So you’ve conquered the Great Ocean Road, and it’s got your motor running. There’s no turning back now! Because just over the border, a whole new adventure awaits. From dramatic cliffs and coves to lush landscapes, storybook shipwrecks, world-class wine and a rich, volcanic wonderland, it’s time to explore a little more... Fasten your seatbelt and roll down those windows – we’re hitting the road on the best scenic drives in the Limestone Coast!
Five of the Best.
From cruising the coast to searching for sinkholes and rolling through red wine country, here’s five of the very best places to put your car (and your camera) through its paces…
1. Bowman Scenic Drive, Beachport.
With the salty air and Southern Ocean as your steward, an amble along the Bowman Scenic Drive delivers eye-candy in every direction. Linking some of the area’s most stunning coastal sights, this rambling 8-kilometre road is a genuine jaw-dropper, snaking its way through spectacular rugged cliff faces, pristine beaches, and glistening white sand dunes. In fact, many who’ve driven it will be quick to tell you this iconic strip is almost like a mini-Great Ocean Road in itself, and with loads of handy pull-off points, there’s ample time for a panoramic picnic enroute.
After making your way past the historic Cape Martin Lighthouse and Penguin Island (pack your binoculars to see the locals) first stop is the legendary Salmon Hole beach, where turquoise waters are fringed by towering dunes and curving white sands, making it a magnet for beachgoers and anglers in any season. In cool green contrast, the mysterious waters of the Pool of Siloam are seven times saltier than the sea, making a swim here both buoyant and therapeutic.
Further on, Post Office Rock ('Posties' to locals) packs a punch, with a stunning 300-metre-long beach primed for swimming, fishing and surfing. If you time it right, low tide also delivers a unique opportunity to stroll out to the little island, with rock pools delivering a dreamy dip to remember.
2. Woakwine Range Wind Farm Tourist Drive.
Following the southerly breeze inland, the Woakwine Range Wind Farm Tourist Drive is something totally different, blending the beauty of the lush landscape with an up-close look at clean, green technology in action. Weaving its way past 129 enormous turbines, this picturesque 30-kilometre drive skirts the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, while connecting to some of the area’s most stunning icons.
Standing up to 100 metres tall with blade spans of 39 metres, these towering giants dominate the local skyline, generating enough power to supply around one-eighth of South Australia's total energy needs. With rich agricultural and dairy land spilling out to the east and frontage to the spectacular Canunda National Park to the west, you’ll find lush pastures backed by dramatic dunes and beaches, with South Australia’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Bonney, also stretching along a good portion of the route.
At the nearby Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park, you’ll find a subterranean stunner, with prehistoric stalactites and wedding cake formations and a kaleidoscope of peach, pink, brown and cream awaiting anyone who ventures down under.
3. Admella Discovery Trail.
Stretching between Robe and Port MacDonnell (and across to Portland over the border), the unforgettable Admella Discovery Trail follows 21 markers to unravel the tragic story of the SS Admella, wrecked off Carpenter Rocks in 1859. Resulting in 89 deaths after an incredible 8-day ordeal, it remains South Australia’s worst maritime disaster – making for a poignant, yet picturesque ramble along the coast.
Kicking off in the seaside village of Robe (or Port MacDonnell in reverse), the scene is well and truly set at the Old Customs House and Gaol (where you’ll find Admella’s old boiler plates) before heading south to Beachport and Millicent, both hiding relics in between pristine coves and beaches, and a rich pioneering past.
Ambling along to the spectacular caves, gardens and sinkholes of Mount Gambier (stay the night and stretch your legs at the iconic Blue Lake, it’s then onto the legendary Cape Banks Lighthouse to survey the scene of the tragedy, with views of Admella reef and the rusting wreck of the Pisces Star (1997), still serving as a reminder of these treacherous seas. Off-roaders will relish tackling the dramatic dunes and seascapes of Canunda National Park here before heading down to Nene Valley to stroll in the footsteps of survivors.
After surveying the stunning coastline around Cape Douglas, it’s onto the wild, windswept panoramas of Cape Northumberland, where ‘Dingley Dell’ (home to 19th century poet Adam Lindsay Gordon) and the barnacle-encrusted treasures of Port MacDonnell Maritime Museum draw the curtain on SS Admella’s tragic South Australian story. From here, continue your journey to Portland, where further artefacts await, or settle in for a lobster lunch with a view!
