Robe to Port MacDonnell – Day 12 of Road Trip March 2020

Tuesday 17th March 2020

Driving distance approximately 210 klm / 130 miles

Warning: This is a cup of coffee read, peoples!

I have already praised the Lakeview Motel & Apartments at Robe in my post of yesterday, and why not? This is the morning view over Lake Fellmongery that I contemplated as I breakfasted on fruit and yoghurt. Although taken at 8.30am (daylight saving time), the rising sun hitting the camera lens has created a special atmosphere.

rs Morning Breakfast at Lake Fellmongery Robe SA 17Mar20

Morning at (Fellmongery) Lakeview Motel & Apartments at Robe 17Mar20

We are in no hurry to leave Robe, so we spend a few hours strolling around.

rs Near the spot where Chinese miners came ashore Robe SA 17Mar2020

Near the spot where the Chinese gold miners were ferried ashore from their sailing ship. (Robe SA 17Mar20)

rs Moody beach at Robe SA 17Mar20

Robe has a very pretty beach, popular in summer. Yet looking moody today in the morning autumn light.

We had the marina mostly to ourselves. Behind a whale-tail-shaped monument, is a list of fishermen lost to the treachery of Guichen Bay and nearby waters.

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Robe has around fifty historic buildings that are more than a century old. That may not sound much to Europeans, but for a small sea port first settled around 1845, their survival is remarkable. I’ve included a small sample in this slide-show, which includes a close-up the building material, and a new house that is being built in a sympathetic outer finish. There is no high-rise in Robe, and its ambience remains much as it would have been all those years ago, although not as bustling with sailing ships taking wool exports out, gold-diggers in, with some whalers thrown in for added “colour”.

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The two-toned building with the red-brick corners is the original customs house, built in 1863, and now housing the maritime museum. Across the road, a series of steps leads up to the Memorial to Baudin and Flinders which I pictured yesterday – and which fellow blogger Paol Soren has expanded on here.

Inserted into the riser of each step are plaques recording shipwrecks in this area. Five plaques per riser, and about six or seven steps by my recollection. A representative portion of the 800 or 900 ships claimed by the South Australian coast. We are to learn more the next day.

Time now to move on down the road . . .


Half an hour out of Robe we followed a point-of-interest sign to Woakwine Cutting. We hadn’t been clear about what it was until arrival. Claimed to be “Australia’s biggest one-man engineering feat”,  it is a huge ravine dug to drain land behind the Woakwine Range. 

rs Woakwine Cutting Explanatory Board Beachport SA 17Mar20

Work began in 1957. The machinery used is on display. I’ve included a photo of the Caterpillar tractor. As someone used to importing the equipment used in mines, this looks like a scale model. It’s possibly war surplus – Bill’s father may even have used one in his role as a sapper in the Pacific theatre. Caterpillar, the manufacturer, is immortalised in the safety fence around the viewing platform. The cutting is one heck of a ditch as you can see. Look to the horizon in the photo and you can spot the ocean it drains into. We drove to the other vantage point to gaze across the land that is cultivated as a result of draining the swampland. Very faintly on the right-hand side of that photo you can spot the creek that is the beginning of the drain.

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It’s a short hop down the road to the next township, Beachport. We had a walk on the beach, and then drove up to their lighthouse. It is operational, privately owned, and of extremely functional design, but you can walk around it, look down onto the jetty – claimed to be the second longest in South Australia (772m / 2530 feet) – and take in the coastline, noting the road snaking around the foreshore. All this part of the coastline is very rocky.

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The next holiday destination coastal town is Southend, but as this requires a diversion off the main road, we by-passed and continued on the half hour to the major commercial hub of Millicent. Here we paused to study the Ash Wednesday Memorial. On the 16th February 1983, within twelve hours, more than 180 fires fanned by winds of up to 110 km/h (68 mph) caused widespread destruction across the states of Victoria and South Australia. At the time it was one of the costliest natural disasters in Australia. Seventeen firefighters lost their lives, and this wooden sculptured memorial is in their honour.

rs Ash Wednesday Memorial at Millicent SA (5)rs Ash Wednesday Memorial at Millicent SA (6)

The friendly young woman in the nearby tourist office (is there another kind?) ran us through the many things to do in town. We decided to retrace our steps and take the short drive back to Lake Macintyre. We’d ignored the turnoff on the way in, imagining it to be a picnic place, but were assured it was much more than that. And it was no false promise. What a treat! But first, I have to share a photo of what greets the visitor.

rs Snake sign at Lake McIntyre Millicent SA

Just in case you were thinking of dozing off, hopefully I have your attention again.

Lake McIntyre is a rehabilitated council-owned quarry site (part of it is still being used and will be rehabilitated as it comes available). It is a safe refuge for local and migratory birds of many species, and native wildlife such as echidnas, swamp wallabies, and swamp rats. There is a level well-defined walking trail around the lake which takes about twenty minutes if you go steadily. In our case, it took about an hour. There are two bird hides to provide viewing, (as you see Bill demonstrating in one photo) and both have explanatory boards illustrating which birds you may be seeing. We believe we spotted lapwings, purple swamphens, other waterhens, darters, black-winged stilts, and some type of small cormorant. And ducks. Lots of ducks. And some cheeky magpies at the end. But no snakes.

One of the prolific eucalyptus you will see on the walk are paperbarks, Melaleuca halmaturorum. There was also another bush like a banksia, with a pretty creamy-yellow flower in bloom, and another with pods along its branches. There were also several eucalyptus trees with black trunks that were oozing resin. There are several black-trunked eucalyptus varieties, so it was not necessarily a sign of bush fire, but I think one seeping sap is not a happy-chappy. Potentially it was being attacked by a borer, but I’m no expert on the subject.

