Coastal Walking from North Haven to Goolwa

Originally published in the Trailwalker magazine: Autumn 2008, May 2008

Brighton Jetty. Photo by Space_Potato
Glenelg Jetty
Victor Harbor
Second Valley
The Bluff at Victor Harbor. Photo source: Samela (

Finally we have completed it with our final day’s walk into the car park at Cape Jervis. It was a journey that started years ago, but became a project when, one hot Australian Day, Marie and I were walking along Semaphore beach to the breakwater at North Haven and it occurred to me that, with a little extra effort, we could walk along the coast to the Murray Mouth.

We had already over the years walked the inner Adelaide metropolitan beaches and the Heysen Trail from Cape Jervis to King’s Beach, so the rest would be merely a formality. We could do it as a series of day walks.

Like most people, the thought of walking more that a kilometre brings about images of instant death from exhaustion, so walking approximately 20 kilometres amazes them.

This is a description of the walk, not necessarily in the order we did it but, from North Haven to the Mundoo Barrage. Most of the walk can be done in the summer months and is little more that a paddle in the shallows on hot days, when walking anywhere else would seem a little silly. The metropolitan beaches need little description and walking them mainly involves leaving the car at a point and walking out and back. Sometimes we walked along the beach one way and back the other way through the houses. This was a highlight when we walked past Westlakes, a walk that included the shopping centre and the shores of the lake. The section from Seacliff to Glenelg is a walk I take often, in fact a trip into the city for me is a walk along the beach to Glenelg, a tram ride into the city and then, after a look around Adelaide, a train ride back to Brighton. I consider this one of the great walks to the shops, ranking with two we did in Maui along the beach, the walk from the Mount Cook YHA to the shops and back, Aldgate to Stirling along the railway reserve including Woorabinda Reserve and Kirton Point Caravan Park to Port Lincoln along the coastal path. The walk from North Haven to Seacliff basically covers the inner metropolitan beaches. A friend once caught the bus to Footy Park, watched the game and then walked home in the late afternoon along the beach.

The section from Seacliff to Hallett Cove is along the recently constructed boardwalk and is spectacular as it winds its way along the clifftop. It can be achieved by walking to Hallett Cove and then catching the train back to Seacliff. My favourite way however is to walk there and back along the cliff, for the views are different each way. If it is low tide then this section can be done on the rocks between low and high water mark. This section involves the Hallett Cove Conservation Park and a walk around it is delightful. The section from Hallett cove to Port Stanvac can either be made along the shore or on a track along the clifftop. The shore walk is reasonably easy and involves some rock hopping and is best done at low tide. The rock formations adjacent to the Port Stanvac fence are spectacular and alone make this walk worthwhile.

Port Stanvac is out of bounds, so the next section starts from the boundary fence on its southern side and includes Christies Beach, Port Noarlunga and Southport. These beaches are great surf beaches, especially Southport, so if you are adventurous, go for a surf. You can also wander along the Christies Beach shopping precinct. These are all out and back walks so allow time for that. The memorial on Whitton Bluff is interesting because it is wrong by inference. (Google, Captain Collett Barker and discover the correct story.) At the Southern end of Southport is the mouth of the Onkaparinga River and as such is a terminus, or the walker can venture into the estuary and have a great bird watching experience. How long you spend in this part is up to you but I find it a total experience and have spent many days wandering around. Kayaking up the river to Old Noarlunga and back is a great weekend’s entertainment. In doing so, the walker can get to the southern bank of the river and then continue on along the beach through Seaford, Moana, Maslins Beach, Port Willunga, Aldinga Beach and Sellicks Beach.

…a stop off at Kenetha’s for a cup of afternoon tea. It was a pity her hospitality had waned, for after knocking loudly several times, we phoned only to hear her reply from Perth

This section can all be done on the beach with the occasional rock or reef to maneuver your way around or over. I have only done it at low tide so there might be some problem at high tide, leaving the walker to walk along the clifftop on the various paths. The walk from Moana to Port Willunga I did with Terry Gasson through the scrub, so he is an expert on this section. From the clifftop near Port Willunga you can see what appears to be the hull of “The Star of Greece” in the shallows. This section is a stunningly beautiful surprise with the Sellicks Hill Range as a back drop. This range prompted a friend’s young daughter to call them hilltains, a great description of something between hills and mountains. The Star of Greece Restaurant makes a lovely lunch break.