4. Coonawarra, via Riddoch Highway.
At just 27-kilometres long by two kilometres wide, Coonawarra is made for culinary cruising, with the historic township of Penola (home of Australia’s first Saint, Mary MacKillop) as your starting point. With lush vine-filled horizons befitting of its global reputation, a cruise along the flat and relatively straight stretch of the Riddoch Highway will reward you with unfettered access to some of Australia’s most famous wineries, with over 25 cellar doors scattered along this star-studded strip.
If you need a reminder of who they all are, pop by Coonawarra Wine Region’s website for the full rundown, but as you drive past the historic Wynns Coonawarra Estate, odds are you’ll recognise it from their legendary label (it’s also here that you can try your hand at Making Your Own Blend).
At Rymill Coonawarra, two duelling steeds stand guard over a multi-story winery that delivers stunning views of the surrounding estate and vineyards, while Brand’s Laira of Coonawarra showcases a cool, cosy blend of old and new, from its original cellar to floor to ceiling glass, an alfresco dining deck and sprawling lawns just begging for a picnic rug.
With plenty of other smaller and family run wineries in the region (think: Raidis Estate, Balnaves of Coonawarra and DiGiorgio Family Wines), Hollick Estate’s highly acclaimed Upstairs Restaurant is also a feast for your eyes and stomach, with panoramic views and a ‘deck to dine for’.
If you’re keen to ditch the car and stretch your legs, the 5-kilometre Coonawarra Wineries Walking Trail is a great place to start, weaving it’s way between Redman Winery, Brand’s Laira of Coonawarra, Ottelia, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, DiGiorgio Family Wines and Zema Estate - just download the handy mobile app to start strolling.
If you’re also staying locally and keen for an expert take the wheel (because who doesn’t love a designated driver?), it’s also well worth booking a private tour with Coonawarra Experiences Wine Tours or Coonawarra Discovery, whose inside knowledge can land you a smorgasbord of behind the scenes experiences and a chance to meet the makers - either at your own pace, or via a structured itinerary.
5. Mount Gambier to Port MacDonnell.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a hitlist without a jaunt to some of the Limestone Coast’s most iconic natural attractions, would it? Within a half-hour radius of Mount Gambier/Berrin, you’ll find each of these beauties scattered along the way to Port MacDonnell, filling your photo album faster than your petrol tank, before slipping over the border.
Just 14 kilometres south of Mount Gambier/Berrin, the dreamy depths of Kilsby Sinkhole are like something from another planet. Welcoming snorkellers, freedivers and Open Water certified scuba divers under the supervision of qualified guides, this giant chasm descends 65 metres and is revered by those in the know. With phenomenal water clarity and the sun blazing overhead, take a dip at the right time of day (just after lunch) to see light piercing the abyss, deep under the soils of a working sheep farm.
A few minutes down the road, another subterranean stunner awaits at Little Blue Lake, which is Insta-famous for all the right reasons. At around 40 metres wide and 47 metres deep, this beauty is totally encircled by cliffs, with a set of stairs leading to a floating pontoon that’s primed for a refreshing dip! It also happens to sit just a stone’s throw from a dormant volcano at Mount Schank, where a 2.7km walking trail around the rim of the crater delivers incredible views to Mount Gambier/Berrin and beyond.
As you head further south, Ewens Ponds Conservation Park looms large, with a series of three freshwater springs delivering almost freakish visibility of up to 80 metres. Not only is this a prime spot to cool off and dose up on nature, you’ll also find underwater plants here that don’t grow anywhere else on Earth. After booking your allocated dive slot, hit up Allendale East General Store & Dive Shop to hire a wetsuit, mask and fins before slipping off the pontoon into the crystal clear water.
Other Noteworthy Drives.
Of course, the journey doesn’t end there. With over 400-kilometres of coast, and a lush, honeycombed landscape packed with sunken treasures, there’s a new adventure at every fork in the road.
Heading south-east from Mount Gambier, you’ll score plenty of eye candy enroute or incoming to and from to the Victorian border, with stopovers at Caroline Sinkhole (stretch your legs on the Wombat Walk), Hell’s Hole (strangely heavenly), the dreamy little river port town of Donovans (full of birds, bushland and cliffs) and the world-renowned Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park.
In the stunning seaside village of Robe, you’ll also find 12-kilometres of glistening white sand at Long Beach that’s just begging for you to lay down some tracks. While the southern-most pedestrian-only section (between first and second ramps) is ideal for swimming, the area to the north is totally driveable – though conventional cars should stick to summer months, when sand is firm and tides are low.