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Secrets of the South East of South Australia

Wherecan you find the
"Tantanoola Tiger"?

The South East of South Australia is also known as The LimestoneCoast Wine Region and encompasses the wine areas of Padthawayin the north, Coonawarra and Wrattonbullyin the middle, Cape Jaffaand Mount Bensonon the north west coast and Mount Gambierin the south. But hey, wine isn‚t all we produce nor all we offer.Our bounties are plentiful; bring your camera and binoculars andcapture our scenic spots inland; with majestic red gum dotted paddocksand highways, picnic spots next to creeks, historic buildings, rollingvineyards, acres of pines and unique swimming lakes or our ruggedcoastlines, beautiful sandy beaches, bountiful seafood with just thebest lobster. Port MacDonnellhits the nail on the head there being the lobster capital ofAustralia! Not to mention the number and variety of conservationparks, limestone caves, wetlands and waterholes offering sink holediving plus the famous volcanic Blue Lake!And this is mostly natural; when you add our built attractions and artand crafts appreciation, lush green golf courses you can blow yourmind out! Cultural and eco tourism almost in a thumbnail of Australia!

Sout East of South Australia Features Map by Holiday OZThistiny corner of Australia, encompassing just 4% of the State, offersthe best of the country in diversity. It borders Big River Country inthe north, the coast on the west and south and the Western Districtsof Victoria on the east so if you are driving from Melbourne via the GreatOcean Roador the Grampians, in the directionof Adelaide or vice versa, you will experience this magical littleregion that is big on welcoming visitors. Multi tourism award winnersabound from attractions to accommodations to restaurants to ourregional tourism board who recently entered the Hall of Fame winningtheir category for the third year in a row in July 1999 at the stateawards presentations in Adelaide. This award winning region will greetyou with award winning smiles.

The area has traditionally been a rich pastoral one butdiversification has seen the introduction of a variety of fruit andvegetables, seeds, seafood's, emu and Boer goat farming, native plantand lavender farms, pine and blue gum forests and of course, winegrapes. Wines from here are considered premium to top end and thereare many cellar doors where you can freely taste them and alsopurchase to take home or have delivered to your door. You will findthe cellar door staff very friendly and knowledgeable and sometimes beable to chat to the winemaker as well. The Coonawarrais famous for its Cabernet Sauvignons although Shiraz comes a closesecond with some excellent blending of other varieties. Excellentwhite wines are also made and you will find most varieties availableincluding some stickies at some cellar doors.

The whole of the South East abounds with natural and builtattractions and warm, friendly people who enjoy meeting its manyvisitors. Everywhere you go you will find friendly and courteousservice. We go out of our way to make our visitors welcome. We have afeedback service through our regional tourism board, Tourism SouthEast, if your visit is not up to expectations in the level of service,courtesy and hospitality. We are so confident of your experiences thatwe encourage you to contact the board if you feel dissatisfied in anyway so that it can be corrected.

Entering the South East from the Grampians about two hours driveaway, you‚ll arrive at Naracoorte,a town of around 5,000 people situated in the centre of the region.Famous for its World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves ConservationPark, it is the most popular natural attraction of the town. Friendlyguides escort visitors on regular daily tours of the Alexandra,Blanche, Victoria Fossil Caves and the Bat Cave Teleview Centre whilethe Wet Cave is self guided. Alexandra Cave is noted for its beautifullimestone formations while Blanche Cave consists of three largecaverns with a soft pink hue. The Victoria Fossil Caves featuresprehistoric fossil bones found in 1969 of animals long extinct as wellas the limestone formations. You can see re-creations of some 19 ofthese extinct animals in the new Wonambi Fossil Centre where theyappear to come to life with movement and sound in a rainforest settingof some 200,000 years ago. The Bat Cave Teleview Centre has infra-redcameras set in four of its chambers and the bats‚ antics can beviewed on a bank of monitors set out in a room above the cave. Thebats (tiny Bent-Wings) come in October to have their offspring anddepart around February/March for the north. January tours are alsoheld at dusk when one can view them coming and going from the caveentrance on their night feeding flights. They consume up to half theirbody weight of insects per night on these feeding frenzies! A few ²hangaroundÓ over the winter months and can be seen in the roof cavitiesof the Blanche Cave. A new licensed restaurant was recentlyestablished within the park and serves snacks as well as full meals.

