Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On the Road Trip - Australia - Fleurieu Peninsula - South Australia

As we set out from the town of Warrnambool, after a wonderful adventure along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, we set our sights on reaching the South Australian border. After fourteen nights of camping and traveling over two thousand kilometres, we were looking forward to a break from the tent, instead staying in a restored farm cottage in the beautiful McLaren Vale region for three nights.
When I had first planned our road trip, we had organised to travel quite decent distances from one campsite to the next. However, after just two weeks on the road, we realised that we had underestimated just how long it would take, to drive from one place to the next. Many variables came into play, towing our boat behind us meant we were limited to a speed of one hundred kilometres per hour, plus our desire to travel along the coast most of the way meant there were many winding roads to manoeuvre, that would further reduce our speed. Then of course there were the many trucks and caravans on the road, that we would inevitably get stuck behind, which we would occasionally safely overtake and then much to Mr G's dismay, would pass us again as we stopped for a photo or toilet break! Consequently, we decided to do what we thought we initially didn't want to do, and that was to stop overnight and put the tent up for just one night somewhere, so as to break up the driving distances. This proved to be a great decision, as we were able to drive at a safe and more scenic pace and see more of the places, that we would have otherwise been forced to rush past. We were now getting very proficient in putting up and packing down our tent too, so that helped.
We reached the South Australian border mid morning, welcomed by 39 deg C heat, many invasive flies and a mix of landscape, both forestry and wide open hay fields, as far as the eye could see.

Passing through the large town of Mount Gambier, we traveled along the Southern Ports Highway, dotted with the little towns, Tantanoola, Millicent and Beachport, eventually arriving in the picturesque, seaside town of Robe late afternoon. We had secured a beachside campsite for the night and once set up, we enjoyed our first ocean swim of our trip so far.

Robe is both an historic and relaxed little town, with lots of old and prettily restored buildings, with plenty of choices to dine out and outdoor tables set up along the front strip. We enjoyed some delicious wood fired pizzas and a stroll through town. It was another one of those places, we wished we had more time to explore.

We were up and away early the next morning, before the heat set in, traveling along the Princes Highway towards Adelaide, passing towns of Kingston S.E, Salt Creek and Meningie. Long straight roads, lined with Salt pan flats on one side and Coorong National Park on the other.

Every now and then we would spot a random sign, advertising local produce to pick up along the way.

We headed towards Strathalbyn and across the Fleurieu Peninsula to McLaren Vale, arriving at Peppermint Farm Cottage early afternoon.

A gorgeous heritage listed, self contained cottage, set amongst the vines, it was both a central and comfortable base for us, as we spent the next three days exploring the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The Fleurieu Peninsula is just forty five minutes south from Adelaide, offering a combination of stunning natural scenery of rolling hills and vineyards, as well as white sandy beaches and rugged coastline. We had a wonderful three days of adventure, discovering food, wine and coastline.
That first afternoon we discovered Maslin Beach, Aldinga Bay, where we bought some local Spencer Gulf prawns, frozen for our Christmas day lunch (now just a week away) and Silver Sands beach, where we were able to drive along the beach in our car.

That night we enjoyed a slow roasted chicken for dinner in the cottage, it was the first time in two weeks I had an oven to cook in, so I couldn't help myself but to use it, and with some lovely local wine it meant for a cosy night in.

Although we visited the lovely town of McLaren Vale first thing the next morning, my favourite place was a little further south, in the charming town called Willunga. I couldn't wait to stroll the Willunga Farmers Market, having heard such good reports about it. It was vibrant, filled with colourful characters and passionate producers, happily I enjoyed buying some amazing local produce, including local Apple Cider, Coorong Mullet, Garfish and Tommy Ruff fillets, Squid, variety of fruit and vege, local garlic and the most rustic, handmade sourdough I have ever seen.

Just across the street from the market, we had lunch at The Green Room Organic Cafe, I had a delicious veggie burger and then we browsed the many foodie stores in the main street.

Later that day we stopped off at the Cellar Door of Battle of Bosworth, who also produce one of my favourite organic wine labels Spring Seed Co. after a tasting and buying a couple of bottles to take with us, we were on our way again.

As if we hadn't packed enough foodie goodness into this day already, we now headed further south to Mosquito Hill, where I had organised to visit Sunningdale Farm. I'll blog more on this lovely farm soon, for now I'll just say it was our great pleasure to meet Jane and her parents Phil and Anne, who are biodynamic beef farmers, as well as producing a large variety of fresh produce from their market garden on their property. It was lovely to tour their farm and enjoy a delicious afternoon tea together with them on their verandah, delighting in homemade rhubarb cake with home made ice cream.

Last thing that day we drove further south to see the coastal town of Goolwa, known locally as 'the place' to harvest your own cockles from the shoreline. This being one of Mr G's favourite pastimes, we spent an hour there and went home with a bagful of cockles.

To completely top off our day of hunting and gathering, we passed a marron farm on our way back to the cottage and yes we stopped...and yes we bought marron and that night we feasted on marron and locally made potato gnocchi with cockles, marron, tomato, olives and chilli sauce.

Our last day here, we drove forty minutes north to visit the town of Handorf, a placed filled with character with a very German flavour. I found this quite bizarre to find a scene out of German culture, in the middle of South Australia, however history shows that many of the first pioneers and wine makers of this area, had immigrated from Germany and so fair enough! We had organised to meet some old friends for lunch here and had a lovely afternoon catching up.

Later that afternoon we visited a couple more spots back along the coast, including stunning Port Willunga and then returned to the cottage for our final night before we hit the road again the next morning.

Enjoying an amazing sunset over the vineyard that evening, we began to get excited about heading further into South Australia the next day. It was less than a week now until we would be spending our Christmas Day at our next stop on this road trip adventure, Streaky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula.

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