Exploring Historic Strathalbyn SA in 1 Epic Day

Although small, Strathalbyn SA has much to explore. It is the unofficial antique capital of South Australia. Discover the rich heritage of Strathalbyn by strolling through its charming streets, exploring the local museums, and soaking up the town’s unique character. Local Tia Cole has planned a great itinerary for exploring Strathalbyn in one day.

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Being a local of this charming, historic suburb, I am going to share with you the rundown on the best way to spend a day in Strathalbyn, South Australia.

The town of Strathalbyn sits upon Ngarrindjeri land and was settled in 1839 by Scottish immigrants, lead by Dr John Rankine.

The name ‘Strathalbyn comes from the two words ‘Strath’, which translates to ‘river valley’, representing the Angas River banks that flow through the centre of the town and is paired with ‘Albion’ meaning ‘rolling hills’, which symbolizes the picturesque valleys of the farming country.

How to get to Strathalbyn

To catch all the action the best day to visit is a Saturday, but if you need to catch the bus, coming Wednesday – Friday will be a better choice.

  • Car – Strathalbyn is a 56-minute drive via the national highway M1 and B37 from Adelaide CBD. The streets are easy to navigate with plenty of car parks.
  • Bus – Buses to Strathalbyn only run on weekdays beginning at Grenfell Street from the north side station at 8:01 am where you will need to cross over at Mount Barker and will arrive in Strathalbyn at 9:37 am.

Strathalbyn also makes a great stopover on the way to Port Elliot or Kangaroo Island.

Easy to follow Strathalbyn day trip itinerary

Craft and antique shop in Strathalbyn South Australia
Plenty of lovely shops to explore in Strathalbyn

Stop 1 – The Visitor Information Centre

Whether you have just hopped off the bus or have parked by the old railway station, you will arrive at the front of the Visitor Information Centre where you can pick up the ‘Heritage Walk – Walk Around the Town’ brochure to take with you along your journey and learn more about the historic buildings of Strathalbyn that you will come across. This brochure includes a map which will also be useful to help you get around the streets.

Stop 2 – Strath Corner Bakery

The Strath Corner Baker is the heart of this community. It is easily the most popular café in Strathalbyn and it sits directly across the road from the Visitor Information Centre on Dawson Street.

Apple turnover and danish pastry from Strath Corner Bakery  Credit: Josh Geelen
Delicious pastries from Strath Corner Bakery Credit: Josh Geelen

As soon as you step inside, your mouth will water at the sight of all the delicious bakery treats, which include vegan and gluten-free options and they are more than happy for you to bring your reusable cup. If you are unsure of what to get from their extensive drink menu, ask for the coffee of the week.

Enjoy your treats here or ask for takeaway and enjoy the outdoors at a park bench across the road by the railway station.

Stroll on next door from the Visitor Centre into the historic railway building which is now Stationmasters Art Gallery. When you think of an art gallery, typically paintings are what comes to mind but at this community gallery, you will be able to admire woodwork, sculptures, fabric art, and much more from local artists.

Up to 6 exhibitions are showcased a year highlighting the artwork of the local members and invited artists, so depending on when you visit, you may have the opportunity to meet the creative minds behind the artistry.

Stop 4 – Explore High Street

High Street is only 700m up the road and has 7 of the 44 heritage buildings that are marked on your brochure. This street connects the community with local small businesses from specialty shops to cafes and pubs. Take a stroll and spend some time exploring this main street. Below are some iconic places that aren’t to be missed.

main street of Strathalbyn South Australia

Antique Shops

Strathalbyn isn’t South Australia’s unofficial antique capital for no reason. There are 6 antique shops that you can visit alone on this street. You could spend hours here discovering unusual, interesting, and beautiful antiques.

The largest antique shop is Antique Bazaar of Strathalbyn with mountains of treasures waiting to be discovered.

National Trust Museum in Strathalbyn on land that was a meeting place of Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal people.

Crystal Creations

Feel a sense of calm when you enter this store. This tranquil shop has mounds of eye-capturing, sparkling stones. Learn about the meaning behind each one from their printed descriptions. There are so many colorful items crafted from gemstones and crystals, including sensational tea light candle holders and lovely twined trees that would be the center of attention in any room. If you are into boho fashion you will love their jewelry and clothing selection.

