Limestone Coast, South Australia
East of the Murray River to the Victorian border is a landscape of wild coastlines and long, white beaches, arid wilderness and lush vineyards. Just past Murray Bridge is The Coorong, an awe-inspiring panorama of fragile scrub, shallow lagoons, dunes and the mighty Southern Ocean. The numbers tell the story: 47,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, 145kms of coastline, 200 bird species, including the world’s largest breeding colony of Australian pelicans.
South of The Coorong is Robe. A charming seaside holiday and fishing village, its population swells each summer, enjoying the 15 kms of pristine white beaches that can still be explored by four wheeled drive. Robe has charming B&Bs, first-rate restaurants and stylish galleries showcasing local artists. Both Robe and nearby Mount Benson are burgeoning wine regions.
From Robe head inland towards the regional centre, Mount Gambier. On the way, stop at Tantanoola Cave. An ancient sea cave set in a cliff, it’s a geological marvel, like a small subterranean cathedral. In “The Mount”, be sure to explore the Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre. This interactive museum has it all: a full-size replica of the tiny brig that first charted these waters, a neon volcano, a “ghost” and fossils. An area now making the most of its predictable wind with expansive wind turbines as far as the eye can see!
This part of the country, taking in western Victoria, is the third-largest volcanic region in the world, with cave systems, craters, lakes and wetlands. Blue Lake, Mount Gambier’s mysterious crater lake, changes from grey to turquoise each November. Follow the Great Ocean Road east to explore the Victorian coast or take the inland road back west past Coonawarra, renowned for its superlative terra rossa wines. Nearby is Penola, a quaint historic town. Here, the Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre tells visitors about the life, times and life’s work of the woman who became Australia’s first saint.
Tracking west, the Naracoorte Caves are limestone labyrinths where once ancient Australian mega fauna roamed. All is revealed in the Wonambi Fossil Centre, and a high-tech bat centre tells the secrets of the rare bats that cluster in their thousands. Also near Naracoorte is Bool Lagoon Game Reserve. A waterfowl refuge for as many as 150 bird species, it springs spectacularly to life after seasonal rains.