On South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula the seaside resort town of Victor Habor (yes, that is the right spelling! Well, unless you check the train station), is one of the states most popular tourist destinations, particularly in the summer.
And it’s easy to see why. From the natural beauty of its rolling hills and clear turquoise waters to its rich maritime history and stunning early colonial architecture, Victor Habor offers plenty no matter what your interests.
Located on the northwest shore of Encounter Bay on the eastern side of the Fleurieu Peninsula, the calm and inviting waters that attract not only tourists to Victor Habor but also variety of sea life including whales, dolphins and seals to the area.
Fun fact: Did you know that Victor Harbor was actually named Port Victor until 1921? The name was changed after some confusion with fellow South Australian port city, Port Victoria.
Before I get into the bulk of this post, here’s a couple of rapid fire questions I often get asked about Victor Harbor:
Victor Harbor is located on the eastern coast of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, in a protected enclave of the Great Australian Bight known as Encounter Bay.
As with all seaside destinations, summer is the ideal time to visit Victor Harbor. That said, during the colder winter months, whale spotting is quite popular in the region.
From the heart of Adelaide, it’s about an hour to an hour and a half drive to Victor Harbor along the aptly named Victor Harbor Road (after the end of Southern Expressway). Roughly 85km’s outside of the city.
Southern Right Whales are quite common in the waters surrounding Victor Harbour between May and October. Humpback Whales also regularly visit the area.
What Should You Do In Victor Harbor
Tourism is very much at the heart of Victor Harbor, so you’ll find no shortage of things to see and do while you are in the area.
Let’s kick this off with clearly the most popular spot to visit while in Victor Harbor, Granite Island.
Granite Island, which was named after the huge granite boulders that make up much of the island, has a long and tumultuous history dating back to early European exploration in the early 1800s.
From a chance peaceful encounter between the British and French while the two nations were at war to whaling and becoming the major seaport servicing the wheat and wool trade brought down the Murray River. The island has served a lot of purposes over the last 200 or so years.
During this time (1867 to be exact), Granite Island was connected to the mainland via the Granite Island Causeway, part of Australia’s first public railway, albeit operated by a horse-drawn service, that transitioned from transporting goods to tourists in the 1890s.
These days Granite Island is now a recreation park, most notably known for its small population of Little Penguins. Although the interesting landscape of orange lichen-covered granite boulders, hiking trails and whale watching also factor.
The horse-drawn tram service still exists today for those looking for a unique experience while in Victor Harbor.
The tram service has undergone several different iterations over its long history before reverting to a horse-drawn service in 1986. The tramcars used today were built as replicas of those that originally operate the service over 100 years prior.
Art installations are also a regular occurrence on Granite Island, and worth checking while exploring the trails and views. If you find yourself needing a caffeine fix or a snack, there is also a cafe on the island. As well as a couple on the otherside of the causeway.
One thing I will mention though, as of May 2021, construction is currently underway on a new causeway running adjacent to the existing 100-plus-year-old one. It’s expected that the new causeway will replace the original towards the end of the year.
Victor Harbor is known for its sea life. And one way to get up close to it is the Oceanic Victor.
Located in the sheltered waters that surround Victor Harbor just off Granite Island, Oceanic Victor is an in sea aquarium where you can have the rather unique experience of jumping in the water and swimming with Southern Bluefin Tuna, as well as several other local marine species.
Made from a specially modified commercial tuna ranching pen, Oceanic Victor opened in 2017 and is accessible by a special catamaran service that operates from Granite Island. Specifically from the wharf with the Cafe at the end of the horse-drawn tram service.
Make sure you pack your swimwear for this one because the you will want to jump in the water.
Please note: As of May 2021, Oceanic Victor has been closed and temporarily moved to Port Lincoln for refurbishment while the new causeway to Granite Island is under construction. Oceanic Victor is due to return and reopen in line with the opening of the new causeway.
