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The Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla

Home > Adelaide > Escape the City | Walks
by Karen Ross (subscribe)
I love slow travel, slow food and discovering new adventures and delicious regional food in new locations. I'm on an indulgent quest and I'd love you to follow at
Published January 10th 2022
A trail of many stories
I recently found a delightful new walking trail near the charming town of Yankalilla. It starts from Garnet Kelly Reserve, at 6790 Main South Road, and it's called The Great (Big) Gorge Walk.

Garnet Kelly Reserve, Yankalilla
Garnet Kelly Reserve, Yankalilla

My research tells me that the original inhabitants of the Yankalilla area were the Ramindjeri people who occasionally met here with Kaurna people for trade and exchange. A traditional myth credits the formation of the gorge, and other Fleurieu Peninsula landforms, to the travels of Tjilbruke as he grieved, carrying the body of his nephew, from the Sturt River to Cape Jervis.

I also read the account of the remains of Diprotodon, Maesopus (a giant kangaroo) and Thylacoleo (a marsupial lion) being discovered in the 1890s, in a swamp near Yankalilla, suggesting the possibility that these animals were hunted by the Ramindjerl people.

Entrance to the Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla
Entrance to the Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla

In more recent times, Colonel William Light made his first landing on South Australian mainland soil in 1836, at nearby Rapid Bay. He declared the area "rich beyond expectation" which prompted small communities and farms to spring up in the area. Information boards along the walking trail share some of the Colonel's exploration stories.

Welcome to the Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla
Welcome to the Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla

The trail follows a signed path, and is just under 4kms return.

The path, Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla
The path, Great (Big) Gorge Walk, Yankalilla

The surrounding cliffs are majestic and the gorge is home to the Yankalilla river. It is a modest water system, but apparently permanent, so it's easy to understand why the Ramindjeri, and later settlers, stayed nearby.

The Great (Big) Gorge Walk
The Gorge

Parts of the trail pass across farmland. Although we didn't spot any sheep during our walk, apparently they are there and some of them are in the family way. As a consequence visiting dogs must be kept on a leash.

Lambing Ewes
Don't scare the ewes

The trail crosses the river about one third the way along and there's a bench seat for rest and contemplation.

Yankalilla River crossing at The Great (Big) Gorge Walk
Yankalilla River crossing at The Great (Big) Gorge Walk

In fact, there are many pretty spots along the river to invite contemplation. Or perhaps a picnic.

Yankalilla River
Yankalilla River

There are ruins at around two-thirds along the path. The information board explains that they are popularly known as 'The Two-storey Inn' or 'The Gorge Hotel' although there are no formal records of a hotel ever being built or licensed here. One of many local mysteries, I'm sure.

The ruins
The ruins

The end of the trail is marked accordingly and another information board details a quote from William Light describing the valley as enchanting.

The end of the Great (Big) Gorge Trail, Yankalilla
The end of the Great (Big) Gorge Walking Trail

Like the colonel, I also found it enchanting and had to share it with you.
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Why? There are many pretty spots along the river to invite contemplation. Or perhaps a picnic.
When: Sunrise to sunset
Where: 6790 Main South Road, Normanville
Cost: Free
Your Comment
This looks like a great walk. The history is interesting too.
Thanks Karen, enjoyed this.
by Maria-MPG Narratives (score: 2|972) 208 days ago
It looks like quite a rugged but beautiful walk
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|5073) 211 days ago
Great article, Karen, and great photos - thank you for your interest, and promoting our beautiful area.
Lorraine Day
Publicity officer,
Yankalilla & District Historical Society Inc.
by Lorraine Day (score: 1|56) 209 days ago
It looks an easy and picturesque walk Karen. The illustrated story boards add to the interest and enjoyment.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4256) 211 days ago
Is cycling allowed on this track?
by Deedub (score: 0|4) 208 days ago
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