McLaren Vale winery McLaren Vale vineyard – Image courtesy of mclarenvale.info

McLaren Vale Sights & Attractions

Take the Fleurieu Way and experience a drive that brings together all of the best elements of southern Australia, from the world-renowned McLaren Vale winemaking region, nestled between gently rolling hills and the sea, to peaceful little coastal hamlets and sandy beaches that stretch all the way to Cape Jervis.


What to do and see

While inland, explore winding roads that cross rivers and take you past gorgeous scenery into pristine conservation parks. Look out for seasonal specialist nurseries offering displays of roses, begonias and native flora.

Savour fabulous seafood, gourmet produce and premium wine from the more than 75 wineries and cellar doors found along the way.

Enjoy a range of exciting possibilities for fun and adventure, from scuba diving and surfing to game fishing and the discovery of championship golf courses, spectacular natural attractions, picnic spots, walking trails and fascinating wildlife – all within two hours drive from Adelaide.

The Fleurieu Way – This interpreted drive that circles the Fleurieu Peninsula – links the Great Ocean Road and the Adelaide metro area to the Peninsula.

Individual routes collectively offer some of the most spectacular and rewarding ways to experience the Fleurieu Peninsula.

These include routes through the Yankalilla district, the McLaren Vale, around Strathalbyn, Milang and Clayton areas, the south coast around Port Elliot, Middleton, Goolwa and to the Murray River mouth, as well as the region around Victor Harbor.

Each of these drives takes you through some of the rich farmland areas where farm gate produce and other hands-on food experiences are available.

Trip length from Adelaide 2–3 days
Total distance 170km (105mi)
Road conditions Sealed roads
Segment distances: Adelaide to Goolwa – 90km (56mi), allow 1hr 30mins; Goolwa to Cape Jervis – 80km (50mi), allow 1hr 25mins; Cape Jervis to Adelaide (via McLaren Vale) – 114km (71mi), 2hrs 10mins
Suggested overnight stops: Goolwa and McLaren Vale

Must-see sights along the route, include:

McLaren Vale, SA

McLaren Vale

Synonymous with fine wines for more than 150 years – South Australia’s first vineyard was established at Old Reynella in 1838. McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s most renowned wine regions.

Take a few hours or a full day to tour Route 60 – a 28km (17mi) scenic drive through the region’s heartland.

Within the McLaren Vale you can explore more than 76 cellar doors, and you can often meet the vineyard owners to discuss bouquets and cellaring potentials as you sample their wares.

Head to Main Street and browse art galleries and craft shops and spoil yourself with an evening meal at any one of a number of award-winning restaurants.


Port Willunga Beach, SA

Willunga

Stroll the charming historical village of colonial buildings dating back to the late 1800s including the Old Police Station and Court House, now a National Trust Museum, as well as the Old Post and Telegraph Station, part of which dates back to 1857.

Browse the antique and craft shops, and on weekends don’t miss the town's justifiably famous markets, which have won 'Best Farmer's Market in Australia'.

If you're in the area during July, check out the colourful Almond Blossom Festival, the town's biggest annual event.

Willunga and Port Willunga, which lies 10km (6.2mi) west of the town, are separated by the Willunga Plain which is covered with vineyards.

Port Willunga Beach – Discover one Fleurieu Peninsula's most photographed beaches featuring the remains of the Port Willunga Jetty (photo).

Located around 35km (21mi) south of Adelaide, the beach is famous for its golden cliff faces, crystal clear waters and soft white sands that squeaks between your toes. It is an ideal spot for those long beach walks on the wet sand, with only the sound of waves lapping at your feet.

Perched on the edge of the cliff top with stunning views along the coast sits the Star of Greece restaurant, which is named after a nearby shipwreck.

Sections of the hull of the Star of Greece, which came to grief in 1888, remain on the ocean floor and make for a popular diving spot. At low tide parts of the wreck may still be visible from the shore.

Mount Magnificent Conservation Park – Located 12km (7.4mi) southeast of the town, this conservation area is part of the Heysen Trail. It is an ideal place to visit if you want to see western grey kangaroos in their native habitat.

Coast to Vines Rail Trail, SA

Coast to Vines Rail Trail – Cycle or walk one of the most scenic rail trails in South Australia on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

The former railway line that once serviced stations between Marino Rocks and Willunga is now redeveloped for cyclists, hikers and horse riders to experience the ever changing landscape.

The 37km (23mi) shared trail runs from the coastal suburb of Marino, through the McLaren Vale wine region and finishes in the historic village of Willunga. Allow two hours to cycle the complete route one way.

