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Australian Bicycle Camping Fact Sheets

South Australia: The South East

By Grace Newhaven  

 PO Box 3331 Rundle Mall SA 5000



This fact sheet is intended as an introductory guide to cycle camping in the South East of South Australia. The region is an established conventional tourist destination; and general tourist and promotional information is readily available from mainstream sources elsewhere. This fact sheet assumes the reader has, or will have, access to those sources.


The " SA Cycle Route: South East " is a bicycle-specific map of the region, scale 1: 250 000. The map covers the area between Mt Gambier, Kingston & Naracoorte, and includes a suggested route, avoiding main roads where possible. Produced in 1986, this map was once distributed by cycling organisations, map shops and Information SA. It may now be more difficult to obtain.

The RAA (car organisation) produces twin regional maps "Upper…" & "Lower South East" East " (aprox 1 : 350 000 ), including town maps, some details of forests and hills, and is useful for the minor roads, showing some roads that are not listed on larger scale road maps. Free to members of car clubs, otherwise $1.50 from RAA offices in larger towns. For an on-line map, click here :


Bicycle contacts : The "Tatiara Tourers" Bicycle Club. PO Box 16 BORDERTOWN SA 5268. Don Hill (Pres) Tel 08 8753 7230 Fax 8753 7230

The SA National Parks & Wildlife Service [ NPWS] has a number of useful leaflets and maps, including " The Tattler" (sic) a free broadsheet listing a variety of information about NPWS sites and their facilities (camping etc). There are several offices in the region, HQ at Mt Gambier office 8735 5290. Information may also be collected from an Adelaide shopfront at 77 Grenfell Street. /

Wind directions and other weather information is available on the www at :

Neither SA Department of Transport nor SA Tourist Commission presently have any information for long distance bicycle travellers.


Aborigines of the the Ngarrindjeri & the Booandik People inhabited the region for millennia , till French explorer Nicholas Baudin discovered and named Guichen Bay in 1802 . European settlement began in 1839 when Charles Bonney opened a stock route between Portland and Adelaide. Sheep farmers followed, and the coastal ports gradually became more important during the Victorian goldrush , as an entry port for Chinese diggers and later as export centres for the wool and horse industries.


The South East is a generally flat plain with some gentle undulations and a few short hills. There are a number of striking volcanic features in the landscape ( eg Mt Gambier). The region is one of mixed sheep & cattle country with tracts of pine plantation and some native forest. The Coorong is a particularly attractive feature, and it would be worthwhile to take at least a couple of days there for sight seeing. There are also several cave sites of interest (eg at Narracoorte ), and the region includes several important wet land sites eg Bool Lagoon, as well as notable wine growing areas eg Coonawarra.

Getting there

by bike

Mt Gambier is 457 km from Adelaide and 393 km from Melbourne. There are no specifically designated or signed bike routes.

by bus

Stateliner bus serves the main towns. Charge for bikes is around $15.00 extra.

by rail

The Great Southern Railway's Adelaide-Melbourne line traverses the SE. However, high prices for bike carriage make the service unattractive for cyclists.

by air

Airport at Mt Gambier


There is an extensive network of well maintained sealed roads, sometimes narrow (one lane). Car traffic generally very light and considerate, however through roads between major towns will be busier , sometimes with heavy trucks . Some newer sections of through roads have useful sealed shoulders, but there are significant stretches without a safe shoulder - be particularly aware of traffic both behind and on-coming on these stretches. It's also a good idea to wear a bright helmet and clothes with high visibility - a yellow shirt or vest is ideal. There are also unsealed earth roads and some rough, sandy tracks providing useful & picturesque alternatives to sealed roads, eg the " Old Coorong Road " - these will be slower and sometimes you'll need to walk, but in general they are well worthwhile.


In South Australia generally, tap water is highly mineralised and - while entirely safe to drink - may be unpleasant to the taste. Most local people prefer rainwater, which is collected in plastic or metal tanks adjacent to buildings. In the South East, most schools have conveniently located tanks , and farm houses are usually happy to refill your bottles if you ask politely. You may find a "do-it-yourself "water bag" useful , especially for bush camping. For hot weather, it's also possible to insulate conventional bike bottles to avoid some of the heat that makes water less palatable.


Most small towns have a general store open long hours ( see below), but generally with a limited range of food. There are supermarkets in the larger towns, usually open 7 days (7D) .If you're on a budget, ask if there is a " low code" or "price reduced" trolley, for foods with a low "use by" date. For camping in the cold seasons, Damper may be a useful alternative. For other cooking ideas for bicycle touring, click here. Be sure to try naturally brewed Cooper's beer, a South Australian speciality.


In South Australia, overnight roadside camping is generally permitted outside town limits and there are plenty of opportunities for free camping on quiet unsealed roads and stock routes leading off from the sealed roads. Around most of the small towns, it would be possible to stock up on water and food, then proceed to an overnight "free" campsite nearby if desired. There are also a number of " national parks" sites which allow camping , with facilities ranging from nil to say " two star". Alternatively, caravan parks provide tent sites, and hot showers, at about $ 8 - 15 per person. Caravan sites were between one and four star, generally for the same price.


Most public libraries provide free email and www services, and it's not always necessary to book. Both OPTUS and Telstra produce a re-chargeable phone card with an in-coming message service, ( particularly useful for travellers ). ABC Radio National is readily available across this region, providing a mix of Australian and international news, weather and informative discussion.



gen store, pub, c/p, backpackers, beach


gen store, liquor 7D till 1830. National Trust museum, wild peaches


s/market, pub, water at antique shop. Self guided history walk


2 x s/ markets, pub, camp site

Mt Gambier

Blue Lake, backpackers, all services.

Mt Schank

pleasant picnic area with grass & tap, volcanic crater walk, views

Policemans Point

c/p $8.00. pub, canoes, pool , spa, friendly management.. tel/fax 08 8575 7045

Port Macdonnell

general store, library with www, pub, c/p


heritage town, trading on tourism. Water at the school. NPWS bush campsite to S, no facilities.

Salt Creek

water tank at school, roadhouses with fast foods.


pub, general store, large grassy park

This fact sheet was produced by grassroots cyclists. No responsibility for errors or omissions can be accepted. It is intended for free or low cost distribution on paper or on the www, and you are free to copy it on that basis. Suggestions for improvement are most welcome!

Other Bicycle Camping Fact Sheets in this series include

Central Australia | SA Kangaroo Island | SA Flinders Ranges | North Queensland

| WA Kimberley | Stuart Highway | NSW Central West | NSW Sydney to Canberra |

| NSW Hunter Valley | Nullarbor Eyre Highway | Qld/ NT : The Plenty Highway

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