Our first South Australian holiday

It’s a very hot day here in the Barossa and I can’t help but wish the warm weather had appeared this time last month when we headed off to Victor Harbor for our “beach” holiday!

View from our apartment in Victor Harbor
View from our apartment in Victor Harbor

Not long after arriving in Tanunda, it suddenly seemed like people around me were booking summer holidays. Fresh from 3.5 years of regular breaks (due to the need to escape Hanoi’s pollution, chaos and weather), I figured we had better book a beach break too. As it turned out, we now have a lifestyle where we don’t need to escape so often and we probably didn’t need the expense of a holiday, but the idea of the beach sounded great.

Unfortunately we left Tanunda in pouring rain, and I tried to tell myself it would improve. Unfortunately the weather forecasts proved right, and apart from a few beautiful days, we shivered through most of the week away.

Still beautiful on a stormy day - Victor Harbor
Still beautiful on a stormy day – Victor Harbor

But we were determined to make the most of it. We had a nice apartment with a view of the harbour and the steam train going past a couple of times a day. It was only a quick walk to the centre of Victor Harbor so we visited many of the tourist attractions. And with the Fleurieu Peninsula being rich in food and wine, we of course enjoyed some day trips to taste wine in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek (which I’ll post separately).

Here are some of the highlights of our time in Victor Harbor:

Harbor or Harbour?

Victor Harbor was a former whaling port so there is a lot of history around the whaling industry. It was interesting to realise that while Australian’s generally use the English spelling of “harbor” Victor Harbor is still spelt without the “u” – unless you’re on the train.

An explanation of the spelling of Victor Harbor
An explanation of the spelling of Victor Harbor

Steam Train to Goolwa

Watching the steam train go past our apartment every day, we had to go for a ride. Unfortunately we chose a freezing cold day for the trip to Goolwa, so after a quick beer at the Steam Exchange brewery it was back on the train back to Victor Harbor.

Craft beers at the brewery in Goolwa
Craft beers at the brewery in Goolwa


We did visit Goolwa again later in the week and found a beautiful beach – although the first time I have seen a warning about snakes on a beach!

Goolwa Beach
Goolwa Beach
Rough surf and strong current are fairly normal at an Australian beach…but snakes?

SA Whale Centre

A great rainy day activity and a so well set up for the kids. While the boys weren’t particularly keen about posing for a photo in the shark cage, they loved the digging for fossils activity and the kids corner.

Shark exhibit at the Whale Centre
Shark exhibit at the Whale Centre
Great kids activities at the Whale Centre - digging for "fossils"
Great kids activities at the Whale Centre – digging for “fossils”

Granite Island, Horse-drawn tram and the Penguin Centre

We left this excursion until the end of our week and were lucky to have some good weather, although it started out quite cool. The horse drawn tram was great fun and having walked across the causeway myself, I realised that while the tram was running this was the best option with kids as the “footpath” on it is quite narrow. The penguin centre was amazing. The main keeper Dorothy was so passionate and worked their 6 days a week. She knew all the 10-11 penguins by name. I was really surprised and sad to hear that they are only allowed to care for the penguins and are not permitted to breed the penguins. This is despite the population dropping to around 40 in recent years, no doubt due to decreasing fish stocks.

Horse drawn tram to Granite Island
Horse drawn tram to Granite Island

The penguins themselves are gorgeous and it was the first time I had been close enough to see that their fur is actually a shiny blue colour in the water. I was also blown away by these tiny little things devouring whole fish. Well worth and hour to listen to Dorothy and watch the antics of these beautiful endangered creatures.



After a windy walk around and up to the top of Granite Island, we enjoyed beers and ice creams as the sun came out and we were even treated to a bit of a show by some dolphins. It was a beautiful spot and we were disappointed to hear that the lease on the restaurant and kiosk had not been renewed. It really should be a premier tourist attraction for Victor Harbor, so hopefully this changes and someone can come in and make the most of this beautiful location.

View from the deck at Granite Island
View from the deck at Granite Island

Beach and bakery at Port Elliot

The beach at Port Elliot and the fish and chips from Flying Fish Cafe on the beach were my favourite. It is a really pretty little town, about 5 minutes from Victor Harbor and would be my pick for our next beach holiday in that part of South Australia. Lots of beautiful old buildings, great shops and restaurants and amazing views. Thanks to Instagram, we discovered the Port Elliot bakery and made several trips back for the most incredible donuts. The boys also had a great time in the surf, although us grown-ups decided it was way too cold to swim!

Beach at Port Elliot
Beach at Port Elliot
Old Council Chambers in Port Elliot - just one of many of buildings in this gorgeous seaside town
Old Council Chambers in Port Elliot – just one of many of buildings in this gorgeous seaside town
View from Port Elliot back towards Victor Harbor and Granite Island
Amazing donut from the Port Elliot bakery
Amazing donut from the Port Elliot bakery

Drive to Cape Jervis

One afternoon, I decided we should go for a drive to Cape Jervis where the ferry takes people across to Kangaroo Island. I probably underestimated how far this drive around the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula would take but it was worth it for some beautiful views starting at the Bluff near Encounter Bay and heading down to Cape Jervis, glimpses of Kangaroo Island and back past through Carrickalinga and Yankalilla.

View from Encounter Bay towards Victor Harbor
Ferry to Kangaroo Island
Ferry to Kangaroo Island

Relaxing with the family

Although the weather meant we weren’t on the beach every day as I’d imagined, it was great just to spend time together as a family. One of the best things about our location was being across the road from the harbour and having 2 great playgrounds so afternoons usually involved a trip to the park while I did 30 minutes of exercise as part of the World Vision 30-for-30 challenge that I was doing to support child and maternal health.

Great spot for an afternoon run
Great spot for an afternoon run

So while we weren’t on the beach each day as I’d imagined, it was great exploring a new part of South Australia. I thought we’d actually covered quite a lot of ground, until I looked at the map of South Australia againand realised there are many more adventures out there waiting for us

Was there anything we missed in Victor Harbor? Any recommendations on where we should visit next?


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I started this blog almost 3 years ago when we first arrived in the Barossa Valley. I've always wanted to write and I wanted to share my experience of my career change, our move to this beautiful wine region and discovering my next adventure. After 15 years as a public servant working in Canberra, Beijing, China and Hanoi, Vietnam, I decided it was time for a career change and more importantly, a lifestyle change. In 2014, we left Hanoi and headed to the Barossa Valley in South Australia with a dream of a more fulfilling lifestyle in one of Australia's premier food and wine regions. My husband and I both work in the wine industry - where my job could be described as anything but making the wine. In 2017, I decided to wind-up the consulting business I established in 2015 and focus on learning as much as I could about the wine industry and writing - both on this blog and a memoir of our time in Vietnam. This blog is an opportunity for me to share my writing - about everything from motherhood, to career change, fitness, travel and our vine-change/career change experience.

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