Over the last two days we have driven north along the Limestone Coast Region of South Australia as we travelled from Mount Gambier to the seaside town of Victor Harbor. On the way, we made a number of divergences to a variety of scenic places and enjoyed some interesting scenery.
On the very first part of our trip we travelled through kilometre after kilometre of pine plantations. These trees are used for both timber and paper production. I thought that I was seeing things at one point as a camel suddenly appears in front of us we were rounding a curve in the road. However, it was nothing to worry about, it was on a farm that raised camels for their milk.
Just north of Mount Gambier is the town off Tantanoola – home of the myth off the Tantanoola Tiger. It is claimed that the first sighting of the Tantanoola tiger occurred in 1883 when a young man riding near the town claimed he saw a large shaggy animal leap over a fence with a sheep in its jaws. Over the next few years, there were many reports of missing sheep in the area and some suggested that the sheep had become the prey of the missing tiger. There was an on-going level of hysteria. Children were escorted to school by men with guns. People refused to leave their homes at night. Loaded shotguns were carried by virtually everyone. Eventually a local bushman managed to shoot a large wild dog in 1895 and the loss of sheep suddenly ceased. Today, the only evidence of a tiger is the one on the roof of the pub.
A long stretch of this coast sits within the Canunda National Park. It covers an area of 9359 hectares and is a coastal park characterised by huge sand dunes which are covered by silky tea trees and coastal wattle. There are a number of access points. In an ordinary car, you can enter from Southend but most access, and certainly those attempting the sand dunes and beaches, require a 4WD. The main reasons for visiting the park are the excellent beach and bushwalking. The rich birdlife and the ability to surf or snorkel although the coast is known to be dangerous.
At Southend, at the southern end of Rivoli Bay there is a very pretty scenic drive that takes you around a headland with spectacular views of the coast.
It was windy and cool with showers threatening, but back near the town (village) we found a sheltered spot by the pier for a cuppa.
At the Northern end of the bay, Beachport gave us some views out to sea. With a strong wind, the waves were pounding heavily onto the shore making a very impressive sight. The northern section of the national park is characterised by limestone cliffs, sea stacks, offshore reefs and low, dense scrub.
This coastline is generally backed by sand dunes with low lying marshy areas behind. Many large drains have been dug to allow water to drain into the sea but the doozy of all drains is at Woakwine Cutting. It’s probably Australia’s biggest one-man engineering feat.
The McCourt family moved into the Woakwine area in the 1880s and soon realised that without richer land to compliment the rocky high country, living on the land would be difficult. As a result, in 1957, Mr Murray McCourt decided to “have a go” at constructing a channel from the swamp through the range to Lake George in order to drain a large swamp on his property behind the Woakwine range. The cutting was made by just two men using a D7 bulldozer. It took three years to finish.
We were at Robe for a late lunch and thought we could have a picnic in the park by the shore. It was a rather bleak lunch with the wind blowing strongly and rain only a short time away. A part of Robe’s history during the Victorian Gold rush of the 1850’s saw it landing hundreds of Chinese miners who were making their way to the goldfields.The Victorian colony had instigated expensive taxes on immigrant Chinese miners so the astute shipowners offloaded them at Robe, in SA, forcing them to walk over 400 km through bleak and inhospitable country to the goldfields around Bendigo and Ballarat.
Robe now has many historic buildings and could easily be mistaken for a real life colonial architectural museum.
Our overnight stop was in a nondescript motel at Kingston SE (the SE suffix distinguishes it from another town named Kingston that exists on the Murray River). This is the home of the Giant Lobster.
It was a cold and wet night. It was the night of King Charles coronation so to enable Jill to watch to all on TV, I took a walk down the road to the local Fish and Chip Shop. Along with a bottle of wine and a seafood dinner pack, we watched as Charles was crowned and the soldiers put on a wonderful displalay of marching and drill.
Most off our drive to Victoria Harbor today was along the Coorong. I understand that this is an aboriginal word meaning something like ‘muddy’. It’s actually a long chain of brackish lakes that are trapped behind the coastal sand dunes.
We came across a small settlement called Salt Creek. We had been looking forward to getting there for many kilometres as all the distance indicators showed just how much further on it would be. Unsurprisingly there was nothing there except a few houses and a creek with reeds and saltbush on its banks. The sole commercial enterprise was Bob’s Coffee Van. It was a very welcome stop for hit was s to get re-caffienated but hardly the bustling centre of town.
This area has a low annual rainfall. Sheep stations are enormous with a low carrying capacity and salt pans can be seen on both sides of the road, especially at the northern end. These are mostly dry but after a few days of rain, they now contain a few centimetres of water.
One lake, Pink Lake, is a bit deeper and appears quite pink when the sun shines on the water at a specific angle.
Pink lakes arise from a combination of factors, which include climate and hydrology of the land beneath them, in particular the level of salinity. Various forms of algae affects photosynthesis and the water takes on a pink colour.
The Coorong is the location of the movie ‘Storm Boy’ – a movie about a local boy and a pelican. We found one place where a pelican breeding ground was located. In true form for us, there wasn’t a pelican to be seen. However, a little further up the road we saw a large flock (Squadron??) of pelicans in the air. I guess that they were flying home.
Our day ended with us catching a ferry across the lower part of the Murray River at Wellington and then a drive around Lake Alexandria to our overnight destination at Victor Harbor.