How to do Winter in the Limestone Coast
Carpenters Rocks (Lynda Andreassen)

How to do Winter in the Limestone Coast

Last Updated June 21, 2022

Okay, you’re heading our way, but that icy chill and those roaring Southern Ocean winds are doing their best to hold you back. Good news…

We’re basically made for winter down here, if you’re looking for a snug escape with a little romance and a whole lot of cosy vibes then you’ve come to the right place.

Cosy Cellar Doors
& Pubs.

We all know winter is red wine territory, and when all you want is a roaring fire, a glass of top-notch vino and a shoulder to snuggle into, we’ve got you well and truly sorted. From Mount Gambier to the Coonawarra and Padthaway to Robe, here’s a few of our favourites to help you settle in…

If you find yourself chilling (literally) in ‘The Mount’, it’s well worth dropping into The Mount Gambier Hotel, where the fire is always raging and the food will warm your soul.

Cellar Brand's Laira Coonawarra
Cellar Brand's Laira Coonawarra (Adam Bruzzone/SATC)

Deep in Coonawarra red country, there’s never a better time to pull up a cushy chair at Brand’s Laira than when the weather rolls in. Take your ploughman’s platter into the historic old shed where you’ll be met with wooden beams, a bevy of old bottles, and loads of warm vibes to thaw out those frozen feet. If that’s not your bag, kick back by the window and watch the rain batter the century-old vines through glorious floor to ceiling windows.

At Katnook Estate, you’ll find the fire’s always crackling when the chill starts to bite, and with a cheese board in hand it’s pretty close to utopia, while down the road at Wynns of Coonawarra you’ll find a fireplace that’s like a warm hug from a long-lost friend.

Royal Oak Hotel Penola
Royal Oak Hotel Penola

Of course it’s not all about the wine, and Royal Oak Penola's locavore line-up will have you lining up in front of the open fire and ready to rip into a hearty menu that screams winter favourites like wild-caught roo and saltbush plucked fresh from the chilly shores of Canunda National Park.

As those chilly southerlies blow across from Antarctica, you’ll find comfort at Woodsoak Wines in Robe’s main street, with a cosy combination of hot samosas and games of Connect 4 and giant Jenga to keep you and your compadres amused.

Just a short walk toward the beach, pull up a chair by the fire at The Caledonian Inn (a.k.a. ‘The Cally’ to locals) and you’ll not only score an atmospheric feast under low-slung ceilings, but also the vibes of Old England.

Further afield and reaping the rewards of its stunning Padthaway patch, you’ll find Farmer’s Leap Wines sitting pretty, with sweeping vineyard views and an open invitation to curl up by the log fire with a steaming hot wood-oven pizza and a glass of 'The Brave Shiraz',

Of course, if you’re keen for a window seat without all the hassle, you can also grab a seat on one of many local winery tours right across the region, with Beachport Winery Tours, Coonawarra Discovery Tours and Coonawarra Experiences the best options for great vino, good grub and behind the scenes access to some of the region’s best!

Hearty Winter Meals.

In Mount Gambier, The Barn Steakhouse delivers a menu of grain-fed goodness and over 700 different wines beside a crackling fireplace and loads of old wooden trimmings to really set the scene.

By the coast, The Project Robe’s winter food theme nights are always a hit with locals and visitors alike while at Vic Street Pizza Project hearty deep-dish pizzas are the order of the day, with loads of toppings and a local wine list that’ll warm your woollen socks.

Mayura Station Dining (@mcfuzzlebutts.manchen)
Mayura Station Dining (@mcfuzzlebutts.manchen)

The legendary Mayura Station is home to the nation’s only full-blood Wagyu beef, and a genuine culinary celebrity in every sense. Feeding their highly prized cattle a high-fat diet of anything from chocolate and jellybeans to lollies and biscuits, the end result is a paddock-to-plate dining experience that’ll take you straight to carnivore heaven.

Oh, and we go much further, what’s not to love about steaming hot pizzas fresh from the oven? Bay Pizzaria in Port MacDonnell is about as close to the alps of Italy as you’ll get when those Antarctic winds blow through, and what better place to see the ocean rage as you’re tucking into a fat slice of gourmet goodness?

Glamp it by the Fire.

