A tour in Renault’s new Megane GT
It’s almost a seminal thing to do for an Aussie…. visit the mouth of the mighty Murray River at Goolwa in South Australia.
And it’s easy to do out of Adelaide.
It matters not a hoot that your car is a `French’ Renault Megane GT hot hatch which has taken you to Adelaide without a hiccup.
You’ve ‘done’ the city and environs and now you’re looking for something more.
Time to go south to Goolwa and experience everything that trip brings not the least being wineries of the McLaren Vale region.
The striking countryside with numerous mountain lookouts and many quaint little towns dotted along the way.
How much quaintness do you want?
Well, on this trip it’s almost overkill.
There are two ways to Goolwa from Adelaide, via the coast or inland but the smart way is to make a loop out of the trip down the coast and back inland or vice-versa.
Depending on your timescale you can make it a day trip or make it a week. There are plenty of things to do at Goolwa and along the way.
The Megane friendly coastal road is where McLaren Vale lies so if you want to imbibe in some of the legendary nectar from the area, take the M2 motorway south out of Adelaide and then hook up onto the A13.
This route takes you past Maslin Beach, the first `legal’ nudie beach in Australia.
Seems ridiculous now…..
Diverting onto dirt roads isn’t a problem in the competent Megane GT as long as you take it easy.
Drive through the Onkaparinga district famous for the best blankets in the world (at one time anyway) and then past other, long arcing beaches until you veer south east to start the drive into Goolwa.
Make sure you eat in one of the small towns along the way because there are plenty of gourmet culinary delights to sample.
The drive into Goolwa is typical coastal heathland but easy on the eye. You go across a railway crossing to get into the town proper and then it’s time to park and walk or check into your accommodation of which there is a good variety.
Try to get something on the waterfront – that means Murray River frontage.
The wharf on the Murray has been there for a more than a century and is where the PS (Paddle Steamer) Oscar docks.
Take the river cruise on the Oscar and after that walk 50 metres from its dock to the old railway complete with a vintage diesel locomotive dating from the mid 20th century on which you should have a ride.
If wine is your thing, you better leave the Megane parked because there are plenty of vineyards to visit out of Goolwa including Currency Creek, Tatachilla and other smaller boutique operations.
Sick of wine? There’s a boutique brewery at Goolwa wharf called Steam Exchange. Not a bad drop either.
You’ll need to fire up the Megane sooner or later to access some of the natural beauty attractions including a visit to the surprisingly small ocean outfall of the river itself.
It comes as a shock that a river this big, carrying this much water outfalls through a 50 metre gap in what is essentially the start of the Coorong wetlands expanse.
The other minor shock is the large weir called Goolwa Barrage, just south of the town designed to limit salt ingress to the river.
As you can see, the more you explore, the more you discover.
Get some push bikes and meander along the coast to the west of Goolwa for visits to national parks and to view a range of birdlife that inhabits the large wetlands area.
Fold the rear seat and put the bikes in the back of the Megane to access places further along and just get the bikes out as needed – it’s cheating but hey, you have to save some energy for the evening’s entertainment which can be a rollicking sing-along beer-up with steak and vegies at the pub or a more refined restaurant meal sampling some South Australian delicacies.
After that you’ll need to prioritise your activities because there are plenty…. Visiting the Coorong National Park which will require the Megane, hunt down some of the best seafood in the world fished from the Great Australian Bight (Bite), kayak on the Murray, take an Eco Tour, have a romantic walk on a lonely beach, visit the local motor museum and have a laugh at what we used to drive, do the arts and crafts thing if you must, shop at the wharf markets and take the guided Goolwa historic walk.
There’s more but you’ll have to find out for yourself.
On the way back to Colonel William Light’s scrupulously laid out city, you head out of town the same way you came in but veer right about 10 kays out onto Alexander Rd also called the B37.
It’s completely different with a more ‘Aussie bushland’ feeling rather than the southern route’s coastal feel.
All gum trees, red rocks and those unforgettable South Aussie stone houses that look like they would survive a nuclear bomb.
It is as good a drive as the way down, just different with plenty of opportunities to put your nimble Megane to the test. Thankfully the turbo engine has plenty of torque and uses minimal fuel into the bargain.
You can spend a day or two in Strathalbyn, with all its stone buildings, radiating out and after that continue up the main road at Mt Barker which marks the top of the Adelaide Hills before descending into the city of Adelaide again.
A stay in Mt Barker is highly recommended because it’s an easy get off point for touring the superb Adelaide Hills and its rich culture, to say nothing of the challenging roads that would be fun in capable Megane.
If you just drove this route straight up, it would take three, possibly four hours all up and cover a couple of hundred kilometres.
No grind at all but you can’t just do that, because the area is so rich in history, natural beauty, culinary treats, superb wine and for a Megane owner, the opportunity to access interesting drives and places in a beautifully balanced car that’s potent and totally engaging to drive.
TRIP RATING ****
CAR RATING ****