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4-DAY SOUTHERN OCEAN WAY

The Southern Ocean Drive, extending some 450km from Adelaide to Mt Gambier, is one of Australia's great coastal boulevards taking in world famous wineries, extinct volcanoes, world heritage wetlands, the former home of Australia's only saint and astonishing wildlife – not to forget the extraordinary beaches and rugged coastline fronting the great Southern Ocean. There are two approaches – either from Victoria, driving along the Great Ocean Road, which is a fine introduction on what's to come; or driving south-east from Adelaide – which is this itinerary.

Little Sahara, Kangaroo Island

Sandboarding & Tobogganing

Kangaroo Island

Seal Bay Conservation Park

Kangaroo Island

Seal Bay Conservation Park

Kangaroo Island

Sea Lion - Seal Bay Conservation Park

Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island.

Quadbiking

Admirals Arch is one of Kangaroo Island's most impressive and unusual natural landmarks

Admiral's Arch is a remnant of the ancient cave that was broken by ocean waves and transformed into a natural bridge

Cape Willoughby Conservation Park

Snelling Beach, Kangaroo Island

Cliff House

Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island Spirits

Kangaroo Island Spirits, Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island

Snelling Beach, Kangaroo Island

Enchanted Fig Tree Lunch

DAY ONE - TWO

Collect your car from Adelaide Airport and head south out of town. That's easy, because the main South Road is nearby, leading to the Southern Expressway and the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula at Cape Jervis where you'll catch the car ferry to Kangaroo Island. It's an hour's sea-crossing to Penneshaw via the SeaLink car ferry.

On the way you'll pass through the winegrowing region of McLaren Vale – but no need to stop and stock up, there are more wineries on Kangaroo Island.

You'll need at least two days on the island – more if you can spare it. There are 1600km of roads on the island, most of the main roads are sealed but take great care on the unsealed roads if you head off the beaten track.

There are several must-dos, depending on your time. Be sure to join a ranger-led walk among the sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park. If you’ve got kids, stop at Little Sahara to hire a sandboard and surf the dunes, or ride quad bikes through the bush with Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action.

In the remote south-western corner, walk a trail through Flinders Chase National Park, looking out for the native tammar wallabies, koalas and reclusive echidnas; while you're there, stop to admire Admirals Arch and its seal colony, and the surreal forms of Remarkable Rocks perched high over powerful seas. A short drive further north, climb the lighthouse at Cape Borda and enjoy some of South Australia’s best views. Or just stand on a southern shore in the cooler months and watch migrating Southern Right whales and their calves.

At the other end of this 150km-long island, Cape Willoughby Conservation Park is home to South Australia's first lighthouse. Go underground to explore the limestone caves in the Kelly Hill Conservation Park, and visit Seal Bay Conservation Park on the south coast, home to a colony of Australian sea lions.

If your itinerary allows, the island is a great place to visit the local gourmet food producers: try Kangaroo Island Spirits' gin made from local juniper, Island Pure's sheep cheese, two honey farms producing unique Ligurian bee honey, marron (freshwater crays) plus several wineries.

STAY

There are loads of accommodation options, from camping under the stars to self-contained beachside flats and houses – none more spectacular than the Cliff House at LifeTime Private Retreats, wilderness and health retreats, and world-class luxury resorts such as the spectacular eco-resort, Southern Ocean Lodge. You can even spend the night in a historic lighthouse keeper's cottage at Cape Willoughby.

DINE

One of the most magical dining experiences in Australia is Hannaford & Sachs Enchanted Fig Tree near Snellings Beach on the north coast. The restaurant is within the canopy of a massive fig tree – but it's only open while the tree is in leaf, between December and the end of March.

Fleurieu Peninsula

Big Duck Boat Tours

Fleurieu Peninsula

Shopping In Strathalbyn

Cape Jaffa Wines, Limestone Coast

Cellar

Kangaroo Island

Fresh Water Marron

Fresh Oysters

DAY THREE

First the early morning ferry back to the mainland, then a 60km drive from Cape Jervis to the popular beachside holiday town of Victor Harbor – the only place in the world where you can experience a journey that starts with the last of only two horse-drawn tram operations in the world (the other is on the Isle of Man), continues with the Cockle Train steam engine to Goolwa and then by River Murray paddle steamer on board the Oscar W.

In Victor Harbor, take the horse-drawn tram to Granite Island and do the circular Kaiki Walk to enjoy views up and down the dramatic coast. For a closer look at the marine action, join a Big Duck Boat Tour in a powerful rigid inflatable boat to see dolphins and seals. If you're visiting between May and October, you have a good chance of seeing visiting humpbacks and Southern Right whales which come here to breed. The SA Whale Centre is not far from the horse-drawn tram.

From Victor Harbor to Robe it's a 4.5 hour drive, but there's lots to see and do along the way. First stop is Goolwa, a remarkable little town that was once a thriving river port for paddle steamers bringing cargo from all points upriver. There's lots of history here – and that famous Cockle Train, which each day starts its run to Port Elliot from Goolwa’s wharf precinct alongside the River Murray, on the oldest steel railway in Australia dating back to 1887. It takes in spectacular coastal scenery with perfect views of the Southern Ocean.

