Here’s a beaut little five or six hour (return) trip from Adelaide to the mouth of the iconic Murray River at Goolwa.
Most people will opt to get to Goolwa by heading out of Adelaide along Main South Road and the Southern Expressway. I prefer heading up the freeway to Hahndorf and following the winding country roads via Meadows and Bull Creek. It’s a bucolic and meandering country drive that adds to the charm of the trip. It’s also a bit complicated – I recommend looking it up in Google Maps first.
After winding through beautiful farming country you’ll join the main road from Strathalbyn and follow the railway line to Goolwa. Goolwa was Australia’s first inland port (1853) and a hub for transhipping goods from the river trade to the sea – due to the treacherous and wild mouth of the Murray River. Although under pressure from the sea-change boom, Goolwa retains its river and rail history with a salty sense of calm against the wild seas and winds of the Southern Ocean.
Goolwa’s port precinct is a lively place! Overlooked by Signal Point Gallery, the restored port hosts weekend markets and events. River cruises operate from the wharf and the Steamranger Heritage Railway runs frequent holiday and weekend services along the south coast. You could drive to Goolwa and catch the train to Victor Harbor for lunch! The Steam Exchange Brewery is a great spot to stop and sample some local craft brews.
Because you’ve come to find the mouth of the Murray River, you’ll need to nagivate your way through the centre of town to the Hindmarsh Island Bridge and follow the signs across Hindmarsh Island to the mouth. Sugar’s Beach has a carpark and lookout from which you can view the Southern Ocean and beaches across the river (now the Coorong National Park and an important lake system at the mouth). Just a little further back from the carpark is Sugars Beach boat ramp. It’s a popular spot for boaties and kayakers, you can even hire kayaks from Canoe the Coorong here for a bit of a paddle. The Coorong Cafe is a trendy food truck serving fresh local fish and chips and burgers, along with beers, wines, soft drinks and water. It’s open 10 am to 8 pm school holidays, other opening hours vary but it’s a great spot to stop for a delicious lunch.
From here, you’ll have time to double back through Goolwa and head out to the barrages. Find Barrage Road and cruise alongside the river to the car park where you can walk out onto the huge barrage built to separate the fresh water of Lake Alexandrina from the salt water of the Coorong and Murray Mouth. This is also an excellent spot to take the short walk over the huge dunes to Goolwa Beach. Be careful on this beach, the tide does reach the dunes sometimes and it’s a drive-on beach. It’s generally always busy (when tides are right) as fisherfolk hurry their way along the beach to the Murray Mouth further south.
It’s likely time to head home now and you can head for Victor Harbor to return to Adelaide via Victor Harbor Road or opt to keep it country. Meander back via the hills and head back via Strathalbyn, Mt Barker, and the freeway. Strath is a great place to stop if you have time to browse the many antique stores on high street.
This is an easy road trip that won’t take all day, so if you got out of bed late and want to head out to the country, you still can!
So what road trip are you going to take next weekend? There’s plenty more to check out here.