Goolwa, SA: Destination Guide

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This ideal summer destination ticks all the boxes for a great family getaway - and the best bit? It’s only an hour’s drive from Adelaide.

Read on to discover the best things to see and do in Goolwa, or find and book accommodation in Goolwa today.

About Goolwa

Nestled in the Fleurieu Peninsula, and home to the Murray Mouth, Goolwa is a thriving tourist town that is brimming with things that will occupy kids (young and old!) for hours on end. While its reputation as a 4WD and fishing mecca precedes itself, Goolwa also has a surprisingly rich history. The town’s name comes from an Aboriginal word for elbow, which describes the bend of the river around Hindmarsh Island; and it is also the place Australia’s first horse-drawn public railway opened in 1854. Add in a prosperous past that included being a popular port for many early riverboats venturing up the Murray River, and you’ll soon discover Goolwa is much more than your average seaside town.

Things to do in Goolwa

Goolwa is a place that can only be described as heaven for water-sport worshippers. The beautiful beaches, along with the intricate Murray River and lakes system is a playground for anyone who loves swimming, diving, surfing, kayaking/canoeing, wakeboarding, whale watching and boating. Any keen angler knows that Goolwa is also a fishing hotspot, and when you can throw a line practically anywhere along the beaches or in the river systems, it’s hard to resist. Knowing that mulloway, bream, carp and salmon trout are some of the fish found in the area only just increases that urge.

If it’s adventure and thrills you seek (and prefer to keep your feet on dry land), then the sand driving around Goolwa should quench that thirst. Many of the beaches in the area are strictly 4WD accessible, so the endless stretches of sand that await drivers make for some dream conditions. Soft sand is something to be aware of though, and it’s often churned up from the amount of traffic that passes through, so make sure to lower your tyre pressure and take extra care when needed and you should be fine.


The Murray Mouth

If you’ve got yourself a 4WD, or can get your hands on one, it’s well worth it to visit the Murray Mouth. The Murray Mouth is the point where the mighty Murray River finally meets the sea, and this journey is one of the more popular routes for 4WD enthusiasts. The mouth runs between two sandhill peninsulas – Sir Richard Peninsula and Younghusband Peninsula, and all up it’s a good 10km or so of sandy, off-road tracks. Remember to check the tides before you go though, as many a car has fallen victim to the fast-rising water along this beach.

Spirit of Coorong Cruise               

4WDing might not be your thing, so why not discover the magic of the Murray Mouth from aboard a boat? The Spirit of Coorong offers charted cruises that depart from the main wharf in Goolwa and venture not only to the Murray Mouth, but further into the Coorong National Park and past the barrages that separate Lake Alexandrina. These highly informative and entertaining cruises offer incredible views of this unique peninsula landscape, and - water levels and weather permitting- you can sometimes go ashore to walk amongst the pristine sand dunes.

Cockle Train

For a ride on the oldest steel railed railway in Australia, and an insight into the early days of settlement around Goolwa, it’s all aboard the Cockle Train! This majestic steam train echoes the same path the horse drawn trains would take from Goolwa down to the beaches near the Murray Mouth to collect cockles. Nowadays though, the train leaves Goolwa Station in the historic wharf precinct and travels to Victor Harbour via Middleton and Port Elliot. The scenery along the journey is spectacular, and gives passengers unobstructed views of the coastal cliffs that make up the Fleurieu Peninsula.  

Getting to Goolwa

Goolwa is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide.

By car

From Adelaide, travel 83km along the A13 (South Road), for just over an hour and you will reach Goolwa.

By train

Premier Stateline run daily train services from Adelaide to Goolwa, via Victor Harbour, which take approximately two hours.

When to visit Goolwa

Like many seaside destinations, Goolwa well and truly comes alive in the summer months. The thriving town is at its best when the hot weather begins to set in, especially considering how popular the water-based activities are in the region. There are plenty of reasons to visit outside of summer though, with Goolwa's charm extending all year round. If you happen to find yourself in Goolwa from June to September, for example, it's prime whale watching season, as southern right whales visit the cooler waters off the coast. 

Where to stay in Goolwa

For accommodation options in and around Goolwa, click here.