There’s something about the recent roadtrip that I embarked on with Heather (theresnoplacelikeoz.com) and Nicole (chasingwonderlust.wordpress.com) that gives me a new desire to travel. South Australia was a point in our travels where we had to decide whether to push on to Western Australia across the Nullarbor or return back to Sydney. Needless to say, we pushed on and it was the best decision of the journey. For me, South Australia was the turning point of something bigger than just the Oz Roadtrip plus there were plenty of fantastic things to see and do after the disappointment of the (not so) Great Ocean Road.
Normanville and Carrickalinga
About 80km south of Adelaide along the coast are the towns of Normanville and Carrickalinga. They’re tiny little things with hardly any reputation and as a result they’re quiet. We went as a bit of detour to try and find some food and ended up falling in love with the absolutely stunning beaches. The water is calm, the sand is bright yellow and the water is unbelievable – double turquoise all the way! I reckon this would be a top spot to hang around with a family for a while – I kind of wish we’d stayed for a bit longer, but the camping nazis are out in force which led us to push on.
Port Parham is one of the most bizarre places I have been. It’s about 60km north of Adelaide along the coast, but it feels like you are in the middle of the desert albeit with the ocean on one side. It has a pretty good free campsite with a toilet and this encourages loads of campers to hang out for a while. The town is a small dusty old thing and the beach is not of the variety that you’d choose to go swimming at. In fact, it is the beach that makes this place so weird. Firstly, there is an ocean of dried seaweed between normal land and sand and this seaweed is metres thick and stretches as far as the eye can see – you have to walk over it to get to the beach. Once on the beach you notice the flattest piece of land imagineable. After walking about 300m to the water, you notice the flatness continues right into the ocean meaning that you can walk for kilometres into the water before getting into trouble. As a result, when the tide advances or retreats, you can see a river of water flowing in a particular direction – a sight to behold! Oh, and the sunset here is brilliant. One last thing – we got done by an infestation of mice in the van. Probably half a dozen of them.
I already mentioned one part of the Fleurieu Peninsula previously – Normanville and Carrickalinga are located on the peninsula and are just west of the famed McLaren Vale wine region. McLaren Vale is one of my favourite wine regions as it’s relatively compact, the wineries aren’t too massive and it has a focus on good food as well as wine. South of here is the Langhorne Creek wine region which is tiny and is home to a number of great wineries. One I will never return to is Bremerton Wines – on day one we had a wonderful meal there, but when we returned the next day for a coffee (we’d already sampled their wines), the lady took an attitude towards us that is best left in the 20th century. One of complete and utter disdain. How dare we enter their winery and ask for a coffee. This kind of rubbish is common in wineries in Australia and the sooner they stop being precious the better.
Rant aside, there is also the lovely town of Victor Harbor to visit on the Fleurieu. We camped here for free and took a walk along the causeway to Granite Island. They also have a horse-drawn cart taking tourists across, but it’s a gaudy tourist trap that would best retired.
Fave town on the Fleurieu Peninsula? Wilunga. It’s officially part of the McLaren Vale wine region, but it really doesn’t push the wine angle very hard. We were there when the local farmers’ market was on and the selection of cakes, pastries, fresh produce and other great food was amazing. The town itself retains a type of charm that is often lost when the tourist masses descend – but this place has held its own and done it brilliantly.
One last word on the Fleurieu Peninsula. We downloaded the official Tourism SA iPhone app and it proved to be an excellent guide around the place. There were quite a few bugs with the app and it was slow, but the information contained within it was fantastic and enhanced out experience.
So these were the highlights of South Australia for me. In many ways these are unorthodox, but I think tourism in South Australia should avoid the man tourist centres because they are over-rated – much like anywhere else really. Get off the beaten track, make your own path and you can really discover some fantastic places in South Australia. Very impressive.