Victor Harbor

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Victor Harbor for grey nomads
The Cockle Train wends its way along the scenic coastline Pic: Graham Scheer

Long before grey nomads began arriving at the South Australian town of Victor Harbor, the wonders of its turquoise waters and stunning views had been well and truly discovered by an earlier breed of holidaymaker.

Back in the late 19th century – at approximately the same time as the first ‘clunky’ caravan was being invented – leisure seekers from nearby Adelaide flocked to the Fleurieu Peninsula playground for much the same reasons as caravanners and motorhomers do today.

Before them all though came Captain Matthew Flinders of the British sloop Investigator and Captain Nicholas Baudin of the French ship Le Geographé who were the first Europeans to sight Victor Harbor more than 200 years ago.

It soon became a major location for the whalers and sealers who worked the waters of the Southern Ocean, and a whaling station was built. The town, which now has a population of around 14,000, grew to be the main port of the South Australian coast and all goods travelling up and down the Murray River passed through it.

While Victor Harbor is now very much a modern service centre boasting a wide range of facilities including a number of excellent caravan parks, a lot of its charm still lies in the history clearly seen in its many early colonial buildings.

A marked heritage walk allows visitors to take in some of the best examples, including the Customs House (1865), the sites of the early whaling stations, the beautiful St Augustine’s Church of England (1869) and Reads Wool Mill (1868).

The Encounter Coast Discovery Centre located in the Old Customs and Station Master’s House is the perfect place to learn about the early history of the town and the Fleurieu Peninsula. And then, of course, there is the South Australian Whale Centre which charts the significance of whales, dolphins, seals and penguins in the region.

The town overlooks the beautiful Encounter Bay with a coastline featuring the huge rock outcrop of The Bluff and Granite Island, both of which are made of super-hard granite, formed 500 million years ago from molten rock.

The 100-metre high Bluff offers excellent views over Encounter Bay and is one of many great spots in the area to see Southern Right Whales between May and October. This is also the site for a plaque memorialising the meeting of Nicholas Baudin and Matthew Flinders in 1802.

The town’s most iconic attraction – the horse-drawn tram service which travels along the heritage-listed causeway linking it to Granite Island – have recently resumed after urgent repairs were carried out.  Plans to build a new causeway have now been approved and the project is expected to be completed some time in 2021. The existing causeway will remain in operation during that time.

Also popular with grey nomads and other visitors are the guided penguin walks which are held on Granite Island every evening at dusk. Guides accompany small groups to watch Fairy Penguins arrive home after a busy day at sea. Another highlight for many visitors is to take a steam powered rail journey aboard the Cockle Train along the coast to Port Elliot and Goolwa.

The area, of course, also promises some stunning surf beaches, excellent walking trails, and a very popular farmers market every Saturday morning.

What more could a grey nomad want?

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