December: the start of summer, and another month of vacation for me. After touring all of Victoria, I had big plans to see New South Wales. But because of flood warnings from heavy rain on every road I planned to be on, and realizing I only had three weeks before I wanted to be back in Beechworth, I decided on the opposite direction instead, South Australia. A new state to tick off the list!
Day 1 – 2 December 2021 – Pink Lakes – To break the drive up between Northeast Victoria and the southern side of Adelaide, I stopped at the Pink Lakes at Lakes Crosbie and Becking in the Murray-Sunset National Park. The pink in the lakes is caused by a chemical reaction with the algae, the salt deposits that are left behind after evaporation, and after heavy rain. I saw the layer of muddy salt on the lake, and was able to walk right down into it, but not so much pink. It was still absolutely beautiful, seeing the sunset and sunrise, and I had the whole campsite to myself.
Day 2 – Narrung Jetty – I made a quick pit stop at a mechanic in the morning to sort out some car problems I was having, and then crossed the border at Pinnaroo, driving straight to Narung Jetty, three hours south of Adelaide. South Australia had just opened its borders to Victoria, and I needed a negative covid test to enter within 72 hours, so I had small window to cross the border. My car still was having problems but I decided to wait until Adelaide to sort it out. My accommodation for the night was a free campsite on Lake Alexandrina, a nice open field with toilets, with a handful of campervans of retirees. I used a mix of the WikiCamps app and Google Maps to find campsites along the way, and this was one of the best free ones I stayed at. Very quiet and relaxing, it was a good start to the trip.
Day 3 – Port Elliott – After crossing the one minute ferry ride across the lake in the morning (if that, it was a very short ride), I drove two hours north to Port Elliott, a lovely little beachside town. I booked into the caravan park, as there weren’t any camping options, and spent a few hours at the beach, both that evening and the following morning. I don’t know why I had been hesitant to stay at caravan parks, maybe because they tend to be more expensive but also because I thought it might be strange to be on my own, but I thought this one was perfect. Clean, spacious, plenty of amenities, it changed my opinion and being right on the beach seemed like a perfect pick. I enjoyed the area and my day there so much, I decided I’d have to stop again on my way back. I had a rough timeline, but not a set itinerary, so I had some flexibility on where I wanted to spend my time.
Days 4-7 – Adelaide – An hour or so north I arrived at the state capital. All of the hostels I had stayed at over the previous month had been relatively empty, but the YHA Adelaide was quite the opposite. It was full of long term guests, which didn’t create much of a social environment, but that was fine because I ended up being out and seeing the city most days. It’s a relatively compact downtown area for a large city, and I walked everywhere, explored some museums, the state library, did some shopping and good eating. With continuing car problems, I dropped my car off and then got to walk an hour through the inner suburbs back into the city. My first impressions of Adelaide are that it’s a smaller version of Melbourne, geographically and demographically. The large sports stadium near the river, main mall strip, and the main CBD set in a grid pattern, modeled after Melbourne, which was modeled after New York City. On the license plates (or rego plates here in Aus) of each state are slogans, the same way California is the golden state and Florida is the sunshine state. Victoria has several slogans, including ’the education state’, ’stay alert, stay alive’, ’the garden state’, ’on the move’, and my favorite ’the place to be’. All a bit of a stretch, but none so much as South Australia’s ’the festival state’. After a quick google search, it seems that the state is host to plenty of festivals, including food, wine, dance, and anything else, although I would argue that so is every other state. Just something I noticed walking around that seemed silly. More fittingly, I saw many of the beautiful purple jacarandas that line the city, so perhaps it should be the purple state.
I treated myself to a haircut while I was in a big city, drove to Carrick Hill estate to walk in the gardens, and explored the Adelaide Central Markets. They had a wonderful selection of international cuisines, fresh produce, and a great used bookstore, where I picked up a Calvin and Hobbes compilation and the renowned Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I enjoyed a dinner in Chinatown, and fully circulated the city. I’m glad I got to see and explore Adelaide, but I think Melbourne has more to offer.
