Adelaide to Robe SA – Day 11 of Road Trip March 2020

Monday 16th March 2020

Driving distance approximately 350 klm / 220 miles

Warning: This is a cup of coffee read 🙂

Leaving Adelaide this morning, we headed towards the Limestone Coast region of South Australia, with our destination to be wherever we ran out of day.

The first part of the drive was fast freeway to Tailem Bend, where we turned south towards Meningie.

This brought us into the Coorong National Park, a vast saltwater wetland lagoon and series of sandbars separating the land and the Southern Ocean. From the mouth of the Murray River at Goolwa (look for Encounter Bay on the above map), the coastline of the national park stretches 130km / 80 mi towards Kingston.

The Coorong is an important breeding ground, and thousands of Australian pelicans call it home, thanks to the area’s abundance and diversity of fish. Signboards provide much information, one interesting  morsel being that freshwater fish are stunned as they enter the saltwater, making them an easy catch for the pelicans.

Pinkies at Coorong rs

Beauty in the eye of the beholder. A twenty year banding programme tracked pelicans who were born in the Coorong to as far away as Papua New Guinea.

Even though it is popular with campers, fishermen, and 4WD drivers, the Coorong is still a coastal wilderness of low dunes and native vegetation.  It’s profile was raised after the release of the Storm Boy movie in 1977, which was itself based on the 1964 book of the same name, written by Colin Thiele. It is about a lonely boy’s relationship with a pelican called Mr Percival.

Looking for pelicans at Coorong SA March 2020

A Pelican creche is out there somewhere

Telephoto zoom of Pelicans on breeding island in Coorong March 2020 rs

Pelicans spotted with the zoom on Bill’s camera

We have many pelicans where we live on the east coast of Australia. When one flies past our 5th floor window Bill invariably says, ‘there goes the A380 Airbus‘. A fully grown male pelican is a big bird. A flock of eight or so flying in formation is a formidable sight at our window.

After it leaves the Coorong behind, the coastal road continues for another long distance – perhaps 100klm  / 60mi – to reach Kingston SE, home to Larry the Lobster. Larry is 17 metres (56 feet) tall, about 40 years old, and assists in promoting the seafood, wine, and cheese of this south-east region of South Australia.

Larry the Lobster side rsLarry the Lobster front rs

Also in Kingston SE is the sundial of human involvement, officially called an analemmatic sundial. I looked up the definition of that . . . and . . . well, it’s much easier if I just show you.

There’s a circle of stones, with a marker in the middle. You stand on the current date on the marker, face your own shadow, and raise your arms. Then bingo! Wherever your shadow arms are pointing, read the number painted on the stone, and that is the current time. Adjusting for daylight saving, it was 2.30pm when we took these photos.

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Nearby sculptures emphasise the ocean theme:

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As does the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse having been relocated into town!

Cape Jaffa Lighthouse Gwen (5)rs

Originally commissioned in 1872, and screwed into a reef out to sea about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) west of the headland of Cape Jaffa (which in turn is 27.2 kilometres / 16.9 mi SW of Kingston) it was brought onshore in the 70s and is now a museum to show how lighthouse keepers and their families lived in the tower structure (open school holidays or by appointment only). 

Another half an hour driving brought us to Robe where we decided to stop for the night. I don’t usually write about our accommodation, but this motel was a stand-out. No wonder the owner offered me to have a look at the room before deciding. All rooms at the Lakeview Motel & Apartments at Robe have a front-side lake view – tomorrow’s post will show what I woke up to! Very reasonably priced, the rooms are large, well-appointed, with modern bathroom, kitchenette facilities, plenty of drawers and cupboards, and there is a barbecue and guest laundry on  site. A perfect place to hole up for self-isolation!

We settled in with plenty of daylight and energy left to start an exploration of Robe. It is a very pretty fishing port and coastal town of around 1000 permanent residents, situated on the Guichen Bay which was named in 1802 by members of the French exploration team headed by Nicolas Baudin. You can read more about that expedition on this link to Wikipedia. Baudin, in Le Geographe, and the English explorer,  Matthew Flinders, in the Investigator, met on 8 April 1802, around the spot now showing as Encounter Bay on the map at the top of this post. They had each been charged with charting the ‘unknown coast‘ of Terra Australis, and, despite being unsure whether their respective countries were at war, exchanged information at this meeting. There are many reminders of each of their expeditions in place names as you travel around Australia, for example, way across in Western Australia which I blogged about here. Fellow blogger, John aka Paol, wrote about Flinders recently, as he went across to the other side of the world to find him.

