South of Adelaide, two peninsulas stretch out into the sea. The names are Fleurieu and Yorke Peninsula and they are two popular holiday destinations in South Australia. The two half-islands are two proven exciting excursions from the state capital. And it does not take long to reach them. Within one hour you are in Fleurieu, and Yorke is an hour and a half from Adelaide. Boot-shaped Yorke Peninsula has good fishing and surfing areas. Yorke is very simple and peaceful. Small wooden cottages line the coastline that is caressed by the blue waves of the sea. The laid-back lifestyle here is excellent for a relaxing stay. A large part of the peninsula is used in agriculture. The northern part has a history within the copper industry. In 1859, copper was found in the vicinity of Kadina and it was the start of a long-time extraction. People from Cornwall in southern England emigrated for this work which made the area known as Little Cornwall.
Fleurieu is more developed than Yorke and there are more accommodations to choose from. With its generous range and proximity to Adelaide, Fleurieu peninsula is the most popular choice of the two. Right at the entrance to the peninsula lies the McLaren Vale wine region which has become a challenger to Barossa Valley. Rolling green fields with climbing vines spreading out all over the vale. The region is primarily known for its Shiraz. There are more than 60 vineyards to visit. In addition, orchards, vegetable plantations and dairies are never far away. This way you can combine a glass of wine with something tasty to eat. This is South Australian’s own gourmet destination with swanky restaurants in abundance. And after devouring on these delicacies’, there are beautiful sandy beaches to rest on. Drive further south and you’ll come across more sights. In the southeast is the resort of Victor Harbor, right on the coast. It is a beautiful harbour-town close to the rocky Granite Island, where a penguin colony lives.
Both Yorke and Fleurieu are lined with tens-of-kilometres-long beaches in the east and west. The nature areas called Innes National Park and the Deep Creek Conservation Centre are two excellent places to visit. There are campsites and rewarding hiking trails in both areas. Wild animals roam freely, and the parks are full of native plants. The landscape is framed by a rocky coastline and invigorating beaches. Old lighthouses look out over the sea and the waves invite you to world-class surfing. From Fleurieu’s southwest head, you can take a ferry to Kangaroo Island.
Sights and experiences
At the very tip of Yorke Peninsula lies Innes National Park (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Yorke_Peninsula/innes-national-park). There are hiking trails of different length here, from half an hour up to four hours. Gaze out over the dramatic coastline with its high cliffs, see the old lighthouse and a roaring sea. You can use a regular car to drive through the entire park. There are several sandy beaches that are popular for swimming, surfing and fishing. There is a Visitor Information Centre where you can get information about campsites.
Just north of Inner National Park is Daly Head. The beach is white with foaming waves crashing onshore. Daly Head offers world-class waves and thus attracts many surfers. The site is so good that it has received the status of a surfing reserve. East of the peninsula’s heel, outside the town of Edithbourg lies the Troubridge Island Conservation Park (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Yorke_Peninsula/troubridge-island-conservation-park). The island can only be reached by boat and permission is required. You can get this at the Visitor Information Centre at Innes National Park. Troubridge Island is an important place for breeding birds, making it a haven for birdwatchers. Here lives, among other, cormorants, terns and penguins. You can stay overnight in the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage. There is room for up to 12 people. Contact the Visitor Information Centre for help with reservations.
An hour south of Adelaide lies The Fleurieu Peninsula. The Peninsula is significantly smaller than Yorke, but there are more options here. Fleurieu is more established with more holiday accommodation, sights and attractions. It is a popular destination for city dwellers who want to spend some time in nature. In addition, it is a springboard to Kangaroo Island. At the far end of the southwest are SeaLink’s ferries (sealink.com.au), going from Cape Jervis out to the beautiful island.
McLaren Vale (mclarenvale.info) is even closer to Adelaide and is a lush rival to the well-known wine region of Barossa Valley. This was where South Australia’s wine production began. In the McLaren Vale are over 60 different vineyards. Visit one of them to taste the local delicacies. And besides wine, there is a lot of other good products to try out, like fresh bread, fruit and cheese. There is a good selection of restaurants and cosy bed and breakfasts.
In the south-eastern part of the peninsula is Victor Harbour. The town is a holiday favourite, well known for its beautiful beaches, rich wildlife and relaxed atmosphere. Driving here from Adelaide takes about 75 minutes. Whaling was previously an important source of income. However, this is now history. Today, you can instead see humpbacks swim freely here. During the winter months between June and October, they are seen off the coast. Join in on a guided tour along with Big Duck Tours (wotif.com/things-to-do/victor-harbour-seal-island-tour.a451655.activity-details). Go offshore to see seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales when it is season between May and October.
