Most of our childhood family holidays consisted of camping with my cousins and I still hold those memories very dear. Obviously, I was stoked to take the opportunity this summer to camp out in Robe, South Australia with some friends. I’ve spent plenty of time in the Adelaide area and a few other places along the South Australian coast, but I’d never been to Robe. What I found was pleasantly surprising. The locals have preserved many of the original buildings in the town, but have managed to bring a great touch of modern styling to their stores and cafés. Tourist season was in full flight and the streets were filled with people enjoying the weather and proximity to the coast.
Having driven the entire seven hour journey by myself (my friends went a few days earlier), I did little more than set up my tent and gratefully accept the dinner cooked for me on the first day. The weather was mild and I enjoyed the chance to rest up. The following day, we explored the township of Robe. As short as it was, I think I would have been happy to wander up and down Victoria Street for days. We sampled the delights of The Pizza Project for lunch. I say sampled. I ate an entire pizza to myself. Even though I have quite a reputation for being able to polish off more than my fair share of food, this nearly beat me. I soldiered on though since I just couldn’t let a great gourmet pizza go to waste. We spent a little time at the beach before hitting up a few more shops on the main street.
And shop we did. I basically had to be dragged out of one of them before I spent all my money. As I described to another friend of mine later on, it was as though I’d found myself in shop form. I would have happily bought everything in stock. The store in question was Holiday (www.holidaydesign.com.au). I left with new clothes, a beach bag and a few other necessary items (and a lighter wallet) and very happy (despite all the items that restraint called me to leave behind). Probably the most important part of the day though was the super cute ice cream shop. Ice cream eating is a serious thing in my family so finding this place was an important moment.
The next day mainly consisted of reading on the beach. This was notable because even though it was 38ºC, laying out (with little more than my new sun dress, a hat and sunscreen) was made completely bearable by the mild breeze that blew all day. I devoured The Adventures of Robin Hood (what a legend!) with a few swimming and beach cricket breaks. Being New Year’s Eve, my friends wanted to check out the live band at a local pub. We did struggle to find somewhere to eat dinner though and we ended up going back to the camp site. Party on! I think my friends played games in their tent while I slept (I didn’t feel crash hot). The noise of cheering from other campsites woke me up enough to vaguely acknowledge the stroke of midnight before drifting to sleep.
New Year’s Day was upon us and my friends were really keen to check out Adelaide (roughly a three hour drive away). First, we had to stop off to see Larry the Lobster.
Hahndorf was our first major stop on our way to Adelaide. A tried and true tourist destination, we spent a few hours popping in and out of shops, making a few purchases and enjoying the general splendour of the main street. My friends are heading to Germany at the end of the year and were quite inspired by the German heritage that runs through the whole village. Once again, food featured heavily. I can only imagine how heavy this schnitzel was.
The Adelaide Botanic Garden was the next stop off. It was probably the hottest day of our whole trip. Walking around the garden probably would have been more enjoyable with a slightly lower temperature – even the plants seemed to be a bit tired of it. The Bicentennial Conservatory was a highlight, but that may have just been because it was the most watered section of the precinct. I must admit, as a science-trained high school teacher, I am still scandalously terrible at recognising plant species (and dog breeds). Hence, I can’t even tell you what plants were in the giant pond pictured below. Sorry Dr Schlesinger.
We did a whirlwind tour of the city centre (we drove down the main street a few times with basic commentary from me) and then headed back to Robe. Robe Seafood supplied us with some very serviceable fish and chips and we turned in for the evening. What we didn’t know was that throughout the day, fires were sparking around South Australia and Victoria. Two of our crew decided they wanted to head back to Melbourne early and wanted to leave the next day. We had to carefully map a route home to avoid some pretty intense fires near Mt Gambier and Ararat. Fires were also heating up in the Adelaide Hills – very close to where we had just been in Hahndorf. These fires lasted for many days after that, causing evacuations in the outer suburbs of Adelaide. A narrow miss on our part; it hit closer to home than usual since we had just been there. It’s not uncommon for fires to rage during the Australian summer but living in the suburbs of Melbourne, it doesn’t always have such an impact on us. It must be difficult for those who live in fire-prone areas to have that possibility hanging over you each summer.
With our friends headed home, we had another whole day in Robe which I spent catching up on the sight-seeing they had done in my absence at the start of the trip. The main part of that was the monolith that stood on the cliffs jutting out along the coast. We completed some of the walk that followed the coast line around but chose to head in before the pending rain broke. We spent most of the evening playing games in our tent while it rained outside. Camping life.
Some of the fires had been contained over the few days extra we had in Robe, but we still decided to take a coastal route home to avoid the hot spots (terrible pun?). In true “Dales” style, I decided to try and squeeze as much sight-seeing into the last day as possible and since my lovely passenger acquiesced, we completed a solid day of travel via the Great Ocean Road. That is a story for another time/post. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Robe. It was everything a beach-side town should be. The small, friendly and vibrant town centre had just enough style to satisfy my Melbourne-ised tastes, although I’m sure my outback upbringing would have managed had the situation been otherwise. It’s just nice when people care enough about the atmosphere of a place to make it look nice as well. The weather was mostly clear and warm enough to make me want to go swimming. The campsite was family friendly, clean and an easy distance from the beach. In short, I’d go back in a heartbeat and I want to show it to all my friends and family as well.