A short drive to Strathalbyn, then through the winegrowing region of Langhorne Creek to the historic ferry at Wellington, where you cross the River Murray, and south to Meningie. Marvel at the Coorong and visit Jacks Point Pelican Observatory, just off the Princes Highway near Policemans Point, for a short walk to a viewing shelter that overlooks the largest breeding colony of the Australian pelican.

The highway stays close to the coast, but for a closer look take a short detour to Cape Jaffa, just after you pass through Kingston S.E., and visit the 41m-high lighthouse – decommissioned in the 1970s and now a museum.

STAY

Robe Harbour View Motel has great views over the marina and Guichen Bay, but many visitors prefer to book one of the wide range of B&Bs available in the area, such as the gorgeous Grey Masts house and cottage – reputed to be the oldest building in Robe dating from the 1840s.

DINE

Southern rock lobster is the star of any menu here, and Sails Restaurant is one of the best places to enjoy it – phone ahead to pre-order your plate, or just enjoy the lobster thermidor pie.

Limestone Coast

The Obelisk

Limestone Coast

Naracoorte Caves National Park

Limestone Coast

Blue Lake, Lake Mt Gambier

Limestone Coast

Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations, Katnook Estate

Limestone Coast

The Old Mount Gambier Gaol

Limestone Coast

The Tasting Room at Mayura Station

Limestone Coast

The Tasting Room at Mayura Station

Limestone Coast

The Tasting Room at Mayura Station

DAY FOUR

The pretty fishing town of Robe is loved for its family-friendly Long Beach, 80-odd heritage buildings, the Third Ramp surf break, year-round fishing and locally caught rock lobsters. A holiday seaside town if ever there was one.

Check out the 12m tall Cape Dombey Obelisk, which has served as a beacon for ships since 1852. For more history, the attractive 1863 Customs House is now a museum and tells the story of Chinese gold diggers disembarked at Robe to avoid paying a punitive tax in Melbourne, then walk to the Victorian goldfields.

Now there are choices to be made because there's lots to see and do – if you can add a day then it won’t be a problem.

You can continue down the coast, close to the sea, to the former whaling station of Beachport, now home to a large crayfish fishing fleet. In the nearby sandhills is the Pool of Siloam, named in allusion to the Biblical Pool of Siloam and said to be seven times saltier than the ocean. Lake Bonney, near Millicent, is South Australia's largest fresh water lake while the adjacent Canunda National Park is South Australia's second largest coastal park. Not far away is the spectacular Tantanoola Caves and their formation of stalactites and mites.

Another option is to head east, away from the coast, to Naracoorte and the Naracoorte Caves National Park. In 1969, explorers entered Victoria Fossil Cave and discovered huge quantities of fossilised remains of animals that around 200,000 years ago fell through a hole and into the cave where they perished. Today this is one of 28 known caves within the World Heritage Listed Naracoorte Cave system featuring ancient remains of the marsupial lion, thylacine and a giant kangaroo.

If you wish to sample some of Australia's finest cabernet sauvignon wine, you'll keep heading south from Naracoorte to Coonawarra, whose paprika-red strip of crumbly terra rossa soil, just 30km long and barely 2km wide, is considered to be Australia's greatest cabernet sauvignon region.

While Coonawarra itself has 17 wineries and 22 cellar doors, it's also the collective name for five increasingly well-known Limestone Coast sub regions – Mount Benson, Padthaway, Robe and Wrattonbully.

Then it's a short drive on to Penola, once the home of Australia's only saint, Mother Mary MacKillop. At the Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre you can visit the schoolhouse where she taught poor children from the bush; her story is told by volunteers in lovely surrounds. The small town has plenty of charm, lots of heritage and some decent vintage shopping.

And in no time you're in Mount Gambier, once a hotbed of cataclysmic volcanics and now famed for its Blue Lake. Visit before early November and the lake looks grey; then, almost overnight, it changes to a radiant blue affecting to a deep turquoise, a colour that stays until February.

Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park, 20km south of the town, features flooded limestone sinkholes – complete with chains of drowned caverns that attract fearless divers. The less adventurous can settle for some snorkelling.

STAY

Motels and B&Bs are the most popular choices, while for a more upmarket option head to The Barn and its range of suites and self-contained apartments. For something different then the Old Mount Gambier Gaol is just the place – and much more friendly than it used to be.

DINE

On your way to Mount Gambier stop at Pipers of Penola, one of South Australia's most celebrated restaurants that's housed in a former church not far from Bowen Estate winery. There's more great cooking at The Tasting Room at Mayura Station, near Millicent, famed for its waygu steak – but check for the limited opening hours. If you miss out, there's more great steak (including waygu from Mayura Station) in Mount Gambier at The Barn Steakhouse.