We were at a bit of a loose end on a sunny but cool winters day and on a whim decided to go and explore the picturesque town of Strathalbyn. I’d heard good things about this town, but had never been there before, and really didn’t know what we would find. Would it really be as beautiful as people told me? Were there actually some interesting things to do in Strathalbyn? Here’s what we found out.
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- 1 Where is Strathalbyn
- 2 A Little About Strathalbyn
- 3 Things to do in Strathalbyn
- 3.1 National Trust Heritage Museum
- 3.2 Gilbert’s Motor Museum
- 3.3 Stationmasters Art Gallery
- 3.4 Strathalbyn Heritage Trail
- 3.5 River Angas Walk
- 3.6 Soldiers Memorial Gardens
- 3.7 Walk along the Historic High Street
- 3.8 Kenny Blake Memorial Statue
- 3.9 Shop for Antiques
- 3.10 Weekend Markets
- 3.11 Indulge in High Tea
- 3.12 Take a Ride on Steamranger
- 3.13 Take a Scenic Helicopter Ride
- 3.14 The Great Duck Race and Other Events
- 3.15 Hills Sculpture Trail
- 3.16 Alexandrina Hills and Lakes Tourist Drive
- 3.17 Langhorne Creek Wine Region
- 4 Where to Eat in Strathalbyn
- 5 Where to Stay in Strathalbyn
Where is Strathalbyn
Located around 55km from the centre of Adelaide, it will take you a little less than an hour to get to Strathalbyn by car. It is an easy drive along the South Eastern Freeway for a good portion of the drive, leaving it at Mount Barker to head towards the south.
Car is certainly the best way to get to Strathalbyn, but it is also possible to catch public buses. Jump on the T840 to Mount Barker on the north side of Currie Street, and then in Mount Barker, change to the 852 to Strathalbyn. The buses will take you around 90 minutes. Note that the 852 bus only runs a handful of times during the day. The times are mostly to suit those living in Strathalbyn commenting into the city for work and school.
A Little About Strathalbyn
Strathalbyn was first settled in 1839, less than three years after the first Europeans came to South Australia. It is located on Ngarrindjeri land, on the banks of the Angas River, The first European settler was Dr John Rankine, from Scotland, and ever since the area has a Scottish flair to it, still occasionally seen today.
Right back in the early days, the banks of the Angas River that flows through town was set aside as parklands – and thank goodness it was, because today it’s a fantastic area to enjoy.
Today Strathalbyn has a popular of around 6500 and it is a pretty town with a relaxed feel that’s just perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Things to do in Strathalbyn
As we arrived in town we paid a visit to the Information Centre and had a chat to the friendly staff there. It’s open everyday from 10am until 2pm and is a great way to start your visit to the town. While any time of the week is nice to come to Strathalbyn if you want to stroll around town, I would recommend a visit from Thursday to Sunday if you would like to visit the museums and eat at some particular eateries. We unfortunately discovered that an early-in-the-week visit can find many of those things closed.
National Trust Heritage Museum
This was the first of the Strathalbyn attractions that we found closed. The National Trust Heritage Museum is located in the old court buildings and police station. It has displays on all aspects of life in Strathalbyn since it was settled.
Opening hours are Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 1:30 to 4pm. Admission prices for adults are $6, concession/students $4, children $2
Gilbert’s Motor Museum
The Gilbert family had been running a garage on High Street for over one hundred years, but in 2018 that era finally came to an end when it decided to close it down. The Strathalbyn Tourism Association came up with the idea to turn the location Into a motoring museum, and late in 2019 that was realised. Now visitors can admire hundreds of displays on motoring history, classic cars, memorabilia or spend time in the small library filled with motoring books and magazines.
Gilbert’s Motor Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am-4pm, entry is $8 for adults, u16s free.
Stationmasters Art Gallery
After you have visited the Visitor Information Centre, go next door to the Stationmasters Art Gallery and take a look at the ever changing array of artworks on display from local artists. The works range from standard paintings and photography to sculpture, clothing and jewellery. The displays are changed about every month, so this is worth a visit each time you are in town.
