A day – or more – spent cruising the Southern Ocean Drive means you take in a huge slice of South Australia: the Limestone Coast, the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. From end to end, this trip covers almost 800 kilometres of windswept beaches, ripe vineyards, quaint coastal enclaves and unique national parks. This is how to cover as much as possible in two days.
Start your journey at Mount Gambier – specifically at the Blue Lake, a crater formed by a once-active volcano now filled with water that can be any shade of blue from steely grey to turquoise depending on the season. Pick up a coffee and flaky almond croissant from the Metro Bakery and Café in town, drive to the lake and experience an active brunch by walking the 3.6-kilometre track that rings the lip of the lake.
Take the Riddoch Highway out of Mount Gambier towards Coonawarra. If the town sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ve sipped on a cab sav from the region – it’s known as one of the country’s red wine capitals. There are a multitude of wineries to stop at for a sample but if you want to take an early lunch, visit Upstairs at Hollick, which lays claim to being the first winery restaurant in the area. Have the team in chef Justin Williams’ kitchen bring your table a selection of eats by ordering the $55 per person “Feed Me” option; courses could include lamb coated in parmesan crumbs atop a pea puree, a house-made terrine served with sweet quince pasta or a zingy citrus dessert of lemon dumplings and candied oranges. And matching wines, of course.
After indulging in good food and wine head west towards the Limestone Coast, all the way to the candy-striped Robe Obelisk. Erected on the edge of the sand hills more than 150 years ago, the waves are slowly eroding the headland it stands on so the structure may not stand sentinel much longer. Snap some photos while you can.
Detour: Coorong NP
On the way to Port Elliot, make time to meander through the Coorong National Park: you won’t have seen a reserve like this before. The park is in fact a series of saltwater lagoons famous within Australia as the setting of the beloved novel Storm Boy. The Jack Point Pelican Observatory Walk is a 20-minute trail through the dunes – plenty of time to spot your own Mr Percival.
Image credit: Tom Brinkworth
Cruise into Port Elliot, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and stop for the night at The Anchorage Hotel in Victor Harbor, a charming heritage-style building with views of the ocean. Get to the Port Elliot Bakery for its 7am opening to nab a famed steak pie for breakfast – you are on holiday, after all. Travel 30 minutes to Cape Jervis and drive straight onto the 9am Sealink Ferry to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island.
Disembark and drive to the white-sand Hog Bay not far from the ferry port, where you can hopefully spot some of the little penguins that roost in the dunes.
Detour: Seal Bay and Vivonne Bay
Choose the clockwise route around the island and stop first at Seal Bay, which, as you might have guessed, is populated by a colony of sea lions. They spend much of their time basking on the sand and it’s possible to see the pups at play from the designated lookouts along the raised boardwalk. Continue on to Vivonne Bay, a pristine crest of sand of Kangaroo Island southern coast. Surf, snorkel or simply paddle in the rockpools but be prepared for some seriously chilly water: it flows straight in from Antarctica.
Flinders Chase National Park
They took hundreds of million of years to form but the final stop on the road trip was worth the wait. The aptly named Remarkable Rocks in the Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island is nature’s answers to famed outdoor art show Sculpture by the Sea.