The drive between Adelaide and Robe, along the Southern Ocean Drive, is one of the best road-trips that we’ve ever taken. It’s a perfect sequel to the Great Ocean Road, which of course is one of the most iconic drives in the world. However, we felt that the Southern Ocean Drive is more stunning and enjoyable thanks to the lack of tourists.
Sure, the Southern Ocean Drive doesn’t have the Twelve Apostles but it more than makes up for it by showcasing some of the most beautiful beach towns and coastlines in South Australia! We effortlessly fell in love with Cape Bridgewater and Robe the moment we stepped into them.
A Continuation of the Great Ocean Road
The Southern Ocean Drive starts where the Great Ocean Road ends. In fact, we combined the two and drove all the way from Melbourne to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road and then the Southern Ocean Drive. We wouldn’t really recommend it as it becomes too long. But the natural beauty and wildlife we saw along the way was simply incredible!
In this post we’ll focus only on the drive between Robe and Adelaide, along the Southern Ocean Drive. But we’ll also include Port Fairy, a quaint little town that we believe should not be missed.
So, our Southern Ocean Drive guide covers the journey between Port Fairy and Adelaide, via Kangaroo Island. The total driving distance is over 1,200 kms (745 miles) and can be covered in 7 days.
If you skip Kangaroo Island, you can complete the Southern Ocean Drive in 5 days. But we advise you not to miss Kangaroo Island as it was definitely the highlight of our trip to Australia.
Southern Ocean Drive Map & Guide
Our Southern Ocean Drive starts from Port Fairy and finishes in Adelaide. As always, you’re free to modify this road-trip itinerary as it fits your needs. You can start from Adelaide and finish in Robe, Port Fairy, or even Melbourne.
The road trip passes through some gorgeous towns – Cape Bridgewater, Mount Gambier, Robe, and Victor Harbour. And not to mention Kangaroo Island, which in itself is a separate destination. We’ll cover all the things to do and points of interests along the way.
So, let’s our journey from Port Fairy.
Start at Port Fairy
Our road-trip along the Southern Ocean Drive starts in Port Fairy, where we end the Great Ocean Road.
Things to do in Port Fairy
Port Fairy is a beautiful quaint town in Victoria, Australia. It is most famously known for Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, a wildlife reserve inside an inactive volcanic crater. Located 10-15 minutes outside Port Fairy, Tower Hill has a wide variety of native animals such as koalas, emus, kangaroos, magpie geese, echidnas, possums and water birds, all of which can be seen within the crater walls.
Inside the park there are plenty of self-guided tours and walks for visitors to embark upon. During our visit to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, we saw plenty of emus, lizards, water birds, and koalas!
Other attractions in Port Fairy include Griffith Island, and the Port Fairy Lighthouse.
We also discovered two amazing restaurants in Port Fairy during our time. Blakes Restaurant which serves delicious seafood, and The Farmers Wife Harvest Cafe which is an amazing place for breakfast or brunch.
For those interested, here are some more photos of Port Fairy and Tower Hill.
Port Fairy to Robe (via Cape Bridgewater and Mount Gambier)
The total distance between Port Fairy and Robe is a little over 275 kms and can take up to 3 hours. However, with a few planned detours and stops, expect the travel time and distance to increase. Fortunately, these detours and stops were the most memorable part of the journey for us, and we’ll explain why.
The first stretch of the drive runs from Port Fairy to Cape Bridgewater. I still remember our jaws dropping when we saw the ocean and white sand beach at Cape Bridgewater. We sat on the beach admiring the surfers, and natural colours all around us for an hour. We’d never seen such clear waters before!
Cape Bridgewater Attractions
Of course the beach is one of the main attractions in Cape Bridgewater. There’s a small cafe next to the parking lot if you would like to grab a bite or drink while you enjoy the scenery.
The Seal Colony
The Seal Walk to the seal colony in Cape Bridgewater starts close to the parking lot. A round trip to the seal colony is approximately 5 kms and should take about 2-3 hours. If you don’t have the luxury of time at Cape Bridgewater, like we did, there are a couple of seal colonies on Kangaroo Island that you can look forward to visiting.
Do not try driving to the seal colony if Google Maps advises you. There is no road.
Take the Blowholes Road from Bridgewater Road and drive till the very end. There, where the wind farm is located, are the Cape Bridgewater blowholes. This limestone cliff, with jagged rocks and powerful waves are beautiful sight.
For those interested, here are some more photos of Cape Bridgewater.
The drive to Mount Gambier from Cape Bridgewater is just over 100 kms and should take a little over an hour. This drive was one of the most beautiful drives in my opinion. And not because of any natural views, but because of something man-made.
A large section of the drive between Cape Bridgewater and Mount Gambier cuts through hundreds of thousands of acres of timber plantation. For as far as the eye can see, trees placed perfectly apart, in immaculate lines, and all the same height. The scale of the symmetry feels all too surreal. We’d never seen anything like this before.
Another interesting fact is that you will gain one hour back on this stretch of the drive. As you change time-zones, your travel time remains the same but you earn an hour back on the clock. It felt good to have 25 hours during just that one day so that we could explore more!
Mount Gambier Attractions
When you finally arrive at Mount Gambier, make your way to the Blue Lake, one of the two main attractions.
The Blue Lake is a large, crater lake located inside a dormant volcano near Mount Gambier. What’s unique about this lake that it changes colours. During December to March, the lake turns to a vibrant cobalt blue colour, before returning to a colder steel grey colour between April and November.
