The Limestone Coast delivers one jaw-dropping natural wonder after the next – from sunken gardens, the otherworldly Piccaninnie Ponds and the striking Blue Lake of Mount Gambier to the ancient fossils found in Naracoorte Caves and the white-sand beaches that line the coast, the list of awe-inspiring things to do is endless. And just when you thought the Limestone Coast couldn’t possibly offer more, find yourself in Penola making your way through the delectable drops of the Coonawarra wine region’s many cellar doors before visiting the seaside town of Robe to dine on the state’s best seafood. Find all this and more in our guide to the Limestone Coast below.
The Limestone Coast stretches along the south-east coastline of South Australia from Coorong National Park to the border of Victoria. The best way to explore it is via an extended road trip that takes in its headlining attractions from Robe (3.5 hours’ drive from Adelaide), Beachport and Naracoorte to Penola and Coonawarra to Mount Gambier. Extend your road trip to the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island to complete the iconic Southern Ocean Drive road trip. You can also fly direct to Mount Gambier from Adelaide with Rex.
The Coonawarra wine region is home to more than 24 cellar doors and is renowned for producing rich and vibrant cabernet sauvignon and shiraz wines from the grapes grown in its unique terra rossa soil (red soil made from the clay of weathered limestone). Start your wine trail through the region at Wynn Coonawarra Estate, DiGiorgio Family Wines, and Hollick Estates.
Robe’s terra rossa soil combined with its cool climate location on the coast produces premium chardonnay and shiraz wines that are unique to others in the region. The seaside town is also home to a couple of cellar doors worthy of a visit. Find Karatta Wines cellar door in downtown Robe in the historic Wilsons Saddlery Building. Governor Robe Wine’s cellar door is housed within Attic House on the main street of Robe – enjoy the local art on display, cheese platters and tastings.
The Limestone Coast is an epicurean delight – well known for its fresh seafood, boutique wines, dairy products, lamb and beef. Stocking up on all that’s on offer while you’re in the region is a must. Start with the delicious range of cheese, yoghurt and farm-fresh Jersey milk available at Robe Dairy. Sink your teeth into the award-winning Wagyu beef in the Tasting Room at Mayura Station for the ultimate paddock-to-plate experience. Pick up the best seasonal and local produce from the Limestone Coast Food Farmers’ Markets in Robe and Naracoorte, or visit the Mount Gambier Farmers’ Market. And when in Robe, stop by Robe Town Brewery to sample a craft beer flight and take a tour; it’s also home to the only wood-fired brewing kettle in Australia.
No trip to the Limestone Coast is complete without exploring the many geological wonders of Mount Gambier. Visit between November and February to see the magnificent Blue Lake change from a grey blue to a vibrant turquoise-cobalt blue. The 72-metre-deep watery wonder is held within a crater formed by the eruption of an extinct volcano – one of two in Mount Gambier. Walk the 3.7-kilometre trail around the perimeter of the lake to admire it up close from one of the many vantage points.
Mount Gambier is also home to the enchanting Umpherston Sinkhole, a sunken oasis of hanging vines and lush gardens planted within the crater of a collapsed limestone cave. For an entirely different experience, snorkel or dive the glass-like waters of Kilsby Sinkhole – a 65-metre-deep limestone cavity located on a family farm; then head to Piccaninnie Ponds within the national park to find the three natural spring diving locations: the First Pond (10 metres deep), the Cathedral (35 metres deep), and the Gigantic Chasm (100 metres deep).
The World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves are one of the world’s most important fossil sites. Let a guide take you through the underground chambers to view the stalactites and stalagmites, fossils and limestone formations. Spot the giant marsupials that have been recreated into life-sized models based on the fossilised remains of the extinct animals in the Wonambi Fossil Centre.
Travel back in time along Penola’s Petticoat Lane past the working herb and vegetable garden with rose and lavender plantings and step inside the 19th century historic timber and stone cottages that still stand today. Visit the Penola Coonawarra Visitor Information Centre to organise access to the charming cottages to uncover the stories and experiences of the past generations that occupied them.
A treasure trove of sandy beaches and clear blue waters await you along the Limestone Coast. Head to Long Beach in Robe to drive your car onto the sand and mark your territory for the day. You’re spoilt for choice in Beachport: for snorkelling, sandboarding and calm waters visit Salmon Hole; Glenn Point for idyllic swimming spots and top-notch fishing; and for consistent swells make haste to Surf Beach. Or for total seclusion, explore the many beaches of Southend, including those found within the northern end of the Canunda National Park (check safety conditions before swimming).
