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Published May 21st 2017
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The Obelisk stands tall. Instantly recognisable by South Australians. An integral part of our history, and culture. Sadly losing its fight with Mother Nature as the limestone cliffs are battered by sea and wind which gradually whittle the foundations that support the Obelisk. I am at Robe, one of the more popular seaside towns on South Australia's Limestone Coast, discovering the local secrets and appreciating some of the many things to do in this beaut little town.
Robe was founded in 1845 and was proclaimed a port in 1847. The direction of the bay made for a safe harbour, and by the 1850's Robe became SA's second biggest trading port. It was soon thereafter when Robe became the biggest (for a short while) passenger port when over 16,000 Chinese people landed at Robe and walked inland to the Victorian goldfields, all in an attempt to avoid paying the recently introduced Victorian ports landing tax. However, the introduction of inland railways in the late 1800's saw Robe bypassed with many of the buildings and facilities being scaled back or adopting alternative lives.
Today Robe is a pleasant mix of old and new, historic and trendsetting, scenic and serene, with a population of just over 1,000 that swells many times over during peak holiday seasons. The Robe Historic Walk and the Scenic Drive, with details available from the Visitor Information Centre, are two enticing trips that provide visitors with an appreciation of rugged coastline and the maritime history of the town.
But if you are looking to create your own, then make sure you pay a visit to the Limestone Coast Food Farmers and Makers Market during summer holidays or public holiday weekends when various vendors offering some of the freshest and local foods for immediate consumption, or to takeaway and dine in at a later time.
Being just over an hour away from the Coonawarra means wine will make its way onto menus in more ways than one. Just 10 minutes north of town is the small region of Mt Benson which is home to several wineries and cellar doors, all of whom have their own unique style and blends, while the centre of Robe sees cellar doors for Governor Robe Wines and Karatta Wines. And not to be outdone, but craft beers also make an appearance in town thanks to the team at the Robe Town Brewery where blends incorporating local fruits and malts produce some stunning all year round drinking ales.
Just south of the town is the Little Dip Conservation Park, a hidden gem for 4wd and mountain bike enthusiasts. Sand dunes, vehicles tracks and off-road conditions see many enthusiasts reduce the pressure on their tyres and set off in search of some of the more remote beaches and dunes along the Limestone Coast.
It is of little surprise that the town that is host to some of the best crayfish on the Limestone Coast is also home to some great fishing locations. For those with a boat then the Marina provides a safe spot to launch before heading out into the bay, while for those without a boat then make sure you join one of the local and deep sea fishing charters from the Marina.
For those without sealegs, don't despair as the change of tide sees plenty of opportunity and plenty of fishermen trying their luck at the mouth of the Marina, along the breakwater or from the historic Robe Jetty.
But not all beaches need a 4wd as Robe's most popular beach shows. A couple of kilometres north of the town lies Long Beach, a 10km long golden paradise that has long been known as one of the best drive-on beaches in Australia. Access is available at several points along the beach, and in most parts and at most times will suit a 2wd. But if you are looking for a quiet spot on the beach, be early and be quick, as the beach fills up very quickly during the holiday seasons.
Robe is also popular amongst the surfing community with the 49th Robe Easter Classic being held earlier in 2017. The beaches alongside the Little Dip Conservation Park feature the stronger swells and more exciting conditions, while dotted along Long Beach there is many a budding surfer trying their luck in the smaller and more consistent swells.
The new trends are interlaced with a sense of history and pride within the town, where a number of the old buildings have been tastefully adapted for alternative uses such as Trader Jacks in the centre of town, which served a life as an old barn before being renovated into a semi-luxurious and romantic cottage from yesteryear, or the delightful Granny Banks Cottage, the second house ever built in Robe.
Or alternatively, and yet again, a trip down to Long Beach with your favourite book and a glass of wine provides the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of relaxation and one of the most beautiful sunsets on the Limestone Coast.
Robe is 335km south-east of Adelaide along bitumen roads the full way. Robe has three caravan parks, several hotels and numerous accommodation houses at varying levels of opulence. For further details on Robe, contact the Robe Visitor Information Centre in the Institute or check out the Robe Tourism website.