The Stationmaster’s Art Gallery is open each day from 10am to 4pm
Strathalbyn Heritage Trail
Strathalbyn was a prosperous town in its heyday and as such it has some really well preserved, impressive historic buildings around the town. The locals have set up a self-guided walk around town to take a look at the buildings. Information signs have been erected near many of the buildings so even if simply strolling, visitors can see details of the buildings. If you would like details of the walk, pick up a brochure from he Visitor Information Centre (which is the starting place of the walk as it is located in the old railway station) or download it here.
River Angas Walk
If walking around the town checking out the historic old buildings isn’t enough for you, instead head to the Angas River and follow the pathway along the river to enjoy a peaceful walk in beautiful surroundings. Even though the river runs right through the middle of the town, it feels like you are strolling in the countryside for much of the walk.
Soldiers Memorial Gardens
Part of the River Angas Walk takes you right through the Soldiers Memorial Gardens. This is a great public space perfect for relaxing on a sunny day, catching up with friends, or giving the kids space to run and play. There are large grass areas, and areas with picnic tables and BBQs. Across the river is a great playground and the new swimming pool (the old one was part of the river!). This is a beautiful picturesque area to visit in Strathalbyn.
Walk along the Historic High Street
High Street is one of the two main shopping streets in town. While the other one has a more modern feel to it with banks and real estate agents, dentists and supermarkets, High Street is still flanked with the old stone buildings of yesteryear, many of them renovated beautifully. These buildings are filled with antique stores, the motor museum, cute little cafes, craft shops and two traditional old pubs. This makes it the perfect street for window shopping or fossicking for treasures in the antique stores.
Kenny Blake Memorial Statue
At the northern end of Hight Street you will find this really cool stature of a motorcycle and rider. This is a tribute to local boy Ken Blake who won eleven national championships. Unfortunately Ken died doing what he loved in 1981, crashing during the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race.
Shop for Antiques
I mentioned all the antique shops along High Street, but Strathalbyn is so well known for antiques that you can find shops scattered in other parts of the town too. This town really is perfect if you love to fossick around searching for that one special thing you are looking for because there really is everything here. But if that’s not enough antiques for you, make sure you also visit Strathalbyn during the annual Antiques and Collectibles Fair that takes place in August each year (it will be on the 14th & 15th in 2021) when even more antiques dealers come to town. There’s a huge trash and treasure market set up on the town oval, so there really could be anything here. For further details, see the website here.
On the third Sunday of every month markets pop up on High Street next door to the Gilbert’s Motor Museum. From 8am to 3pm you will find stalls selling all sorts of local produce, from fruit and vegetables to sauces, jams and preserves to meat and cheese. There are also second hand goods, furniture, brick-a-brac, plants and hand-crafted goods. The stall holders change regularly, so you might find all sorts of different products available.
Indulge in High Tea
I just had to mention this cute little tea shop we spotted on High Street. Unfortunately though it was closed during our visit. The Pastel Teacup is open from Thursday to Sunday, 10:15am to 4pm and serves high tea on gorgeous flowery crockery with the perfect pastel setting to feel just like you’ve been transported to a posh London teahouse. They also seem all sorts of shabby-chic homewares and giftware too, so even if you are not up for tea, call in to have a browse and admire this gorgeous little shop.
Take a Ride on Steamranger
Steamranger operates a range of steam train rides around the Fleurieu Peninsula and there are a few of them that visit Strathalbyn. They all operate at different times, mostly during the winter to avoid the fire danger season of summer. From trips that pass through Strathalbyn, others that stop here for the day, dinner trips, even a ghost tour is available too. Take a look at the Steamranger website for all the details.
You can also turn a trip on the Steamranger into a wine tour, with a package from Beyond the Vine. Catch the train from Mount Barker to Strathalbyn, transfer to a bus for a short tour through Strathalbyn before heading off to explore the Langhorne Creek and Currency Creek wine regions. After lunch and some tastings, you will be brought back to the train for the return trip. Coach transfers from Adelaide can also be included.
Even if you are not going on Steamranger yourself, it’s fun to visit the train station when the trains are in town. Often there will be a bagpiper playing to commemorate the Scottish Heritage and other events and entertainment often appear too.
Take a Scenic Helicopter Ride
Located just minutes out side of Strathalbyn, South Coast Helicopters offer a range of tours over the Fleurieu Peninsula, Coorong and southern coast, even as far as the Barossa Valley or Kangaroo Island. If their tours don’t suit, they can also customise an itinerary to suit your needs. They even offer “Top Gun” experiences where you can learn about the mysteries of helicopter flight. Take a look at their website for all the details.
