Southern Ocean Drive: See the Fleurieu, Limestone coast and Kangaroo island
There's something new to discover around every curve on the coast, from the region of natural wonders on the Limestone Coast to the pristine wilderness of Kangaroo Island and the sea and grapes of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Follow this Southern Ocean Drive guide and head out on the road to see some of Australia's top vineyards, most beautiful beaches, and most amazing geological wonders.
Piccaninnie Ponds, Limestone Coast
Explore crystal clear waterways, lush underwater forests, and tranquil grottos as you descend into an underwater oasis. The surreal Piccaninnie Ponds, just 20 minutes from Mount Gambier, are world-renowned among divers, with three distinct diving destinations all supplied by freshwater natural springs. Plunge into the water to discover a bizarre underwater forest where aquatic plants grow up to 15 meters below the surface and swimmers pass stunning white limestone walls carved out over thousands of years. Pack your wetsuit and dive in to explore the 10-metre-deep First Pond before venturing on to the breathtaking 35-metre-deep Cathedral and the gigantic 100-metre-deep Chasm. Divers are well catered for on the Limestone Coast with renowned dive-site, Kilsby Sinkhole, just half an hour away. Please note, you’ll need a diving licence to snorkel or scuba dive.
Piccaninnie Ponds RoadPiccaninnie Ponds Road, Wye SA, Australia
Mount Gambier, Limestone Coast
Mount Gambier is a geological wonderland, home to extinct volcanoes, dazzling sapphire waters and an underground Garden of Eden. The town’s crown jewel, the famed Blue Lake, was once an active volcano but today, molten rock has given way to a 72-metre-deep lake filled with cobalt water. It’s less-known little cousin, aptly named Little Blue Lake, is equally impressive, and better still you can dive right into its blue depths. This amazing bathing amphitheatre, which is encircled by breathtaking steep 10-meter limestone walls and features crystal-clear fresh water to refresh you after the drive, is a local favorite. The delights of Mount Gambier extend underground in the heart of town, where you may visit Umpherston Sinkhole, a subterranean sanctuary. Thanks to a few local green thumbs, a stunning sunken garden built in a collapsed limestone cave has been blanketed with flowers, plants, and lush green grass. More activities to do in Mount Gambier can be found in our guide.
Mount GambierMount Gambier SA, Australia
Tantanoola Caves, Limestone Coast
Hidden beneath an unassuming cliff-face 20 minutes’ drive from Mount Gambier lies a magical cave dripping with glistening stalactites and stalagmites. Once an ancient shoreline, the sea has long since receded leaving behind a 30-metre-wide chamber adorned with pink and brown dolomite crystals. Tantanoola Cave’s impressive interior has been thousands of years in the making with countless hanging stalactites and floor-to-ceiling crystal columns making it one of Australia’s most beautiful caves. Learn about the history and geology of the cave from a local guide before donning your explorer’s hat and delving in to explore the underground wonderland for yourself. This cave is also one of Australia’s few wheelchair accessible caves.
Tantanoola CavesTantanoola Caves, Tantanoola SA, Australia
Coonawarra and Penola, Limestone Coast
Take a break from the road and spend a few days sipping your way around South Australia’s red centre, Coonawarra. The ultimate destination for lovers of bold red wine, the limestone-rich terra rossa soil of this picturesque part of South Australia produces world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Set up camp for the night at Bellwether and spend the day sipping your way around renowned wineries like Penley Estate, Brand's Laira, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, and Katnook Estate. Do you have a hunger pang? Penola is a picture-perfect little hamlet nestled among the grapes, serving you a buffet of cuisine and wine pleasures. Enjoy a long lunch overlooking the vineyards at Hollick Estates, or venture further to Mayura Station and dine at The Tasting Room, the ultimate paddock to plate experience including multi-award winning Wagyu beef.
CoonawarraCoonawarra SA, Australia
PenolaPenola SA, Australia
Robe, Limestone Coast
Pull up at Robe and throw down your towel to soak up the sun at one of South Australia’s chicest coastal destinations. Well-worth an overnight stop on the Southern Ocean Drive, here you’ll lounge on long sandy white beaches, kick back in cosmopolitan cafes and glam galleries and feast on some of South Australia’s best seafood. Stay the night at Horizons Robe and take a morning stroll down Long Beach, which stretches 14 kilometers of pristine white sand, or drive right onto the sand and spend the day surfing. After a quick plunge, stroll down the Obelisk Coastal Trail, which passes by Robe's historic old jail ruins, jetty, and marina. At Robe Town Brewery, sample the buffet of local seafood on offer (Robe is known for its crayfish) and unwind with a local brew.
