When you think of incredible beaches within Australia, most people’s minds float up north into Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef or the large stretch of coral coast in the West - but we can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.
This hidden, intensely beautiful coastline is South Australia's best kept secret, next to their world class vineyards, of course! The south coast of South Australia holds a number of coastlines close to its' chest but the first of three, if travelling from Melbourne, is the Fleurieu Peninsula, and it’s here you’ll find beaches comparable to being on a small deserted island.
A Traveller's guide to the 5 best beaches on the Fleurieu Peninsula
Why save the best for last? We have no idea..so we’ve decided to share it with you first. Sellicks Beach sits 45 minutes south of the capital city of Adelaide, where you'll drive past famous wine regions such as McLaren vale, McLaren flat and the Onkaparinga hills. However settling upon the shores of Sellicks beach is where you'll truly find yourself at home.
Sellicks beach is a van-lifers paradise and a photographer's dream. The large car park at the bottom of the hill has been used as an overnight stay for van-goers hoping to watch the calm waters of St.Vincent's Gulf, where regular passes of Dolphins can be seen. But the true gem of Sellicks is driving your car along the hard sand at most times of the day, accessible via the car ramp that leads directly onto the beach. Make your way far south down the beach and you'll come across some prehistoric looking cliff faces that make for insane sunset photoshoots.
A little secret we found out whilst here is if you explore the road that runs parallel to the beach there are small sections of boardwalk that jut out where you can overlook the entire coastline of Sellicks from.
There’s a couple of draw cards that makes Port Willunga beach unique and the first is that you won't be able to replicate these views anywhere else in town. Aside from being gorgeous, clean and vast, Port Willunga used to have an old pier that jutted out into the water many years ago. Now all that remains is a pile of wooden pylons that are barely visible on high tide, but make for a great sunset shot at low tide.
Carved into the side of the cliffs behind the old jetty pylons are a series of 5 or 6 deep caves. These caves were hollowed out of the side of the sandstone cliffs, used by the local fisherman to store their fishing boats and gear away from the elements when not in use. Nowadays they're used as picnic spots and shade from the often harsh midday sun for beach-goers and sun tanners.
If ripping your clothes off and getting a little nude is your thing then both legally, and literally this is the best place to get your junk out. Maslin Beach lies a little north of Sellicks and is renowned for being Australia's first official nudie beach. And we won't lie - Laura and I aren’t shy of getting a little dressed down for the occasion. The beautiful turquoise colours of the waters here, paired with the golden cliffs behind make for a beautiful afternoon spent bathing on the shores.
Bear in mind not all of the beach is open to being nudist, you'll need to walk far enough down south past the sign until you rip your kit off but once you're here, go nuts.
On the border of the Limestone coast and the Fleurieu Peninsula is Horseshoe Bay, a local favourite nestled amongst some historically significant regions in this part of South Australia. Known to Australia's First Nations people as Ramong, by the Ramindjeri people, Horseshoe Bay sits in the much larger Encounter Bay region of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
It's a beautiful semi-circled bay with a relatively small pier on the eastern end and ladies beach and Commodore point to the other. We’d recommend picking up a coffee from the Flying Fish Cafe near the car park before heading out for a swim to the floating dock halfway between the shore and the Sisters rocks.
While you won't find this beach on too many South Australians list, Morgans Beach is a retreat away from the crowd and the tourists that flock to the more popular sites during summer.
It is however a little further out of the way, as we used Morgans Beach as a chill out place before we hopped on our Ferry to make our way across to Kangaroo Island. The low tide reveals a large group of rock pools at the start of the beach and is a great place to go exploring for little sea creatures. Blue Ringed Octopus love hidden rock pools so make sure to wear a good pair of reef shoes before heading out here.
We also saw pods of Dolphins and seals swim past the shoreline on the other side of the rock pools as we waited for our ferry to pick us up around midday. The sand is relatively hard on Morgan's beach as well and can be driven on during low tide - just always make sure you deflate your tyres somewhat to avoid bogging yourself and even consider some recovery equipment if you intend on doing so.
Whilst this isn't an exhaustive list, the entire west coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula is lined with incredible beaches and hidden gems that are simply calling your name. Remember the best time to visit the Fleurieu Peninsula is around January to April, as the weather exits the unbearable heat and enters the slightly more cool and relaxing warmth that we Aussies have come to love.
Authors Christopher Aiello & Laura Grewcock are seasoned travellers. Their travel tips and guide can be explored in more detail at Chris and Laura Travels.