From coastline to pine forests, sinkholes to dormant volcanos, some of South Australia’s best trails await the adventurous in the Limestone Coast, so grab a day pack and conquer these rewarding half-day hikes.
Five great hikes of the Limestone Coast
Seaview Walk, Canunda National Park
If a fresh salty breeze and spectacular coastal scenery are your favourite hiking companions, spend half a day discovering the Seaview Walk – South Australia’s rival to the Great Ocean Road.
Park your car at Southend’s Rainbow Rocks and follow the yellow-posted track as it meanders along the south east coastline for seven kilometres and into the Canunda National Park. With every turn of the path, different terrain awaits. One minute, you’ll be traversing a cliff edge while crashing waves break on the rocks below, while the next will find you wandering through sand dunes with wombat lairs and vast troves of shell middens.
Halfway through, you’ll come across Eddy Bay, a gorgeous private cove protected by towering cliffs on each side, an ideal time to shed the hiking gear and go in for a bracing dip.
Frequent lookouts and sitting stops give you time to catch your breath while watching cray fishing boats ride the waves far out to sea.
Don’t forget your camera – any social media post of this walk is guaranteed to prompt an envious flurry of “Where is this?” messages from your friends and will deliver the ideal profile picture.
Location: Start from Southend’s Rainbow Rocks.
Best time: A great way to start or finish your weekend
Physical rating: Moderate
The Bluff, Glencoe
There’s a feeling of discovering a local secret when you conquer this short hike, which has no signage or online directions to guide you.
Ask a local about directions to The Bluff and they’ll say with a smile, “Just follow the towers.” Travel out from Mount Gambier along the Millicent Road and past the first turn to Glencoe, you’ll spot a group of telecommunications towers on the hill – this is The Bluff. Park off the highway in the forest and follow the roads upwards. This short, demanding hike gives you an insider’s look at the multiple stages of the region’s biggest industry – forestry – as you stride through towering pre-harvest pines and alongside newly planted rows the size of a Christmas tree. Reach the ridgeline and you’ll be rewarded with one of the region’s best views out over Mount Gambier and towards the Port MacDonnell coastline.
In summer months, this is the chief domain of fire spotters, whose job it is to sit high on an isolated platform and watch for rising smoke spires in the forest reserves.
Wander down the hill to find your car and head off to the Glencoe General Store for a well-deserved coffee. On weekends, you may hear motorbikes or a paddock of cattle lowing in the distance but this is a perfect hike for lovers of peace and quiet.
Location: Head out on the Glencoe Road and follow the towers.
Best time: Any time but clear skies will deliver the best view for keen photographers.
Physical rating: Demanding
Combining an up-close-and-personal look at one of Australia’s most recently active volcanoes with an impressive workout, Mount Schank is one of the Limestone Coast’s most popular short hikes.
On the 20-minute drive from Mount Gambier, you’ll see exactly what you’re in for looming in the distance. A deceptively steep climb up limestone stairs brings you to the rim of the volcano, dormant for around 5000 years. Traverse the well-tended crater edge path for spectacular 360-degree views over farmland, the ocean and Mount Gambier. The more adventurous can descend along a rough track into the centre of the crater and experience the eerie silence of a geological sleeping giant, as birds of prey hover above. Local culture dictates all comers to the bottom rearrange the waiting assortment of rocks into initials or whatever shape takes your fancy – a kind of geological graffiti. Watch for Gary the goat, the crater’s resident animal, who can be found hiding in stony outcroppings or taking hikers by surprise. The inner crater track is only maintained sporadically so pack the hiking boots and watch for snakes in the spring and summer months.
Best of all, the road home takes you past two of Mount Gambier’s popular scroll and ice-cream shops. You’ll deserve it after this climb.
Location: Mountain Path Rd, Mount Schank.
Best time: Go early to beat the weekend crowds.
Physical rating: Challenging
The Wombat Walk, Caroline Forest
Deep in the Caroline Forest, past the locality of Caveton on the Glenelg River Road is the Penambol Conservation Park, which has been dedicated to environmental preservation for over three decades. The Wombat Walk begins with a non-wombat-related surprise – a close-up look at one of the region’s many fascinating sinkholes. Walk out onto the elevated viewing platform above the Caroline Sinkhole and admire the sweeping vines trailing down the sinkhole’s inner nooks and crannies, which signage will reveal were once believed to have been used for shelter by the area’s traditional owners, the Boandik people.
Eastern grey kangaroos will bound away as you follow 4.5 kilometres of easy-to-navigate track through scrub and stringybark with the odd seat for water breaks. Wombat burrows are dotted along the trail and keep an eye out for flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos. You’re likely to have this hike all to yourself.
Location: Well signposted
Best time: Take an evening stroll for the best chance at spotting wombats.
Physical rating: Easy
Riverwalk, Dry Creek Native Forestry Reserve
Straddling the South Australian and Victorian border near the small river town of Donovans, this is one of the region’s most under-the-radar nature trails. A deceptively bare-bones start, looking much like a paddock in drought, is only the beginning of a trail full of surprises. Follow the 4-kilometre loop track through forest thickets, rocky rises dotted with wombat burrows and through the scrub over the road to find your halfway point: a lookout with amazing views of the Glenelg River. Loop back to the car park and take the eastern trail to discover a trove of fenced-off caves and, beneath a towering gum tree, a hibernation cave belonging to the critically endangered Southern Bentwing Bat. Along with the Wombat Walk, this is one of the best trails to spot wombats. On the way home to Mount Gambier, finish off your trip with a visit to the Princess Margaret Rose Caves.
Location: Around 20 kilometres from Mount Gambier, just past the town of Donovans, watch for the signage and find a car park on the left.
Best time: Early risers will be rewarded
Physical rating: Easy
Release the hounds
The Limestone Coast is a haven for dog-lovers, with plenty of walks and hikes welcoming your canine companions. The Mount Schank volcano hike is a popular weekend spot to tire out even the most spirited of breeds. Forests are ideal off-lead environments for well-behaved dogs, however snakes are commonly spotted in summer months and dogs should be kept away from native wildlife such as kangaroos. Leave the hound at home for national parks and native reserves and always remember to pack a dog bag.
Five short hikes to try:
• Centenary Tower, Mount Gambier
• Orchid Track, Padthaway
• Mount Monster Conservation Park, Keith
• Lake Edward, Glencoe
• Creek Walk, Naracoorte
This story first appeared in the Dec 2020/Jan 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.
For more Limestone Coast hikes, visit the Walking SA website at walkingsa.org.au/
including free delivery to your door.