Along the way, the trail offers great views of vineyards and historic villages; it's also a great way to experience the region's world-class food and wine, with the section between McLaren Vale and Willunga known as the Shiraz Trail.

Willunga is located 47km (29mi) south of Adelaide via the M2.


Aldinga Beach, SA

Aldinga and Sellicks

Explore the historic township of Aldinga, emerging as one of South Australia's best villages.

From baked goods and cafés to clothing boutiques and local grocers, the strip has a great vibe. There are also interesting festivals, including Fridays After Five – market throughout summer, concerts and smaller festive gatherings.

Here you can also experience some of the best beaches in South Australia: Aldinga Beach offers a wide and sandy swimming beach with boat-launching facilities, while further south Sellicks Beach offers great views along the coast.

Enjoy wind surfing and hang gliding, or get below the surface of the water and scuba dive or snorkel the nearby underwater trail in the Onkaparinga Estuary Aquatic Reserve.

Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park – Lying between Aldinga Beach and Sellicks Beach, this 300ha conservation park is home to a diverse range of rare plants which live in an environment of 10m (32ft) high dunes, sand blows (mobile dunes) up to 35m (115ft) high, mallee scrub, remnant red gum forests and closed heaths.

Lacy coral lichen, nardoo, hairy sedge and several species of orchids are among the park's rare species of flora.

A number of walking trails offer the opportunity, if you are lucky, to see brush-tailed possums, short-beaked echidnas, bats and geckos. More than 160 different bird species have been sighted in the park.

Aldinga is located 44km (27mi) south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Aldinga Beach is 3km (1.8mi) further to the west.


River Angas Walkway, Strathalbyn, McLaren Vale, SA

Strathalbyn

Explore one of South Australia’s most charming towns, complete with village green, ducks on the gently flowing Angas River, rose gardens and a gorgeous picnic spot.

Admire fine old blue and sandstone heritage buildings, pop into the district museum, which occupies the original police station and courthouse, and browse the crafts and antique shops along High Street.

Strathalbyn has 44 buildings of historic interest: A Walk Around The Town brochure is available at the Visitor Information Centre. Of these don't miss the Railway Station, built in 1884 when the railway from Mount Barker arrived in the town, and the River Angas Walkway (photo), which features two charming walks to several historical sites.

Strathalbyn is located 55km (34mi) south-east of Adelaide via National Highway 1.


Goolwa Beach, Goolwa, SA

Goolwa

Located just over an hours drive from Adelaide through pretty countryside, Goolwa sits at the mouth of the Murray River on Lake Alexandrina.

The nearby Murray Mouth is renowned for its mulloway fishing, while surf fishing from Goolwa Beach (photo) is usually rewarding for the angler.

With both fresh and salt water, Goolwa is a Mecca for fisherman and the Murray Mouth is not only a great place to fish but also a remarkable feature of the landscape.

Learn more about the Murray River at the Signal Point Centre, take a wood-fired paddle steamer for a river cruise up the Murray, across to Hindmarsh Island or into nearby Coorong National Park. Try to spot some of the 238 resident and migratory wading birds feasting on the rich wetlands.

Or go ashore and stroll the boardwalks, keeping an eye out for the beautiful red-necked avocet, the sharp-tailed sandpiper and the black-winged stilt.

Enjoy a stroll around the inner section of Goolwa – a State Heritage Area with many fine colonial-era buildings dating back to the mid-1980s. Browse the local craft shops around Goolwa Wharf area and then cool off with a fine ale at the Steam Exchange Brewery.

Goolwa is located on the shores of Lake Alexandrina, on the western section known as the Goolwa Channel, 82km (51mi) south of Adelaide.


Surfing off Middleton Beach, Middleton, SA

Middleton and Port Elliot

Enjoy fine surf beaches, fishing at Middleton and the winter spectacle of the southern right whale on its annual migration during June to September.

The whales are often spotted at Basham's Beach between Middleton and Port Elliot.

Unpack your roller blades or bike, fly your kite in the sea breeze or just enjoy a stroll along the coastal pathway that runs from Goolwa to Victor Harbor.

Middleton is a popular spot for surfers, kite flying and fishermen due to its spectacular beach. You can also take surfing lessons here.

Walk or cycle the shared Encounter Pathway that runs along the foreshore, connecting Middleton to Victor Harbor; the stretch between Middleton and Port Elliot is the most spectacular.

Explore the idyllic seaside town of Port Elliot – home to postcard-worthy beaches, homewares shops, stylish cafés and chic, beach-side cottages.