RobeRobe SA, Australia
Coorong National Park
Explore towering sand dunes, meander down quiet waterways and roam along snow-white sandy beaches. On the Southern Ocean Drive in Coroong National Park, nature enthusiasts will be rewarded handsomely. The natural richness of this major wetland system, which stretches 130 kilometers along the coast from the Limestone Coast to the Pheophytins, is astounding. Spend a few days kayaking through a line of saltwater lagoons and wetlands teeming with fish, observing plentiful birds, relaxing on stunning beaches, and learning about the Ngarrindjeri people's essential Aboriginal culture. Make sure you stick around for dusk – sunsets over the Coorong are a sight to behold. Australian film lovers will also recognise it as the site where Storm Boy was filmed.
Coorong National ParkCoorong National Park, Coorong SA, Australia
Langhorne Creek, Fleurieu Peninsula
Home to the oldest recorded Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world and fifth-generation winemaking families, Langhorne Creek is sprawling with vineyards and ancient gum trees lining lush river banks. Stop for the day and explore grand cellar doors at the beautiful Angas Plains Winery or immerse yourself in the stunningly renovated horse stable at Bremerton Wines. Wines and skin care products are available at the Vineyard Road Cellar Door, or you can sample your way through award-winning wine brands at Winehouse. The stunning Fleurieu Peninsula coastline, world-famous McLaren Vale wines, and lush Adelaide Hills are all right on the doorstep of Langhorne Creek, making it the ideal location for exploring the region.
Langhorne CreekLanghorne Creek SA, Australia
Victor Harbor and Port Elliot, Fleurieu Peninsula
Next stop is Victor Harbor, a holiday town known for its horse-drawn tram, penguin colony and surf beaches. If you happen to arrive between May and October you may be lucky enough to see southern right and humpback whales frolicking in the waters between Victor and Goolwa. A stone’s throw away is the neighbouring seaside town of Port Elliot where you’ll discover some of the best beaches in South Australia plus homewares shops, stylish cafes and chic, beachside cottages. Walk the trails along a dramatic coastline, wander through the charming streets admiring the town’s historical facades, stop for lunch at the Flying Fish Cafe or try the famous donut flavour of the month at Port Elliot Bakery (think flavours like Espresso Martini, lemon cheesecake and Tim Tam) before settling down at The Summer House or Mill Estate Cottage.
Victor HarborVictor Harbor SA, Australia
Deep Creek Convervation Park, Fleurieu Peninsula
Only an hour’s drive south of Adelaide, Deep Creek Conservation Park is the perfect spot to stretch your legs after a day of driving. A popular hiking spot for locals, here you can wander more than 15 walking trails taking you through some of the most stunning bushland with dramatic coastal views, waterfalls, pristine beaches and lots of wildlife like Kangaroos and koalas along the way. Spend the night at Southern Ocean Retreats in the park's center and join a guided walk with Southern Ocean Walk to trek the historic Heysen Trail through some of the park's most stunning portions with the help of a knowledgeable local. Set yourself up at Naiko Retreat and bask in views of the Southern Ocean from the tub of your own luxurious beachfront house for the ultimate in luxury.
Deep Creek Conservation ParkDeep Creek Conservation Park, Deep Creek SA, Australia
Home to pristine beaches, rugged wilderness, diverse wildlife and incredible produce, Kangaroo Island is the ultimate island escape and the epic finale to the Southern Ocean Drive. Separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of ocean, just drive your car onto the SeaLink Ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw and start exploring. Get back to nature and swim with dolphins in crystal-clear water, kick back on the sandy-white shores of stunning beaches, traverse through sprawling national parks packed with wildlife and taste test your way through an impressive bounty of culinary experiences. With so much to see and do, you’ll want to set aside a few days to really experience island life so check out our guide to Kangaroo Island and start planning.
Kangaroo IslandKangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia
Credit: Tourism Australia, South Australian Tourism Commission
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