Naracoorte is also home tothe Bool LagoonWetlands, an area proclaimed as animportant wetland by the United Nations. In a good season, one canview up to 155 species of birds - that‚s more than Kakadu NationalPark! Bournes Bird Museum has many of those species mounted on displayin their interesting collection adjacent to the lagoons.

Naracoorte also has manyother interesting attractions including the Wool Museum at The Sheep‚sBack which also houses a local craft shop and the Tourist InformationCentre, The Naracoorte Museum and Snake Pit which has over 120fascinating collections in open areas and various rooms connected byopen walkways. One can watch the snakes being fed in summer in theirenclosures. Barry took the snakes away once and found he had to bringthem back such was the demand! Children really enjoy the Tiny TrainPark where they can ride on the miniature steam train, play peytonkand miniature golf or Pioneer Park which has a full sized steam engineon display. Both parks have free BBQs.

Driving west, Lucindale ison the way to Kingston SEand situated 42km from Naracoorte.Its home to a couple of rather unusual attractions. One being theLucindale Motor Co and Gift Gallery. This quaint working garage,offering fuel, oil, parts and efficient service has murals of old carspainted on its walls and houses an impressive collection of woodenvintage cars and restored brass burners. Gladys, a talented folkartist, has taken over part of the workshop to house her wide array of²country styledÓ hand-painted gifts.

The other is a museum on the soldier settlement and contains oldhouses, train carriages and memorabilia. This museum is only open byappointment so you‚ll need to call the president of the HistoricalSociety, Keith Bates on 08 8766 2198.

48km west of Lucindale is KingstonSE. A thriving fish port where you‚llfind freshly caught lobster at Lacepede Seafood by the jetty on MarineParade during the season from October to April. Larry the Lobstergreets visitors coming from Adelaide on the Princes Highway. Anunusual attraction here is Key‚s Collection of over 100 vintage,operational tractors, engines, assorted farm equipment and antiques.Enjoy a coffee, lunch or a snack at the Cottage Coffee Shop on AgnesStreet where patrons are served by a fully liveried butler!

Travelling south, down the Coast a bit, you‚ll come across CapeJaffa a Wines who have a cellar dooroffering free tastings and sales and just down the road is MountBenson where you can sample some morefrom these two award winning wineries.

Travelling on down the Princes Highway you‚ll find yourself atthe picturesque fishing port of Robejust 23km from Kingston SE.Steeped in history and full of delightfully restored buildings ofyesteryear, this popular family holiday spot has superb beaches, greatgalleries, restaurants, coffee shops and plenty of accommodationchoices from holiday flats to B&Bs to cottages to hotels, motelsand caravan and camping parks. Try some coffee and cake at the WildMulberry Coffee Shop or enjoy a superb lunch. Mahalia and Paul willcertainly look after you. You‚ll also find fresh lobster and otherseafood in season on the jetty.

43km down the coast lies Beachport,an historic whaling port but now another busy fishing port with, ofcourse, the proverbial lobsters. During the drive you will pass thegreat lakes of Eliza, St Clair and St George to the west. St George isrenowned for its mullet. A couple of unusual attractions here are theButcher‚s Gallery, a museum and local art gallery, housed in SouthAustralia‚s first original Butcher‚s shop and the National Trustmuseum which has an extensive collection of relics from the whalingpast as well as rooms furnished in the style of the 1870‚s. The WoakwineCutting, which opened up theswamplands to farming, is10km north of the town and Australia‚sbiggest one-man engineering feat! Beautiful scenic drives offermagnificent ocean views and access to secluded beaches.

