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Take a Break on the Limestone Coast

Home > Adelaide > Beaches | Escape the City | Family | Fun Things To Do | Kids
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. If you like my articles, please subscribe and click the link to Like them. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au
Published April 20th 2014
The Limestone Coast is the place to be
Take a Break on the Limestone Coast

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, robe customs house
The Robe Customs House, Near the Robe Marina


The Limestone Coast is one of the popular South Australian regions for tourism. Formerly known as the South East, it attracts thousands of interstate tourists as they travel about Australia. Locals also come in droves to visit the fabulous Limestone Coast wineries at Coonawarra and Padthaway, the Naracoorte Caves, and Mount Gambier's Blue Lake.

I recently took a short break for a road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, travelling out through Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend then taking the inland route along the Dukes Highway.

Dukes Highway - From Adelaide to Mount Gambier

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Army Tanks Are Uncommon in Country Towns


Some towns are so small that you would barely notice them if you didn't have to slow down to pass through. But often it's the smaller places that have more to see, and my first stop at Coomandook didn't disappoint - I found a large ex-army tank was parked near the main street. Interestingly Wikipedia calls Coomandook a settlement rather than a town.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, keith museum
Keith Museum Operated by the National Trust


Passing through Coonalpyn ( I forced myself to bypass its bakery), and Tintinara (where there are walking trails to explore), I pressed on to Keith for lunch. As I enjoyed a pie from the bakery, I had a quick look at the National Trust Museum. Even though it wasn't attended, I could look through a wire cage and see some of the exhibits.

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Naracoorte Dinosaurs


As I arrived at Naracoorte I saw some of the pine forests that are the life blood for much of the state's south east. There are many tree plantations supporting forestry workers, while pulp mills also bring employment to locals. The railways of the Limestone Coast also thrived in the past, but have now been mostly replaced by road transport.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national parksheeps back museum naracoorte
Sheeps Back Museum Naracoorte


I didn't visit the Naracoorte Caves this time as I have been there previously, but called in at the Sheep's Back Museum where a helpful woman talked to me about the railway history of Naracoorte. If you haven't been to the Naracoorte Caves you should go - they are currently South Australia's only World heritage listed place.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, steam engine
Steam Engine No 9 at Pioneer Park Naracoorte


Naracoorte is a good sized town with a population of around 5,000, and one of the favourite activities for kids is climbing on the steam engine in Pioneer Park. On a Saturday afternoon the main street was very quiet, and I think many the locals were probably enjoying a footy match somewhere close by.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, coonawarra wineries
A Park Near the Coonawarra Wineries


Most travellers to these South Australian regions would have their eyes firmly set on the Limestone Coast wineries just down the road at Coonawarra, but I recently lost my ability to smell wine so reluctantly bypassed the wineries. At the leafy Coonawarra Memorial Park I found quite a few sculptures commemorating the pioneers who helped to put Coonawarra on the map, and it is a good spot to sit down with a picnic lunch to enjoy a bottle that you've bought nearby.

After nearly running dry I stopped only for petrol in Penola and pressed on the final leg of the journey from Adelaide to Mount Gambier. I was beginning to regret my rashness in not booking accommodation, as the tourist information office was already closed. Luckily a motel room was easy to find, and I was ready to look around South Australia's second largest city.

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Umpherston Sinkhole, One of Many Mount Gambier Attractions


There are so many things to see and do in Mount Gambier that I have covered them in a separate article here. Although I only spent a day in the Mount, you could easily spend a few days leisurely exploring the attractions. The Old Mount Gambier Gaol offers budget accommodation in a unique environment, but you should book ahead as it can get very busy.

Around Millicent

On the return journey I planned to leave the Dukes Highway and take the coastal road to explore the scenic towns of Beachport and Robe, and the ruggedly attractive Coorong National Park.

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The Disused Pulp Mill


While driving from Mount Gambier to Millicent I stopped briefly for some urban exploration at a disused pulp mill. Built in 1938 it was once a bustling plant of 300 employees, but today it is a collection of rusting buildings used in part as a truck depot.

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A Studebaker Hawk Displayed at the Geltwood Festival in Millicent


The Geltwood Festival was in full swing in Millicent when I arrived, celebrating the fabric of life on the Limestone Coast. The main street was packed with people browsing the food stalls, listening to the music, and enjoying the displays of vintage vehicles.

The Coast and Coorong National Park

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Beachport Jetty


Beachport was once a busy port connected by a railway to Mount Gambier, with the train line ending at the Beachport jetty. Now the former railway station is the bowling club, although you can still see a railway water tower on the main street.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, beachport hotel
Beachport Hotel - a Classically Styled Hotel


I had lunch by the Beachport jetty - one of the longest in South Australia. It is a very pretty town and popular with tourists, with many attractions including a museum run by the Beachport National Trust, the quaint Beachport Hotel, and the popular Bompas Restaurant.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, pool of siloam
The Pool of Siloam, Beachport


A short distance from Beachport is the Pool of Siloam with water seven times saltier than the sea. Apart from helping swimmers to float more easily the water is said to be therapeutic, but on an autumn day I wasn't tempted to try the experience. For other Beachport attractions, read here.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, robe heritage accommodation, robe hotel
Robe Heritage Accommodation - the Robe Hotel


As there a plenty of things to do in Robe I decided to stay the night there, and had a pleasant afternoon exploring town and the walking trails which lead to the Robe Gaol ruins and the Obelisk. The former Customs House was built to deal with some 16,000 Chinese immigrants who landed at Robe to avoid an arrival tax and then walked 400km to the Victorian goldfields in the 1860's. It is now a museum.

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A Spectacular Sunset Outside the Robe Hotel


As I sat on the beach outside the Robe Hotel the sunset was absolutely breathtaking, and I was glad that I had chosen to stay in Robe. Its beautiful beaches are popular for swimming and surfing, fishing and fabulous fresh seafood to enjoy. and there are many quaint heritage buildings from the 19th century within easy walking distance around the town. For more ideas of things to do in Robe see the town website and also this list of suggestions.

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The Big Lobster, South Australia's Famous Crustacean at Kingston SE


My next stop on the way to the Coorong National Park was at Kingston SE, home to the famed Big Lobster. While the Big Lobster is still holding on, unfortunately its adjacent restaurant did not and is for sale. Other Kingston SE attractions include some the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse and some great 19th century heritage buildings.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, salt water lagoon
A Dry Salt Water Lagoon in the Coorong National Park


The tiny township of Salt Creek on the edge of the Coorong National Park provides access to a number of walking trails in the park including the Ngrugie Ngoppun Walk. It's quite an isolated area so be sure to take precautions as recommended on the website.

south australian regions, limestone coast, from adelaide to mount gambier, limestone coast wineries, dukes highway, naracoorte caves, beachport jetty, things to do in robe, coorong national park, interpretive signage
Shelter in Coorong National Park With Interpretive Signage


If you'd like to stay a while camping is permitted in the Coorong National Park on payment of a small fee. Bird watchers will be delighted by the enormous variety of migratory birds found here, but a four wheel drive vehicle is needed to access many areas of the park.

The road from Salt Creek continues along the Coorong through Policeman's Point to Meningie, then via Tailem Bend and Murray Bridge back to Adelaide.
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Why? Get out for a change
Where: Limestone Coast, SA
Your Comment
The giant lobster is really cool.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11909) 1552 days ago
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