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Devour your way through the Limestone Coast with a never-ending list of dining options to whet your appetite. The Tasting Room makes it to the top of the list for meat lovers thanks to its award-winning Wagyu beef – sourced straight from the paddocks of Mayura Station where the restaurant is set – and its interactive dining experience with the chef.
Wine and fine dining go hand-in-hand and the Coonawarra wine region is home to a number of memorable culinary experiences. Start at Upstairs restaurant on Hollick Estate. Enjoy uninterrupted views over the Hollick “Neilson’s Block” vineyard as you make your way through a degustation or a selection of dishes of your choosing from the al a carte menu. Alternatively, opt for a lunch-only affair at Fodder – a restaurant and cellar door in one. Sip on Ottelia wines as you dine from a seasonal menu of small share plates built around the fresh produce available in Fodder’s onsite garden and from local suppliers.
You’ll also find a glut of restaurants, cafes and cellar doors a stone’s throw from Coonawarra in Penola. Seek out the white weatherboard church-cum-restaurant in town for a meal at Pipers of Penola. The husband and wife duo, Simon and Erika Bowen, know how to serve up delectable combinations that make the local produce truly sing. The seasonal menu can feature everything from Riverine eye fillet to Coffin Bay clams and Spencer Gulf prawns.
Robe is equally blessed with edible delights, especially those sourced fresh from the sea. For the most memorable seafood meal in town head to Sails restaurant on the main drag of Robe. The seasonal menu features everything from Southern Rock lobster and crayfish to melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef – and their crowd-pleasing fish and chips. While in Robe you can find your caffeine hit at the multi-award winning roasting house, Mahalia Coffee – also on the main street. Pick up a freshly-baked pastry from the display cabinet while you’re there, or stay for a light breakfast or lunch.
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Find a number of first-rate caravan and tourist parks dotted along the Limestone Coast. Discovery Parks Robe is a multi-award winning option located in the midst of all the action in the seaside town of Robe – close to Long Beach, Little Dip National Park, Robe Lakes and Robe Town Brewery. Opt for the powered sites at Pine Country Caravan Park near the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier to transport yourself to a tranquil country park that abounds in wide open green spaces just outside of town – individual campfires are available to hire and the park is pet friendly all year round. Blue Lake Holiday Park is another option in Mount Gambier located between the two crater lakes on 27 acres of landscaped gardens with accommodation options that run the gamut of villas, bungalows, cottages, retreats and powered and unpowered sites for camping and caravans.
Sleep among centuries-old red gums in the lush glamping bell tents of Bellwether Wines located on the vineyards in Coonawarra within metres of the cellar door. Alternatively, pitch a tent on one of the six powered or unpowered camping sites available to book on the property. Find communal campfires for use, a camp kitchen to cook the fresh produce you can pick from the onsite garden, and bathroom facilities.
Bed down in one of the many cosy accommodation options found nestled among the vines of the Coonawarra wine region. Stay in the three-bedroom Winemakers House at The Blok Coonawarra to be within walking distance to many cellar doors, make use of the fully equipped kitchen, and enjoy the wood fire in winter. Alternatively, find The Menzies Retreat set on Yalumba’s Coonawarra Estate; the bed and breakfast boasts an open fireplace, kitchen and is fully self-contained. Opt for A Coonawarra Experience if you’d prefer to be in town – the two-bedroom cottage is located in Penola within easy driving distance to the cellar doors and walking distance to restaurants, cafes and bars.
Choose from an abundance of luxurious accommodation properties along the coast. The Bush Inn in Robe has been thoughtfully restored to maintain the original charm and bones of the original 1852 cottage while seamlessly integrating stylish modern updates to accommodate up to nine guests across four bedrooms. For a romantic couples escape, opt to stay in French country style at Honeyfield Cottage located in the hinterland of the Mount Benson wine region just outside of Robe – comes complete with a stone open fireplace, courtyard, spa and barbeque. Find The Barn further along the coast in Mount Gambier set within five acres of English-style landscaped gardens; offering a range of luxurious suites and rooms that feature Sealy Dynasty plush king beds, Caesarstone bathrooms and private patios – and you can dine at the award-winning Barn Steakhouse that shares the property.
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