The Princes Highway continues on south, past the pretty villageof Rendlesham a short 34km onto Millicentthis is Pine Tree country. Take some time to turn off and drive the6km to Southend, another fishing village and take a walk around therugged coast. Many ships met their end in these rugged waters duringthe last century. You‚ll find the history of some of these in thelittle museum in Port MacDonnell,the Lobster Capital of South Australia. Millicentalso has a National Trust Museum with a Shipwreck Room featuringmemorabilia in the Tourist Information Complex which also features theAdmella Gallery (The Admella was a ship which sunk in 1859 off thecoast). The Tantanoola Caves are located close by on the way to MountGambier and have some really stunninglimestone formations. Take a look at the Tantanoola Tiger on displayat the Tantanoola Hotel where the publican or a regular will bepleased to tell the tale of the legend over a jar or two!

A short hop of about l6kms and you‚re in MountGambier, famous for its Blue Lake andentry point to the South East for travellers ²doing the Great OceanRoadÓ from Victoria. A bustling city of about 25,000 it has much toimbue the visitor from mysterious caves and sink holes to uniquevolcanic lakes to wonderful food and wines, top class galleries,theatres and cinemas, scenic bus and steam train tours and awardwinning hospitality. Triple award winning Blue Lake Aquifer Tours cantake you into the ²depthsÓ of the mysterious lake which turns fromgrey to a deep sapphire blue in November until about April,backpackers, groups and families can stop in the Old Goal for a uniqueovernight experience and licensed divers can descend the depths of thesink holes. The Limestone Coast Railway offers steam train rides onSundays through pine forests, prime farmlands studded with majesticred gums and on into the famous premium wine country of Coonawarra,a stop for lunch in Penola with time to browse the shops beforereturning (Bookings required on 08 8739 4367). MountGambier has many diverse festivalsand events throughout the year.

The drive north to Penola is 50km and takes you past thetownships of Tarpeena with itsFairytale Park and Nangwarry whichhas a large saw milling industry because this is pine country. Furtheralong are potatoes and the potato chip factory. Take a detour andvisit the Trout Farm! Watch for the sign post.

The pretty township of Penolais also steeped in history with many renovated buildings and cottages.This township was home to the Blessed Mother Mary MacKillop, Australia‚sfirst ²saint to beÓ and founder of the Catholic Order of St Josephnuns. Here you will find the school she set up for the poor childrento be educated in conjunction with Father Woods. A new centre has beenset up and dedicated to her memory. Wander down Petticoat Lane, eastof the main street, and take yourself back in time 150 years! Here youwill find the original cottages some selling goods like toys and finelinens others open for inspection to give an insight of life duringthose times. Each year they have a sound and light display in thisstreet. The main street is full of interesting shops like Never TooOld stocked with antiques, bric a brac and antique replica furnitureat very reasonable prices and Toffee and Treats, an old fashionedsweet store. There are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops to suitall tastes in the town and up the road a bit on the outskirts TheHermitage Wine Bar for lunch or dinner. Do drop into the StrawberryFarm as you drive north for the best you‚ll ever taste plus a rangeof other fresh vegies, local smoked trout from down the road and othergoodies plus their range of home made jams. Delicious!

So we are heading north to Naracoorte,another 50km past the famous vines of Coonawarraand the 20 or so cellar door tastings and sales and onto Padthawaypast more acres of vines. Drop into Padthaway Estate, which alsooffers luxury, heritage accommodation, if you‚d like to taste thelocal drops in the stables cellar door although BRL Hardy do plan toopen their own cellar door at their new $18m Stonehaven Winery inAugust. Its just south of Padthaway and well sign posted.

