Travel: Coorong National Park, SA
Set yourself up at Lake Albert Caravan Park for an exploration of SA's famed Coorong.
DENYSE AND I HAD wanted to visit SA’s Coorong region for a long time, but each time we’d been in the area in the past few years the lakes were affected by drought, and not at their best. When we visited last year, however, they were full and looking great.
But those same rains that flowed into the Murray and the Coorong also delayed our trip down from Mackay, Qld. We finally arrived at the Lake Albert Caravan Park near the end of April.
A member of the Top Tourist Parks group, the Lake Albert Caravan Park is located in Meningie, about 150km south-east of Adelaide, and is only a short stroll from town.
The park’s friendly owners, Mark and Tania Miller, have had the park for around six years and keep it looking great. They are very hands-on owners and you will always see them working around the park, cleaning, watering the grass sites and emptying bins.
This park sits in a terrific spot on the edge of the lake with many sites, powered and un-powered, right on the water. Sunsets are spectacular, with the Meningie town lights on one side and the distant Coorong sand dunes on the other. Well behaved animals are welcome.
In addition to the plentiful sites, there is a variety of cabins. We were lucky to get ourselves a waterfront site, which was quite large in comparison to many other parks. Most sites are divided by shade trees, affording some privacy, and some are drive through. Boom gates provide a bit of added security.
We found the modern amenities block very clean, serviced several times a day during the busy holiday season. The showers have plenty of hot water, plus a shelf and hooks, with the usual soap dispensers and a hand dryer. Large mirrors above the hand basins add to the spacious feeling. The laundry has hot and cold-water machines, dryers and an ironing board. A sullage dump point has also been installed.
The camp kitchen is very well-appointed, while the dining room has a TV and there is a separate waterfront barbecue area. We had excellent reception on all TV channels, Next G mobile phone and mobile wireless broadband.
The kids have an adventure playground and paddle boats are available for hire, while (supervised) bike riding is also allowed. Fire drums and wood are available from the office. All roads in the park are sealed and there is even a launching ramp.
Opposite the park, you will find the historic Meningie Cheese Factory museum and licensed restaurant. We had a great dinner there and can definitely recommend it, particularly the Coorong mullet, a local delicacy. A regular market is held across the road at the local RSL hall.
The great appeal of this park is its wonderful location on the shores of Lake Albert, with fishing, safe swimming, and boating available right in front of your site. And it is only a short walk into town.
Meningie was established as a paddle steamer terminus in 1836, and still features some of the original buildings. While the town only has a population of around 900, it is well provided for, with two supermarkets, a tyre dealer, hardware store, butcher, baker and several other shops.
We found the tourist information office and shop/museum in The Chambers very interesting, and I bought an old hickory-shafted golf club for a reasonable price. There is a golf club nearby, as well as a waterfront bowls and croquet club.
Meningie is central to all the points of interest on the Coorong, which has been classified as a wetland of international significance by the Ramsar Convention. The area was declared a national park in 1966.
We started by doing a day trip part of the way around Lake Albert (taking smoko and lunch because there is nowhere to buy any food on this particular drive). From Meningie, it’s about 30km to Narrung, a small community across the lake. This is where you will find a vehicle ferry operating to Point Malcolm on the narrow channel between Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina.
To give some idea of size, Lake Albert is 27km long, and up to 14km wide, while Lake Alexandrina is much larger. Some time back, during the drought, a barrier was built between the two to preserve the fresh water in Lake Albert. When we were there, the local council was breaking it down because water was flowing in quickly from the Murray River.
Both lakes are fresh water and separated by barrages from the very salty water of the Coorong. These were built between Pelican Point and Goolwa to keep the water in the Albert and Alexandrina fresh for stock and irrigation.
After crossing on the ferry, you’ll notice a lighthouse on your left. There is a short walking track to view the old light and keeper’s cottages, built in 1875. This ‘Mundoo Light’ is the only inland lighthouse in Australia, and was built to guide paddle steamers carrying passengers and goods through the narrow channel between the two lakes. This is also Australia’s smallest lighthouse.
A little further on is the historical homestead, Poltalloch, which is operated as a bed and breakfast and open for inspection by appointment.
We then returned via the (free) ferry and continued on to the Aboriginal community of Raukkan. The old church, which features on our $50 note, is a real point of interest here. Some of the homes are also of historical importance, and the town had a tidy, well-kept appearance. Be mindful, though, this is a dry community, so don’t take alcohol in with you.
After going back 1km, we took the well-graded gravel road to the right which leads to Pelican Point, camping sites and a set of barrages.
We walked the 1.6km from the car park at Pelican Point to the barrages and it was interesting to see the fresh water of Lake Alexandrina on the right side of a very narrow peninsula, with the hyper-saline water of the Coorong on the left. We were also close to the sand dunes and Southern Ocean.
Back tracking, we re-joined the sealed road until we came to the Long Point turn-off. This is only 6km of good gravel road that leads to another camp ground with good scenery, a launching ramp, pontoon, toilets and picnic area. There is a 4WD road from Pelican Point to Long Point, but since this is all national park, no domestic animals are allowed.
This whole area has a strong Chinese history, immigrants having arrived in SA in the mid-19th century to make their way to the Vic goldfields, rather than pay that state’s taxes. Further east you will find historic places such as Chinaman’s Well, and evidence of old Chinese gardens where travellers on their way to the gold fields were fed and accommodated.
Also to the east, there are many interesting places in the Coorong National Park, which is more than 100km long. There is great scenery at Parnka Point, while you can see pelicans breeding in their thousands near Jack Point. Salt Creek has good walks and a replica of the first oil rig in the area. Further north, you will come to 42 Mile Crossing, where you can walk or 4WD to the Southern Ocean.
The Coorong more than lived up to our expectations, and we found Lake Albert Caravan Park a stunning and peaceful base from which to explore this fabulous area. When we were there in late April we mostly had clear, sunny weather, with temperatures up to 24°C. But nights and early mornings were a bit cold.
We met a couple of fellow RVers who told us Lake Albert Caravan Park was one of the best they had ever stayed in. With its lakefront position, excellent amenities and friendly owners, it certainly ticks many boxes.
Meningie is 150km south-east of Adelaide and the Coorong National Park starts around 9km from the town.
The Lake Albert Caravan Park is a member of the Top Tourist Parks group and is rated at four stars. The park is located on the corner of Narrung and Fiebig roads, Meningie, SA 5264. It can be contacted on (08) 8575 1411 or visit www.toptouristparks.com.au/parks/south-australia/meningie/32-lake-albert-caravan-park
For tourist information and crafts, visit The Chambers at 14 Princes Highway, Meningie, SA 5264, (08) 8575 1770.