Arriving in Port Elliot feels like stepping back in time. Combining well-loved historic buildings and cliff-top ocean views, two of our favourite things; we knew this was a place we would love.

Our visit was a last-minute decision. We were on our way to Kangaroo Island and with a day to spare in Adelaide we decided to head a little closer to Cape Jervis for our early morning ferry departure. It also allowed us to spend some time in Strathalbyn, one of South Australia’s prettiest towns.

South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula is an amazing location with plenty of options for visitors who love sea air, and we really felt it needed to be part of our South Australia road trip.

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Where is Port Elliot?

Just under 100km from the centre of Adelaide, Port Elliot is close enough for a day trip but there is a number of great sites to see along the route and plenty to see when you get there so for visitors to South Australia we think it’s worthy of at least one night and probably two if you can manage it. Having said that, I would happily spend a week here in summer, it’s just so pretty.

Our day trip route – Adelaide – Strathalbyn – Port Elliot

We did a bit of a day trip stopping at Hahndorf, Strathalbyn, Victor Harbor, and Encounter Bay, and finally Port Elliot.

Port Elliot Itinerary map

What is there to do in Port Elliot and Victor Harbor?

In a word plenty, there are lots to do in this historic town on Horseshoe Bay. Water lovers will be spoilt for choice, with several fantastic beaches in the area.

Port Elliot walk - Lookout Boomer Beach
Looking towards Boomer Beach on a stormy afternoon

You are also a stone’s throw from both Victor Harbour (6.5km) and Goolwa (12km) and both are worth a visit if you have more time than we did.

Victor Harbor uses both the Harbor and Harbour spelling although officially it is the US “or” spelling here.

Here are 10 things to get you started

  • Eat a treat from Port Elliot Bakery – A finger bun for afternoon tea, yes please! Although their donuts get more love on Instagram
  • Walk the Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail on the foreshore of Horseshoe Bay
  • Explore Freemans Nob at sunrise
  • Hike the Harbourmasters Walking Trail from Horseshoe Bay Beach around Rocky Bay to Knights Beach.
  • Wander The Strand and check out the historic buildings and antique shops
  • If you time your visit with the school holidays check out the Cockle Train
  • Watch the surf at Boomer Beach
  • Stop in at the Bluff Lookout at Encounter Bay near Victor Harbor for the most amazing views
  • While you are there check out Granite Island via horse-drawn carriage or on foot
  • Take a Big Duck tour at Victor Harbor and meet the local marine life on a 20, 45 or 90-minute tour

Did you know the 2018 movie Storm Boy was filmed in Port Elliot

So I am sure you can see why an overnight stay is a good idea. We actually wished we had a full weekend to see it all instead of rushing about like mad people trying to fit it all in.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail
If you only have time for one thing, take the Port Elliot Heritage trail

Where to stay in Port Elliot on a budget?

We spent the night at the Port Elliot YHA. Located just a short stroll from the centre of town and close to shops, restaurants and cafes and two pubs.

Officially known as the Port Elliot Beach House YHA the building was opened in 1914 as the Arcadia, a private hotel popular with visitors from Adelaide who came south to enjoy the sea air. After the hotel closed the property spent some time as a nursing home before eventually being bought in 2009 by YHA.

This gorgeous historic building is one of many beautifully maintained old properties in the town and for history lovers like us a perfect choice for a stopover.

From the first-floor balcony, the hostel offers 270-degree views of the waterfront with Horsehoe Bay directly across the road.

Port Elliot YHA View from Balcony
The view from our private balcony other guests have access to an adjoining balcony 

We checked in mid-afternoon and were met by Jill, one of the owners of the hostel. She was so welcoming we immediately felt at home. Thanks to travel restrictions minimising bookings at the moment, we were lucky enough to be upgraded and score “The Suite” a self-contained “apartment” overlooking the bay.

Our apartment featured a queen bed, bunk beds, a private balcony, an ensuite bathroom, and a lounge room. There was also a bar fridge, kettle, microwave, and large TV. There is free wifi throughout the property.

It would be perfect for a family and after a week in a pretty small hotel room in Adelaide we were loving all the space. The room included linen and towels and free beach towels were available at reception.

The rest of the hostel has plenty of common space for those in the dorms or multi bedrooms. A spacious lounge/dining area has lots of seating and plenty of books, puzzles and board games and even some toys for the kids. 

A separate room offered a large TV with a collection of DVDs and two tables in the window area overlooking the waterfront. At the opposite end of the building was another common room with table tennis and a computer area.

On the back patio is an outdoor seating area and BBQ. This hostel is a perfect space for a family get together or group getaway and you can rent the entire property if you have enough friends 😉

We cooked up a storm in the well-stocked and very clean kitchen

Home cooked dinner at Port Eliot YHA
The kitchen is really well equipped and a dream to cook in.

The Port Elliot Hostel is just a 2-minute walk to the water meaning you can sit relaxing with a book on the private balcony and listen to the waves directly across the road. 

There are a number of room types, double rooms with private ensuite, family rooms, with double and bunk beds, and 4 and 6-bed multi-share rooms that offer free secure lockers. There are bathroom facilities on each floor and laundry facilities available too.

This is a great budget accommodation choice with fantastic amenities. The attractions of Victor Harbor and Goolwa are just minutes away.

There is free parking out the back and on-street parking outside the hostel.

How to get to Port Elliot

If you don’t have a car you can take public transport. Take the train to Keswick Station and then the LinkSA bus which stops 400m away. Staff from YHA Port Elliot Beach House are happy to meet guests at the bus if you need help with luggage

If you are staying longer the team at reception can help with bookings for whale or dolphin cruises, Kangaroo Island trips, and surf lessons. We felt it was a great base for a night before tours of Kangaroo Island and think you should consider it for a couple of days on your way to or from the island.

Where to next? Check out our Kangaroo Island Itinerary and planning guide.

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