When you see all the things to do in Goolwa, you’ll understand why it is such a popular holiday town. Just 90 minutes from Adelaide, Goolwa is a great place for a day trip, but there are more than enough things to do to keep you busy for days. If relaxing seaside towns are your thing, you might never leave!
Situated near the ocean, the Murray River mouth, the Coorong and Lower Lakes region, Goolwa has plenty to offer. Not only is it rich in river history, it is also a great base to explore the area’s natural beauty.
This is a great spot for surfing, playing on the sand or cooling off in the waves. In summer there is a patrolled area where you can swim safely. You can hire surf boards, grab some hot chips from the café or go for a very long beach walk.
There is 4WD access to the beach and you can drive to the Murray mouth. The entrance onto the beach can be soft so check the conditions and your tyre pressures. It’s about a 10 kilometre drive to the mouth where you can camp. It is also a popular fishing spot.
The wharf precinct in the heart of Goolwa hosts regular markets and food and wine events. The Steam Exchange Brewery and the Wharf Barrel Shed are both great places to relax and take in the ambience of the historic riverfront.
The wharf is home to the PS Oscar W. On weekends one hour cruises are available. They are a great way to get onto the water and get a different view of the town.
SA Wooden Boat Festival
This Biennial event is one to put in your diary. The two day festival features 150 boats and includes everything from paddle steamers to sail and model boats. There are boat building competitions, races and a spectacular grand parade along the river. The next Wooden Boat Festival is in April 2021.
The Cockle Train runs between Goolwa and Victor Harbor with stops at Middleton and Port Elliot. It is a half hour journey and a great way to get between the towns. The steam trains look, sound and smell amazing and the restored carriages are a joy to ride in.
On the short ride you’ll see everything from farmland and beaches to some impressive holiday houses. Look out for the blue sheep near Victor Harbor! The train is an icon of the area. Be ready to do lots of waving as people stopped at the train crossings say hello.
Also connecting Goolwa and Victor Harbor is the 31km (one way) Encounter Bikeway. The path goes on a combination of dedicated bike paths and roads. From end to end, it takes you from the lower reaches of the Murray River in Goolwa to the spectacular Bluff in Victor Harbor. It is a great way to explore the area at your own pace.
It is a shared use path popular with joggers and walkers as well as cyclists. The off-road sections along the coast and through reserves are perfect for families.
If you like to check off geographical landmarks, seeing the mouth of the Murray River must be on your list. It can be accessed by 4WD from Goolwa Beach. A much easier option is to go over the bridge in Goolwa to Hindmarsh Island.
From there, follow the bitumen and the signs to the Murray mouth lookout. You can walk onto Sugars Beach and farewell the river as it heads out to sea. No doubt the experience will generate an appetite so afterwards, go to the Coorong Café for some of the best fish and chips you will ever eat.
For a closer look at the Murray mouth and the Coorong there are a variety of cruises and guided walks available through Spirit Australia Cruises. Learn about the area’s history, wildlife and indigenous culture on any of the tours.
Some of the cruises include lunch and have options to take guided walks around the Coorong’s sand dunes. You’ll also see where some scenes from the movie Storm Boy were filmed. Tours depart from the Goolwa Wharf.
This is a great spot to visit. The Goolwa barrage is one of five barrages constructed to stop sea water making its way into the river system. Take Barrage Road that runs between the river and the ocean. Go past the Goolwa Yacht Club, the Fleurieu Function Centre and the Bristow Smith Reserve bird hide, and you’ll come to a carpark. The barrage is just a short walk from there.
It is a spectacular place with plenty of black swans and pelicans usually in the area. The highlight is out at the lock. Lookout out for the New Zealand fur seals that have taken to lounging around on the lock’s wooden pylons.
Kayaking and Jet Ski Hire
You will also find Goolwa Jet Ski on Barrage road. Even if jet skis aren’t your thing, they also hire canoes and paddle boards. Two hours is plenty of time to paddle to the barrage and through the lock. The seals have been known to drop into the water and come over to say hello. It’s also a relaxing way to up close the Coorong’s abundant birdlife.