Let’s get it over with early – “Robe’s not famous for robes”. There. We said it. Let’s move on. It’s actually famous for its wool export and people smuggling during the gold rush. But let’s not hold that against em’, because these days Robe is a sand buggy Mecca and a 4WDer’s paradise.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Why the iconic Southend to Robe beach run is the best coastal weekender from Melbourne or Adelaide”[/blockquote]
Labeling it ‘the best coastal weekender’ is a pretty big call, we’ll admit. But we’re standing by it. After all, we’re talking powdery white sandy beaches, dune driving, cracking coastal camps, sensational salmon fishing and you can do it all in a weekend from Adelaide or Melbourne.
On top of that there are no back packers or caravanners, which means this is the perfect place to escape the crowds.If you’re coming from Melbourne, bundy off work Friday arvo and head west towards the Jimmy Creek campground in the Grampians NP. It’s a cruisey two and a bit hour drive and you’ll wake up refreshed overlooking the Wannon River Saturday morning. Trust us – this camp’s a cracker.
From Jimmy Creek it’s only three hours to Southend, putting you aired down on the sand before well and truly before lunch. If you’re coming from Adelaide, it’s a short three and a half hour drive down the Princes Hwy.
SOUTHEND TO BEACHPORT
The Southend to Beachport section is the 15km entrée to this three course, 50km meal of a beach run. After this bit the sand only gets softer, the dunes get taller and you’re a heck of a lot further into the scrub.
Air down at the entry point at Leake St. The sand here’s fairly hard packed and the beach is protected by the break wall, making for the perfect spot to launch a tinnie, throw a line in or let the kids have a swim. Drop your tyre pressures to around 18psi to start with, and if you find the softer sand later on causes problems, you can always drop a few more PSI out.
BEACHPORT TO NORA CREINA
From the Southend Beach exit it’s a few kays up the road through Beachport to where you enter Beachport Conservation Park. Beachport’s got all your basic amenities covered, so if there is anything you need – grab it now.
The track follows alongside a (usually dry) inland lake before winding its way to a Y junction. Here you’ll notice the first of a series of orange painted posts in the ground. Follow em’. They’ll guide you the rest of the way to Robe.
From the junction, the track leads down to the beach. The tide comes up pretty high here so time your run within two hours either side of low tide. Stay high on the beach and watch for nesting Hooded plovers near the dunes. The track weaves up into the dunes occasionally dropping back down onto the beach before heading up into a small privately owned cluster of fishing shacks called Nora Creina. Just follow the road through and you’ll be back on the sand in no time.
NORA CREINA TO ROBE
4km past Nora Creina the track enters the Little Dip Conversation Park. Here you’ll drop down onto Errington Beach which is a notoriously soft section. Stick to existing wheel tracks and avoid getting too close to the surf, because unlike a lot of other beaches, it’s quite soft near the water’s edge. About a kay further up is Long Gully campground, which is the perfect spot to roll out the swag, with plenty of room for those towing a camper trailer or boat.
A few clicks north there’s a cracking photo opportunity at the headland near the Hermitage Track. It’s well sign posted, and also the perfect spot for throwing a line in to catch lunch. Keep an eye out for the track off to the left just after the ‘photo op’ sign. It’s got enough room or about three vehicles to park up, and well worth a stop.
The Queen Head Beach section is the final hurrah for this adventure. It’s almost three kays of super, super soft sand. There’s no real trick to it. Just make sure your tyre pressures are right down low and stick to the tracks higher up on the beach. From here it’s an easy drive along a graded dirt road into town.
All said and told, this 50km beach run has 53 junctions, dunes, rock climbs and soft beaches to navigate, which is best done two days. That said, if you are short on time, there’s nothing (aside from the tides) stopping you blasting through it over about four hours. If you do knock it over that quick, though, you’ll miss some of the best fishing South Oz has to offer.
THE PICK OF THE CAMPSITES
For those with pets, your best bet is to head to Southend and grab a site at the Bushland camp. It costs just ten bucks a night (payable at the Southend caravan park) and has flushing toilets, rain and bore water. Sites are set in behind the dunes so they’re well protected from the wind, yet you’re still only a 50m stroll to the surf.
More bush camping is available in the Little Dip Conservation Park at Stony Rise Campground, The Gums Campground, Long Gully Campground and Old Man Lake Campground at a cost of $14 per vehicle, per night. Our pick is Long Gully because it’s the biggest camp area in the park and has a rain water available.
THE GEAR YOU’LL NEED
You’ll need to navigate your way through some of the softest sand dunes in South Oz, so a tyre pressure gauge, air compressor, a set of MaxTrax, a shovel and a GPS are all essential for this trek. There aren’t many amenities on route, so bring enough food and water to last your stay. And don’t forget the fishing gear.
FOR THE FISHOS
If you’ve never fished from the beach before, now’s the perfect time to start. Pack a beach rod, star sinkers, gang hooks and a bag of pillies – cast out into a gutter at high tide (around dusk or dawn) and you’ll be well on your way to hooking a big salmon, mulloway or maybe even a snapper. If you’ve got kids in tow, bring a smaller rod with a lighter size 4 bean sinker and size 6 hook rigged with squid and have them casting into the churned up sand closer to shore. Bream and whiting hang around in these areas. They’re good fighters for their size and perfect for getting your kids hooked on fishing.
If you’re not getting much action at the beach, you can also try fishing from the jetty or off the rock (use caution) in Robe itself.
WHAT TO DO IF THE KIDS GET BORED
If the kids get bored with the sand dunes, there’s still plenty to do in the area. Like the old gaol ruins. Or kite surfing (ask the surf shop for more info). Going down to the marina to watch the cray boats unload their catch (which is usually around noon). The Obelisk is a scenic vantage point where you can nab a few shots of Doorway Rock. And the bakery on the main strip does a pretty good meat pie.
Robe is located about three and a half hours (336km) south-east of Adelaide, or six hours (531km) west of Melbourne. Southend is located approximately 50km south east of Robe, and the Little Dip Conservation Park, in between Robe and Nora Creina Bay, is located 20km south of Robe. Access is via Alternate Highway 1.
For those with pets your best bet is to head to Southend and grab a site at the Southend Bushland camp. It costs just ten bucks a night (payable at the Southend On Sea Tourist Park) and has flushing toilets, rain and bore water. Bush camping is available in the Little Dip Conservation Park at Stony Rise Campground, Gums Campground, Long Gully Campground and Old Man Lake Campground at a cost of $14 per vehicle, per night.
WHAT TO TAKE:
You’re not far from Robe, so you don’t need to go too overboard with spares, though you don’t have to be self-sufficient. Make sure you have decent off-road tyres, a recovery kit, traction aids like MaxTrax, a first aid kit and enough food and water to last your stay. Oh, there are no loos out here either, so make sure you pack the shovel.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL:
FUEL & SUPPLIES:
Supplies and fuel are available from Robe and Beachport with Millicent also offering all services of a major town.
In dry conditions this trip is rated C, with A meaning only suited to vehicles with an extreme level of off-road modification and E meaning perfectly suited to all types of 4WD vehicles. These tracks aren’t overly technical and don’t require a high level of modification, but the sand is EXTREMELY soft in parts.
TRIP TIME OF YEAR:
RESTRICTIONS AND PERMITS:
You’ll need to purchase a $14 camping permit at the self registration sign if you’re camping within the conservation park. Pets are not permitted in the park, but they are at Southend. South Australia impose total fire bans from the start of November to the end of April, which means no fires and gas cookers only.
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