A few months ago my husband and I received a wedding invitation from a beautiful couple in South Australia. We were pumped because neither of us had been to South Australia and the prospect of visiting was so exciting. After some research and discussions about getting to and from SA we soon decided to take the whole family and make a driving holiday out of it.
I want to share some of the best bits of our South Australian + Great Ocean Road trip with you, including parks that we stopped at for the kids and our favourite places to visit:
Mildura: Our first overnight stop was in Mildura (a 9 hour drive from Bathurst - we divided our trip from Bathurst to Mildura into 3 x 3 hour drives). Our first stop was in West Wyalong for a gorgeous sunset breakfast followed by Hay where we played in the local park. On arrival in Mildura (a regional city located on the Victorian side of the Murray River) we stopped by Trentham Estate to grab a bottle of wine for a picnic we had planned on the banks of the Murray River in the afternoon. We then stopped by a local deli to grab ingredients for our picnic, including local cheese, dips, fruit and crackers. Mildura’s Water Play Park was on the top of our list of things to do (unfortunately when we arrived it was closed) so we settled for our picnic on the banks of the Murray River watching the paddle steamers pass by.
Barossa Valley: From Mildura we crossed the border into South Australia and then onto the Barossa Valley. There is something very special about the Barossa Valley - you can feel it in the landscape, in the people, the food and the wine. It’s an absolutely beautiful region with villages, vineyards and farms. Our first stop was Maggie Beers Farm Shop (she is one of my all time favourite celebrity cooks); we enjoyed morning tea on the cafe deck overlooking a lake full of turtles (the kids were stoked!). After taste testing Maggie’s beautiful food products (and purchasing a number of them) we then drove to Pindari Vineyard. We were drawn to this vineyard because of the hay bale stack set up for kids to climb, as well as the outdoor cubby house and sand pit - with the kids entertained we were able to taste their wine in peace (we loved their Tempranillo wine especially the TSS).
Hahndorf: Oh Hahndorf, you have been etched into my heart. From the Barossa Valley we drove to Hahndorf and on arrival we were blown away. Hahndorf is like a little German village and is a must see. Follow the tree lined streets into a picturesque traditional European village peppered with Australian style and modern international influences (such as food, fashion and treasures). On the Friday night Hubby and I reminisced our travelling adventures (from some 11 years ago in Germany) while enjoying a couple of steins and a schnitzel at the Hahndorf Inn. The wedding was held on Saturday afternoon at the Seasonal Garden Restaurant in Hahndorf which I can’t recommend enough (it served delicious seasonal, local, and organic food + local wine) in an amazing garden setting (complete with amazing vegetable patches). The girls loved the Fairy Garden shop in Hahndorf as well as eating ice-cream and checking out the German cuckoo clocks and soveniers. Hahndorf will definitely be a town we will revisit when we return to SA.
Adelaide: From Hahndorf we drove to Adelaide via another beautiful little town called Stirling. On arrival we spent the day exploring Adelaide by foot which was a welcome change from driving in the car. The kids loved exploring the banks of the Torrens River including paddle boating and riding their scooters over the Torrens River Footbridge. If we had more time in Adelaide we would have loved to take the kids to the Zoo and ride the tram out to Glenelg Beach.
Mount Gambier: From Adelaide we drove to Mount Gambier (approx a 5 hour drive). We stopped at Meningie for a quick break but ended up staying much longer as the kids loved the park (including a real boat to play on and awesome play equipment). We then drove to Kingston to see ‘Larry the Lobster’ (the big fibreglass lobster photo op). The lobster sculpture stands 17m tall and the kids thought he was awesome. With Mount Gambier in our sights we set off again via Cape Jaffa. Upon arrival in Mount Gambier we checked into our accommodation and began preparing for a visit to Umpherston Sinkhole and the Blue Lake. The sinkhole was once a typical limestone cave, but the chambers roof collapsed creating a sinkhole - it is now a beautiful sunken garden that is open from dawn to dusk for visitors offering a beautiful unique garden experience. The kids loved exploring the gardens!
From Mount Gambier we drove back into Victoria and then along the Great Ocean Road before returning home to Bathurst.
Mount Gambier/Port Fairy: From Mount Gambier we drove back into Victoria to begin the GOR trip from Port Fairy. On arrival we checked into our accommodation at the Big 4 caravan park - the park had everything for kids from an amazing indoor toddler play room, a scooter park/course for the older kids, jumping pillow, indoor heated pool, mini golf, basketball court, games room and park equipment. We settled in for the night and watched the kids play while enjoying a glass of SA wine and eating some cheeses we bought from the local deli in Port Fairy.
