If you’re ready to hit the open road this summer, pack your sense of adventure and love for nature and take the Southern Ocean Drive along South Australia’s Princes Highway.
(Download the map here.)
This epic drive begins in the State’s Eastern border and heads through our region before moving west to Kangaroo Island. This self-drive route lets you stop, camp and even 4WD along some of our most loved waterways including the rugged Coorong National Park, picturesque Murray Mouth and relaxing Lower Lakes, before you end up at your final destination.
[Tip: if you’re heading here from Victoria, this self-drive route is the perfect way to top off the Great Ocean Road drive.]
There’s plenty of must-see attractions, natural wonders, culture, history, and fresh food being served up in the Coorong, and we want to make sure you don’t miss out on any during your next visit.
So add your favourite sing-alongs into a playlist, jump in the car and start creating your itinerary using our top stops below.
If you’re in a four-wheel drive, you might like the idea of exploring between lagoons, sand dunes and shifting gears along the sand.
[Tip: make sure to check weather and tide conditions before you go to safely cross this route or access the water.]
From Kingston SE, you can slip onto the beach and drive all the way to the Murray Mouth via Salt Creek and the Coorong National Park. If you can, strap on a kayak to explore even further into the Coorong lagoons, to those magical places where your car can’t take you.
@South Australian Tourism Commission
While this won’t be the fastest way to get to your destination, it’s definitely the most scenic and memorable thanks to the diverse ecology found here. Keep your eyes out for pelicans, kangaroos, emus, echidnas, fur seals and various unique and rare migratory birdlife.
@South Australian Tourism Commission
But… even if you’d rather stick to the bitumen (or are forced to because you’re stuck in a smaller car), you’ll still get to whizz past the scenic views and have ample opportunities to pull into the National Park along the way. Try the Jack Point Observatory – a viewing shelter which looks out to one of the biggest pelican breeding colonies – made famous by Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy book.
You could easily spend a few days soaking up the nearly 200km stretch of the Coorong, so make a booking at one of the campgrounds throughout the Park – or even treat yourself to the premium creature comforts offered by Coorong Cabins or Coorong Waterfront Retreat.
42 Mile Crossing Campground (@Offroad Images)
Once you’ve had some fun in the Coorong, continue on to Meningie - the home of the ever-so calming Lake Albert, Birdman of the Coorong monument (a giant ostrich), freshly caught Coorong Mullet burgers, a Storm Boy themed playground and a picturesque lakeside caravan park.
Birdman of the Coorong (@thebluehousemeningie)
Here, you’ll be able to fuel up your car and your energy levels with local cafe, bakery and pub options. Try Freshies Café & Bar for brilliant lakefront views and locally sourced menu.
If you’re keen to take on an immersive nature, tasting and fun-filled tour through the Coorong, make sure to check out Coorong Wildside Tours.
[Tip: If you’re travelling with family, check out these top 5 experiences in the Coorong.]
As you keep moving on your journey, you’ll find the famous Meningie pink lake about 10-15 minutes north of Meningie. It’s conveniently located on the side of the highway with a designated stopping area so you can take photos or marvel at the colours (you can’t miss it!).
Just nearby, you can turn off towards Narrung where you’ll pass by the smallest (and only inland) lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere – the Point Malcolm Lighthouse. It was built in 1878 and decommissioned in 1931, but still draws attention from travellers and photographers passing through the Narrung Ferry area.
Point Malcolm Lighthouse (@michaelwaterhousephotography)
As you continue, turn left towards Wellington and stretch your legs at Pangarinda Botanic Garden before taking the (free) vehicle ferry to Langhorne Creek Road. If you need a refreshment break - stop in for a beer on the deck at the Wellington Hotel, the view is absolutely unbeatable! A short 25-minute drive along this road however, will bring you to the historic and innovative Langhorne Creek Wine Region.
Lake Breeze Wines (@Robyn Follett)
Here you’ll find eight cellar doors boasting award-winning and internationally recognised wines, regional platters and beautiful vineyard views. Some of the best spots include Kimbolton Wines, Bremerton Wines, Lake Breeze Wines, Angas Plains Wines, Bleasdale Vineyards, Rusticana Wines, The Winehouse and Vineyard Road.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the powerhouse varietal for the wine region, with popular Mediterranean varietals like Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Fiano and Verdelho also found at more wineries.
The Kimbolton Montepulciano Rose was recently named one of the best in SA, and Bremerton Wines not only has brilliant wine, but a new line of small batch gins for tasting too!
Kimbolton Wines (@Julian Cebo)
Take your time to meander through this gorgeous little wine region, and we can guarantee you’ll be booking another trip back before you leave.
If you’re interested in unearthing more of our country towns along the way, point your GPS towards the Dukes Highway and these towns:
Tintinara is small farming town outside of the Ngarkat Conservation Park. The Disc Golf Park next to Lake Indawarra, is a nice rest spot for travellers. For a longer rest, the newly renovated Motel on Becker offers comfortable, modern rooms for 2-3 people.
@Motel on Becker
The Bend Motorsport Park has put Tailem Bend on the map for hosting popular championship races including the Supercars, Superbikes and Asian Le Mans series, as well as adrenaline-pumping hot laps and karting which you can book ahead for - or if you’re short on time, pop by to browse the vehicles displayed in the welcome centre and grab a chef-prepared burger for lunch.
But there’s more reasons to stop here, try out the local Tailem Bend Bakery which has delicious sweet and savoury pastries options, cold lunch rolls, coffee and a playground found just opposite – or the nearby Little Local Co which has sweet delicacies and perfect coffee.
Not sure where to go next? Pop into the Tailem Info Station and museum where the friendly volunteers will share the history of the Tailem Bend Railways and help find your next destination.
Now that we’ve mapped it all out, all you have to do is get behind the wheel and tick off your favourite experiences.
Please remember to observe social distancing and good hygiene habits and use the QR code check-ins, to keep yourself and others safe while travelling. Some listed venues/experiences may be closed or have restrictions – be sure to check ahead to avoid disappointment. Visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au for current COVID-19 alerts, restrictions, and information.