Port Elliot: The best little town you’ve probably never heard of
You know that feeling when someone tells you a secret so juicy you struggle to hold it in? Information so entertaining you can almost feel it dancing on the tip of your tongue? A discovery so dripping in salacious detail you’re just bursting to blurt it out to as many people as will listen?
That’s the feeling you get when you visit Port Elliot.
Once you dive into the seaside treats it has to offer, you won’t believe this coastal hideaway – located just 80km south of Adelaide on South Australia’s serene Fleurieu Peninsula – hasn’t found its way onto more backpackers’ itineraries. And once you leave, you won’t be able to resist the urge to tell everyone you meet all about it.
There are the boundless beaches and ocean adventures, cute little shops and thriving markets, world-class wines and a burgeoning gourmet food scene, dramatic coastal walks and bike trails, bars and restaurants and the most popular bakery for miles. So much great stuff to see and do and taste that you’ll want to shout about Port Elliot in every hostel common room you visit for the rest of your trip.
You’ll be amazed this place has remained a hidden gem for so long and these are the reasons why it won’t stay secret much longer.
Historic sandstone buildings shaded by towering Norfolk Island pines. Golden strips of sand peppered with picturesque jetties that provide Instagram fodder for days. Friendly cafes, scenic lookouts, verdant parks, quaint antique stores, second-hand book shops, oh, and that legendary bakery, which isn’t hard to spot with queues routinely snaking out the door. You couldn’t dream of visiting a more charming country town than Port Elliot, which began life in the 1850s as a shipping port but has evolved into a relaxing seaside getaway that feels miles further away from the city than it actually is.
Water babies, rejoice! The Fleurieu Peninsula offers so many activities in, on, around, below and kilometres above the ocean that you’ll feel positively amphibious by the time you leave. We’re talking surf lessons, kayaking saltwater lagoons, swimming with tuna, boat tours of wildlife hotspots, and skydiving over the beach. And don’t forget your swimsuit when you stay at YHA Port Elliot; the historic beach house overlooks the sheltered Horseshoe Bay, tempting you for a swim.
Work up a sweat before you go for a dip on the web of stunning coastal walks that criss-cross the Fleurieu Peninsula. Warm up on the short Harbourmasters Walking Trail, which starts across the road from YHA Port Elliot, before graduating to the 30km trail from Victor Harbour to Goolwa, the 7km beach walk from Victor Harbor to Knight Beach, the jaw-dropping 11km track along the Waitpinga Cliffs, and the steep ascent to Bluff Summit. You might even spot some whales in season (June to November).
Halfway between Port Elliot and Adelaide sits McLaren Vale, a wine-growing region famous for its dry reds, as well as its eclectic mix of 100 cellar doors that include everything from 150-year-old Shiraz vines to envelope-pushing modern wineries. The Fleurieu Peninsula also takes in wine-producing areas Langhorne Creek, Mt Compass, Currency Creek and Kuitpo Forest, plus the elegant No. 58 Cellar Door and Gallery just a stroll from YHA Port Elliot.
The Fleurieu Peninsula has developed a vibrant artisanal food scene to match its world-class wines, and the various markets sprinkled across the region are the best way to sink your teeth in. Pick up fresh produce from farmers markets in Willunga and Victor Harbor, feast on the gourmet food stalls at Aldinga’s Fridays after Five, and pick up something to nibble on while you rummage through the second-hand treasures at markets in Yankalilla, Goolwa Wharf and Port Elliot itself.
The Southern Ocean Drive
Port Elliot is the perfect launch pad to explore even more of South Australia’s south coast. Hop behind the wheel to tackle the Southern Ocean Drive, which covers the highlights of the Fleurieu Peninsula, the trove of natural treasures on Kangaroo Island, and the beautiful Limestone Coast near the Victorian border, home to the Coonawarra wine region, Naracoorte Caves, plus the Blue Lake and Sunken Garden in Mt Gambier.
A top town deserves a top hostel, and YHA Port Elliot is precisely that – the historic sandstone lodge is the top-rated hostel in the YHA network, with a 96% rating from more than a thousand customer reviews. The breezy beachfront property began life as a guesthouse more than a century ago, and boasts 270-degree views of Horseshoe Bay from the spacious veranda. Fall asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping on the beach in one of the hostel’s affordable multi-share, private double/twin or family rooms – click here to book your stay.
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