From Padthaway you can make an interesting detour to Bordertown,birth place of former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke. Here you can seewhite kangaroos at the Wildlife Park which also has emus, wallabiesand water birds or try and a hitch a ride in a glider! A soaringexperience! Some interesting side trips are the Mundulla Tea Roomshoused in the old Mundulla Hotel containing a gallery and NationalTrust museum, Clayton Farm off the western approach to Bordertownand the Teatrick Lavender Farm at Wolseley where you‚ll findhomemade goodies with the scent and flavour of Lavender.

If you choose to take the Princes Highway driving from Adelaideinto the South East you will come across the Coorongbefore you reach Kingston, aunique place in the Aboriginal Dreamtime! Its one of the mostimportant waterbird habitats in Australia and is a critical freshwaterresource in times of drought. The world‚s largest breeding colony ofthe Australian pelican nests here. The 47,000 hectares are home toabout 90 species of water birds and shore birds, 21 species ofseabirds and 33 species of birds that migrate annually from Siberia,Japan, China and 14 protected species. The Aboriginal connection is atCamp Coorong, south of Meningie.Here you can appreciate and learn from the Ngarrindjeri people aboutthe place where they have lived for thousands of years. You can alsodo 4WD tours with the award winning Coorong Nature Tours.

If you are entering the South East from the Dukes Highway fromAdelaide or the Western Highway from Melbourne you‚ll come to ournorthern gateway of Keith. Takethe time to stroll down Heritage Street which runs parallel to thehighway. It features a travellers rest area with a heritage stylerotunda, a lawned picnic spot and a playground for the children ordrop in for a coffee at the Penny Farthing Cafe which also stockstourist information. Spot the Land Rover on a pole! Its a uniquememorial to the tireless work and spirit of the farmers who opened upand developed the Keith area foragriculture under the AMP scheme.

Come and discover the Secrets of The South East of SouthAustralia.

This editorial acknowledges that some of the information wassourced from the Secrets of the SE Visitor Guide and was supplied by:

Jane Frost
Dartmoor Homestead B&B Guesthouse
30 McLay Street
South Australia, 5271, Australia

Tel: 08 8762 0487 - Int: 61 8 8762 0487
Fax: 08 8762 0481 - Int: 61 8 8762 0481
Mobile: 0408 600 930 - Int: 61 408 600 930

Free copies of the Secrets of the SE Visitor, Historic, Arts andGolf guides are available by calling Naracoorte Tourism‚s Freecallnumber, saying you read about the region on the "HolidayOz" website, on (Aust) Freecall: 1800 244 421 or by emailfrom:

You can also visit my website for lots of Oz travel links at


Half an hour from the border with Victoria, SouthAustralia has several country townships well worth someexploration. To enjoy them all, take the quiet and good countryroad from Mount Gambier to Naracoorte,or vice versa. All these townships are about half way between Adelaideand Melbourne and are thus anexcellent stopping place for between city diversions.

Valey Lake - Mt Gambier
Sharams Cottage - Petticoat Lane
Cobb & Co - Now a restaurant

Mount Gambier is probably most famous for its Blue Lake, which turns a bright cobalt blue between November and February and returns to its normal duller shade for the rest of each year. Scientists are still arguing greatly as to what causes this phenomena. It is probably due to the fact that this is the hottest, sunniest time of year and some unique water species is at its peak during that period. Whatever, it is still a sight that draws tourists and scientists from all over the world. It is but one of a group of old crater lakes that lie close together and a tourist route - the Valley Lakes Drive - skirts their banks, with numerous lookout points along the way for multi photo opportunities.