The other major attraction in Mount Gambier is the Umpherston Sinkhole.
Also known as the Sunken Garden, the Umpherston Sinkhole was once a limestone cave that collapsed onto itself. The soil from the top formed the perfect base for a garden inside the sinkhole and was first beautified by James Umpherston around 1886.
For those interested, here are some more photos of Mount Gambier.
Arrive at Robe
The final leg of the drive from Mount Gambier to Robe should take around 1.5 hours. For the first part, the drive continues through the plantations and is quite unearthly.
Things to do in Robe
Once you arrive at Robe, you’ll realise why this is such a popular summer town. It’s got plenty of attractions from it’s Long Beach, Robe Gaol Ruins, and picturesque jetty.
Victoria Street is filled with amazing restaurants, bakeries, ice-cream shops, and cafes. Make sure you visit Indulge for dinner, and the Adventurous Spoon for breakfast or brunch. Both are amazing!
And if you’re in the mood to shop, or are a surfing fan, check out Steve’s Place, a legendary local shop.
For those interested, here are some more photos of Robe.
Robe to Victor Harbour
I won’t deny, the drive from Robe to Victor Harbour is quite long. At over 350 kms, it took us over 4 hours to arrive at Victor Harbour. Fortunately, there aren’t any detours or too many distractions along the way.
Well there’s one tiny attraction that comes shortly after you exit Robe and enter the town of Kingston. Right along the highway there is a giant lobster statue known locally as Larry the Lobster. Everyone who drives by, stops to take a photo with the lobster. We did too!
Coorong National Park
At over 150 kms long, the Coorong National Park covers almost half the distance of the drive between Robe and Victor Harbour. It also happens to be the only major attraction along the drive.
The park predominantly covers a lagoon ecosystem officially known as the “Coorong” and the Younghusband Peninsula on the Coorong’s southern side. The wetlands inside the park form a complex of freshwater, estuarine, and hypersaline waterbodies that has a unique diversity of habitat for plants and animals. The Coorong National Park is also recognised as as important sanctuary for numerous species of birds.
Feel free to stop by and admire the wetlands, or venture on some activities.
We broke our drive at Meningie, a town on the south-east side of Lake Albert in Coorong National Park, for lunch. There’s a pretty park besides the lake where you can stretch your legs.
Just outside Meningie is another attraction in the form of a Pink Lake. Make sure you look out for the signs along the highway and pullover when you see the parking space.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the lake was dry. But we could still see the pink colour at the bottom of the dried out lake. The lake’s pink colour is caused by algae.
From the Pink Lake of Meningie, we drove straight to our final destination for the day – Victor Harbour.
Victor Harbour is yet another picturesque coastal town in South Australia. We were there on new year’s eve and ended up spending it at the carnival next to the Warland Reserve Park with local residents. New year’s eve also meant that we couldn’t do the usual sightseeing as most of the attractions were closed for the day. But we didn’t mind spending the last day of the year riding the Ferris-wheel and watching an epic sunset before the fireworks display.
Things to do in Victor Harbour
On any other day, Victor Harbour indulges visitors in its old world charm. Take a ride in the horse-drawn tram across to Granite Island where you’ll be sure to see some wild animals and birds. Or hop onboard the Cockle Train, a heritage railway, or visit one of the many neighbouring beaches.
For those interested, here are some more photos of Victor Harbour.
Victor Harbour to Kangaroo Island
To continue on your tour of the Southern Ocean Drive, it’s time to go off the mainland onto Kangaroo Island. A 45 minute drive from Victor Harbour is Cape Jervis, the location of the SeaLink Ferry terminal. From here you can catch a one hour ferry ride, that takes you and your vehicle, to Kangaroo Island.
Things to do on Kangaroo Island
We have a whole separate itinerary for Kangaroo Island because there’s just so much to do and see on the island.
Although most tourists attempt to cover everything in one day, we think that really does no justice to the beauty and diversity of the island. We highly recommend spending 2 to 3 days on Kangaroo Island to really discover it. There’s just so much to see on the island, from a sea lion colony, unique rock formations, plenty of wildlife, to some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches!
Make sure that you read our blog on Kangaroo Island carefully as you don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to discover the raw beauty of South Australia.
Also, here are some more photos of Kangaroo Island for your inspiration.
Kangaroo Island to Adelaide
As the Southern Ocean Drive draws to a close, make your way back to your final destination – Adelaide. Granted, the final stretch of the drive isn’t as spectacular as the what you’ve just witnessed.
Once you arrive in Adelaide, relax and take some time to explore the city. After finishing the Southern Ocean Drive you deserve a break!
Southern Ocean Drive Road Trip
In many ways the Southern Ocean Drive is a natural successor and continuation to the Great Ocean Drive. It’s a road trip that just keeps on giving. It showcases some of the best natural beauty that South Australia has to offer, and then more. We also loved it because it’s less crowded, equally beautiful, and far less commercial than the Great Ocean Road.
We undertook this road-trip in the summer, but if you happen to do it in the winter, almost all of the towns along the drive are excellent spots for whale watching.
I hope that our guide to the Southern Ocean Drive gave you a flavour of what to expect along the way, and how to best plan your itinerary. If you found it helpful, do let us know in the comments. And feel free to share it on your social media platform of choice.