Baudin and Flinders Robe SA March 2020 (1)rs

Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders immortalised at Robe, South Australia

Until the coming of rail, Robe was a major colonial out-port. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was also the disembarkation port for Chinese gold-miners headed for the Victorian goldfields hundreds of miles away. It was not their choice to land here. The shipowners did it to avoid paying a Ten Pound/head tax to the Victorian government, who’d levied it on the Chinese in response to complaints from British miners. The new arrivals were ignorant of the distances involved.

Robe Chinese Trek (1)rs

A haunting memorial “welcome” arch, desolate in the late afternoon light, commemorates their landing spot:

The Limestone Coast is the name given to a geographical area the size of  small country, but I guess it derives its name from the geology. This coastline is dramatic, with rocky cliffs coloured from light beige, to sand, to golden beige, that are subject to constant erosion from the crashing waves of the Southern Ocean. This barren-looking coast is part of the Great Australian Bight. I’ll leave the reader to decide how it got its name.

Don't fall off the cliff Robe SA March 2020rs

This photo was taken at Cape Dombey, a short drive out of the town centre. In the background is the Obelisk, built in 1855, and used to store rockets which were fired to distressed ships, carrying life lines and baskets for bringing passengers to shore. Perhaps I omitted to mention the alternative name for this area is SHIPWRECK COAST. In 1853 alone there were thirty in Guichen Bay, which prompted the installation of the obelisk, which stands 100 feet above sea level, is 40 feet high, and can be seen at a great distance.

Also on this exposed headland are the remnants and footings of a gaol built in 1860. I imagine it was a rather desolate and windy place to be incarcerated, even for a short time pending relocation to Adelaide. After a prisoner escaped by picking his way through the wall, they were re-inforced with boilerplates from the ship-wrecked ‘Ardmella‘ –  a vessel we were to learn more about the next day.

We had driven to the car park beside the old gaol, but there are many walks around the headlands, and also back into town. All would afford fine views of this eroding coastline and bird and wildlife sightings.

Doorway Rock Cape Dombey_Bill (1)rs2

Doorway Rock at Cape Dombey looks as if a map of Australia has been carved out of it.

Coastline Robe 16 March 2020 (10)rs

Bird Nesting at Cape Dombey rs

Birds nesting on an exposed and eroded cliff-face at Cape Dombey, Robe SA March 2020

After a good walk around this area, we deserved a decent dinner, and found just that at the historic English-style Caledonian Inn, built in 1859. Some of its internal construction is of timber salvaged from shipwrecks – and again, we were to see more of this re-use in our travels the next day.

Caledonian Inn Robe_Gwen (1)rs


As I am a couple of weeks behind in blogging about our road trip, I have decided to include some commentary on COVID-19. I don’t wish it to detract from our experiences and the wonderful things there are to see in Australia, but one day I may look back and recall these events. So  . . . under the banner of that endeavour . . . I mention . . . ,

A week after our visit, the “Cally” closed, temporarily we hope, due to corona virus. At this stage of our trip though, we were still “alert, but not alarmed“. There were 20 known cases in South Australia – a huge state – and all but two of those had come from overseas. The Barossa Valley cluster had not yet been identified. This part of the coast, hundreds of miles from the city centre and airport, felt like a refuge. We were speculating that perhaps we were safer to stay on the road. At home, we live in a community of around 250 persons in two apartment blocks, many of whom travel regularly, to Europe, on cruises, or on road trips such as we were doing. We are a highly social community; golf, cards, swimming, dancing, eating, drinking, partying just some examples. That’s about to change, but as we enjoyed this meal, we were blissfully unaware.

40 thoughts on “Adelaide to Robe SA – Day 11 of Road Trip March 2020

  1. Thank you so much of what you know of ROBE.
    I am attracted to a property in the area. I am tired of the ‘ rat race ‘ in Sydney,
    Well actually I currently live in Blacktown. By the way my sister has lived in Adelaide for 40 maybe 50 years . Let’s see what happens later.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Gwen,
    I actually can’t believe that you are still travelling and potentially putting yourselves and others at risk, particularly when the advise is clear – stay at home unless it is one of the 4 critical areas…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not sure who has written this comment, but to clarify. All my blog posts are headed with the actual day of travel. We have been home for some time and voluntarily self-quarantined for 14 days on our return. One of the reasons that I am able to catch up with blogging about our trip is that, apart from an hour’s social distancing walk exercise, I am spending each day at home.


  3. “Larry is about 40 years old.” I fear Larry at 50. Okay, I fear him now!