Nestled on the coast between Victor Harbor and Middleton, Port Elliot is a popular holiday destination teeming with accommodation options by the sea.

Throw down your towel on the sand and soak up the sun at Horseshoe Bay or dive off the jetty into the turquoise waters below.

Walk trails along the dramatic coastline, or wander through charming streets admiring the town’s historical façades. Pause for lunch at the Flying Fish Cafe or try the famous donut flavour of the month at Port Elliot Bakery.

Stroll the Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail to learn more about Port Elliot's role as the first seaport for the River Murray trade. Browse the arts and crafts shops along The Strand and don’t miss Horseshoe Bay or the lookout at Freeman Nob for great views.

Port Elliot is located 81km (50mi) south of Adelaide via McLaren Vale.

Steamranger Cockle Train, SA

The Cockle Train – Enjoy a 30-minute ride on one of Australia's most scenic train rides between Goolwa and Victor Harbor.

Journey past beautiful Southern Ocean beaches and through historic towns on Australia's oldest public railway that first ran in 1854.

The Cockle Train runs during the school holidays and every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday during the remainder of the year. It runs three times a day from Goolwa to Victor Harbor stopping at Port Elliot.

Nicknamed Cockle Train by the locals because they once use it to travel to Goolwa to collect cockles, it's a pleasant journey from Victor Harbor to Goolwa and back.

The train starts its run each day from Goolwa station in the historic Wharf Precinct alongside the River Murray. First stop is Middleton and then Port Elliot, where the station is operated by the local National Trust and features a small historical museum.

From Port Elliot the train climbs to the top of the coastal cliffs from where you may experience some of the most picturesque coastal scenery on the Fleurieu Peninsula en route to Victor Harbor station.

For the timetable and ticket prices visit https://www.steamrangerheritagerailway.org/our-trains/cockle-train. There are no reserved seats. You can book online or at the Goolwa, Victor Harbor and Port Elliot railway stations.

The Southern Encounter, SA

The Southern Encounter – Experience the Southern Encounter from Mount Barker to Victor Harbor via Strathalbyn and Goolwa.

The Southern Encounter operates on the first and third Sundays from June until the end of November.

The journey leaves Mt Barker mid-morning, climbs up to the crest of the line and then winds down the eastern escarpment of the southern Mt Lofty Ranges, crosses the Angas River, then enters the historic township of Strathalbyn and continues southwards across the plains and across the Currency Creek viaduct and on to Goolwa.

At Goolwa, the train draws alongside the river wharf and passengers alighting here have over four hours to explore local attractions, enjoy lunch on the riverside, visit the Steam Exchange Brewery in the old goods shed, or take a short river cruise.

Beyond Goolwa the train then meanders westwards to Port Elliot before cresting the cliffs where passengers can experience some of the most picturesque coastal scenery in the state, then onto Victor Harbor for a three hour stopover.

The Southern Encounter is operated by the SteamRanger Heritage Railway. For more information visit their website at https://www.steamrangerheritagerailway.org/our-trains/the-southern-encounter


Horse-drawn tram, Victor Harbor, SA

Victor Harbor

Discover a relaxed seaside charm, breathtaking coastal views and rich maritime history in Victor Harbor.

Stroll the wide sandy arc of beaches that line Encounter Bay, hike the rugged clifftop for the views, sample delicious local seafood or see the ocean’s gentle giants with whales, dolphins and seals frequenting the bay.

Hop aboard Victor Harbor’s iconic horse-drawn tram across to the penguin colony on nearby Granite Island. Visit Urimbirra Wildlife Park, the Wild Rose Cottages, Greenhills Adventure Park or Nangawooka floral reserve.

Don’t miss the historical display at the Encounter Coast Discovery Centre where you can learn about the meeting of English and French naval captains Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin, which took place in Encounter Bay in 1802.

Spot whales from on top of the Bluff –  from June through to October – or just enjoy the 270 degree views along the coast.

Kaiki Trail, Granite Island, SA

Kaiki Trail – This easy 1.9km (1.1mi) circuit walk around Granite Island starts at the Causeway and takes in granite boulders including Umbrella Rock, with views of Encounter Bay and the Bluff.

Return at night time to see the Little Penguins, or visit the Penguin Interpretive Centre during the day.

There is also a sculptured granite seal on the island which was created by Sylvio Apponyi in 1992. Allow around about one hour to complete the walk.

Petral Cove seen from The Bluff, Encounter Bay, SA

The Bluff – This 100m (328ft) high granite outcrop also known as Rosetta Head, is the site for the memorial plaque to the meeting of Nicholas Baudin and Matthew Flinders.

