Posted On 22 Mar 2024
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This entry is part 16 of 30 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#25




Kingston SE is famous for Larry the Lobster, who greets you as you enter from the north. Standing 17 metres high to apparently advertise a restaurant, he’s perfect for a photo. I read his history with some amusement; when he was being built, the measurements were supposedly confused between inches and metres, which explains his size. I’m not sure what use a 17 inch crustacean would be, though…

Larry has also become the symbol of the limestone coast. This stretches down the South East of South Australia.

It is famous for its seafood and wine industries. As we all know, riding a motorcycle is great for contemplation and getting away from the world and this destination is perfect for that. There are none of the hills or sharply twisting roads that the Eastern states have in abundance. Instead the landscape is what draws you in. It starts at Meningie with the Coorong. The road meanders along the coast with dry salt pans, lagoons, large sand dunes and an inland sea. You follow this for about 60km till you hit Salt Creek, roughly halfway along the Coorong. At this stage you’ll be pulling over to look at a replica of an early oil drilling rig while you clean dead bugs from your visor. Be warned, these bugs will thunk, not ping off your helmet. My wiper was red with blood, not the usual little black spots. The remainder to Kingston is more open with large corridors of trees and scrub with pastures towards the end.

Next after Larry are the servos which have Sundial Park on the right. Stones with numbers are arranged in a half circle around a base with times of the year on them. You stand accordingly, and the time is shown by your shadow. Quite clever, I thought. There are a few wineries spread throughout this area so I stayed overnight and then found a gem the next day.

On the limestone coast road I stopped at Fowler Wines and talked to the owner, Ralph. We started chatting and before I knew it an hour had passed. I was interested in the running of a vineyard for a book I was writing and his knowledge of the industry, production and history of wine was astounding. In 1996 he was named winemaker of the year at the prestigious Adelaide wine show. If you like your wine I highly recommend you stop by and not only try some fine wine but learn about it too.

Kingston has the basics but if you’re looking for a stopover then head to Robe, another 40km on. Small lakes dot the entry to this town which has been set up for tourism – the main street shows that. There are many places to try the fresh, locally caught seafood, to sample wine from the local vineyards and to soak up the seaside life in general. You can fi sh from rocks, the beach or the wharf. Want to do something more? How about a fishing charter? I stopped at the local ice cream parlour, walked the main street then headed off to the sea life centre.

Hiding in the back streets, the local aquarium houses large examples of the local marine life. Seeing massive fish within arm’s reach vying to be fed was an experience. I spent 10 minutes just watching the cuttlefish constantly change colour.

I kept heading south after Robe and saw a sign that said Woakwine Cutting, so I pulled over for a look. This is an amazing example where a bloke sees a problem and then gets on with fixing it. A farmer had a swamp on his land and needed a solution. Two blokes, a tractor, 3 years and 276,000 cubic metres of soil later and the drain was in, the ground was dry. In 1957, mind you.

At 28 metres deep it looks as if a giant dragged a stick along the ground and carved out a trench.

The next town is Beachport. It is quite small but you’d be mad to miss it. I had breakfast at the local café in front of one of the longest jetties I’ve seen, but the scenic drive is what you’re here for.

Follow the signs that take you along the ridge of the coast on a road that rises and falls with many lookouts. It’s short but tight and the views of the waves crashing into the rocks and sand are a great way to break up the journey.

I stopped and walked along the rocks for a while, wishing I had a rod to cast.

Along this road is the Pool of Siloam, which is 7 times saltier than the ocean. Toilets and a change room are there so if you feel like floating your troubles away the water makes you extremely buoyant.

Millicent is the next major town, and here the landuse changes from pastures to pine forest. Look for the turnoff to the wind farm tourist drive. This road winds around and underneath one of the largest wind farms in the world, supplying one eighth of South Australia’s normal consumption. The blades span 33 metres and are 100 metres off the ground. I was lucky enough to be there on a windy day and could hear the turbines whirring as the blades sliced through the air. It was another example of man taming the environment. I couldn’t help but stare in amazement.

