Victor Harbor is a seaside settlement known for its beaches, whale spotting and wildlife encounters
By Marc Llewellyn
Situated on one of the world’s most startling coastlines, the former whaling town of Victor Harbor is a relaxed waterside retreat with a historic main street and a coastline dominated by a huge rock outcrop called the Bluff. An offshore island, connected to Victor Harbor by a causeway, is strewn with giant granite boulders. Hundreds of whales swim past the area’s rolling hills, quiet beaches and towering cliff faces, before coming close to town to breed and suckle their young.
- Explore some of the most dramatic coastline in Australia
- Get up close to penguins, whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions
- Ride the horse tram along the causeway to Granite Island
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Top things to do in Victor Harbor
Spot passing whales
Granite Island is one of the best places in South Australia to spot whales. From mid-May to the end of September, more than 200 southern right whales return to the waters of Encounter Bay off Victor Harbor to breed and nurse their babies. They often put on a show by slapping their tails and flippers, rolling their bodies and blowing air from their blowholes. You might also spot humpback whales, sperm whales, blue whales, killer whales and dolphins. The Big Duck Boat Tours offers whale and dolphin watching tours, as well as tours to see seals and sea lions on outlying islands. Learn more about whales and see a whale skeleton at the South Australian Whale Centre. If you've worked up an appetite, experience a fabulous view of Encounter Bay and Victor Harbor from the best seaside eatery in town, Eat at Whalers, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
See native animals at Urimbirra Wildlife Park
Urimbirra Wildlife Park is located amid the lush pastures of the Hindmarsh Valley, just five minutes by car from Victor Harbor. Expect to see more than 70 species of Australian animals and birds. You can hand feed kangaroos and emus, pat koalas, handle snakes and talk to cockatoos. While in the Hindmarsh Valley, pop into the Victor Harbor Winery to taste cool climate wines and local cheeses at its cellar door, open Wednesday to Sunday.
See penguins on Granite Island
Popular Granite Island is connected to the mainland at Victor Harbor by a 630 metre (2067 feet) wooden causeway. You can walk along this causeway, or travel to its other end on the only horse drawn tramway in Australia – a cute double-decker tram pulled by a Clydesdale draught horse. The most striking features on the island are the large granite boulders covered in bright orange lichen. The island is home to a colony of little penguins. The only way to see the nightly penguin parade, when the creatures return to the island at dusk after fishing in the waters, is with Granite Island Nature Tours; book a two-hour tour through the Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre.
Admire the beaches
Victor Harbor has its own long strip of sandy beach that curves around the town for around two and a half kilometres (one and a half miles). If you are looking to visit another beach, travel eight kilometres (five miles) southeast to sheltered Port Elliot beach, or 15 kilometres (9 miles) in the other direction to Waitpinga Beach. Victor Harbor is also on The Heysen Trail, a long-distance walking track that runs for 1200 kilometres (745 miles) through some of South Australia’s most scenic areas, from Cape Jervis on the coast, through the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley, to Parachilna Gorge in the rugged Flinders Ranges.
How to get there
Victor Harbor is 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula, a gourmet destination also noted for its superb wineries and restaurants. It takes around one hour to drive there from the city centre. Visitors often combine a stopover at Victor Harbor with a trip to the nature haven of Kangaroo Island, and a journey to The Coorong lagoons and waterbird habitat.