The Fleurieu Peninsula is situated about 85 kilometres south of Adelaide City. It boasts some of the prettiest coastlines in Australia and is famous for its wine regions, in particular McLaren Vale. It is also home to Willunga, a popular tourist destination and stage of the Tour Down Under. Every year thousands of cyclists gather at the top of Willunga Hill to see riders complete the final stage of the race. South Australia is also where Jesse grew up. We had discussed running a Flashpacking trip there several times, as Jesse was very familiar with the landscape. We also wanted to host a riding experience to those outside of Melbourne. Funnily enough, we had many riders choose to travel from Victoria. For this reason we extended this trip to three days to stretch the lunch stops longer and the riding more relaxed in distance. But don’t let that fool you, the gravel climbs on the Peninsula can be tough!
We started at a 'friendly' time as many locals rode from Adelaide to the start point - Seaford train station, via the Patrick Jonker Veloway & Ocean to Vines bike path.
Alternatively, there are regular trains from Adelaide to Seaford that you can easily load your bike on.
From Seaford the first stretch takes in several beautiful beaches on offer, including Moana, Maslin (Australia's first legal nude beach) and the stunning Port Willunga. We rode along the beach cliffs and took in some sandy single track that tested quite a few people’s bike handling skills. The sand is only brief, so nothing that required a drastic tyre set up. At times we jumped back and forth between the sealed bike path too.
Sellicks Beach marks the point in which the ride heads inland. There is a big pub (Victory Hotel) on course where riders can get water if needed. From here the terrain changed quickly as riders took on Old Sellicks Hill. This is a tough gravel climb, more exposed on a hot day, and was slow going for many riders. The views from the top looking back to the coastline was worth the slog.
Next up was lunch at Myponga. Myponga is a small town that consists of a bakery, general store, weekend market and the wonderful Smiling Samoyed brewery.
We made sure to book ahead as it does get busy here in peak season. Our little group was happy to stop for some beers and lunch, plus bonus dog pats from the Samoyeds, which the brewery is named after.
Day 1: Seaford - Normanville 98 km / 1470 vm
After lunch it took some warming up again to get the group going, beer has that effect when riding! After some lovely gravel back roads, it’s onto a sealed stretch that takes riders through the Myponga reservoir, which is a fast descent followed by a steep climb out.
Still not far out of Myponga we headed onto Myponga beach. This is a highlight of the weekend. The view of the coast, the big sky, the winding gravel roads, surrounded by green countryside is just stunning. It’s close to 10 kilometres of descending down to the beach, where all you’ll find is a few holiday houses and a small patch of sand should you want to hang around.
The climb back out is again close to 10 kilometres, but probably feels longer if you ate and drank too much for lunch. Be sure to look back occasionally if you have the chance to ride here.
Once over the top the final stretch for the day is a series of tangled gravel roads that weave their way into Normanville, again all with a clear view of the coastline. There were numerous stops for photographs here.
Normanville is a little town, and has plenty of refuel options. You’ll find a supermarket, but the bakery is definitely worth a visit. We stayed at the Beachside Holiday Park. There are other options in town closer to the water.
Plenty of dinner options available too, the Normanville pub is where we had dinner, and probably more drinks than planned that night.
The ride for today is a loop out to Port Elliot and back. To be honest the whole purpose of today’s ride was to eat lunch at the Port Elliot bakery.
There is something about bakeries in South Australia. They are the best I’ve ever come across, and Port Elliot is definitely one the top of the list. If you’re ever down that way on the weekend you’re guaranteed to see a queue out the door. The pies and pastries are amazing, and the line of donuts are incredible.
The riding today is all inland, and Port Elliot is on the other side of the Peninsula. Lots of rolling farm roads, some sealed, some gravel.
Eventually the coastline comes into sight and it’s a descent into Victor Harbour, a very popular tourist hang out. Staying close to the coast on tourist roads our group made their way onto Port Elliot, and to the bakery. The riders didn’t hold back on ordering large, many struggling to finish the ‘donut of the week.’
There were a few groans getting back on the bike with stomachs full of pie and pastries. For good reason too! The climb back inland on Crows Nest Road is pretty solid. This is another road that’s featured in the Tour Down Under, and you’ll see areas where the roads are painted up for the race.
We finished the loop back to Normanville earlier than planned so we decided to all hang out at the pub as a group. We had lots of new riders on this trip that lived in Adelaide, so it was great having time to get to know each other.
Day 2: Normanville - Port Elliot 104 km / 1387 vm
After a later than planned night at the pub, our group was up and back at Normanville bakery for breakfast.
The riding today is some of my favourite gravel in the Fleurieu, mostly inland countryside again.
The first climb for the day is Kemmiss Hill Road. This road takes you to some of the highest points inland around the peninsula. Plenty of big rollers, that are sharp and steep to make sure everyone is warmed up. The view along this road is definitely another highlight of the weekend. Looking back you can see the long stretch of gravel travelled, and green pastures in every direction.
After this it’s back to Myponga, this time taking different roads. Riders will then take a series of gravel tracks up and around the back of Mt. Terrible, which is close to the Sellicks Hill climb ridden on day one.
The surface switches to bitumen once on Range Road. Staying high we rode along the shady ridgeline of the hills through Willunga, followed by a fast, sweeping descent into McLaren Flat. There are a couple of big switchbacks here that require caution.
Now back in the wine region, it’s a quick lunch stop at Homegrain Bakery. Again, amazing food and coffee.
The final stretch back to Seaford is backroads and the Ocean to Vines bike path.