Victor Harbor is great for both day trips from Adelaide and longer stays, with plenty to do in the area. Here are all the best things to do in Victor Harbor to make your visit perfect.
Victor Harbor is a popular location for Adelaide locals, either as a day trip or a weekend getaway. It is often the base for our summer holidays and has become an idyllic beach town. It’s perfect for summer holidays, but also great for exploring in winter.
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
- How to get to Victor Harbor
- Things to do in Victor Harbor
- Whale Watching
- Encounter Coast Discovery Centre
- Learn at the South Australian Whale Centre
- Off the Bluff – Abseiling
- Ride the Cockle Train
- Ride the Encounter Bikeway
- Go Quad Biking at Waitpinga
- Eat at the Famous Port Elliott Bakery
- Try Axe Throwing
- Hike the Bluff
- Do a Walking Tour
- See the Little Penguins
- Try Surfing
- Take a Scenic Biplane Flight
- Visit Granite Island
- Coral Street Art Space
- Catch the Horse Drawn Tram
- Visit the Nearby Towns
- Enjoy the Animals at Urimbirra Wildlife Park
- Walk the Town Centre Heritage Trail
- Go Fishing
- Big Duck Boat Tours
- Grab a Bargain at the Markets
- Softfoot Farm Tours
- Victa Cinemas
- Kayak the Coorong
- Enjoy the Beach
- Where to Stay in Victor Harbor
How to get to Victor Harbor
Victor Harbor SA is located about 85km south of the Adelaide City centre on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The best way to get there is by car, taking a bit over an hour.
Having a car will make it easier to get around while there too, as some of the best Victor Harbor attractions are slightly outside of the centre of the town.
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It is possible to catch a bus to Victor Harbor, or a combination of a train to Seaford then a bus, but these services run only a couple of times a day so would require considerable coordination with other activities.
There are more details about the bus times and routes here.
If you are short of time, do not have transport, but would still like to visit Victor Harbor, there are many day trips from Adelaide that come here.
Often they also include some wine tasting at McLaren Vale or a visit to the popular town of Hahndorf. Here are just a few suggestions
- Victor Harbor and Southern Highlights
- Fleurieu Explorer
- Victor Harbor and McLaren Vale Wine Region Day Tour
Fun Fact While in Australia the usual spelling is "Harbour", Victor Harbor has ended up with what appears to be the American spelling. It did start out as Victor Harbour though. There is a plaque on Granite Island that commemorates the original naming of the town in 1837, and on that the name is spelled with a "u" in it. In 1921, the South Australian government for some reason decided to rename all "harbours" in the state to "harbor", so Victor Harbour South Australia became Victor Harbor South Australia. Exactly why they chose to do this is a mystery, but apparently it's in honour of the archaic English spelling, not the American version.
Note: The Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre has been temporarily relocated to Coral Street while their premises are renovated.
Things to do in Victor Harbor
When planning your day in Victor Harbor it is recommended you check the latest information on the websites of the attractions as while most things are open and running at the moment, some do still have reduced hours or less sessions that they used to run. Hopefully as travel increases and the world opens up again, things will get back to normal.
Victor Harbor is a great place for whale watching in winter as the whales migrate up from Antarctica. There are a few nearby locations that provide great views over the ocean and the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures.
The whales in the area are mostly Southern Right Whales, but it’s not unusual to see Humpback Whales too.
The most popular location is The Bluff, but you could see whales while you are on Granite Island looking out to sea. There is also a dedicated whale watching platform at nearby Middletown too. Look for the access point to Basham Beach.
Encounter Coast Discovery Centre
The Encounter Coast Discovery Centre is a museum set up by the National Trust. The museum contains everything from Aboriginal artefacts, whaling, trading centre, and railway history.
Visit the nearby Customs House and see it set up as it would have been in the early 1900s. Make sure you check out the very first public toilet in Victor Harbor while you are there.