The section between Sellicks Beach and Myponga Beach is lovely. We did it by walking along the beach at extreme low tide and walking back to Sellicks Beach along the clifftop. The walk along the beach is really a long rock hopping exercise but at low tide the life in the rock pools is surprisingly delightful. Lunch overlooking Myponga Beach would have enticed us to stay all afternoon had we not had to get back to the car. Walking back along the clifftop we basically followed the pipeline and any available tracks. It is a walk that offers spectacular views of the coastline with the best views being from the Buddhist retreat overlooking Sellicks Beach. After this there is a small walk along the Main South Road before taking the first road back to the coast. Marie and I have often walked in this area along the various tracks with a loop walk including Reservoir Road, Sampson Road, the pipeline and various tracks, and Mount Jeffcott. A lot of it is on private property, so we are always mindful of leaving everything as we found it and giving any live stock a wide berth.

The section from Myponga Beach to Carrickalinga was eventful, for no sooner had we started to clamber over the seemingly endless large rocks along the shore when Marie refused to go any further on rocks. Feeling a bit the same and as always being amenable to her wishes, we headed up the first available gully and across country, again on private property but still following the coast. There were lots of steep gullies and associated hills but we soon discovered if we walked inland the steepness soon subsided and the creeks were easily overcome. We are always mindful of livestock in such situations and leave all gates as we find them. During the occasional sortie to the ocean clifftop we soon realized we would not have made it along the shore, for most of it was cliffs running down to the sea. The walk back to the car was along Fork Tree Road and the Myponga Beach Road again offers stunning views. It was while walking along this road that a local in his white truck stopped out of curiosity and asked us where we had been. When told, he was very surprised for, like most people, the thought of walking more that a kilometre brings about images of instant death from exhaustion, so walking approximately 20 kilometres amazes them.

The walk from Carrickalinga to Wirrina Marina is one of the surprises, and we have walked it many times since. We do most of our beach walks on hot summer days but occasionally we do them in winter and again they are delightful in a different way. This particular section we did over two days with a look around Normanville’s main street. The shops and restaurant overlooking the small jetty at Normanville are there for either a meal or an ice-cream or both. I wonder why such a small jetty, maybe it was longer once. The walk from the sand to Wirrina is a little rocky, but Marie didn’t complain much, so I guess it wasn’t too arduous. Once at Wirrina we skirted the boat harbour on the bitumen before heading up the hill and on our way to Second Valley and Rapid Bay.

This section again we did over two days, the first day to Second Valley and back, the second from Second Valley to Rapid Bay and back, with a walk around both towns included. Both of these walks were overland and on private property. Walks overland are best done in the winter, for then the constant worry of snakes and the nuisance of flies disappears or diminishes. Also green hills are much more pleasant than dry and dusty ones. There are some stunning views from the hill tops and, on a cold and windy day, most exhilarating.

Our walk from Rapid Bay to Cape Jervis was one of the best. From Rapid Bay we walked along the clifftop but soon we were confronted with the exceptionally steep and long gully of Yohoe Creek, so in our wisdom we decided to climb Mount Rapid. This was an easy climb and the views from its top were pretty good. After lunch we headed back to Rapid Bay with the whole walk offering great views of the coast. No Where Else Creek offered a small problem but we were able to negotiate this and get back to Rapid Bay quite early and sit on the beach in the sun. While there I was able to help a bloke whose car had become stuck on a small mound with both sets of wheels in the air. Sometimes it helps to be size XXL as I sat on the boot of his car while he got some traction. Our next walk was from Bennett Road to Mount Rapid. This included some native forest, which was delightful, and then we walked to the summit along what appeared to be road reserves. After lunching on the summit we walked back along tracks and roads. Before going to the car we walked along Yoho Road to have a look at the wind turbines on Starfish Hill. We were surprised to see how big they are as they slowly rotated in the stiff breeze that was blowing on this lovely sunny winter’s afternoon.

The walk from Bennett Road to Cape Jervis was mainly on roads which included the Main South Road, Sappers Road, McLeod Road, St Vincent Road and a small expedition overland to a track that led onto Morgan’s Beach. For those who haven’t seen this beach, it is delightful and well worth a swim on a hot day. On arrival at Cape Jervis we had a quick look around, noticed that Robert Alcock’s Heysen Trail sign was already starting to fade and bought a map of KI at the terminal for future reference, as we will be circumnavigating Kangaroo Island in the future.

As you all know, Cape Jervis is the Trail Head for the Heysen Trail and the next section, from Cape Jervis to Victor Harbor, is along the Heysen Trail and needs little description, for most of you should have completed this section or are about to do so. All I will say is that it is challenging and beautiful and if you haven’t completed it, End-to-End 4 will be doing this section in 2009.

