A captivating coastline with the ocean in shades of blue rivalling a paint chart, and beaches to suit whatever your choice of water sport is. That is what you can expect along the southern Fleurieu Peninsula coastline that takes in the towns of Goolwa, Middleton and Port Elliot. All of these locations are popular surfing and body boarding destinations but they also have beaches perfect for families looking for active, outdoor, summer fun.
This is the last town on the Murray River before it reaches the Southern Ocean and the wide river makes the range of water sport options a big drawcard. Depending on conditions you can see sailing boats, fishing craft, kayaks, stand up paddle boarders and windsurfers enjoying this waterway, and they’re all easy to take part in, with great boat ramp facilities and river bank areas to set off from. In these areas there are also green public parks with playgrounds and BBQ facilities for families to use and make a day of fun on the water.
The beach at Goolwa is a long straight stretch of sand with constant waves rolling in so with the strong currents it’s best to swim where the beach is patrolled by surf lifesavers and swim within the inner surf zone. This leaves plenty of space for surfing and stand up paddle boarding for the experienced, and plenty of beach where the family can spread out. As well as the main beach carpark, there are a number of keyhole parking areas from Goolwa Beach towards Middleton, with walking tracks over the dunes to access the beach.
It’s a popular stretch of beach for walkers and is perfect for taking the dog for a run and beachcombing for shells and other treasures from the sea. Another option is to take a walk along the Encounter Bikeway which runs from Goolwa and all the way to Victor Harbor, a distance of around 30 kilometres. The bikeway is a shared path for walkers and cyclists and has many scenic sections along its length.
Following signs from Goolwa Beach you can take a pathway behind the dunes and in some parts on local roads, before it leads into an interesting winding boardwalk section which goes through a coastal Melaleuca forest. This 70 hectare Tokuremoar Reserve contains many endangered plants and is home to mobs of kangaroos which aren’t too shy to show themselves as you wander through. If you continue through the reserve you will come out at the edge of Middleton, where you can take a path down to the beach and walk back along the sand to Goolwa Beach, a nice round trip of around 5.5 kilometres.
As far as water sports go, if you can sit on it stand on it, be propelled by wind, paddle or wave, it happens at Middleton. As you drive into the town of Middleton you are greeted with a welcome to Middleton wall in the shape of a wave with a surfboard embedded in it, then there is the surf shop and a sculpture of a male and female surfer, leaving you in no doubt of this town’s main drawcard. That, and the annual visitation by whales during the winter months is its claim to fame.
This is one of the more popular surf spots in South Australia because of its proximity to Adelaide and due to easy access from the beach or off the rocky Middleton Point. It’s a great spot for spectators too with cliff top viewing over the water and surfers out there on any given day. The beach is a popular spot for kite surfers and windsurfers too and with small and consistent waves in certain parts, it’s a very popular beach for beginners to take surfing lessons.
Check out the local surf lessons, bike and board hire on your CamperMate app, as well as a heap of other tours and experiences to try on your next South Australian road trip.
You can catch some spectacular views if you take a scenic drive from east to west along Surfers Parade where the road follows the coast and has parking areas along the way to stop and capture the moment. From there you can weave your way around to the Esplanade and then Ocean Parade to keep appreciating the coastal views. The Encounter Bikeway also continues along this stretch of the coast before heading on to the next town, Port Elliot. The walk along here takes you past Basham Beach and through another conservation park. Following the coast on foot will bring you to Port Elliot and the stunning sweeping beach of Horseshoe Bay.
In Port Elliot, body boarders are more likely to be seen than surfers, with the eastern end of Horseshoe Bay near Commodore Point popular and around the headland to Knights Beach a well-known spot for experienced body boarders. The viewing areas on the rocky cliff tops around this part of the coast give incredible views to watch the brave ones take on the waves at these spots.
The safer end of Horseshoe Bay for swimming is at the western end where the surf lifesavers set up to monitor the beach. This is a really popular family beach with green park space for kids to play and a small jetty to try your luck at fishing.
One of the most picturesque walks to take in this area is the Harbourmasters walk which begins behind the jetty at Horseshoe Bay and after a short, steep uphill climb, follows the coast around the headland, passing a couple of small beach inlets on the way before ending at Knights Beach. The path is suitable for prams and walkers of all ages and fitness levels with bench seats to rest and take in the views along the way. This loop circuit walk is less than two kilometres long and shows off this spectacular coastline including the dolphins and seals that frequent the waters here.
These coastal towns are made for family fun outdoors so don’t forget to pack in the bikes, boards and walking shoes to enjoy Goolwa, Middleton and Port Elliot on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Goolwa is a little over 80 kilometres from Adelaide and the section of the Encounter Bikeway from Goolwa Beach to Port Elliot is around 13 kilometres one way.