Learn at the South Australian Whale Centre
Located right on the foreshore in the centre of town, the South Australian Whale Centre is a great way to learn about the whales that can be seen in the local area.
There are also displays on the sustainability of our oceans and a replica of the “MY Steve Irwin”. It’s one of the best things to do in Victor Harbor with kids and there are plenty of hands-on activities available.
Off the Bluff – Abseiling
You may have walked to the top of The Bluff before, but have you gone back down the hard way? You can now book a tour to abseil down nearly 100m down the side of The Bluff.
Get the adrenaline pumping while enjoying more of those incredible views over the surrounding coastline. Click here for all the details.
Ride the Cockle Train
The Cockle Train is one of the trips on the Steamranger Heritage Railway. It runs between Victor Harbor and Goolwa, stopping at Middleton and Port Elliott along the way.
Most of the time the trains are pulled by a steam engine, but sometimes things like fire danger considerations and the steam engines being used elsewhere mean that a diesel engine is used.
The carriages are all old-style heritage railcars, and it is a fabulous opportunity to remember the romance of this era while enjoying the stunning scenery along the coast.
For information on the days/times The Cockle Train is running, or on any of the other trips the Steamranger Heritage Railway runs, see the website here. Bookings do not need to be made in advance, they can be bought at the stations on the day.
Ride the Encounter Bikeway
The Encounter Bikeway runs all the way along the coast of Encounter Bay, linking together Goolwa, Middleton, Port Elliott and Victor Harbor. It’s a great path for a bike ride (or a walk) during your visit to Victor Harbor. You could make a day of it and ride the whole 31km length, or just enjoy a section of it.
Go Quad Biking at Waitpinga
I had the opportunity to do this a couple of years ago and it was fantastic. After having a short lesson on the quad bikes, we took a ride around the farm, learning about some of the flora and fauna and history of the area.
The whole time we were admiring the incredible views of the Southern Ocean.
On the way back we got to “play” a little, testing out our riding skills on a sand track that twists and turns through the scrub. While this is a great activity for the adrenaline junkies, I can confirm it’s also easy enough for an inexperienced rider too.
Eat at the Famous Port Elliott Bakery
Pretty much any time you drive down the main road through Port Elliott there will be a lineup outside of the Port Elliott Bakery. This bakery is widely considered the best in South Australia.
The unassuming building has been a bakery ever since it was built in the 1860s, and the current owners have been running it for over thirty years.
It is filled to the brim with delicious savoury pastries, such as a killer meat pie, and dozens of sweets, including the most amazing “Donut of the Month” creations. There are even vegan options and some gluten-free too.
Port Elliott is only 8km from the centre of Victor Harbor, so a visit to the bakery is one of the must-do Victor Harbor activities.
Try Axe Throwing
Head to Chop It Axe Throwing to see how good your throwing arm is! Axe throwing has become a popular new pastime in recent years. Originating as a competitive sport in lumberjack competitions, axe throwing has since evolved into a recreational activity that anyone can enjoy.
Participants throw axes at targets, aiming to hit the bullseye and score points. It requires skill, technique, and focus, making it a fun and challenging activity for individuals or groups.
Hike the Bluff
After that visit to the bakery, you will need to wear off some of those calories (just so you can go back for more!) and the best hike in Victor Harbor is up to the top of The Bluff.
This landmark is easy to recognise from the beachfront in Victor Harbor – it’s that hill out on a headland to the west of the town centre.
The walking trail up to the top of The Bluff is called the Rosetta Circuit. It’s an 800m loop from the carpark and takes around an hour. At the top, enjoy 360 degree views over the ocean and the countryside.
If you are looking for longer walking trails in the area, the Heysen Trail passes close to Victor Harbor and a section of that through Deep Creek Conservation Park would make a great day hike.
Do a Walking Tour
Victor Harbor Walking Tours have recently started two different walking tours around the town. The Discover Victor Harbor Guided Walking Tour shows you around all the popular sights in town.