A number of caravan and holiday parks offer fire pits for campers, making a cosy night in with toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate, red wine and all-round winter warmers a perfect solution when the chill starts to bite.

Coonawarra’s Bellwether Wines offer a communal campfire for both glampers and campers, with individual fire pits at Pine Country Caravan Park in Mount Gambier.

Fire drums are also available for campers at Coonawarra Bush Holiday Park, while a new communal fire pit at Kingston Caravan Park is a perfect spot to strum a guitar, share stories and meet other travellers and their families.

Pine Country Caravan Park Glamping (@exploringsouthaust)
Pine Country Caravan Park Glamping (@exploringsouthaust)
Ghost Mushrooms Glencoe Forest Mount Gambier
Ghost Mushrooms Glencoe Forest (Dean Weekley)

Forage for Ghost Mushrooms.

If you go down to the woods in May, you’re sure of a BIG surprise… From 1st May through June, Mother Nature’s army of little green lanterns light up Ghost Mushroom Lane at Glencoe Forest near Mount Gambier.

These magic little night lights emit a soft green glow after dark – the result of a chemical reaction between fungal enzymes and oxygen, and with an amazing free self-guided forest trail – plus a range of short walks and guided tours from Forestry SA – you just need to book your access pass, slip on some sturdy shoes, throw on a jacket and enjoy the shroom spectacular!

Check their website throughout the season for all the latest details.

Rugged Coastal Drives & Walks.

What’s better than leaning into that icy wind, launching one foot forward and pacing out some of the greatest short walks on earth?

Getting the blood pumping on one of our many walking trails is a sure-fire heart starter when the wilds start heaving – check out our Best short walks in the Limestone Coast article for some of our favourites.

If hitting the road is more your bag, grab some fish and chips or hot baked goodies in Kingston, Robe or Beachport and take a little drive to watch the waves roll in across the Southern Ocean.

Mount Schank
Mount Schank (Che Chorley)
Bowmans Scenic Drive Beachport
Bowmans Scenic Drive (SATC/Mike Annese)

There’s something pretty soothing about snuggling up and taking drive to The Granites, the coastal esplanade, the spectacular Bowman Scenic Drive or even just strolling down the enormous Beachport Jetty, which at 772 metres is the second longest in the State.

Further south, Canunda National Park is ripe for 4WD adventurers, having been blessed with Mother Nature’s full bag of tricks. Ringed by dramatic cliffs and shimmering white beaches, this wild and windswept wonderland is peppered with stunning limestone stacks and offshore reefs, with its dense bushland and dunes having been visited by the Boandik Peoples for thousands of years. Revered by off-roaders, anglers and campers, it’s a prime spot to ditch the bitumen and follow the markers through the dunes if you’re really looking to get off-track.

Get your blood Pumping.

Tracx Robe Adventure Tours offer customised guided MTB tours for all fitness levels across the area’s spectacular coastline and bush land, with 1.5-2hr tours that are long enough to take in some of the most iconic beaches and landmarks, but short enough to make room for all those winery visits later in the day. Expect knowledgeable guides, quality bikes and all the trimmings.

If you’re here with the kidlets, it’s really hard to go past The Domain in Millicent, which is home to a killer skate park, made even cooler with fresh paint decking it out as a giant squid! It’s also conveniently plonked next door to Millicent’s huge Nature Play Space and Mega Playground that’ll keep the kids occupied for hours. After all, they don’t feel the cold, right?!

Millicent Skate Park
Millicent Skate Park
Naracoorte Caves
Naracoorte Caves (Mike Haines)

The land Down Under.

Life underground is, well… more predictable really! If you’re up to channeling your inner cave man or woman, you’ll be glad to know that under the earth’s crust you’ll find temperatures that are pretty much the same year-round.

The World Heritage-Listed Naracoorte Caves are a prime spot to start, with tours of Alexandra Cave and Victoria Cave both excellent options to see spectacular stalactites and stalagmites along with ancient skeletons of 500,000 year-old megafauna.

Further south, Tantanoola Caves Conservation Park is another subterranean jewel. Left behind by the retreating sea hundreds of thousands of years ago, the surreal stalactites and wedding cake formations are as colourful as they are prehistoric, with a kaleidoscope of peach, pink, brown and cream awaiting those who venture down under.

