The first time I came to Australia in 2008 I skipped Adelaide. For whatever reason in my mind it was boring. There wasn’t a beach. There wasn’t good food. It was hot with tall buildings and too many people. While many of my friends went and invited me to come along I always found a reason not to go.
For the last few weeks I’ve been traveling around Australia on a loose schedule using transfer vehicles. Renting a camper van to go from A to B is a popular way to get around the country as a tourist. Vans often pile up in a popular destination such as Adelaide and companies need to relocate them to another town for a booked rental. This is where I come in. Companies rent their “transfer vans” for $1 or $5 a day and tell you where and when it needs to go. For me with no real schedule to stick to this was a great way to see places I’d never otherwise choose. In comes Adelaide.
A van needed to go from Perth to Adelaide so of course I booked it with no further thought. Once in Adelaide I still wasn’t sold on hanging out there (prior brainwaves were holding on hard) and I booked another van from there to Melbourne (one of my favorites cities ever!) to leave an hour after arrival. What a fool. As luck would have it the van was cancelled the day before and I was “stuck” in Adelaide until another was available.
Y’all this city is great. Rundle Mall is a pedestrian only street for several blocks and has every store one could one want and street performers to occupy your senses at every step. There are tiny hidden twisty alleys with everything from grungy dive bars to chic cocktail lounges to cozy sidewalk cafes. There are no pictures of this because silly me left phone and camera in the room! The architecture boasts Victorian next to modern, although not so much as Melbourne. The Adelaide Central Market will fill all your shopping needs. Grab a sandwich to munch on at one of the MANY parks or botanical gardens surrounding the city. A short train ride puts you on one of the coastal beaches (I’d found the phone camera by this point) full of people enjoying the hot summer day if not frigid water. Rent a car and head into the York Peninsula or hop on a tour to the wineries in the Adelaide Hills.
What I learned: Go there. The town has a lot to offer.
I left Adelaide early Sunday morning on the coast road headed south on a mission to find waves. It was almost 3 weeks since finding a beach that wasn’t dead flat or monstrous (thank you Margaret River for showing your power!). I was thrilled to find the string on beach due south often received waves for beginner - advanced. Day 1 proved unsuccessful as the beaches were as calm as a lake. But man were they beautiful! Beach after beach was glittery white with delightful turquoise water and barely a handful of people there enjoying the day. You could spend days tucked away in these secluded coves with a good book, snorkel, and plenty of sunscreen.
Heading South to the Fleurieu Peninsula with no plan and no internet for the GPS I stopped at a small bakery for a coffee and some WiFi. A quick search for snorkel spots let me to Rapid Bay not far down the road. On the way the road winds around the curves of the beaches offering great views of the sea before cutting inland to lush farmlands and vineyards. After gaining elevations for ages, the road twisted through some hills and plunged down to the ocean before dead-ending at a beach campground. There was a front row beach spot left - perfect. A short walk away is the abandoned jetty next to the old limestone quarry. The jetty is popular for fishing, snorkeling and diving and is home to leafy sea dragons. Unfortunately the water was 30ft deep and murky and me with a snorkel and wetsuit top in 60 degree water didn’t make the best setup for finding them. Oh well.
Every day I do my best to take a minute to watch the sunset and van camping has taken this desire to a new level. I set up camp and sit with wine and a book and watch the sun disappear. This particular day is the full moon and the curve of the beach and backdrop of cliff did not disappoint.
The Southern side of the Peninsula has numerous descent surf beaches. Messy, choppy, unending beach breaks met me between Middleton and Goolwa and provided a nice change to hop in and exercise if not catch so many waves.
Continuing South I happened on what became my favorite town on this stretch (and I drove through ALOT of towns!). Robe, SA is almost exactly halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. I pulled into a caravan park as dark fell. Next morning I made my way to Long Beach, a popular surf spot. The parking lot was empty as most cars drive onto the beach. There was a perfect, glassy wave staring back at me with no one in the water. Oh boy! I jumped in water cold as knives and paddled out to find the 3-4ft looking waves were closer to 6 and quite heavy. I surfed till my arms didn’t move and paddled in as the first newcomers hit the water.
Robe also has heaps of good food. The Union Cafe had a fried buttermilk chicken burger and internet that made for a delightful lunch hour before heading to the next adventure - cliff walks to the obelisk and lighthouse!
The west side of town has a beach that used to be the old landfill. Over time the sand and bottles compressed until glass is permanently fused into the rocks. In 3 hours of wandering I collected a HUGE amount of seaglass! The glass litters the shore on this one little hidden cove. Between solo morning surfing and solo seaglass beach this slice of heaven was one of my very favorite days.
Staying in Robe all day meant driving straight through to Warrnambool with a stop only at the Blue Lake. Next morning was a hop to Bells Beach for a last surf before having the van back to the rental office. This stretch of coastline has gone from being completely under appreciated to one of my absolute favorite adventures of this trip.
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