Days 8-10 – Mount Remarkable – I headed north from Adelaide driving along the coast looking at the beaches, and then further north into flatter, drier lands, passing inlet ports. After a grocery stop in Port Pirie and four hours of driving, I arrived at Mambray Creek Campground in Mount Remarkable National Park. I’ve found that most national parks have clean, well-kept facilities, despite often charging a higher price than other campsites, so I was happy with what I got. I scouted out my plans for the next day and relaxed at my campsite.
I got an early start and drove an hour to Alligator Gorge, a beautiful rock formation, with a hike down into the narrows of the gorge, and them back up to several view points. It wasn’t as long as I expected, so I had plenty of time to drive another half hour north to Port Augusta to have a look around, and then drive back to my campsite. I then walked through the campsite and did a loop to the local cemetery and remains of the old homestead in the park. Just before sunset, I did my third walk of the day, to the peak above my campsite, with magnificent views of the whole national park, and beautiful flora and fauna along the way. Lots of activity for the day deserved a well earned beer and dinner. This was the furthest north and west I would heading, so now it was time to head back.
Day 11 – Barossa Valley – One of the best know wine regions in all of Australia, I drove south and inland to the Barossa Valley. I stopped along the way at Port Germein, the longest wooden jetty in Australia and perhaps the Southern Hemisphere; this is the kind of excitement I was up to. Once in wine country I had a wander around the town of Tanunda, and then drove to Truro, where I ended up having dinner and chatting with the locals at the very quaint pub, and then staying the night in their back yard. In the morning I headed to two wine tastings at Seppletfield and Grant Burge wineries, known for their fortified wines, but for the most part were a random selections amongst the dozens of wineries in the area. I didn’t plan to stay long, so after adding a few bottles of wine to the car I was on my way.
Day 12 – Port Elliott – Because I enjoyed my stay so much the first time, I stayed for another night at the same caravan park in Port Elliott. Most of my time was spent at the beach or relaxing at my campsite, plus exploring more of the town. The bakery there is apparently well-known through the state, plus there was an American hot dog stand. So beautiful scenery and good food, I once again enjoyed my stay there, and would recommend the whole peninsula area to any visitors.
Days 13-14 – Narrung Jetty – Because of all of the driving I’d been doing the last week, I wanted a chance to relax, so I headed back to Narung, and spent a full day relaxing. If only I knew how much driving I’d be doing in the next couple of months, this would pale in comparison. So I just spent the full day doing nothing besides reading, journaling, napping, and relaxing.
Days 15-17 – Mount Gambier – Continuing further south, nearly at the Victoria border, I stayed at the Pine Country Caravan Park in Mount Gambier. Highlights included the blue lake, which true to its name, has the richest, bluest water I’ve ever seen. I climbed what had once been a volcano and walked around the craters edge. In town is a cenote, or underground garden in a sinkhole, which was a gorgeous scene of palm trees and hydrangeas. I went swimming in a smaller blue lake, which is less vibrant but still beautiful, and is kept at 17 degrees (Celsius of course) all year, which felt lovely compared to how hot it had been. It was so enjoyable that I came back for a second dip. I really enjoyed the Mount Gambier area and my accommodation, and would revisit that area again.
Day 18 – Geelong – I cut what would have been a very long drive in half by stopping in Geelong for the last night of my trip. I stayed at Bunjil’s Lookout, a free campsite where I had previously stayed. I did some shopping and eating in Torquay and Geelong, another area that I really enjoy right on the ocean and bay. You get wonderful beaches, and big enough towns, but also just far enough away from Melbourne.
Day 19 – Beechworth – And after two and a half weeks, I was back to Northeast Victoria. For some reason, despite being a relatively short trip, it felt very long. I think perhaps because it wasn’t high on my priority list, but I felt like I needed to take advantage of having the time to travel. So it almost felt like a chore rather than thirsting for adventure. South Australia is an absolutely beautiful state, and often disregarded in favor of the eastern states. I’m glad I got to see some of the state’s highlights, and hope to visit again, hopefully driving through on my way to Western Australia.
I wanted to make it back to Beechworth so that I could spend Christmas and New Year’s with my boyfriend, before embarking on another travel adventure. I was so happy and grateful to be included in his family’s celebrations, but made me miss home even more, as this was my third December away. He’s been a great partner these past few months, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.