National Trust Museum/Victor Harbor Station Masters Residence
Part of the appeal of Victor Harbor is the historic buildings that occupy the waterfront.
One of those buildings (well, if you ignore the modern gift shop entrance) is the former Customs House and Station Master’s Residence built back in 1866, which has now been turned into a museum.
Victor Harbor Station Master’s Residence, located next to South Australian Whale Centre, is operated by the local National Trust branch with six rooms filled with heritage furniture and other memorabilia from throughout the 19th century when Victor Harbor (then known as Port Victor) was established.
The museum delves into key parts of Victor Harbors history, from the pre-European Aboriginal lifestyle and early exploration to whaling and the towns time as a major trade hub through to its move to tourism. Including a lot of stuff that I’ve very briefly touched upon throughout this post.
It’s well worth a visit to get a proper understanding of the history of Victor Habor, especially if some of the things I’ve glossed over in the post have grabbed your interest.
And if that isn’t motivation enough, you can even see Victor Harbor’s original public toilet, which is also on the site. More interesting than you might imagine.
South Australian Whale Centre
While whaling was a big, but distant part of Victor Harbor’s history. Whales still play a big and important role in the tourism appeal of the area.
Whale watching is extremely popular in the area, particularly during peak season between May and October. And the best way to get to know more about these amazing creatures is with the South Australian Whale Centre.
Inside one of the heritage-listed railway buildings along Victor Harbor’s foreshore, South Australian Whale Centre is the states largest marine-focused centre with a series of informative and interactive displays on whales and all aspects of the history of whales in the region.
make sure you pay a visit to the 3D theaterette that really allows you to get a proper up close look at the Southern Right Whales who frequent the area without even getting your feet wet.
Please note: As of May 2021, the South Australian Whale Centre was temporarily closed for refurbishment but is due to re-open later this year.
The Bluff/Rosetta Headland
Commonly known as The Bluff, the Rosetta Headland is a prominent feature along the shoreline from Victor Harbour.
Located about a 10 minutes drive south of the main township, this rocky outcrop offers stunning views out over both Victor Harbor, Granite Island and the rest of Encounter Bay.
Make sure you bring some decent footwear and take the Rosetta Trail hike (also referred to as The Bluff Summit Walk) to the top for uninterrupted views. It’s also a great spot to do a spot of whale watching between May and October.
The hike from the car park isn’t overly strenuous, but it does get steep with a narrow trail in some sections, so you do need to watch your footing.
Once you get to the top, also keep an eye out for the plaque commemorating the chance encounter between Matthew Flinders and the French explorer Nicolas Baudin in 1802, which the bay is named after.
And if you’re paying attention on the trail you might also see the mine that was briefly established on the site, hunting for copper.
Urimbirra Wildlife Park
Victor Harbor, as with the rest of the Fleurieu Peninsula, is known for its wildlife.
However if you haven’t managed to see any of it out in the wild, then Urimbirra Wildlife Park is your chance to get up close and see a large selection of Australian native animals, as well as some popular farm animals.
Located just a 5-10 minute drive outside of Victor Harbor, Urimbirra Wildlife Park is somewhat different to most of the other wildlife parks I’ve visited.
It’s an open range reserve with large areas where certain animals, particularly the kangaroos and emus, can move freely around and interact with the guests.
A very good activity if you are traveling as a family with young children.
It’s also worth nothing that the Urimbirra Wildlife Park is considerably cheap for what it is, without any hidden costs, which is a pleasant experience.
Where To Stay In Victor Habor
As a tourist town, there really isn’t a shortage of accommodation options in Victor Harbor. No matter your budget or length of stay you will be able to find something to suit.
Now, I would like to just preface this advice by saying that holiday houses are a particularly popular option in and around Victor Harbor, especially for families. However, having not stayed in any of these personally, I can’t offer any recommendations on good holiday house options.
What I can do is recommend is a couple of other options that I have tried that you might find suit your travels.