Mount Gambier is quite a large township by Australian standards (population 28,000) and has plenty of accommodation, from good tourist parks to motels, hotels and guest houses. The Blue Lake Holiday Park across Bay Road from the Blue Lake is a spaciously verdant and quiet stopping place, with the widest range of accommodation options for their guests, from caravan sites to luxury cottages. The town centre has plenty of restaurants and cafes, shops, medical and banking facilities and an excellent Tourist Discovery Centre, which you can hardly miss, as the historic HMS 'Lady Nelson' is in dry dock immediately outside. Make this your first port of call. Enjoy the little sound and light show aboard the ship, as the captain tells of his adventures at sea. The fossil collection under the glass floored corridor is very interesting and there are outdoor exhibits that also echo Australia's distant past. There's also plenty of free literature and advice on what to see and do in the township, so a couple of days stay is advisable. There are tours to be taken of saw mills, historic buildings and more. There's the Umpherston cave and Wildlife Park to visit, pot holing for the adventurous, sports facilities galore and more.

Head north out of Mount Gambier and in less than an hour's leisurely drive you will be in historic Penola. This small township is famous today for several reasons. Probably the one that excites many of its residents the most is its strong connection to Mother Mary McKillop the nun who is expected to be assigned sainthood within the next few years. The school which she established and in which she taught can be inspected adjacent to the old church and there is now a big modern centre attached, that was added for when the pope visited the property some years back.

Penola has some exquisite early settlers cottages, perfectly preserved and able to be inspected. You will find them in Petticoat Lane. The oldest, built in 1850 for shoemaker Christopher Sharam and his family, still has a wonderful cottage garden at the rear. Across the road are several more, often also open to the public. They really are little historic gems. Penola also has one of the most temping confectionery shops in the State on its main street and here you can buy all the old fashioned sweets of yesteryear, along with superb chocolates of all kinds, including the very best. But be warned, if you are on a diet it is best not to step inside, for the range of choice is really wide.

There's an excellent Visitors Information Centre down a side road (close to Petticoat Lane and the Mother Mary McKillop Centre), which is another good place to wander through and pick up a heap of free informative literature. A former Cobb & Co staging post almost opposite the visitors centre is now a restaurant with an attractive menu.

This area is known as the Coonawarra - famous for its wines throughout the world. The tasting cellars of many famous wineries can be visited in this area and some also have excellent restaurants and accommodation on the estate, such as Chardonnay Lodge and the upmarket Padthaway Estate.

Continue northwards, staying parallel to the State border, (which is about half an hour's drive distant) and in another half to three quarters of an hour you will arrive in Naracoorte, a quiet and friendly country town, also world famous. In this case it is for the scientific fossil finds, which are amongst the world's largest range to be found in underground caverns. The township has all the usual range of accommodation from backpackers' budget price upwards, including a number of very good B&Bs, plus shopping, medical, banking, sports and similar most wanted facilities.

Naracoorte Caves National Park is close to the township and consists of 26 limestone caverns. Four of these are illuminated show caves, open daily to the public and are easy to walk through. Several other caves are available for 'adventure caving'. Then there is the adjacent interpretive, high tech Wonambi Fossil Centre, with its display of robotic prehistoric creatures, including Australia's long since extinct marsupial lions. Alexandra Cave features many beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. The Bat Cave allows visitors to experience a colony of 100 000 bentwing bats in their own habitat and Wet Cave provides self-guided tours with sensor lighting along the way. It's all quite an exciting experience and there are also other lakes and swamps in the area, plus several conservation parks on lagoons and a nature park specialising in colourful banksias - all of which make for good picnic and barbecue settings.

There's the Naracoorte Museum and Snake Pit, with 120 different Heritage collections from clocks to buggies and gem stones. It also houses a great collection of regional reptiles. Then there's the Italianate Struan House, built in 1875, The Sheep's Back award winning museum, dedicated to the wool industry, and Tiny Toy Train Park with mini golf on Park Terrace at the entrance to the excellent Naracoorte Holiday Park. The sheep and cattle sales yards in Apsley Road are the largest in the State and Tuesdays are the sales days. In addition, there are a dozen or more hotels and eateries and several art galleries and antique shops in this quiet township.

Enough reasons here surely to take that country diversion next timeyou have a few days to spare.