Oh, and if you thought this sunken wonderland was all about staying dry, think again… The crystal blue depths of Kilsby Sinkhole are a consistent 16 degrees celsius, and with wetsuits being mandatory it really doesn’t matter if you’re dipping your toes in the cooler months. This beauty sits deep under the soils of a working sheep farm, with phenomenal water clarity that’s revered world-over. Oh, and if a little fluid fire is needed after your snorkel or scuba session, you’re in luck… a bottle of the Kilsby Sinkhole Gin already has your name on it!

Go to our Galleries.

Along with being the State’s foremost regional gallery, The Riddoch Arts & Cultural Centre offers changing exhibitions of local artists as well as exhibitions of national importance - along with a daily screening of the movie 'Volcano', the story of Earth, Fire and Water. Beginning with an Aboriginal Dreamtime story, this awesome big screen adventure weaves its way through the eight major volcanic eruptions that created Mount Gambier and the Kanawinka region.

The Millicent Civic and Arts Centre is a genuine country gem, with a strong showcase of local photographers and artists, and always something new to discover. With an ever-changing display of well-known and up and coming creatives (even local school students), there’s plenty to set your mind wandering as the rain patters on the roof.

At Karatta Wines in Robe, you’ll find more than a cheeky glass of red when the clouds start to gather! This place is a year-round showcase for local artists, from textiles, metal, glass and ceramics to paint and sculpture.

Keep an eye out for curator, Terry Johnson’s pieces which are usually served with a side of fantasy and a cheeky sense of humour.

Stay in a Historic Homestead.

There’s something warming about those old world charms, and if you’ve got a taste for yesteryear (and a roaring fireplace), how about popping those snug little Ugg boots up at a grand country manor?

Mount Gambier’s super-refined and ultra-luxurious Delgattie Estate delivers a boutique elegance that few other places can match. With cushy cribs and stellar city views, you’ll also score a private dining hall and billiard lounge just to dial up the decadence.

Not far away, the gracious Colhurst House (built in 1878) is also plonked right in the beating heart of Mount Gambier, with four rooms that whisper the tale of years gone by with all the new-age mod-cons. Think: white, black, tartan and well.. just all sorts of homely - and if you can dig yourself out of that amazing claw bath long enough, you’ll also find comfort in a big old armchair by the fire.

In wine country, the historic old Padthaway Homestead has recently undergone restoration to combine its age-old elegance with all the modern comforts slap-bang in the middle of vino utopia. In fact, you really won’t need to go too far for a tipple at all, with Landaire Wines housed in the historic old stables. Retreating inside to the fire when the crisp air turns to a chill is as close to royalty as many of us will ever get!

Delgattie Estate Mount Gambier
Delgattie Estate Mount Gambier (Zoe Wighton)

Winter events.

Of course, what’s better than a good old-fashioned party to heat things up in winter?

Mount Gambier’s Cave Gardens precinct will be the epicentre of a spectacular light show from Monday 7 June – Friday 4 July as part of Illuminate, a brand-new winter festival celebrating innovation, music, art, technology and light that will simultaneously transform Adelaide's city streets, laneways and buildings.

July’s the perfect time to top up your glass, with the annual Coonawarra Cellar Dwellers celebrations rolling out across the entire month. With over 60 events showcasing the region’s back vintage, special-release and well-aged vinos, you’ll load up on long lunches, degustation dinners, museum wine tastings, mulled wine and high teas that’ll quash your thirst as well as your hunger.

From 31st August to 5th September, the pedals are set to turn in The Tour of the Great South Coast, in what’s shaping up as an epic six- day road cycling classic from South Australia through to Victoria. Kicking off with Stages One and Two in Mount Gambier, the peloton will weave its way to Port MacDonnell and Naracoorte before slipping across the border into Glenelg Shire, with champion national and international cyclists pushing their bodies hard to hit the ribbon first.

You’ll find a hot spot for sound with the annual Generations in Jazz back on stage in May 2022, drawing some of the best in the business from near and far, as well as an army of young proteges. All up, this spirited festival brings over 4,400 of the country’s most amazing and most promising musicians to the stage for a gig-fest like no other.

The Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival  paints the town red every May with live music, films and theatre, family fun and loads of amazing food and wine.


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