Just Add Lime(stone): an Adelaide to Mount Gambier road trip

A person snorkelling in dark blue water near a rock ledge, Kilsby Sinkhole, Mount Schank, South Australia

Raise a glass of shiraz, paddle past coastal dunes and dive into a salt lake. Taking the road south, Chris and Sarah discover they can indulge their connection to nature and love for some of the finer things in life.

There are so many regions of South Australia to explore, but sometimes you want to get away from the crowds – not that anywhere in SA ever feels overcrowded – and kick back in nature. As soon as we land at Adelaide Airport, we grab our bags and head to the Apex Car Rentals desk, where we get the keys to our pre booked vehicle. Now, we’re heading straight out of town.

Enjoyment Cubed: Adelaide to Goolwa

The main street of a country town, with an avenue of trees and an old pub, Hahndorf, South Australia

If there’s anything Chris and I agree on it’s the power of a good sausage. And in the town of Hahndorf, they do it German style. Not surprising, really, since the town was established by Lutheran migrants from Prussia in 1838. The main street is glorious, with chestnut, elm and plane trees along its length. We pull up a stool alongside a barrel at German Spoon and order up a platter of the good stuff: weisswurst, knackwurst, currywurst and vienna wurst comes with mash, cucumber salad and sauerkraut. If only there was room afterwards for strudel.

Because too much good living is never enough, we turn back towards the coast and head to McLaren Vale. This wine region is often overshadowed by its neighbours, but it does excellent shiraz, grenache, sangiovese and vermentino. We don’t have a lot of time – a shame since there are about 80 cellar doors here – so we’re doing the must-stop: the d’Arenberg Cube. This intriguing construction that looks like a mirrored Rubik’s Cube erupting from the vineyards is home to an art gallery of Dalí pieces, an area where you can make your own wine blend and – what we’re looking for – the tasting room. At the end of it, we’ve got bottles of Sticks & Stones Tempranillo and The Footbolt Shiraz under our arms to enjoy at a later date.

By late afternoon, we’ve arrived in Goolwa, once a thriving river port. We catch the sunset from the lookout at the end of the beach dune walk, taking in the Coorong and the mouth of the mighty Murray River.

Water Everywhere: Goolwa to Robe

Three people paddling kayaks on a flat ocean with sand dunes in the background, Coorong National Park

Goolwa is the gateway to a region known as the Coorong, parts of which, in 1966, became a national park. The Coorong itself is a long lagoon, protected from the ocean by the sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula. Along its length, but particularly near Goolwa, where the Murray finishes, there are other lakes and wetlands. Keen to get up close to nature here – much of the Younghusband is only accessible by 4WD – we join Canoe the Coorong for a guided tour. We’re actually on kayaks rather than canoes, but the result is the same. We paddle for a while and stop for walks among the dunes and food. We learn about bush tucker and see pelicans soaring overhead. As we’re heading back, Chris almost tips us out of the kayak, pointing. “Look!” he yells. And there, basking on the shore, is a seal. It’s a great way to end the day.

We spend a second night in Goolwa and the next morning head further south. Along the way we stop to walk to the Jack Point Pelican Observatory. It’s just a short stroll through the dunes to a platform where we can sit and watch these big birds in the largest breeding colony in Australia.

You know you’re getting close to Robe when you pass through the smaller town of Kingston SE, home of the Big Lobster, known as Larry to the locals. He’s looking good for photos too – in 2016 it was restored after Hamish and Andy campaigned to raise money to fix it up. It just makes my mouth water because Robe is the fishing capital of South Australia (that includes southern rock lobsters) and we’re almost there.

On the Up: Robe to Mount Gambier

A car driving along a road on a headland with sand dunes and ocean surrounding it, Beachport, South Australia

Lobster isn’t exactly cheap, but when in Robe… Chris and I head to Sky Seafoods and take a quick tour of the factory before popping into the retail area to buy a fresh cray. Armed with a lemon and some fresh rolls from the local bakery, we head to Glass Beach and scoff it down on the sand.

There’s just one more coastal town to visit before we head inland, and that’s Beachport. It’s home to the Bowman Scenic Drive, dotted with lookouts and places of interest. We stare out to the Southern Ocean, walk out to Post Office Rock and, finally, cool off in the Pool of Siloam. This natural lake is so saline it feels as though you could never sink.

An hour later, we arrive in Mount Gambier. This is the second largest city in South Australia, and we drive up its volcanic heights to Centenary Tower. From up here, we can see the coast, the city and the incredible blue lakes in the area. It’s going to be a good couple of days.