    Bill equates the pelicans to an Airbus. I comprehend his point, but favor a different fanciful view, captured in a poem on the wall in our littoral home. It speaks to a coastal child’s imagination and states,
    “Pelicans were all Pterodactyls then.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many comments Gwen! Just show most people are now staying at home with plenty of time to fill! Great journey, lovely places and the motel would be perfect for the situation we’re in but, is it still open? Hope you two are OK across the way – I know you are a busy bee so you may be welcoming this sojourn at home!


    • I think the motel is still operating JoJo, but their Facebook page has lots of sound, reputable advice about the virus and local conditions, such as the chemist. They’ve even posted an advice from SA Health urging people to stay home this Easter. So I think they will be operating responsibility if they are sheltering anyone.

      We are happy to be home, of course, and our 14-day self-imposed quarantine finishes Tuesday. The apartment is as clean as it will ever be, and we even got to the garage yesterday!

      Always lots of projects to be getting on with. That strip and varnish of the magazine rack might even come to the top of the pile one day.

      And I have a loyal core of followers who comment regularly. Warms my heart to know I’m not writing in a vacuum. xxxx


  5. Great photos Gwen! The Coorong is a beautiful place. Growing up it was a regular holiday place for my family, but I haven’t been down the SE for many years. Those sculptures of Baudin and Flinders are quite impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My regret on these road trips is that we stay such a short time in each place. I would have loved to have a longer holiday in the Coorong. I used to live in Adelaide and fish at Goolwa, but I don’t recall being on the Limestone Coast before.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We were on holiday in Germany until 15th March, returning the day before restrictions were imposed. I loved seeing pelicans when we toured Australia’s east coast. Hopefully we’ll be able to see many more one of these days. Take care, Marion.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Interesting post! We’re now at over 6,000 deaths – growing by about 1,000 / day and mostly in high-density areas like NYC. It’s scary! I got back from Africa just in time, as now it’s difficult to get return flights, and they’re 4 times more expensive than normal…

    Liked by 2 people

    • That was lucky! I think the cases in Portland are low in comparison to other parts of the country? I hope you are coping with self-isolation. At least you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied with sorting your photos, etc.


  8. Oh I do love, love pelicans, but that picture of the chicks is, well, somewhat off-putting. Absolute ugly ducklings, but we know they’re destined to be amazing, characterful birds. Beautiful and interesting coastline by the way. Keep safe in your community.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think there’s much inspiration for scarf designs in those chicks 🙂 I’d stick with flying cranes or something of that nature. I have some good photos of grown pelicans at a later point in the trip. I’m sure you’ll appreciate them.
      I thought of you as we went along the coast. I sense you would appreciate. My photos, as usual, are simple snaps that don’t capture it’s intensity.
      We’ve been social isolating since returning, as a precaution. In any case, NSW is pretty much in lockdown. So far, so good.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I keep my fingers crossed for you. Social isolation seems to be the most reliable action to take at present. Looking forward to the pelican pics. Perhaps one or two I might snaffle for inspiration????

        Liked by 1 person

        • Went out for my first walk today. On the beach. In the autumn sun. Blue skies and white clouds. A change in tone on the return leg, as the day began to change and cloud over. A yacht in full sail on the horizon. Surf pounding on exposed rocks. Pebbles glinting in the receding tide. Dogs chasing balls, their paw prints ending in a jagged scar in the sand where they dug in for the catch.
          Hated every minute of it – haha! – no!
          If you send your email address to me at I’ll send you my various pelican shots. I’ll be fascinated to see how you might interpret them.

          Liked by 1 person

          • All sounds idyllic, lucky you. It’s only a 25 minute drive down to the sea from here, but no unnecessary travel is permitted these days. However, I am allowed to walk down to the Ipswich Waterfront to check up on my father twice a week. Yes, would love to see the pelican pics. Thank you am sending my email address. 👍🏻😊

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks – received and downloaded and very useable. Not sure when I will work with them as my current piece is taking ages to finish, my productivity has fallen off a cliff with all the virus horror. Enjoy your beach walks, lucky you, and keep safe, and thank you again.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. So if you hadn’t gone here I would have …….. I don’t know what I would have, but I would have. In many ways this is a most important little town and I think I had better unleash the School Teacher in me and get onto a post. So I’ll stop the silly nonsense of photos of flowers and write a post about Flinders and Baudin and Gold and etc etc etc.
    Thank you so much Gwen. I have been a bit down lately and you have wokeded me up.

    Liked by 3 people

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