The Original Lolly Shop

Step inside your childhood dream and let your jaw drop at the incredible sight. You will become engulfed by hundreds of sweets from the around globe and retro Aussie classics like Neapolitan marshmallow wafers.
This unique lolly shop not only has a spectacular collection of chocolate and lollies but also has old-school pinball machines, a jukebox, an English phone box, and other surprises. Before you leave, try your luck with a Wonka bar to get your photo on the Golden Ticket Wall. They are open Wednesday – Sunday and have sugar-free and gluten-free treats as well.

Stop 5 Lunch – The Commercial Hotel

There are 4 pubs in Strathalbyn and the best bang for your buck is the Commercial Hotel on High Street. It is number 27 on the Heritage Walk map.

view of Commercial Hotel Strathalbyn SA from the corner
Commercial Hotel Strathalbyn SA

You won’t get a better chicken schnitzel in town than at the Commercial with their large portion sizes and interesting toppings including the Mexican, and my personal favourite, the Carbonara. In saying that, all the meals I have tried there have been delicious, large, and decently priced. They offer vegetarian and gluten-free options too.

Stop 6 – Gilbert’s Motor Museum

Step into motoring history and admire classic cars and motorbikes. Apart from the Strathalbyn Tourism Association, Gilbert Motor Museum is located in one of the historic pieces of architecture which have been owned by the Gilberts since the 1900s.

The exhibitions here are constantly changing and South Australian motorsport legend Glen Dix, who is best known for his checkered flag wave across Adelaide Formula 1 Grand Prix, has motoring memorabilia out on display. They are open Wednesday – Sunday and have a small entry fee of $8.

Stop 7 – Strathalbyn Police Station and Courthouse Museum

Experience the history of Strathalbyn at this National Trust Museum on Rankine Street with either a self guided tour or book a group tour in advance to watch demonstrations of old farming implements and other skills from back in the early days of horse transportation. This museum also displays war items such as grenades and flying suits that were brought back from both World Wars.

It is open on weekends and is $6 for an Adult concession, $4 for children, and free for infants. If you can only make your trip during the week, don’t stress, there is still plenty to see and do. You could grab a coffee from Bean Machine on Dawson Street, stroll the entire River Angas Walkway, admire more art at the Junction Studio, or continue discovering the boutiques and specialty stores on your street travels.

Signage from the The Strathalbyn Hertiage Trail which will help you find all the best buildings in town
The Strathalbyn Hertiage Trail will help you find all the most important sites in town.

Stop 8 Soldiers Memorial Gardens

Strathalbyn’s Soldiers Memorial Garden is dedicated to the fall of World War One. Upon arrival, you will see the iconic Children’s Bridge which was constructed in 1919 as a memorial to a pioneer of the Strathalbyn district, Mr. William Richardson for his late wife, Margaret Richardson. This bridge is the beginning of the famous River Angas Walkway.

 Soldiers Memorial Garden Strathalbyn SA
Soldiers Memorial Garden

Relax as you take a self guided walk through the park in the evening air. Make your way through the picturesque scenery of the colourful flower gardens and enjoy the peaceful serenity of the Angas River where you can say hello to the friendly neighbourhood ducks. Once you reach the top near the rotunda you will be able to view the memorial statue.

Garden view in Strathalbyn South Australia
Strathalbyn South Australia

There are accessible public toilets by the Children’s Bridge and on the other side of the park near the local swimming pool. At this end, if you walk down past the BBQ area to the small dirt path, you will find a little concrete bridge that is a part of the Angas River Walkway. Depending if you then turn left or right, you will either be lead back to the streets or you will follow the terrain of the Angas River Reserve.

4pm – 6pm Happy Hour – The Victoria Hotel

Across the road from the Soldiers Memorial Gardens on Albany Terrace is the Victoria Hotel. Dine in with traditional, Australian pub cuisine from local produce and enjoy a house wine during their Happy Hour which is 4 pm-6 pm every night, or experiment with their unique ‘cocktail of the month’.

During the Winter, you can book in advance and cosy up in front of one of the open fireplaces as you enjoy your meal. There is a separate bar and outdoor area where you can experience the nightlife of Strathalbyn which is at its liveliest on a Saturday night.

Keep a listening ear out before you visit for events being held throughout the year. There might be something that sparks your interest. This could be live world cup games, raffles with big prizes, or the annual Strathalbyn Christmas Pageant.

Tia Cole author

Tia is always looking for her next adventure. She loves taking her cheeky pup, Skylah, for a nature walk and showing her son different ways to experience the world. When Tia isn’t out and about, you can find her enjoying a vanilla latte in one hand and typing away on her laptop with the other.