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A scenic tour of the Limestone Coast

here we go
here we go

If you have a spare week or so, and you fancy a cycling adventure that provides varied landscapes, gentle undulations and wonderful views, why not consider the environs of the Limestone Coast in South Australia? Take a few days to traverse a 450 kilometre loop, starting and finishing in beautiful Mt Gambier, stopping each night in one of the towns dotting the region.

Leaving Mt Gambier via the busy Princes Highway, you will soon reach the relative tranquility of Kangaroo Flat Road, where the lush, verdant landscapes will impress. The small town of Glencoe is a pleasant place to have a rest and a stretch.  You will ride alongside the Tantanoola and Mt Burr forests as you head northwest, before dropping into Millicent at about the half-way mark of your day’s journey. In the afternoon you will notice the landscape changing, as you move ever closer to the coastline, and your evening destination. If the wind is against you it might seem harder work for you and your bike than it ought. This day of gentle undulations will set you up nicely for the rest of your tour. It is about a 100 kilometres from Mt Gambier to Beachport, so it makes for a good day’s riding.

Following the coast up to Kingston SE via the fishing port of Robe is best done on the Main South Eastern Road, a more sensible option than using the Princes Highway. This route will afford you some delightful views of lakes George, St Clair and Eliza and, if you fancy it, you can take a detour out to Cape Jaffa and its historic lighthouse. You may find yourself battling cross winds as you head north, but it’s all part of the fun. Kingston’s Big Lobster will greet you as you cycle through the town, and those riders who are fond of seafood will enjoy dining in the northern gateway of this cray fishing region.

 Leaving the sea and sand behind, you will enjoy a lovely 100 kilometre run, your third in a row, inland to the idyllic town of Naracoorte. It is a straight and fast ride, and if you are lucky you’ll have the wind at your back. The only thing you might have to stop for is a sheep crossing, or something similarly agrarian. The Naracoorte Caves are only a short ride out of town and are well worth a visit.

Naracoorte to Penola will have you starting your 75 kilometre day on the busy Riddoch Highway, but it’s not long before you turn off. Take a picturesque ride around Bool Lagoon and its surrounding areas, admiring the bird life. It’s not all bitumen but the hard clay surfaces are quite navigable. From the lagoon you can pass by some of the Coonawarra wineries before rejoining the highway, taking advantage of the generous shoulders on the edge of the road. Penola boasts a rich history, with the Blessed Mary MacKillop, as well as a range of famous poets, all once calling this town home.

The last leg, which will deliver you back to your starting point, has you passing through Kalangadoo, Glencoe (again) and Wandillo as you make your way to Mt Gambier. It is a gentle 80 kilometres so you may want to shoot down to the spectacular volcanic crater of Mt Schank before putting the bike away.

If you want more, and have the time, you could always extend by a day and traverse a 75 kilometre loop down to the pretty town of Nelson, which lies just over the Victorian border. Nelson is situated on the Glenelg River and, as a special treat, you could break up your ride with a river cruise. You can also visit the remarkable Piccaninnie Ponds on your way down to the border.

This trip around the Limestone Coast is not a torturous, gear-grinding affair. It is fairly flat, and straight, nevertheless it is worthwhile for many reasons. You get to travel some decent distances, the surfaces are good, the roads are largely quiet, and the changing landscapes are a sight to behold.


© Copyright David Robinson, 2010

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author