We were delighted in our stop here. It was one of the highlights of the day, and I’d recommend it to anyone in the area.

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The lady in the tourist office had given us a detailed local map and drawn an alternative route for us to follow, which now took us along the Windfarm Tourist Drive. Previous photos of the Limestone Coast already demonstrate the strength of the wind coming off the Southern Ocean, and since 2005, this has been harnessed to generate electricity for South Australia. To quote the official brochure,

The wind farms of the Woakwine Range make up 18% of the state’s wind-generated electricity capacity. The 135 spectacular wind turbines  . . . have a combined installed capacity . . . equivalent to supplying 120,000 homes per year.

The brochure also has some interesting trivia, such as electricity production begins at winds above 14km/h (9 mi), increases until the turbines max out between 36-54km/h (22-34 mi) and that the turbines automatically shut down and turn away when wind speed goes beyond 90km/h (56 mi). Clever little robots.

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Eventually the wind farms give way to plantation timber forests. I haven’t found any information about what trees (looks like pine to me), who owns it, etc, etc.

rs Plantation timber near Tantanoola Caves

This continued all the way to our next destination, Tantanoola Caves. We (I) was looking forward to touring it. Years ago on our honeymoon we had toured the nearby and more famous Naracoorte Caves. Although much smaller, this cave system has the added interest of being affected by the sea waves which once pounded this area.

But there is something wrong with this picture:

rs Only car in the car park at Tantanoola Caves

Yes, folks. We’d arrived a half hour too late. “Red Dwarf” (our car) was the only one in the car park. Never mind, we were happy not to have rushed our visit to Lake McIntyre.

All the same we had a look around. Sticking with my previous theme, here is a sign on the entry door:

rs Snake Warning at Tantanoola Caves

And a further reminder for those who need it:

rs Bushfire Warning at Tantanoola Caves

And reminders of the beauty of nature. Bees (not pictured) were busy harvesting in these natives:

rs Grevillia at Tantanoola Caves

It was time to start thinking about where to sleep that night. We’d been told that there was “not much” in the way of accommodation at our destination, Port MacDonnell. So Bill drove while I worked the phone (signal permitting). Our “not much” turned into a 3-bedroom private house on the waterfront esplanade. We took one look and booked a second night.

We are always ready for a refreshing drink at the end of these days, so even though we had home cooking facilities in this house, we headed straight for the nearest only pub – The Victoria. Just as I don’t usually post about where we stay, I don’t usually post about what we ate . . . but! Oh my goodness!

From the first bite of my chicken al funghi, I knew I was in the thrall of a master Italian chef. I immediately separated the generous serve into two portions, so that I didn’t keep gobbling it down past the point of hunger satisfaction. The waitress was happy to give me a doggy-bag, which went straight on the refrigerator when we got home, ready for tomorrow night’s dinner.  Bill’s risotto was moist and flavoursome, and there was nothing leftover. This was so NOT the usual pub-grub of rump steak or chicken schnitzel.

I see the hotel, as mandated, has closed on account of COVID-19, but they continue to trade with a take-away menu, which looks just as delicious as the dishes we tried. I so hope they survive through this challenging time, and do not lose such a talented chef.

19 thoughts on “Robe to Port MacDonnell – Day 12 of Road Trip March 2020

    • Little by little I am whittling this series down. Then I might start on the road trip of 2019 that I never finished writing about! I’m trying to keep my mind off my agent not accepting my most recent manuscript version. It’s working so far.


  1. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer to see a plantation of clever little robots than the monoculture of a timber fir forest. I think it’s fabulous that you taken the time and energy and expense to travel round your home country/continent and share your discoveries. Perhaps you are the early adopters of a coming trend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The wind farms are a fascinating sight, not universally appreciated. When we were younger Bill and I thought we should travel overseas first, and leave our own country for when we were less active. But we changed our mind some years ago, and started to take a road trip every year or so. Popular idea here with grey nomads, who often stay away for six months at a time, but we are all being told to stay home now for the time being.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You captured the day so well that I partook an entire vacation (err … “holiday”) by just reading about Day 12. I relish sunrises and sunsets, so that was a great start. The little towns and the historical background stories are priceless. The ‘cutting’ is epic deep and a marvel of grit, machinery, “and explosives.” The architectural photos helped me grasp Robe. So much more! A splendid effort allowing me to see and sense the area.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep…the snake signs worked for me…attention antennae sticking straight up again…although the pasta meals came a close second.


  4. I loved those photos so much. It was like going back home for me. It does have a few signs of development that was there in my time. One interesting house in the main street of Robe has very small doors because all the carpentry fittings were from a ship that wrecked in the bay. And back 150 years ago the standard sailor was quite a lot smaller than today.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Never mind the coffee – I hope you had a few glasses when putting in all this work. The Cutting feat is phenomenal; the bush fires gave a new meaning to Ash Wednesday. Those pods look a bit like those on our bottle brush plants after the bristly flowers have died off. They come in both pink and yellow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It takes me a few days to put one like this together, so there is a glass or two involved. It’s the photos! We take too many and it’s a task to select and resize them. I’ve often seen those pods before but I forget which plant they come from. One of our old-time children’s authors wrote books about our native trees creating characters. Snuggle pot and Cuddlepie were every child’s favourite. The banksia men were the baddies.

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