Fleurieu Peninsula

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You’ve ‘done’ the Fleurieu Peninsula a few times and you reckon you know it all. Horse Tram to Granite Island – check. Wandered Goolwa Wharf and seen the Murray River near the mouth – got it.  Climbed The Bluff for delectable views up and down the coast – no worries.   But here are three experiences you might have missed. Located about 90 minutes south of Adelaide, the Peninsula is a favourite playground of folks from the big city as well as grey nomads who come to this part of the world for the cool sea breezes and the relaxed lifestyle. So let’s go a bit deeper into what the peninsula has to offer.

1) Beacon 19 – Gateway to the Coorong

Beacon 19 – it’s the rather pedestrian and mundane name for the start of a delightful short walk that reveals the splendors and beauty of the northernmost end of Coorong National Park.

And why visit the Coorong? Quite simply, on its seaward side it reveals a seemingly endless expanse of beach and roaring surf, while on the other edge of the pencil-thin Younghusband Peninsula, it provides a tranquil retreat for myriad species of birdlife and seals. The park is so highly regarded around the globe that it enjoys the coveted listing as a RAMSAR wetland of international significance.  

You get to Beacon 19 by driving from Goolwa along Barrage Rd until you spot a right turn just a few metres from road’s end. Follow this road to the start of the walking track that takes you in leisurely style through the dunes to the sea.

Spring and autumn are ideal for exploring this gentle 20 minute one-way track, laid out on weathered duckboarding. Vivid yellow wattle flanks you on both sides and sundry wildflowers glisten in shades of orange, green and purple. As you approach the sea, note the very old Aboriginal middens on either side of the track. From here the track leads up one last dune until you gaze upon the vast and churning expanse of the Southern Ocean. As you survey this sweeping scene, remember the next landfall south is Antarctica.

Birdlovers will delight in the species found on both sides of the peninsula. Seaward, we watched as a trio of pied oystercatchers fed on tiny crustaceans at shore’s edge while massive waves crashed just metres away. In more tranquil waters on the landward side, fat pelicans and stately black swans cruised haughtily, and the seals mostly just slept.  On a mild spring afternoon it’s sheer magic.

2) Ingalalla Falls – Cascades in the Bush

Fair enough if you complain about rain when you are on holiday. It  undermines roads, floods gardens and washes out many a picnic or wedding.

But on the plus side, it has delighted those of us who are unashamedly waterfall tragics. As soon as I spot the word “falls” on a map, I’m there in a flash. Ingalalla Falls is just off Hay Flat Road, easy to get to from Range Road near Victor Harbor and well marked. It looked promising, so pack the camera and sandwiches and journey west.

You’ll walk less than 15 minutes from the car park to the falls, but it had been raining so heavily in the preceding days that the track proved muddy and slippery. As well, water was flowing downstream in such volume across the weir that crossing it meant wading through an ankle-deep flow.

Like all good waterfalls, you hear it long before you arrive. It was roaring when we first viewed the lower cascade. Ingalalla Falls is not especially high, so the chief attraction is its double tier and the way the water appears seemingly out of nowhere. Several young families were already there and one couple looked set to clamber over some wet rocks and climb to a higher vantage point to enjoy the upper falls.

Not for me, thanks. Instead I scaled a nice dry three-metre rock on the left, reaching a fine albeit cramped vantage point to photograph the raging torrent from a higher vantage point.

The stroll back to the car park is decorated with hundreds of wild lilies alongside the riverbank. Back at the car park and it was time for sandwiches and tea at a sheltered table. Just as well since, you guessed it, the rains abruptly returned.

3)  The Old Talisker Silver Lead Mine

Searching for gold near Cape Jervis in 1862, the McLeod brothers instead found lead and silver, lots of it. They named this expanse of thick scrub Talisker after their ancestral home on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

Today this abandoned mine with its brick structures and enormous deep shafts provides an easy and quite delightful half-day outing, a place where you can appreciate regional history alongside native forest and springtime wildflowers.

In its heyday, Talisker was a thriving operation worked by an army of experienced Cornish and German miners. The surface ore soon ran out, so the Cornishmen toiled to create deep shafts for ore to feed the smelters.  They developed nearby Silverton for its 300 inhabitants and soon it had a bank, hotel, doctor, chapel, stores and a school. Silverton was even a stop on the Cobb and Co stage.

Nothing remains of the town today. On the marked walk, you’ll discover the eerie ruins of a furnace and crushing operations, along with rusted pipes and machinery. Thankfully the deep mines shafts, immense gashes in the ground, are well-fenced. Fall in one and you’d never be found.

If you are photographing here, beware of sunny days when shadows and well-lit elements clash. A mild overcast day would be ideal.  There’s a three kilometer loop track (a few short steep bits) with excellent interpretive signs explaining how the precious ore was extracted and what happened when it ran out. Covering some 211 ha, the conservation park is signposted just off Talisker Road at Main South Road near Cape Jervis.

Those hardworking Cornish miners and Welsh smeltermen helped develop South Australia’s mining industry here and in the Mount Lofty Ranges at places like Wheal Gawler (shades of ABC-TV’s Poldark!). A Talisker visit is a great way to honour their legacy.