The plaque, which was unveiled in 1902 (100 years after the event) records:

'In Commemoration Of The Meeting Near This Bluff Between H.M.S. Investigator – Matthew Flinders Who Explored The Coast Of South Australia, And M.F. 'La Geographe' – Nicolas Baudin, April 8 1802.

On Board The Investigator Was John Franklin. The Arctic Discoverer, The English and French Explorers Held Friendly Conference. And Flinders Named The Place Of Meeting Encounter Bay.'

Encounter Bikeway, Encounter Bay, SA

Encounter Bikeway – Located to the west of the town, Rosetta Head offers excellent views over Encounter Bay and, when the whales are in the area, it is a popular vantage point.

It is also the start of the Encounter Bikeway, a sealed pathway that is suitable for walkers, cyclists and is wheelchair accessible which follows the coast to the wharf in Goolwa.

The easy 31.5km (20mi) route includes panoramic views from Freeman Knob, whale watching in season, surfing destinations at Middleton and Port Elliot, and Tokuremoar Reserve – a 70ha site that features rare and endangered indigenous plants and birds, as well as the last remaining remnant wetland eco-system in the region.

Glacier Rock – Drive out to Glacier Rock (also known as Selwyn's Rock), just 14km (8.6mi) west of Victor Harbor, to discover a 500-million-year-old boulder carved out by the glaciers that once covered the entire area of the south coast some 250 million years ago.

Victor Harbor is located 83km (50mi) south of Adelaide.


Cape Jervis Lighthouse, Cape Jervis, SA

Cape Jervis

Fish off the beach or the jetty and enjoy the superb ocean views from the lookout on Sappers Road, or ride the ferry to Kangaroo Island.

The Cape Jervis Ferry crosses to Kangaroo Island every hour between 9.00 am - 7.00 pm in the summer months and once every three hours in the winter months.

Take a side trip to Rapid Bay to the point where Colonel William Light first stepped ashore to establish the colony of South Australia: the boulder where he recorded the event by carving his initials and the date is still on site.

Check out the very modern Cape Jervis Lighthouse – an inverted pyramid – which dates from 1972, a century after the first lighthouse on the cape was lit on 10 August, 1871. The current light has a range of 18 nautical miles and is located on a headland known as Lands End. It sits 22m (72ft) above sea level. The foundation of the original 1871 lighthouse is still visible in front of the current concrete building.

Further on at Second Valley, discover dramatic cliffscapes, fish from the jetty, go scuba diving or snorkelling.

Naiko Inlet from The Heysen Trail, Cape Jervis, SA

The Heysen Trail – Walk the first 14km (8.6mi) section of this famous trail from the Cape Jervis trail head to Cobbler Hill.

This section follows sandy coastal tracks and exposed coastal hillsides, providing spectacular views over Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island.

Along the route, be rewarded with sightings of seals and dolphins. At Blowhole Beach the trail enters Deep Creek Conservation Park to begin the long climb through native bushland to Cobbler Hill.

The Heysen Trail is a 1,200km (745mi) walking track from Cape Jervis to the Flinders Ranges mainly along the Mount Lofty Ranges.

Cape Jervis is located 107km (66mi) south of Adelaide on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Deep Creek Conservation Park, Fleurieu Peninsula , SA

Deep Creek Conservation Park – Discover some of South Australia’s most spectacular semi-wilderness areas and coastal scenery, offering unparalleled views across the Southern Ocean from the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Enjoy rugged coastal panoramas as well as tranquil settings beneath tall stringybark forests.

Spot some of the 120 species of birds, ranging from black cockatoos and the mighty wedge-tailed eagle to the tiny superb blue wren.

Watch out for western grey kangaroos grazing on the grassland as you stroll the Heysen Trail, which passes through some of the most dramatic parts of the Park on its way from Cape Jervis to the Flinders Ranges.


How to get to McClaren Vale

McClaren Vale is situated 40km (25mi) south of Adelaide, around 40 minutes by car.

Adelaide is located north of the Fleurieu Peninsula, on the Adelaide Plains between the Gulf St Vincent in the west and the low-lying Mount Lofty Ranges in the east.

The city stretches 20km (12mi) from the coast to the foothills, and 90km (56mi) from Gawler at its northern extent to Sellicks Beach in the south.

The most convenient route to Adelaide, from overseas or interstate, is by air to Adelaide International Airport (ADL), located close to West Beach and about 6km (3.7mi) west of the city centre.

More information on how to get to Adelaide


Latest update: McLaren Vale Attractions: 24 March, 2021


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