Loved by generations of South Australian families, laid back Victor Harbor is throwing off its cutesy image and embracing white knuckle adventure, great cuisine and more sophisticated accommodation.
- Hire a bike and ride the Encounter Bikeway
- Swim with great tuna at Oceanic Victor
- Try some wine tasting at Langhorne Creek
Located on the southern shores of Fleurieu Peninsula, Victor Harbor is one of South Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, but is quickly reinventing itself as a major centre for outdoor adventure of all kinds. Just 84km from Adelaide, Victor Harbor now offers everything from whale watching to surfing. You can even swim with Bluefin tuna. Apart from its abundant wildlife, you’ll also discover ocean fresh seafood, boutique wineries and miles and miles of flawless empty beach.
Where to Eat
Given its heritage as a family seaside destination it’s not surprising that Victor Harbor veers towards casual and alfresco dining. The best place to start is one of the town’s grand old sandstone hotels where you’ll find unpretentious pub grub such as schnitzel, fish and chips and man size steaks. The Anchorage Hotel, which overlooks Encounter Bay, is the pick of the bunch. The menu includes a good selection of woodfired pizzas, meaty mains and local seafood – try the Boston Bay chilli mussels.
Equally enticing are the views from Eat at Whalers which serves fresh salads, Asian dishes and local seafood, including Coorong mullet and Goolwa cockles. The restaurant, which is fully licensed, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For a reliable caffeine fix look no further than Caffe Primo, part of a well known South Australia coffee chain that also serves Italian leaning fare, such as pizza and pasta.
If, however, you just want to grab some fish and chips after a long day on the beach drop into The Original Victor Harbor Fish Shop, a local institution since 1920.
Where to play
Family fun has been the watchword in Victor Harbor since the first holidaymaker arrived. Almost every South Australian school child has taken a ride on the town’s picturesque Horse drawn Tram or steam driven Cockle Train but these days the fun is much more of the white knuckle variety – kayaking, surfing and high speed boat trips are edging out some of Victor Harbor’s more genteel pursuits. The latest attraction is Oceanic Victor, a giant floating aquarium where you can swim with a shoal of high speed Bluefin tuna (much more terrifying than it sounds). The pod, which is moored off Granite Island, also contains an underwater observatory for viewing the marine environment.
Adrenaline junkies can board The Big Duck, a purpose built rigid inflatable boat, for an exciting trip to Seal Island, the Murray Mouth and other local beauty spots. The company also offers whale watching tours during the winter months.
For those who prefer dry land, hop on a bike and join the Encounter Bikeway, a dedicated 30km cycle path linking Victor Harbor and the historic river port of Goolwa.
What to learn
While the Nullarbor enjoys an international reputation for its whale watching vantage points, Victor Harbor has its own claim to fame. The South Australian Whale Centre is an important centre for whale research, but also houses a collection of whale memorabilia, indigenous artefacts and marine themed murals. The Cellar of 3D Secrets is a big hit with the kids. Both southern right and humpback whales are seen in these waters from May to October and the centre will recommend the best viewing locations. Permanent exhibits include the Leafy Sea Dragon Display and a reconstruction of the protest vessel the Sea Shepherd Steve Irwin MV.
Apart from its natural wonders, the Fleurieu Peninsula also enjoys a growing reputation for its boutique wineries. If you’d like to educate your palate, drive out to nearby Langhorne Creek, one of South Australia’s oldest wine regions and home to producers such as Bremerton Wines, Lake Breeze and Bleasdale Vineyards. If you don’t want to hop from cellar door to cellar door call into The Winehouse which showcases five of the region’s smaller wine producers alongside local Meechi craft beer.
Where to stay
A popular holiday destination for almost 100 years, Victor Harbor is naturally well supplied with motels, B&Bs, holiday cottages and other accommodation. The focus here is very much on family groups, hence the proliferation of holiday resorts. NRMA Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park is one of the best options for budget conscious travellers. The park, which won a Silver Medal in the 2017 South Australian Tourism Industry Awards, offers a wide choice of villas, cabins and studio rooms, plus plenty of sites for tents, caravans and motorhomes. Park facilities include a TV/games room, guest laundry, communal kitchens, heated swimming pool and waterpark.
Image credit: SATC