Most South Australians will be familiar with the section from Victor Harbor to Goolwa, for most people will have walked sections of it at some time in their lives, so my description will be brief. From Kings beach we left the Heysen Trail and followed a track along the cliff face then, after The Bluff, it was along the beach to Victor. After a look around Victor and some purchases, the long section to Goolwa began. All of this section was walked on hot to very hot days (everywhere else but here) in the shallows with the occasional swim or surf as the need arose. I took one of my Trail Walker groups to Port Elliott and back, including a pastry stop at the Port Elliott Bakery and a stop off at Kenetha Pick’s for a cup of afternoon tea. It was a pity her hospitality had waned, for after knocking loudly several times, Lyn Wood mobile phoned her only to hear her reply from Perth. We couldn’t even get a drink from her tap, for the water had been turned off. This would have to be hospitality at its worst with a lot of room for improvement. While walking past the railway station, Mike Spencer suggested we catch the cockle train back to Victor, but the consensus was we were out for a walk, so walk we did. All walks the other way are different because of the different scenery and the board walk on the Hindmarsh River estuary was a sweet little diversion. On another occasion we walked up the stairs near the Chiton Rocks Lifesaving Club and walked back to the Hindmarsh River on the road reserve and road, overlooking the ocean. This particular walk offers great vistas and is exceptional on a big surf day. On this occasion we were greeted by a friendly Pardalote as we entered the Hindmarsh river boardwalk. The little remembrance garden in Port Elliott overlooking Horseshoe Bay was a moving experience, for I can’t help wondering why boys from the sunny, isolated Port Elliott of 1914 should be obscenely dying in the mud of France at some British staff officer’s whim.

The walk from Port Elliott to Goolwa was done in three stages. The first one was from Port Elliott to Middleton along the beach. This is best done at low tide because the beach can be a little narrow at times. The next section was along the beach to a halfway point heading toward Goolwa Beach and the next was back to that point from Goolwa Beach. Both times we were at Middleton there was a surfing competition, which to an ageing surfer was a delight. One thing that surprised me was the large number of baby-boomer surfers in the comp. Most of these surfers had long boards and were a little pale and over fed, and either grey and/or bald. This is a different sight to the 1960’s when they were tanned, skinny, blond and longhaired or as Little Patty would have it -“Blond headed, stompie wompie real gone surfer boys.”

The walk from Goolwa Beach to the Murray Mouth and back was a long day, with the distance I estimate to be about 27 kms. Again we walked in the shallows and on this particular day it was foggy to start, with the fog disappearing when a stiff sea breeze sprang up. The mouth is always spectacular and now, with its dredges and out flow pipes from those dredges, it offers a different landscape. At one stage there were two rays feeding in such shallow water that their fins were rippling out of the water as they moved along.

Our walk from the Goolwa Barrage along the river bank to the Mouth and back was one of those funny days you have sometimes. We religiously stayed close to shore and avoided any of the black mud until, near the mouth, down we went up to our knees. Luckily we had taken our sandals off by then but we looked as though we had long black socks on. When we reached the mouth we washed all of this off, but on the way back we went out of our way to avoid the mud. This was to no avail for down we went again, not quite as deeply as before, but enough to still have long black socks on when we got back to the barrage.

Our next walk was from the barrage through Goolwa, across the “Secret Women’s Business” bridge and onto Hindmarsh Island. After a quick walk down O’Connell Ave, it was back along Randell Road and then down Captain Sturt Parade. This is a lovely walk with its views over the Lower Murray and Lake Alexandra. The beach houses offer a sight into another way of life and the winery we stopped off at offered some interesting cellar door sales, after this we headed down Monument Road. We had a look at Sturt’s Monument and then it was back to Goolwa along Randell Road. This is a bit tedious but a quick look around the Chapman Marina and those obligatory open inspections we had to attend, made it more interesting. In Goolwa we did the usual shops and art gallery tours. The one with the artists in residence painting those birds and animals is a must see at any time. We also stopped off at the Goolwa Bakery for one of those blueberry turnovers, which is a meal in itself and always takes an age to finish. “Mmmm, eat your heart out Homer, they don’t have those in Springfield.”

Our next walk was the final one in this Odyssey and involved walking past Sturt’s Monument down McLeay Road through a gate into a road reserve. We followed this track for about a kilometre before following it in a 90 degree turn to the left. We followed this track through another gate onto a gravel road to its conclusion at the Mundoo Barrage, which is where this walk ended. From all of the signage on the fences and the warning from the man at the Goolwa information centre it seemed prudent to stop here and take up the walk on the other side of Tauwitcherie Barrage. This we did and are now in the process of walking to Mount Gambier along the coast, as the geography permits.

Link walks are always interesting because we walk in places not usually walked and these are sometimes the best. Examples of this were the walk from the Barrage to the Murray Mouth, the walks to Mount Rapid, the walk along the shore and cliffs between Selleck’s Beach and Carrickalinga, the walk across Hindmarsh Island and the Onkaparinga Estuary.