Who doesn’t love a road trip? You and your partner in crime with the freedom to stop where and for as long as you please.
Being an expat Aussie, I appreciate every moment I spend in my home country, especially the time I spend in my home state.
The beauty I may have taken for granted, I now try to imprint in my mind to recall while I’m away. One of the best and easiest ways to do that is via a road trip and the one from Adelaide to Melbourne is one of my faves.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
From Adelaide, the most direct route out of town is straight up Glen Osmond Road to the South Eastern Freeway (M1). The Adelaide Hills’ many wineries, local produce, galleries and hiking trails make for some fabulous exploring, but that’s for another day, we’re heading up the river then the Coorong.
Monarto, Murray Bridge & Tailem Bend.
One of the world’s largest open-range zoos is at Monarto. 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) is home to more than 500 animal species and 50 exotic and native mammals, birds and reptiles. You can mingle with meerkats, meet the chimps, go on a giraffe safari and be a zookeeper for a day. Monarto Zoo is dedicated to education and conservation.
Follow the Murray Bridge bypass directly to Tailem Bend or, if this is your first adventure in this direction, take the Murray Bridge exit.
There’s not a lot to see until you hit the river so make your way to Sturt Reserve. The paddle steamers Murray River Princess and Proud Mary dock here. There are BBQ facilities, picnic tables or you can grab a “counterie” at the Murray Bridge Community Club for a wallet-friendly price.
A “must do” at Sturt Reserve is to drop a gold coin into the box to meet the Bunyip. Based on the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime creature, the Bunyip lives in swamps, creeks and rivers throughout the country. Its roar is worse than its bite but you can never be too careful. 😉
Cross “the” Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend is 20 minutes away. Perched on top of the cliffs, views of the Murray and surrounds are magnificent. A ferry links Tailem Bend to Jervois across the river. This is dairy country and through the late 18 and early 1900s, milk boats delivered from the dairies to the riverside settlements.
Meningie, Pink Lake & The Coorong.
Follow the Princes Highway (B1) from Tailem Bend to Meningie. You’ll begin to see the vegetation change as you get further from the river and closer to the Coorong.
About 12 km before you hit Meningie, keep an eye out for the Pink Lake. There’s enough room on the side of the road to pull over and grab your camera. The lake’s depth of colour can be quite spectacular.
Try your hand at sailing in Meningie, on the shores of Lake Albert at the northern end of the Coorong. Meningie Sailing Club has lessons from 11:00 – 12:00 every Saturday.
Catch Coorong Mullet or buy it fresh from the fisherman and cook it on the barbies at the waterfront.
Meningie is your last stop for juice until Kingston 145 km so check your fuel gauge.
Jacks Point entrance to the Coorong National Park is 47 km from Meningie. A short walk through the scrub to the Pelican Observatory Deck at dawn or dusk will reward you with a view of feeding pelicans. This is an important breeding ground for the Australian Pelican.
Studies show this particular area provides adequate food supply along with an undisturbed nesting area the Australian Pelican needs for at least three months in order to breed successfully. This is the time from the establishment of a nest site to the growth of the young to near adult size.
At Policeman’s Point meet Raymond and Graham Logan at the Coorong Hotel Motel. A quaint spot where you can rest your head for a couple of nights and explore the Coorong National Park. A perfect spot for bushwalking, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, or 4WDriving.
At the end of the day, return to the bar and bistro to indulge in one of their unique “pitzas”, that’s pizza topping on pita bread. The bar is fully stocked and Raymond and Graham will entertain with local history, myths and legends.
Kingston, Wangolina & Robe.
“Larry” the lobster (Australia’s Southern Rock Lobster or more commonly known as crayfish) dominates the entrance to Kingston. Sadly, Larry’s new paint job isn’t attracting a much-needed buyer for the F&B hub he’s the mascot for.
The Big Lobster used to be the place to munch on freshly cooked crayfish sandwiches and having been directed across the road to the servo to fulfil that need we would suggest waiting until you reach Robe. Not only was there very little cray in the sandwich, but it came with a hefty price tag.
The Princes Highway (B1) takes an inland route to Millicent from Kingston so continue through the town on the Southern Ports Highway (B101).
Cape Jaffa turn off is a little over 5km from Kingston but for wine lovers, we suggest continuing to Wangolina (sorry designated driver) 5 km further at Mount Benson.
Wangolina’s wine room is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. Anita Goode, Wangolina’s Winemaker, is often pouring and sharing hilarious anecdotes of the region and its personalities. Cellar door purchases come in particularly handy for when you reach Robe and that freshly cooked crayfish.
A sight that may come as a surprise on the way to Robe is the many dromedaries, or single hump camels, on the side of the road. Unlike the camels outside Dubai, these are behind a fence so there’s no need to adjust your speed.
The charming seaside town of Robe is not to be missed. Beautiful beaches, funky shops, delicious dining and fresh local seafood are all great reasons to spend some time in Robe. Accommodation options include caravan and camping parks, quiet B&Bs and serviced apartments. Robe is a popular tourist destination with plenty of history and much to explore in the surrounding area.
Beachport, Millicent & Mount Gambier.
Beachport is a 30-minute drive from Robe. This little corner of paradise has to be one of the most picturesque towns on South Australia’s coast. To fully appreciate Beachport’s beauty take a drive (or walk) the back beaches along the scenic drive. Lookout points are strategically placed for stunning views and walking tracks down to the beach or rocks are definitely worth the effort.
Head back to the foreshore via Beachport’s Pool of Siloam, more commonly known as the Salt Lake. Said to be 7 times saltier than the ocean, the lake’s buoyancy makes swimming almost effortless.
Take a walk out to the end of the 772-metre long jetty. The crystal clear water below beckons on a warm day, but no matter the temperature on land, Rivoli Bay is on the Southern Ocean so it’s always slightly “fresh”.
The Jetty Café, Bompas or the Pub are all good for a bite to eat or get down to the jetty early mornings for fresh catch off the boats.
The Pub, a motel and 2 caravan parks provide excellent accommodation but if a longer stay is what you’re after many of the foreshore homes are holiday rentals, perfect for a leisurely couple of weeks in a little piece of paradise.
Approaching Millicent, take the bypass unless staples are required. Millicent is the service town for the many smaller hubs in the region. The area’s grocery, fuel, medical and banking needs are met in Millicent.
Continue to Mount Gambier enjoying the lush beauty of the landscape. The major service centre for the entire limestone coast, Mount Gambier provides a wide range of accommodation, shopping, entertainment, hiking, farmers markets, wineries and much more. Surrounded by volcanic craters, lakes, gardens, caves and sinkholes, Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake is likely the town’s most famous attraction.
The Blue Lake dramatically changes colour from a dark steel blue in winter to a vibrant cobalt in Summer. For more on the Blue Lake follow this link to an article recently published in TravelPass Magazine.
Coming up next in part 2, your road trip continues from Mount Gambier to the world-renowned stretch of coastline along the Great Ocean Road.
Taking an Adelaide to Melbourne road trip: it’s a thing we love….
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