Exploring Australia’s Limestone Coast

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As a resident of NSW Australia, guest contributor Leslie Connor from Empty Nesters Travel Insights has been sharing insider tips for exploring all of Australia, from beautiful Sydney and Melbourne to planning adventures in some of the country’s lesser known regions such as Adelaide. Today, she’s taking us on a baby boomer road trip adventure through Australia’s Limestone Coast.

Exploring Australia’s Limestone Coast

South Australia’s Limestone Coast is every bit as rugged and beautiful as Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road. Active boomers will enjoy the dramatic coastal rock formations along the windswept Southern Ocean, rolling sand dunes, national parks and historic coastal towns that make this an area well worth exploring.

Starting out from Adelaide, a round trip drive is about 10 hours and can easily be enjoyed on an overnight or weekend trip. However, your best bet is to take several days to relax in the coastal towns and walk along some of South Australia’s most beautiful walking trails.

When making this trip, we chose Robe, a three and a half hour drive from Adelaide, as a base. While all the towns along the route have motels and campsites, Robe has a better range of more upmarket accommodation options.

Explore German Heritage at Hahndorf

German village with stone buildings
Visit the historic German settlement of Hahndorf.

Your first destination should be to travel up into the Adelaide Hills to the historic town of Hahndorf. Established by Lutheran immigrants in 1839, it is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. Much of the village’s heritage remains intact. Browse the quaint historic buildings, and enjoy some authentic German fare at the many cafe’s restaurants and bakeries.

You will find many boutique cellar doors, craft breweries and artisan cheese outlets around the village where you can sample the local produce. Wine lovers will also find over 90 cool climate wineries and 50 cellar doors surrounding Hahndorf, where you can stop off for a morning’s wine tasting.

Stroll Along the Murray River

large paddlesteamer on a river
See the paddle steamers on the Murray River at Murray Bridge.

Heading north from Hahndorf, you will then cross the famous Murray River at Murray Bridge. Paddlesteamers along the river were once the main cargo routes between inland South Australia and Port Adelaide. Today the river is somewhat depleted, but you can still see  the houseboats and tourist paddlesteamers making their way along the river.

If you have the time to stop, you can enjoy a river cruise, learning a little of the history of the Murray River. The town also has many great fishing and swimming spots, as well as  many walking trails along the river.

Next stop, Kinston SE

Heading back towards the Southern Ocean, you will come to the seaside town of Kingston SE,  a two-hour drive from Murray Bridge. A popular seaside destination, the town is also a working crayfish port. In the main street, you can’t miss  “Larry the Lobster” the giant crayfish which has become a major tourist attraction since 1979. While you are there, make sure to take time to sample some local crayfish!

Another landmark is the 137-feet-high Cape Jaffa lighthouse, which was originally built on the reef in 1872, but sits in the middle of the town today. The eight rooms once housed two families with enough supplies to last them several weeks. During the 1970’s the historic lighthouse was moved into town as a museum.

A few minutes out of town, take a detour to Cape Jaffa  and your first glimpse of the rugged Limestone Coast. While in the area, wine lovers can take  a tour of the Mount Benson wine region.

Exploring Robe

Our overnight stop is just another half hour’s drive past the rolling sand dunes along the Southern Ocean. The town is a popular seaside resort on the southern shores of Guichen Bay. Swimmers can enjoy the white sand and clean waters of Long Beach, while fishermen can  “dangle a line” on the Robe jetty in an idyllic seaside location.

rugged rocky landscape leading out to the sea
Robe is a great area to use as a base while exploring the coastline.

The historic town has many limestone buildings with the featured edging brickwork which is synonymous with much of South Australian architecture. A guided historic walk takes in many of these historic buildings.

Along the foreshore you will find the Chinese memorial to the thousands of Chinese gold seekers who landed here during the 1850’s gold rush. The nearby Customs House was built in 1863 to handle the influx of immigrants and now serves as a museum.

rugged rocky landscape leading out to the sea
The coastline seems to go on forever!

Active boomers must take the short drive out to Cape Dombey to  walk along the rugged coastline. There are a number of safe walking trails from which you can enjoy the limestone rock formations surrounding the Cape. Just stick to the paths and don’t be tempted to climb the fences for a better photo. The limestone cliffs are unstable and prone to crumbling without notice.