A 630-metre long footbridge in wood leads over to the Granite Island (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Fleurieu_Peninsula/granite-island-recreation-park). Instead of walking, you can relax on a tram that is drawn by horses (horsedrawntram.com.au). The island is rocky and, as its name implies, consists of large granite blocks, covered by low-growing greenery. You can follow the Kaiki Walk around the island, a walking trail of barely two kilometres that follows the coast. A penguin colony lives on the Granite Island. You can see them on your own or learn more by joining a guided tour. Tours are organized in the evenings when the sun goes down, which is when the penguins return to the island after a long day of fishing. Please contact the Visitor Information Centre in Victor Harbor to book a spot. A quieter place than Victor Harbour is Goolwa. It is a great option if you want to get away from hordes of tourists. If you want to see more of the wildlife along and off the coast, you can join in on a guided boat tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/southern-ocean-adventure.a451657.activity-details).
The national park called Deep Creek Conservation Park (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Fleurieu_Peninsula/deep-creek-conservation-park) is located in the southwest. This is the largest area of untouched forest on Fleurieu. Try one of the 15 hiking trails. The several-day Heysen Trail runs through the park up towards Flinders Ranges. From Deep Creek you get a nice view of the water towards Kangaroo Island.
Good to know
You can visit the official website of the Fleurieu Peninsula (fleurieupeninsula.com.au). Victor Harbor has a Visitor Information Centre at 1 Esplanade, (holidayatvictorharbor.com.au/index.php). In Yorke Peninsula is a Visitor Information Centre in the town of Minlaton. The address is 29 Main Street (yorkepeninsula.com.au). They are open between 09:00 and 15:00. For activities and an overview of their costs, you can take a look at wotif’s website (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Fleurieu%20Peninsula,%20South%20Australia,%20Australia).
Warnings and preparations
The area has a Mediterranean climate with cool winters and hot and dry summers. During winter the temperature is between 10-18 degrees Celsius, while summer days are between 24-35 degrees Celsius warm. Most of the rain falls during the winter. This is also when you have the best chance to see the humpbacks swimming off the coast. Autumn is a good time to make a visit, when the warmth still lasts, and the number of visitors decreases.
To get around without your own car requires a combination of public transport mixed by buses run by private operators. For example, Yorke Peninsula Coaches run between Adelaide and several cities along the Yorke Peninsula (ypcoaches.com.au). You can get to McLaren Vale for wine testing with several tour organizers.
Between Mt Barker and Victor Harbor you can take the train called Steam Ranger, which is powered by steam locomotives (steamranger.org.au). Overall, it is easiest to have a car of your own (wotif.com/Car-Hire). Especially if you want to discover both peninsulas without hassle.
Within Innes National Park there are seven campsites to choose from. Stenhouse Bay, Pondalowie Bay, Browns Beach, Cable Bay Beach, Casuarina, Gym Beach and Shell Beach. You can pre-book your accommodation online (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Yorke_Peninsula/innes-national-park#see-and-do) or through the Visitor Information Centre in Minlaton. Pondalowie is the largest of the seven with the most facilities such as barbecue area and toilet. However, you get more space for yourself by staying at Cable Bay, Casuarina or Shell Beach. If you want to stay in the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage on Troubridge Island, you need to contact Troubridge Island Hideaway and Charter at + 61 8 8852 6290 or visit them at Blance Street in Edithburgh. You can also get help through the Visitor Information Centre.
There are plenty of accommodations on the Fleurieu Peninsula. In Victor Harbor you can stay at recently refurbished Victor Harbor City Inn (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Victor_Harbor_City_Inn.htm). A room costs from 125 dollars per night. It is centrally located at the main street. Free Wi-Fi and free parking. The rooms are air-conditioned and has a refrigerator and an electric kettle.
McLaren Vale (hotelscombined.com/Place/McLaren_Vale.htm) is a good base if you intend to explore the Fleurieu and its vineyards. Here you can find everything from campsites to luxury accommodations for rent. There are many nice bed and breakfasts to stay at amongst McLaren Vale’s vineyards. One of them is Bellevue (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Bellevue_Bed_Breakfast_McLaren_Vale.htm) at 12 Chalk Hill Road. Costs from 99 dollars per person and night. It is a short walk from the main street where there is a good selection of restaurants. In Deep Creek Conservation Park, five campsites are available; Stringybark, Trig, Tapanappa and Cobbler Hill can be reached by regular car while Eagle Waterhole which only is accessible on foot. Water, food and fuel must be brought along by you to all campsites (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/booking#Deep%20Creek%20Conservation%20Park).