Fleurieu Peninsula, just south of Adelaide, is a dramatic clash of coast and country. Edged by crystal-clear aquamarine ocean and deserted beaches, inland throws you into McLaren Vale country, one of Australia’s most respected wine regions. Dotted between those frothy waves and fruit-laden vines are stone country villages such as Port Elliot, Willunga and Goolwa….
Go coastal! Fringed by soft sands to the west and south, the Fleurieu Peninsula (pronounced ‘Floo-ree-oh’) can’t help but have a beach culture worth writing home about. Here on its powder-soft white sands you will see surfers eagerly jogging down to the water, families enjoying picnics and in-the-know holidaymakers who, chances are, are wondering if they can stay in this laidback wonderland that little bit longer…
Beaches don’t come much better… All year round. South Australian summers run from December to February and are always sunny, but while other regions can swelter in over 40°C temperatures, the Fleurieu Peninsula is washed over by refreshing sea breezes. From May to October, southern right whales migrate past the Fleurieu Peninsula’s southern coast on their way between Antarctica and their breeding grounds in the Great Australian Bight. Victor Harbor, home to the South Australian Whale Centre (+61 (0)8 8551 0750) is an obvious lookout, but visit the low cliffs at Port Elliot and Middleton to be treated to a free sighting of the migrating mammals.
Where to stay?
The Australasian Circa 1858 This private five-room boutique hotel has a chic Asian-infused decor that complements its celebrated Dining Room where a modern fusion menu is devoured exclusively by guests during the week, then on Saturdays opened to all. Overlooking Goolwa Wharf at the mouth of the Murray River, it is perfectly poised to let guests enjoy all the delights of this very special part of the world. Hop on a boat to the Coorong National Park. Take a steam train to the beaches of Middleton and Port Elliot. Or drive an hour to the winelands of McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and Currency Creek as well as the ferry for Kangaroo Island – day trips don’t get more exciting for wildlife lovers.
Top tip: Middleton often grabs the headlines for surfing, but it is right here on friendly Goolwa Beach that we’re happiest. We love Bombora@Goolwa Beach. Not just for the just-caught fish and fresh salads, or a quick coffee or chilled wine, but the café’s people-watching and grandstand sea view. At Bombora’s helm is Olaf Hansen (left), a local personality formerly behind Aquacaf. A long-time Goolwa resident, he is the ideal person to tap for some tips on how best to tackle that surf: ‘Surf at the end of Goolwa beach – lifesavers patrol right here out the front of the restaurant!’
The Fleurieu Peninsula is an hour’s drive south of Adelaide’s international airport. Driving to the Fleurieu from Adelaide is a doddle. Try get to grips with the Southern Expressway’s one-way system before you hit the road: it runs north to south on weekday mornings and weekend afternoons/evenings, then south to north on weekday afternoons/evenings and weekend mornings. Mistime it and the slow crawl through the southern suburbs could add 30 minutes to your ride.