My first suggestion is the Breeze Beachfront Apartments. These centrally located self-contained apartments are located across the road from the water and a short, maybe two minutes, walk from most of the key attractions of Victor Harbor.
This apartment style accommodation is ideal a longer stays, especially if you are travelling with a couple of friends. The Breezer Beachfront Apartments are clean, comfortable and probably the best mix of convenience and comfort that you can get in Victor Harbor.
In a similar vein, The Bluff Resort Apartments is another good option if you don’t need or want to stay right in the heart of Victor Harbor. Again located right on the beach at Encounter Bay, this resort-style accommodation offers a few more features especially a pool. Very much ideal for a summer getaway.
You will need to just keep in mind that while there is a restaurant at The Bluff Resort Apartments, for anything else you will need to drive into Victor Harbor (its just a tad far to walk). There isn’t much of anything else within easy walking distance of this resort (and as of the time of writing this, food delivery services are all but non-existant in Victor Harbor).
If you are only planning on staying in Victor Harbor for a day or so, the Comfort Inn Victor Harbor makes for a great centrally located motor inn style accommodation option.
This one is absolutely perfect if Victor Harbor is at the end of a long day on the road. You can just park the car and walk to a number of restaurants, pubs as well as other key attractions in the area while still being in a quiet area as well as walk to most of the key attractions in the morning giving yourself a break from driving for a little longer.
If cabins or caravanning is more your style, then the NRMA Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park is your best bet.
Located right on the beach and within a somewhat reasonable (15 minutes) walking distance of Victor Harbor. The site also has a host of features ideal for young families.
Getting To The Victor Harbor From Adelaide
At a bit over an hours drive south of Adelaide, getting to Victor Harbor is really straight forward if you have your own car.
The fastest way to get to Victor Harbor from Adelaide is to take the Southern Expressway out of the city and then follow Victor Harbor Road (Route A13) all the way into town. A really easy drive.
And while that is the most direct route, there is a much more scenic route option referred to as the Fleurieu Way, Tourist Drive 52.
This tourist route, which will take you a little over two and half hours, is actually made up of a couple of different roads around the Fleurieu Peninsula but is a great way to enjoy some of the best views that the region has to offer.
From Adelaide continue along Main South Road (off the end of the Southern Expressway) (Route B23) down towards Cape Jervis (where the ferry to Kangaroo Island departs). There are several places to stop along the way, some of which I’ll mention in this post.
Once you reach Cape Jervis, head back along the route before turning off and following Range Road (Route B37) back towards Victor Harbour.
If driving does suit you, there is a regional bus service operated by LinkSA that interlinks Victor Harbor with Adelaide, but it does limit your ability to explore the rest of the Fleurieu Peninsula while you are in the area.
Getting Around Victor Harbor
As a relatively small town, walking and cycling are very popular options for getting around Victor Harbor. Well, at least along the coastal areas.
If you plan on staying in one of the hotels within the main township, you’ll have really easy walking access to most of what Victor Harbor has to offer.
That said having your own transport, ie a car, is going to be extremely useful especially if you’re an outdoorsy person who plans to explore the rest of the Fleurieu Peninsula. the whole region has plenty to explore.
Where To Find Food/What To Do In The Evenings?
The great thing about Victor Harbor is that everything is fairly centrally located.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a quick takeaway meal, a cafe, a pub or a nice sit-down restaurant, you will find the bulk of your options located within a couple of hundred meters from the centre of town, in particular along Ocean Street and Albert Place.
That said, Victor Harbor is a relatively quiet seaside town so you won’t find a huge range of options, nor bustling nightlife. But want is on offer is exceptional.
Nino’s Cafe is a Victor Habor staple casual dining experience, offering Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. While the same owners also created Loco Mexican in the centre of town if you are looking for something a little different.
On the takeaway side of things, Victors Pizza Express and The Original Fish Shop, both within a short walk of each other offer a great easy feed.
