*Lead image taken by Jacqui Way photography, and courtesy of Goolwa Pipi Co and Kuti Shack.
Here’s what I’m dreaming about for 2020: spending more time exploring the great outdoors, eating incredible food and tasting new wines. It’s kind of what South Australia is all about right!? So when I see these opportunities all come together in the same place, it’s a beautiful thing.
Enter, the Murray Mouth.
Flanked either side by the Murray River and Great Southern Ocean, the Murray Mouth and its surrounding towns of Goolwa, Milang, Clayton Bay and Langhorne Creek are spectacular. Even better is that the district is emerging as an iconic food and wine hub, with the lakeside Langhorne Creek Wine Region now home to some of the world’s best wine and recent addition of a chocolate factory outlet! Adding to the ‘Creek’s gastronomic appeal is the premium cellar door dishes and long list of delicious events throughout the year.
In one day, you can quite easily go from kayaking through Lake Alexandrina in the morning, to a pit-stop at local wineries for lunch and finish your day down the road with dinner overlooking the Murray River and listening to live music on the Goolwa wharf.
[*Start the car!*]
Seriously though, it’s one of the best spots in South Australia to experience beautiful Murray River scenery without sacrificing your tastebuds – and for a lot of years, it’s been overlooked by the more popular beachside down to its south. But not anymore.
Let’s start with the wineries. Some of our favourites are Bremerton Wines, Lake Breeze, historic Bleasdale Wines, Angas Plains, Vineyard Road and the newest crew on the block (which just celebrated its first birthday) Kimbolton Wines. Plus, there’s the cellar door/restaurant at The Winehouse which not only serves up restaurant-style meals in its rustic-styled venue, but also has a cellar door showcasing some of the smaller local winemakers (and also Meechi Brewing beers).
We like to think of the cellar doors in Langhorne Creek as having some of the most down-to-earth service in the State. There’s no pomp to the greeting you get as you walk through the door, but instead a friendly warmth from the locals who will help make you feel like you’re in just the right place to get comfortable and taste the award-winning drops at your fingertips.
Most of the cellar doors also serve up delicious meals as well, with a few of our favourites including Bremerton’s wood-fired pizzas, Lake Breeze’s prawn laksa, the Winehouse’s haloumi salad, Angas Plains’ Coorong Mullet dish, a Kimbolton cheese and wine flight and of course, topping it off with some chocolate from Vineyard Road.
If you’re looking to stay down this way for a few nights, then there’s plenty of accommodation as well. You can either hang up your boots at a bed and breakfast in Langhorne Creek or check out some of the water-view properties at Milang, Clayton Bay, Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island – there’s plenty of spectacular small and large holiday houses available.
Milang especially is one of the lesser-known lakeside towns, but has one of the most photographed views in our region, with the spectacular stillness and views to the Milky Way at night time making it a haven for photographers and artists who want to escape the crowds. Its protected waters also a great place to get the kayak or paddle board out for most of the year!
A few other cool and quirky group accommodation options to explore in Goolwa are Birks Harbour Luxury Retreat, The Admiral cottage, a pet-friendly waterfront rental at the edge of the Murray Mouth, or the super family-friendly Narnu Farm.
The crew from River’s End Retreat in Goolwa have just burst on to the scene combining the worlds of food and wine, wellness and the iconic Murray River. The hosted facility is ideal for a luxury group getaway, with its beautifully transformed historic grounds and magic views across the River and to Hindmarsh Island. The hosts even offer indulgence packages and events (such as a recent ‘body break’ and ‘food safari’) for those seeking an entertaining getaway, with the bonus of what are arguably the best accommodation views of Goolwa from the front deck, and a few paces to the main wharf dining district.
Now of course, once you’ve booked in your accommodation, then you can start to plan your food itinerary (now I’m talking your language right!?).
The town of Goolwa has seen exponential activity in the dining sector over the past five years, with what was once known mostly for its takeaway fish and chips (which are still perfectly delicious), now becoming a riverside community full of relaxed and fine dining options – and most with pristine views over the river towards Hindmarsh Island.
Speaking of the Goolwa wharf, if you start your journey here, you’ll be delighted by the food and drinks from foodie institution Hector’s on the Wharf, the local specialist in seafood and now serving up Friday night tapas (or test out their famous duck spring rolls!). A few paces from here, you’ll also be treated to the Wharf Barrel Shed which specialises in 90 Mile Wine tastings, quick bites to eat and relaxed riverfront vibes. Set behind this along the railway line is also the Fleurieu Distillery – an award-winning gin maker which offers tastings, beer paddles and other relaxed refreshments.
In the main street of Goolwa, you’ll find fresh and favoured breakfast fare at Motherduck. This little café is always bustling, and its cool interior décor full of weird and whacky wooden ducks is only outdone by its local and seasonal menu. Nearby you’ll also find your typical riverside takeaway haunts (including the newly refurbished Saltwater Cafe with an EPIC kids playroom so parents can dine in peace!), as well as wood-fire pizza places if you’re after something to grab for a twilight picnic.
Further south along the River, you’ll find foodie legends Casey and Joel Cousins who deliver exceptional service from Bombora on the River. Their casual atmosphere, spectacular waterfront location and attention to detail on fresh foods has seen them become a local favourite. A summer favourite amongst diners is Joel’s Goolwa Superbowl – a Bouillabaisse style soup packed with fresh fish, Goolwa cockles, scallops, mussels and prawns. But don’t fear if they’re booked out, just next door is the Goolwa Aquatic Club which serves up pub-style meals against a backdrop of what it arguably Goolwa’s best 180 degree views of the River Murray – where you can see south to the barrages and north to the Hindmarsh Island bridge! (Oh – and for those with kids, it’s just alonside the famous Bristow Smith Nature Play Reserve – pictured below).
If you’re on a road trip, then you should also stop at the Coorong Café – a quirky little van set up right on the edge of Sugars Beach, on Hindmarsh Island. With views towards the Murray Mouth, this casual café is known to locals as having the best fish and chips in the region, so it’s definitely worth a peek (and make sure you take your kayak or dinghy to spend some time on the water at Sugars, it’s a unique little sanctuary that opens up in to the ocean and like nothing else you’ve seen before, and if you’ve got the gear, you can even cast a line in yourself).
The newest venture on the block though is Kuti Shack, a cool little café based right on the edge of Goolwa Beach (and alongside the 4WD entry for a cruise along the beach and down to the Murray Mouth – check the tides before you go!). Operated by three locals and in partnership with the Goolwa PipiCo, the Kuti Shack menu will feature local seafood, Ngarrindjeri indigenous ingredients and hero the local pipis in various dishes throughout the seasons.
So by now, you’ve probably got a week’s itinerary full of food and wine, but the outdoor activity is worth a mention too. A couple of our favourite tours are those that take you to places in the Coorong that you never knew existed.
If you’re into paddling and fitness, then book a tour with the team from Canoe the Coorong and paddle through places (reminiscent of Storm Boy country) that you can’t access by boat or road. The local team who run these tours will take you to their favourite spots, show you how to collect and cook up pipis, meet the local wildlife and run through pristine sandhills.
If you’re less inclined to expend yourself, then catch a lift with the crew from Spirit of the Coorong or Coorong Cruises. Both of those boat cruises offer a range of packages to suit all ages and timeframes, with everything from a 90-minute tour from the Goolwa wharf to the mouth, all the way through to extended multi-day tours heading up River.
There’s a lot to taste, explore and discover down this way. So book your holiday and let’s get started.