Discover superb wines, dine in alfresco cafes and explore a coastline and hinterland of farms and wilderness on the way to Kangaroo Island.
By Sue Gough Henly
On Adelaide's southern doorstep, the Fleurieu Peninsula offers a mellow Mediterranean ambiance. You'll find dozens of white sand beaches, undulating vineyards and farmland, pretty coastal towns near the entrance to Australia's longest river, and world renowned wetlands. There are plenty of opportunities to see kangaroos and local birdlife as well as dolphins, seals, pelicans, sea lions and whales.
- Taste your way around the easygoing McLaren Vale wine region
- Discover wilderness and whales, wetlands and other wildlife
- Dine at one of Australia's best casual waterfront cafés
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Top things to do on the Fleurieu Peninsula
Go wine (and spirit) tasting in McLaren Vale
Explore the undulating vineyards of McLaren Vale, renowned for its grenache, shiraz and Italian varieties, where the laid-back style of owner winemakers seduces all who visit. Laugh at some of the quirkiest wine names in the business, such as Derelict Vineyard Grenache, Woop Woop Cabernet, The Mongrel Sangiovese Blend and Dead Arm Shiraz. But there is nothing silly about the quality of the wines, which you can taste at terrific wineries such as Wirra Wirra, Primo Estate and SC Pannell. Sample wine, cheese and olive oils at Coriole Vineyards. Lunch at d’Arenberg (and check out the quirky Cube tasting room). Enjoy dinner and taste from the huge selection of gins (including the locally distilled Settlers Gin) at The Salopian Inn.
Have lunch or dinner at the Star of Greece
Enjoy casual Mediterranean fare with loads of fresh local seafood and produce at the Star of Greece, a simple seaside café perched above the turquoise waters and white sands of Port Willunga Beach. Ask for a table on the deck and soak up the views that are particularly gorgeous at sunset. Or order fish and chips from the outdoor kiosk and head down to the beach. Other nearby beaches include family-friendly Sellicks Beach, Aldinga, Port Noarlunga, Normanville and the clothes-optional Maslin Beach.
Explore the mouth of the Murray River at Goolwa
Discover Goolwa, gateway to the Murray River (Australia's longest) and the internationally renowned wetlands of the Coorong National Park. Take a boat tour to explore the mouth of the Murray River, admire the Coorong wetlands and birdlife, walk over the sand dunes to the sea, and learn about local Aboriginal culture. Or Canoe the Coorong to see birdlife up close, explore the wetlands and enjoy a bush tucker walk over the dunes. Ride the 30 minute cockle train along the oldest steel-railed railway in Australia between Goolwa, Port Elliot and Victor Harbor. Bring your rental bike on board to ride back along the coastal trail. Go for a swim at pretty Horseshoe Bay in Port Elliot, where there is also a terrific bookstore, boutiques, and a bakery, plus the excellent Hotel Elliot and Flying Fish restaurant.
Discover Australia's aquatic animals from Victor Harbor
Hop aboard with The Big Duck Boat Tours to see New Zealand fur seals, Australian sea lions, common and bottlenose dolphins and lots of sea birds year round, as well as southern right and humpback whales during the winter months. Take the double-decker, horse-drawn tram (the only one in Australia) to Granite Island. Families will love the Kaiki Walk, a 1.9 kilometre (.5 mile) loop that circles the island. Spot birds, dolphins and more along the way. For something completely different, visit Encounter Coast Spirits on a working farm near Victor Harbor, where you can taste gins, vodka and brandy liqueurs enriched with local botanicals. You can also buy jams, chutneys and vinegars.
Go off road with a local to encounter wildlife and wilderness
In the north of the Fleurieu Peninsula are the dramatic gorges of the Onkaparinga River, which offer spectacular bushwalking and rock climbing. The river's estuary is a breeding habitat for fish as well as herons, spoonbills and egrets. In the south is the Deep Creek Conservation Park, where you can discover kangaroos and lots of colourful birdlife from dramatic coastal hillsides. Off Piste 4WD Tours offers a tantalising selection of adventures, incorporating bespoke food, wine and craft beer experiences plus beach and bush driving, wildlife encounters and spectacular picnic viewpoints over the Southern Ocean.
Follow the Fleurieu Art Trail
Discover local arts and crafts on the Fleurieu Art Trail, which highlights more than 40 galleries, artist studios and exhibition spaces, many of them at winery cellar doors. Check out, for instance, Willunga Gallery, No 58 Cellar Door and Gallery in Middleton, and Artworx in Goolwa.
How to get there
McLaren Vale, in the north of the Fleurieu Peninsula, is just 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Adelaide. Goolwa, at the mouth of the Murray River, is 83 kilometres (52 miles) south of Adelaide. You can also drive 108 kilometres (67 miles) south from Adelaide to Cape Jervis to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island.