Beyond Victor Harbor (around the Fleurieu Peninsula)
Victor Harbor is great, but there is so much more to the Fleurieu Peninsula that you can easily explore while you are in the area. Especially if you plan on being in town for more than just a couple of days.
Of all the things to do, I’ve picked out a couple of my favourites to help point you in the right direction when you get there.
Home to the Kangaroo Island ferry terminal, Cape Jervis is worth a quick visit even if you aren’t heading across to the island.
For me, it’s the landscape, the rolling hills and farmland alongside the beaches and sea around Cape Jervis are an absolutely stunning contrast, as are the views out over Kangaroo Island. But don’t ignore the history of the area either.
Much like Victor Harbor, Cape Jervis has a brief history in the whaling industry, and if you explore the aptly named Fisheries Beach, you might just find some of the remnants of the Cape Jervis Whale Fishery, which are still visible today if you are paying attention.
Cape Jervis’s lighthouse is also somewhat unique. The current modern inverted pyramid designed lighthouse was completed in 1972. Replacing the original lighthouse of the site that stood for 100 years prior. You can still see the footings of the original lighthouse right next to the current one when you visit the site.
Also, Cape Jervis is the start (or end) point of The Heysen Trail a 1200km hiking journey (one of the longest dedicated walking trails in Australia) interlinking the cape with the iconic Flinders Rangers.
Beyond the cape, there are several beaches to explore, while fishing is extremely popular in the area. Also, keep an eye out for the wind power stations that are dotted along the coastline.
Deep Creek Conservation Park
The largest of a number of nature reserves throughout the Fleurieu Peninsula, Deep Creek Conservation Park is the perfect place to see some of the local wildlife (including western grey kangaroos, southern brown bandicoots and short-beaked echidnas) in its natural habitat.
Lookouts, waterfalls, hidden away beaches, four-wheel-drive trails and several hiking trails (including a section of The Heysen Trail); there is plenty to discover within the Deep Creek Conservation Park, just a 45-minute drive outside of Victor Harbor.
I quite enjoy the endless photo opportunities that the park offers, but there is no shortage of reasons to visit either for a couple of hours or a couple of days. There are even a number of campgrounds inside the park.
Just keep in mind that there are entry fees to visit and camp inside Deep Creek Conservation Park, just like all of the other national and state parks on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Head to the SA Parks website to find out more.
For something a little bit different, why not explore the ruins of Talisker Mine?
Once the largest silver and lead mine in South Australia, the site was developed by Cornish miners during the 1860s and was still in use until the 1920s, although repurposed. These days the ruins stand to the testament to the industrialisation of that period of the nineteenth century.
Located between Cape Jervis and the Deep Creek Conservation Park, the Talisker site is maintained within its own conservation park although treated as an extension of Deep Creek.
Make sure that you do complete the interpretive hike through the ruins. Maps outlining the route can be purchased from the Yankalilla Bay Visitor Information Centre with much more details or you can find out more about the routes through the Talisker Conservation Park here.
The nearby town of Silverton was developed in support of the mine and also worth checking out while delving into this part of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Port Willunga Beach
On the other side of the Fleurieu Peninsula, Port Willunga Beach is one of the most popularly photographed destinations in all of South Australia.
This stunning beach with golden cliffs and white sand has been popularised by Instagram with several relics from its time as a thriving fishing port along the beach that truly makes it stand out.
From the remnants of the ports jetties that were set up along the beach to caves carved into the cliff face to protect fishing boats and equipment from the elements. Port Willunga Beach is well worth a visit on a clear sunny day.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still ok on an overcast day like when I visited, but the colours really pop on a bright sunny day, really adding to those all-important insta-posts.
Port Willunga Beach is also popular with divers, with a number of shipwrecks along the reef that protects the beach. The most famous being the Star of Greece which wrecked in 1888 and can be still seen at very low tides. A restaurant overlooking the beach has also been named in the ships honour.
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