Spend 90 minutes walking around the centre of town. Learn about the history of Victor Harbor and what has made it one of SA’s most popular seaside cities.
The second walk is the Stories of Shipwrecks & Settlers Walking Tour. This 75 minute tour covers all of the maritime history of Victor Harbor.
See the Little Penguins
Granite Island is home to a small colony of Little Penguins. While it is very unlikely that you will see them during the day, there is a tour run in the evenings to learn about the plight of these penguins.
After a horrible fox attack that decimated the population in 2020, there are only around 20 Little Penguins remaining on Granite Island. Tours have been paused to allow the penguins a little time to recover.
The beaches around Victor Harbor offer some of the best surfing in South Australia close to Adelaide. This is where many of the locals will come for a day trip just to surf.
If you’ve never tried surfing, book a lesson and start “Hanging Ten” with the best of them. Most surf lessons happen at Middleton, about 11km from Victor Harbor. See the details here.
Take a Scenic Biplane Flight
About half an hour from Victor Harbor is the Aldinga Airfield, and from here you can take a scenic joyflight over the beautiful McLaren Vale region and the southern beaches.
There are a variety of historic planes including a Tiger Moth ready to take you up. If you need a little more excitement, include some aerobatics with your flight to really get the blood pumping.
For more details, go the the Adelaide Biplanes website here
Visit Granite Island
This is one of the best attractions Victor Harbor has to offer. Stroll across the Causeway, or take the horse drawn tram (see below), and enjoy a couple of hours on Granite Island.
The whole island makes up the Granite Island Recreation Park, and is accessible every day of the year (except for catastrophic fire danger days).
Climb to the top of the island and admire the view. I am always amazed by the power of the ocean in the far side of the island compared to the smoother seas on the Victor Harbor side.
Do a lap of the whole island on the Kaiki Trail and grab lunch or a snack from the the Island Cafe before making your way back to Victor Harbor.
Coral Street Art Space
Coral Street Art Space is a small gallery located in the heart of Victor Harbor. Come past and have a look at the latest exhibitions, many of them by local and regional artists, including some great indigenous art.
Visit the store to pick up some unique homewares, jewellery or art for yourself or for a gift.
Catch the Horse Drawn Tram
The Victor Harbor Horse Drawn Tram that takes visitors from Victor Harbor across the Granite Island causeway is an icon of the town. The first-ever tram to run across the Victor Harbor tramway took passengers across in 1894.
In later years there was for a time a motorised version of the tram, but the popular horse-drawn tram was reinstated in 1986.
The tram leaves from right at the end of the Causeway and generally, there is a tram running about every 45 minutes from 10:30 am until 3:20 pm.
I recommend keeping an eye on their Facebook page as with the weather there are often changes in times and availability.
Visit the Nearby Towns
There are some great things to do near Victor Harbor too. If you catch the Cockle Train, take surfing lessons, or head to the Port Elliot Bakery you will already be all on the way to exploring the nearby towns.
Port Elliott, Middleton and Goolwa are all not too far away and are great little towns to visit and explore.
Aside from the bakery, Port Elliott has a gorgeous crescent beach called Horseshoe Bay which always looks lovely even when the weather is not the best.
There’s a great restaurant called The Flying Fish right on the beachfront which is a great place for lunch.
Middletown is all about the waves, and even if you aren’t planning on a surf lesson, this is a great place to enjoy a swim. It’s also home to some of the cutest accommodation in South Australia, the Middleton Beach Huts.
Goolwa sits on the banks of Lake Alexandria near the Murray mouth and was once a thriving river port.
Today the Goolwa Animal Farm is a hit with the kids and adults can explore the historical museums or pop into the Steam Exchange Brewery right on the wharf.
In the past there have been one-hour paddle boat cruises, but currently (2023) PS Oscar W is getting some repairs done, but will hopefully be back soon.