The Great Duck Race and Other Events
One of the most fun annual events in Strathalbyn is The Great Duck Race. It is organised by the local Rotary Club and is held on the second Sunday of November each year. Visitors (and locals) buy a raffle ticket for a numbered rubber duck, and when the time comes to start the race, those numbered yellow ducks are dumped into the Angas River and the wait is on to see which of them makes its way to the finish line first. Over the years, all sorts of methods have been tried to get to ducks to the finish line. Recently a wind machine has been set up to persuade those little ducks to get to the finish line quicker.
The day is not just about the duck race though, there is a fair atmosphere with stalls and BBQs set up. There are other competitions such as best dressed, and even corporate events with local businesses going head to head. The local radio station broadcasts live, and all in all, it’s a popular day out for all who live nearby – and some that don’t.
Other annual events to look out for in Strathalbyn include the Strathalbyn Show (October long weekend), Strathalbyn Races and Langhorne Creek wine festivals.
Hills Sculpture Trail
While the Hills Sculpture Trail is not entirely in Strathalbyn (sculptures can be found in 25 locations all over the Adelaide Hills region) one of the sculptures is located here in town, You can find it next to the impressive St Andrews Uniting Church which is easy to find with it’s prominent clock tower. The sculpture is called “Sunshine and Showers” by Simon Thomas.
Alexandrina Hills and Lakes Tourist Drive
Strathalbyn is the start of this scenic tourist drive through the surrounding countryside. Drive through vineyards, farmland and rolling hills to Lake Alexandrina. Admire the lakes and Coorong area before meandering back to Strathalbyn on a different path. The whole drive is around 100km and it is recommended to allow at least three hours, more if you plan to stop often. For more details and a downloadable map, see the website here.
Langhorne Creek Wine Region
Drive only fifteen minutes from Strathalbyn and you will be in the heart of the Langhorne Creek wine region. While this region produces the second largest amount of grapes in South Australia, it only has eight cellar doors for tasting, making it a very easy region to explore. The problem is almost every single one of those cellar doors is worth visiting, and the hardest part will be deciding which to go to first. Many of them also have extra products too, such as chocolate tastings, craft beers, gin, or great restaurants and cafes. While worth a weekend in it’s own right, visiting one of the wineries is a nice inclusion in a Strathalbyn day trip too.
During our trip we enjoyed Vineyard Road, which also has chocolate products available and skin care from Vasse Virgin in the Barossa Valley. We also called into Bremeton Wines, which has used the quieter Covid period to build a beautiful new addition to their tasting rooms. As well as a range of about twenty wines, Bremeton also have some of their own gins for tasting too.
Where to Eat in Strathalbyn
There are plenty of places to eat in Strathalbyn. We decided to have a pub meal for lunch during our visit. There are four pubs in town but we could only choose one, and this time it was the Commercial Hotel. I wasn’t sure it would even be open for lunch early in the week, but not only did we find it open, but the dining room was full so we were allocated to a barrel in the Baar area (which was fine by us!). I took the full dining room to be a good sign, as it seemed most of the people were locals. The food here couldn’t be too bad if the locals were all here. We just grabbed basic meals of schnitzels, a traditional one for my husband and an eggplant version (vegan) for me. Both were huge meals for a good price, and tasty pub grub. If that’s what you are after, I would happily recommend the Commercial Hotel.
Later in the day we also got some really great hot drinks from The Pickle Pot. Not only do they do good coffees, they have some great snacks too, proudly proclaiming to have the best sausage rolls in South Australia (although we didn’t try them to confirm). They also sell a wide range of local South Australian products such as cured meats, cheeses, sauces, jams, milk and other items. If you happen to be staying in the area, they do amazing looking breakfast boxes, cheese plates and other delicious packs that can be pre-ordered for your stay too.
Where to Stay in Strathalbyn
While we clearly didn’t stay in Strathalbyn this time, we did take a quick peek at some of the accommodation options because we would love to come and spend a weekend down here to explore further. The Strath Motel seems to be a good solid choice for motel style accommodation or for a historic B&B right in town try Gasworks B&B Cottages. I also loved the look of the Evandale Villas, modern accommodation located a little out of town.
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.