The land was obviously feeling jealous as I was heading for my stop in Mount Gambier when I spotted the sign for the Tantanoola caves. Situated right on the main road, they are an easy diversion. Apparently a young boy was out looking for rabbits with his ferret when it went down a hole and didn’t come back. After grabbing a candle and going in, he discovered this amazing cave. He showed his dad, and within 2 weeks they were charging people to take a look. Many years later occupational health and safety took its toll resulting in the caves being turned over to the government. Good thing is they made it wheelchair accessible so at least they didn’t get that wrong. It’s not as big as the caves in Naracoorte but it is so stunning that they hire it out for weddings. Well worth a stop.

I spent the next two days in Mount Gambier which has so much around it that I recommend you stop in the information centre on the highway, incorporated in a replica of an old sailing ship. As far as riding goes, Mount Gambier is situated on the slope of an extinct volcano that is only 4,500 years old. I spent over an hour riding around the famous Blue Lake and adjoining craters. The views and landscape were so green it was like being in a mixture of local fauna and a botanical garden. The cave garden in the centre of the city is also worth a look.

I couldn’t tell you which pub to visit as I lost count of how many I saw. I met up with an old friend and after six hours at the pub I staggered to the nearby shop for a curry. Not feeling adventurous I ordered a mild dish and when asked if I wanted it hot must have had a brain fade and said yes. Needless to say I got through half of it and had a pretty average night’s sleep.

The next morning I sought out a chemist for some relief as my stomach seemed to be filled with acid for some reason, and then headed north for the first time this trip. Massive pine plantations surrounded me on either side as logging trucks made their way back and forth. The town of Nangwarry has a forestry and logging museum which details the history in the local area. I had a deadline to meet so that’s on my to-do list for next time.

After the pine forest is the town of Penola and the start of the Coonawarra wine region. Vast fields of vineyards stretch out either side for a 15 km section that houses almost 30 wineries. Yes, most have cellar doors. Most wine regions have you turning down obscure country roads trying to find them, but these are right there on the main road.

After the previous night’s efforts I had no hesitation in pushing on to Naracoorte as I had a cave tour to try and make.

After the vineyards I was back to pastures and it amazed me how much the landscape was changing in such a short time. This stretch saw me hitting top gear and not dropping down until I had to stop. Normally this would be boring but with the scenery changing so much it was great to sit back and watch. I unloaded into my motel room at Naracoorte, then headed out for the caves. There are different caves and tours to go on but I really wanted to see the fossil cave.

Heading 10km south I came to the cave centre to find that the tour had been booked out. After giving the guide my best devastated look, she squeezed me in. These caves were found by an Irish farmer who was looking for bat poo to fertilise his crops. The caves have been excavated to allow you to walk around in them but you can clearly see the tiny gaps they were squeezing through initially. I would like to express my gratitude to these intrepid explorers for allowing us to experience these amazing caves. After having the lights turned out and told they used to do this by candlelight I would also like to say the border between bravery and insanity must be very thin indeed!

Holes in the ground would drop unsuspecting animals into these caves which sealed over in time, giving us these amazing skeletons of animals that no longer exist. It was a hot day when I went and the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees within metres of entering. This particular tour took an hour and I was amazed at how far we walked underground which was 20 metres deep at one stage. It would be a bit pricey to visit all the caves but I am definitely coming back to check out the ones I missed.

The next day I headed home to Adelaide along the freeway which, as we know, is to be avoided at all costs but it gave me time to ponder about my journey. As motorcyclists we are very aware that it’s all about the ride and not the destination. I’m so jealous of the Eastern states with the mountains and rainforests that I’ve already told my wife we are retiring over there, but this ride has got me thinking. We are always blind to what’s in our own backyard to the point that we are constantly looking at the horizon dreaming of the unknown. Go and have a think about what you’ve always taken for granted near you but always put off for another time. You might be surprised.

You can see a video of my ride at watch?v=7R5p45LsH4s or search ‘Michael Walley motorcycle’.

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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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