Family-Friendly Weekend Stay in Victor Harbor, South Australia
Have a whale of a time in the idyllic town of Victor Harbor, known for its fairy penguins, whale-spotting, and historic horse-drawn trams.
Review by Carla Caruso
Victor Harbor is a town I have fond memories of visiting as a child. But I haven’t got there as often as an adult, even though it’s only a little over an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s CBD.
So, when a friend suggested a short stay there at her parents’ weekender, I was excited. It was time to make some memories there with my own kids. (Note the curious spelling of ‘Harbor’ without a ‘u’ – according to the State Library of SA, the lack of the letter is not influenced by American spelling, but archaic English spelling).
Victor Harbor has the largest population centre on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and it’s particularly well-known for three things: Granite Island, the Cockle Train, and whale-spotting.
Let’s talk Granite Island first … It’s connected to the mainland by a short tram/pedestrian causeway. The tram service is provided by the Victor Harbor Horse-Drawn Tram – one of very few horse-drawn tram routes still in public transit service.
As a ticket stub from a trip onboard reads: The Causeway connecting Granite Island to Victor Harbor was completed in 1874, enabling horses to haul trucks to the island with wool and grain for export by sailing ships.
Steam locos replaced horses for a few years, but in December 1894, horse-drawn passenger trams commenced. Using trams, the service operated for many years until abandoned in 1954 due to high costs of relaying the track. In Jubilee Year 1986, the recreated trams and new track brought the past to life again.
The island’s also famous for being home to a colony of fairy penguins. The penguins shelter on the island at night, then leave in the morning to hunt for fish before returning at sunset. Sadly, though, the colony of penguins is said to have drastically reduced – at last count, only seven were found. An increase in New Zealand fur seals in the area are thought to be to blame.
Onto the Cockle Train … Unfortunately, it was one attraction we didn’t get to this visit, though we vow to next time. The heritage steam train service runs between Goolwa and Victor Harbor, boasting views over coastal cliffs. It got its name from the early days of settlement when locals would take a horse-drawn train to collect cockles from the beaches near the Murray mouth – quite the outing. Check the train’s website for its timetable.
Finally, whale-spotting – it’s another popular local attraction from May to October. Southern right whales come to the nearby waters to calve and mate. Ordinarily, you can head to the local South Australian Whale Centre for whale-watching tips, interactive activities, and more. But it’s currently closed to the public for major renovations, due to reopen in June 2021.
Other attractions in Victor Harbor:
Girdler Family Amusements ‘lives’ at the end of the Causeway throughout the South Aussie school hols, and most long weekends and public holidays. Think Ferris wheel rides, dodgem cars, inflatable slides, and more.
Nearby is the seaside-themed GT Fisher Nature Playground (also known as the Train Park), featuring everything from an old steam locomotive train to animal carvings.
Within walking distance is the National Trust Museum, which delves into Victor’s dark whaling past and beyond.
A short drive away, Urimbirra Open-Range Wildlife Park offers the chance to get up-close and personal with warm- and cold-blooded creatures.
For some quiet time, the Victor Harbor Library is a modern, vibrant place.
And, of course, you can’t forget the simple act of hitting the beach while in Victor. We just had to cross the Esplanade and we were there. Take us back!
What we like about Victor Harbor
- The town’s idyllic setting and historic sites gave me Round the Twist vibes. Visiting feels like stepping back in time to the beach holidays of your youth.
- Qahwa Coffee Roasters – pronounced “Car-wa” – is a quirky café, looking onto beach volleyball courts and the sea. It offers all sorts of gourmet healthy fare, from delicious salads and burgers to fruit juice kefir and amazing coffee.
Things to consider
- Victor Harbor has two extremes. The summer months can be overrun by tourists, so book early. (‘Schoolies’ also generally takes place there at the end of the year.) Meanwhile, wintertime can be quite chilly, but it’s great for whale-spotting and dramatic scenery.
Coffee and food options nearby
For more information on Victor Harbor, visit the Encounter Victor Harbor website.
What: Family-friendly weekend stay in Victor Harbor, South Australia – Review
When: Anytime, all year round
Where: Victor Harbor | Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
All photos by James Elsby and Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide.
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
As per all our Play & Go reviews, this is not a sponsored post and our review is done completely independently.
Want to get all the latest events and activities straight to your inbox?
Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter below to keep up to date with our latest posts and find out all the best events & activities for Adelaide families. Newsletters are only sent once a week, and you may sometimes get a special offer exclusively for our subscribers only!