Port Fairy: We set out on foot today to explore Port Fairy. After walking over to East Beach we stumbled upon a man playing a banjo in a tuk tuk. After chatting to him we jumped aboard his ‘Eco Tuk’ (a carbon neutral electric tuk tuk) and explored the remainder of Port Fairy (from surf destinations to beaches, rock pools, historic buildings and picturesque landscapes). We all loved it! We finished our tour at the Port Fairy lighthouse and then enjoyed fish + chips in the park by the water.
Port Campbell/Timboon/Apollo Bay: We drove from Port Fairy through Warrnambool and Peterborough before stopping at ‘The Grotto’, ‘London Bridge’ and ‘The Arch’ (all beautiful). Before heading up to Port Campbell we took a little detour off the GOR and visited the Timboon cheesery, ice-creamery and whisky distillery (all worth a visit). Next we stopped to see ‘Loch Ard Gorge’ and the ‘Twelve Apostles’ (unfortunately our littlest lady was asleep in the pram so we missed the “Gibson Steps’ but we hope to return again one day to explore them). Tip: We missed a penguin tour in Warrnambool called ‘Meet the Maremma’s’ because it was completely booked out - so my advice is if you want to do this please make sure you book well in advance (I'm talking 2-3 weeks in advance). From the apostles we drove through to our accommodation in Apollo Bay.
Apollo Bay: Apollo Bay is beautiful and we enjoyed exploring the bay on foot as well as swimming, playing in the parks and eating yummy fresh seafood. Hubby and I enjoyed a dinner together at ‘Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant’ - the mussels, blue eye cod dish and view over Apollo Bay were picture perfect (as was the company). Chris’s restaurant overlooks Bass Strait, set high in the Otways above the GOR. The food is contemporary with a Southern European and Middle Eastern influence and as you can imagine is soooo yum!
Kennett River/Lorne/Torquay/Geelong: On route to Torquay we stopped by Kennett River to spot Koala’s in the trees before pulling into Lorne for morning tea. From Lorne we drove through Anglesea before stopping in at Bells Beach. Next stop was Torquay, where we ate fresh seafood for lunch at ‘Fisho’s Torquay’ - the fish tacos and chargrilled squid skewers with chermoulla were perfect (the kids were entertained and happy playing in the sand pit inside the cafe). We said our goodbyes to the GOR before driving from Torquay to Geelong. On arrival we began exploring the Geelong esplanade and the girls really loved following the famous bollards along the foreshore. There are more than 100 huge painted wooden bollards along the foreshore representing a fascinating and fun chronicle of the city’s past, focusing on some of the unique characters who played a part. Our motel receptionist in Geelong told the girls to search for a rabbit painted on each group of bollards - rabbits were first introduced into Australia through Geelong which is why they are painted onto each of the bollards. Towards the end of the esplanade was the ‘Eastern Beach Swimming Enclosure’ and kids park - we spent a couple of hours here before stopping by the ‘Little Creatures’ brewery for a pint and pizza (this little brewery it not to be missed - it's great for adults with little children as they have a cubby house/sandpit for the little ones to play in).
Anakie/Wallan/Wagga Wagga/Bathurst: Homeward bound today - along the way we stopped at the very cool “Fairy Park’ in Anakie then played at the adventure park in Wallan (awesome for kids of all ages). After some more driving we stopped for a swim followed by a shower at the aquatic centre in Wagga Wagga before arriving home in Bathurst just before midnight - feeling weary but thankful to have arrived home safely.
On arrival home real life greeted me at my front door as the washing piled up before my eyes, the house was like a bomb site within 10 minutes flat and the empty pantry and fridge were begging to be filled. However while unpacking our bags and cleaning out the car I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to have been able to go on such a wonderful journey in our beautiful country.
South Australia and the Great Ocean Road were great destinations for our family. Driving times between stops were short, the weather was a mild 20-27 degrees in most locations, the seafood was amazing and best of all the kids had a wonderful time exploring and learning. I hope our little SA + GOR trip inspires you to plan and book a holiday in the near future to either Victoria or another destination you have always hoped to visit.
Until next time SA & Victoria....
Much Love Xxx