer.
Three kilometres out of town, down an unsealed no-through road, is a renovated stone cottage called Jimmy Smith’s Dairy. The name is a tribute to the former dairyman who once lived and milked cows here, but it was current owners, Noel and Robyn Akmens, who had the vision to transform the neglected structure into an upscale, two-bedroom, self-catering B&B. While original features such as exposed-bluestone walls remain, it’s modern additions such as floor-to-celling windows, bamboo flooring and luxe bathrooms that make this place so inviting.
Noel and Robyn have three “official” rules at Jimmy Smith’s: no pets, no kids and no wi-fi – all are in pursuit of the fourth “unofficial” rule: the hope that guests will leave their day-to-day behind and properly relax. It’s not hard to: outside, there’s a bucolic feel thanks to surrounding native gardens and grass meadows. In the distance, there’s the sea. Breakfast and snacking provisions are plentiful, plus there’s a fully equipped kitchen, so it’s easy to stay in if the weather’s inclement.
The strongest element, though, is the seclusion and privacy. While Jimmy Smith’s Dairy is close enough to Port Elliot to offer beachside activities and plenty of dining options, it’s removed enough to feel like you’re in a place that’s all your own.
Mentone Road East (via Brickyard Road); 0409 690 342
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De Groot Coffee Co.
Given its location in a small industrial business estate on one of the back roads of Port Elliot, you’d never guess that De Groot serves the best coffee on the Fleurieu. But it does. In this cavernous shed, a polished black coffee roaster sits proudly on one side; on the other, an espresso machine, an assortment of pastries and a bustling counter where baristas churn out lattes and espressos like it’s inner-city Melbourne.
Shed 5, Factory 9, corner Hill Street and Waterport Road; (08) 8554 2328
For modern café fare, look no further than this smart establishment, bang in the heart of town. Start the day at Cockles Café with Lean and Green – broccoli and sweet pea falafels or Smashing Pumpkins: pumpkin and feta smash on sourdough. For lunch, it’s hard to beat the fish tacos, while pizzas are the pick for evenings. (Dinner is served on Fridays and Saturdays).
4/33 North Terrace; (08) 8554 3187
The Flying Fish
Boasting seductive views over Horseshoe Bay, this restaurant is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike. Seafood is the main attraction at The Flying Fish, and the vast majority on the menu is South Australia-sourced — think Spencer Gulf prawns, Streaky Bay whiting and, of course, Goolwa cockles from just down the road. If you’re after a more relaxed vibe, grab takeaway fish ‘n’ chips from the attached café.
1 The Foreshore; (08) 8554 3504
Take in the views
Ramble along one of Port Elliot’s walking trails which hug the scenic Horseshoe Bay coastline (walkingsa.org.au) or, from Jimmy Smith’s Dairy, stroll to the top of nearby Heysen Road for stellar early-morning views of Encounter Bay.
Explore the township
Port Elliot is by far the most stylish enclave on this stretch of coastline: its streets are peppered with homewares and clothing boutiques, excellent antique shops, cafés and second-hand bookstores. On the main thoroughfare (North Terrace) you’ll also find Jetty Food Store, perfect for stocking up for a night in.
Catch some waves
SEE ALSO: A Weekend in… Goolwa, SA