A visit to the South Australian coastal enclave of Victor Harbor is a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do. Here are eight activities that should be on your holiday to-do list…
Victor Harbor is South Australia’s premier seaside town (and yes, that is the correct spelling thanks to a poorly-schooled early Surveyor General).
This pretty-as-a-picture village, located around one hour’s drive south of Adelaide, is the beating heart of the Fleurieu Peninsula and overlooks Encounter Bay, so named in 1802 by explorer Captain Matthew Flinders. Once a major whaling station, today Victor Harbor is a relaxed retreat with historic buildings filling the main street, a hinterland of rolling green hills, and a pristine, uncrowded coastline. It’s the perfect holiday playground, and one that offers something for everyone.
Here are some of the amazing things to do in Victor Harbor.
Explore Granite Island
Granite Island is a rocky outcrop just off the mainland, which can be accessed via a wooden footbridge. Stroll across or jump on board the famous horse-drawn tram. Arthur the Clydesdale knows the beat well and prides himself on being one of a kind and the world’s only daily horse-drawn tram service. Download the Sculpture Encounters Granite Island Walking Tour App to do a self-guided tour of the island’s collection of public artworks and view the little penguin colony.
Pack your camera because Victor Harbor offers some seriously good whale-spotting opportunities. Between May and October southern right and humpback whales visit the sublime gentle waters around Victor Harbor to feed and calve. Book a whale-watching cruise and be sure to visit the South Australian Whale Centre, which provides maps and interactive exhibits about the town’s whaling history.
Hike and bike the coast
The shared Encounter Bay Bikeway traces the spectacular coastline for 30 kilometres between Victor Harbor and Goolwa. Fill up on the best pies in Australia at the Port Elliot Bakery, then cool off in the safe waters around Middleton before continuing past pristine foreshore dunes. You can tackle it in sections and it also has wheelchair access.
Go vineyard hopping
Nearby McLaren Vale has been world-famous for its shiraz for over a century. With more than one hundred cellar doors to choose from, the wine district’s rolling hills are covered in a patchwork of vineyards and historic stone buildings. Relax among the gumtrees at small boutique wineries, but leave enough time to visit the innovative five-storey glass cube construction at d’Arenberg — where the ‘Blending Bench’ experience gives you the opportunity to create your own signature shiraz blend.
Straddle a quad bike
Waitpinga Farm’s quad bike adventure ride is one of the most scenic you’ll ever do. Traverse 400 acres of sprawling hills, slow down to take in the views of two surfing beaches, then hoon through open fields, along sandy tracks and through creek crossings. All gear is provided, and no prior experience is necessary. The guides will kit you out in all the right ways.
Meet the locals at Urimbirra Wildlife Park
Just five minutes out of town in the lush Hindmarsh Valley, open-range Urimbirra Wildlife Park is home to more than 400 native Australian animals. Try your hand at snake-handling, pat a koala, feed a kangaroo, then amble around the native wetlands. You’ll see lizards, crocodiles, dingoes and wombats, just to name a few of the residents.
Ride the Cockle Steam Train
For a little bit of history and a whole lot of hot air, jump on board the heritage Cockle Train, which travels along the oldest steel-railed line in Australia. Constructed in 1887, it was the original and main form of transport for locals who would collect cockles from the sandy beaches between Victor Harbor and Goolwa. Hop off at Middleton to visit the small station museum operated by the National Trust.
Surf or swim the endless breaks
Those looking to catch a wave should head east from Victor Harbor along the coast towards the mouth of the Murray River. The untouched beauty of the area is evident in the long, clean, uncrowded stretches of white sand where even surfing beginners will find a quiet corner to faff about in. When the southerly busters kick in, it’s windsurfing heaven, while granite islands dotting the curve of Horseshoe Bay create some pretty special swimming spots.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Inn Victor Harbor is the perfect base from which to explore the magnificent Fleurieu Peninsula. This boutique property offers 19 rooms, including 11 self-contained kitchenette rooms, one spa suite, and a two-bedroom family apartment. The hotel is located right in the Victor Harbor town centre, just a short walk from the waterfront.
About the writer
Susan Hinchey is a Sydney-based freelance travel writer who, even as a teenager growing up in country NSW, knew she wanted to see the world. A couple of years out of high school Susan embarked on an 8-week Grand European Contiki tour. Since then she has visited Alaska, Canada, Thailand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Greece, parts of North America, and Britain several times. Her go-to get-away is a camping trip anywhere along the Australian coast.