Enjoy the Animals at Urimbirra Wildlife Park
Urimbirra Wildlife Park is a fantastic small park with a great range of native Australian animals and a few farmyard favourites. It’s a spacious park with plenty of room to stroll and enjoy the animals and a fantastic family friendly activity.
Hand feed the kangaroos during your visit, and make sure you are there for one of the koala talks – you will be allowed to go into the enclosure afterwards to give the koalas a pat.
Walk the Town Centre Heritage Trail
A great way to get a sense of the town is to walk the Town Centre Heritage Trail. Victor Harbor has identified 38 historic buildings that were central to the development of the city, and has created an easy 3km walk to see them all.
Look out for the plaques on the buildings that will explain the history and significance of the buildings. Pick up a map from the Visitor Information Centre or download it on their website here. Include this when you are looking for free things to do in Victor Harbor.
There are plenty of places around Victor Harbor to throw in a line and catch your dinner! With mostly calm, sheltered waters, this is a great area to go fishing with kids too.
Whether from the beach or one of the jetties, you are sure to be telling stories about the one that got away in no time!
Big Duck Boat Tours
Jump on board the Big Duck and take a boat tour to see some of the coastline and wildlife of Encounter Bay. Participants will often see dolphins, seals and sea lions, and in the winter, whales too.
There are two different tours available, both leaving from The Causeway:
Grab a Bargain at the Markets
If you are visiting Victor Harbor on the weekend, keep and eye out for the local markets to pick up a bargain or some delicious local produce. There are at least three different markets that run regularly throughout the year
- Victor Harbor Beachside Markets – 2nd & 4th Sunday of the month, but every Sunday in January
- Victor Harbor Farmers Market – Every Saturday morning
- Victor Harbor Country Markets – 2nd & 4th Sunday of the month, but every Sunday in January
Softfoot Farm Tours
Visit Softfoot Farm in Hindmarsh Valley, about 15 minutes from Victor Harbor and do a tour of this alpaca farm. Cruise around the farm in an ATV and learn about these cute creatures. You will also have the chance to hand feed them.
There is a second nighttime tour which is the perfect opportunity to see some of the nocturnal Australian native animals that are rarely seen during the day. See more details on their website here.
After the tour, dine in the onsite gourmet restaurant, The Swagman Chargrill, which specialises in slow food sourced from the local area.
This is a real blast from the past! Head to the cinema to watch a film just like your Grandparents did.
The historic cinema has been refurbished, and in recent years has had much high-tech equipment installed to still allow today’s Hollywood blockbusters to be shown in all their glory with incredible surround sound.
This would be perfect if you are looking for what to do in Victor Harbor in the rain!
Kayak the Coorong
While this is a little further from Victor Harbor, it’s a fantastic day out! I had the opportunity to spend a day kayaking on the Coorong over the summer.
It was a really good way to experience the nature and fragility of this local area, taste some of the local bush tucker and see the famed mouth of the Murray River.
Enjoy the Beach
I almost forgot the most obvious Victor Harbor activity! The beach here at Victor Harbor is more sheltered than others in the area thanks to Granite Island blocking some of the waves.
It’s quite shallow too, which makes it perfect for young children or less confident swimmers. In the warmer weather, this is the ideal place for cooling off.
Where to Stay in Victor Harbor
During our visit, we stayed at The Buff Resort Apartments. These are a great option if you like to have your own kitchen, and especially good for families.
There is a pool on-site, and it is also right on the beachfront with great views over Victor Harbor. The only downside might be that it’s a little out of the centre, but since you will need a car to get around, that shouldn’t be a real issue.
There are also hundreds of holiday home options available through Stayz. Search below for your perfect place to stay in Victor Harbor.
Visiting more great South Australian locations? These posts might help
Adelaide 3 Day Itinerary
Things to do in Hahndorf
Glamping South Australia – The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Style
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