Road trip to Goolwa – more than you think
As you drive into the main street of Goolwa during the summer season you can feel the buzz of a small town with lots going on. Cafes, shops, historic buildings and the gentle waters of Lake Alexandrina beckon – but Goolwa has so much more to offer.
The Ngarrindjeri have been the indigenous custodians of this region for over 6000 years, including the iconic Coorong (or ‘neck of water’). A visit to the Alexandrina Council offices on Cadell Street will give you a chance to view the groundbreaking Kungan Ngarrindjeri Yunnan Agreement, between the Alexandrina Council and Ngarrindjeri Nation.
It heralds a new future from what has at times been a turbulent shared history, and recognises the Ngarrindjeri connection to the water country. You’ll also find excellent maps and information here, and at the Visitor Information Centre just up the road.
Park the car and take a short walk past the enticing selection of cafés to Goolwa Terrace and the Old Goolwa Police Station, now home to a charming Regional Arts Centre.
Regional Arts Centre
Another 50 metres up the road is Jekejere Park which is full of native plants with excellent informative signage on their history and usage. Walk through the park and you may be tempted by a quick (or leisurely) tasting at Ballast Stone Winery.
You’re now in the historic old wharf area where you can either picnic at Jaralde Park or let them do it all for you at Hector’s café right on the water. If hand crafted beer and spirits are more your style then The Steam Exchange Brewery is a must. You might even see The Cockle Train pull up drawn by one of several period locos.
It’s time to hop back in the car for the short drive to Goolwa Beach and potentially fish n chips or an ice-cream at the quirky Bombora Café.
From Beach Road head towards the barrages, open to walk on until 4.30pm most days. It’s well worth reading the explanatory signage on their construction and purpose which was essentially to maintain the freshness of water in the Murray and Lower Lakes.
There is also interesting information on the Ngarrindjeri connection to these waterways. Then head out on the barrage to enjoy the views; pelicans and seals are often seen frolicking in the outflow.
A visit to Goolwa isn’t complete without contemplation of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge and the history behind its construction. If you have time, drive onto the island and head to the lookout for stunning views to the Murray Mouth.
Hindmarsh Island Bridge
Alternatively get out on the water and see the Coorong up close with a Cruise the Coorong trip or a Canoe the Coorong tour. You’ll see wildlife, pristine sandy dunes and middens covered in millions of cooked cockle shells, left by generations of Ngarrindjeri.
On the drive home you’ll have plenty to contemplate around the beauty and history of Goolwa and the Coorong.
The drive from Adelaide to Goolwa will take you around an hour and 20 minutes, or 85 kms south from Adelaide airport. There are two main routes and not much between them timewise.
The Southern Expressway is the most direct route - simply continue onto Victor Harbor Road taking the Goolwa Road turnoff just after Mount Compass.
The alternative, and arguably more picturesque route, is up the South Eastern Freeway exiting at either Stirling or Hahndorf and winding your way through the Adelaide Hills pastoral country via Echunga and Meadows.
Turn left into the main street of Meadows and stop off at the Meadows bakery for a quick morning snack - or carry on to Goolwa via Bull Creek Road (Goolwa is well signposted from here). As you approach Currency Creek keep your eyes open for the Aboriginal Canoe Tree.
You can download a handy map of the full Mighty Murray Way driving tour here.
You can book accommodation, Cruise the Coorong Cruises and Canoe the Coorong in Goolwa here
This article first appeared in the Sunday Mail page 91 - Go for a Drive, 11 December 2016