The famous Cape Dombey Obelisk itself is slowly falling into the sea. Erected in 1852 to help ships safely navigate Guichen Bay, the rocks below the obelisk are slowly eroding and it is only a matter of time before it is consumed by the sea.

During your stay Robe, don’t miss the opportunity to dine on locally caught lobster!

Enjoy Beachport

A half hour’s drive from Robe, we come to the seaside town of Beachport. During the summer months, holidaymakers flock to the town to enjoy swimming, watersports, fishing and a relaxed cafe lifestyle by Rivoli Bay. On a 40 degree summer’s day, you can enjoy a cooling dip in one of the many swimming areas along Rivoli Bay.

wooden pier leading out to the sea
Walk out into Rivoli Bay along the Beachport Jetty.

Visitors must make the 1.5 kilometer return walk along  along the historic pier. The original jetty was completed in 1882, stretching 1.2 kilometers into Rivoli Bay. Safety issues saw the jetty significantly shortened, however even at 772 meters, the sheer length of the jetty is quite impressive. It is a popular fishing spot and provides amazing views along the coastline.

You can learn a little of the history of the historic 1830’s whaling port in the heritage listed customs house and grain store. The museums house a collection of fishing, whaling and agricultural artifacts.

rugged rocky landscape leading out to the sea
View from the Beachport jetty across Rivoli Bay.

Active boomers will enjoy a visit to the Beachport Conservation Park. Popular for its white beaches, you will also find an array of birdlife including hooded plovers which nest on the beach. If you are looking for a camping weekend, you can pre-book a site in the conservation park.

The drive along Bowman Scenic Drive provides spectacular views of the rugged limestone coastline, past the Pool of Siloam, said to be seven times saltier than the sea. Swimmers enjoy the buoyancy of the salty water and the therapeutic benefits.

Visit Southend

Southend is only a 15 minute drive from Beachport. A rock lobster fishing port, the tiny village of Southend boasts white beaches hidden behind rolling sand dunes along the turquoise waters of Rivoli Bay. Holiday makers and locals enjoy the dramatic coastal landscapes and the chance to get back to nature in the Canunda National Park.

wooden pier leading out to the sea
Take a stroll along the Southend jetty and watch the commercial fishermen unloaded the morning’s “catch”.

The clear aquamarine waters and 40 kilometers of white sandy beach along Rivoli Bay look like something out of an exotic tourist brochure. Yet the seaside resort is actually one of the best kept secrets of the South Australian Limestone Coast.

rugged rocky landscape and pier leading out to the sea
This area is a very tranquil place to enjoy for a few hours.

What to see in Canunda National Park

Active boomers will love nearby Canunda National Park. The park has some 9300 hectares of bushland and coastal landscape, offering a number of smaller, remote campsites and protected beaches and lagoons. These are popular with bush walkers and four-wheel drive enthusiasts.

rugged rocky landscape leading out to the sea
Enjoy the dramatic limestone rock formations in the Canunda National Park.

Here you can explore some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes, where the wind and ocean has shaped the rock formations over time. Choose from one of the well signposted coastal walks along the clifftop .

Here you will discover impressive limestone formations and ruggedly beautiful coastal scenery. Seabirds soar above the rugged cliffs. Dolphins and seals make the area their home and you can also see whales on their annual migration later in the year. Signboards along the walks provide detailed information on the flora and fauna which can be found along the way.

rugged rocky landscape leading out to the sea
The 45 minute walk to Willichum Lookout gives you spectacular coastal views from the viewing platform. The pathway is well signposted, keeping clear of the sheer precipices. The clifftops are prone to crumbling as the coastal erosion continues to reshape the coast.

If you have a bit more time, you can enjoy the 2km Cape Buffon Walking trail or also the 12km Seaview walk. Both of these take you along the rugged cliffs, and the dramatic coastal landscape. Birds, native wildlife and sea life are abundant along these walks.

rugged rocky landscape leading out to the sea
The park offers some amazing scenery!

From Southend you can take the five hour drive back to Adelaide, through the crater lakes of Mount Gambier and the Coonawarra winery region. Alternatively, you can continue your road trip along either the Great Ocean Road or back through the inland regions of southern Victoria to Melbourne.

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