The quaint coastal township of Robe, 335km southeast of Adelaide, belies its underwhelming appearance by acting as a gateway to the Limestone Coast, one of Australia’s most spectacular environments.
As the Limestone Coast name suggests, the coastline here is dramatic; craggy rocky cliffs, sea caves and more dot this part of the coast, linked together by sweeping beaches abutting the waters of the Upper South East Marine Park. The beaches around Robe are also renowned as top-notch surfing destinations.
This part of South Australia offers not only said spectacle in terms of the coastal/hinterland landscape, but truckloads of outdoor activities – fishing, 4x4 touring, hiking, kayaking, swimming, surfing and camping – with most of these located within the boundaries of Little Dip Conservation Park, around two kilometres south of Robe (if accessing the park through its northern boundary).
For those keen on checking out the park’s southern section, you can follow Nora Creina Road southeast out of Robe and enter the park near Long Gully Campground. The conservation park is named after one of its beaches – Little Dip Beach – and contains four campgrounds.
For those lugging a camper trailer, the Long Gully campground offers the best access as it (unlike its moniker) is a wide, flat area of ground with plenty of site space. This area also provides more protection from coastal winds as it’s about one kilometre from the beach. You can drive the sand tracks from here through sand dunes to the beach, but don’t forget to drop tyre pressures accordingly.
4x4 Techniques: Driving on sand
The other three campgrounds – The Gums, Old Man Lake and Stony Rise – are more compact but closer to the surf and offer the bonus of more shaded sites (The Gums and Stony Rise are found in the park’s northern section; Old Man Lake and Long Gully are in the south).
All four campgrounds have minimal facilities, so remember to bring water and all supplies. Also be aware that solid-fuel fires are banned year-round; a portable gas barbecue/stove is the go (usage of this will be subject to fire bans within the park).
Little Dip Conservation Park contains numerous small lakes including Fresh Water Lake, which is also the start-point for a nice bushwalk that leads along a melaleuca-shrouded path (with intermittent coastal views) and is ideal for those with young kids (just remember to cover them with insect spray, as the midges in the park have a fearsome reputation).
Other lakes worth checking out include Lake Robe, Lake Eliza (check for aboriginal middens along its shores) and Big Dip Lake. The longer hike between these two bodies of water is worth the effort as well, thanks to the mix of vegetation and the resultant birdlife inhabiting it (and the lakes themselves; waterbirds are prolific), along with some speccy views to the Woakwine Range farther inland.
Along with bushwalking in the park’s hinterland there are the obvious beach walks on offer, with the added bonus of the kids being able to do some beachcombing for lost treasures, as well as have a crack at some beach fishing.
Top 5: Fishing spots
In terms of fishing, this park is brilliant; depending on the season and the conditions at the time, you may catch salmon, flathead and snapper from the beach. Rock fishing also yields similar species and (hopefully) potential for success.
Driving here is challenging as the sand’s very coarse nature promotes a soft texture that offers zero support for a two-tonne 4x4 (or even when walking on it, for that matter). Drop tyre pressures to around 18psi and, if you do cop an early bogging, don’t hesitate to drop further.
It’s also essential to bring recovery gear (MaxTrax, snatch strap, shovel, etc.). It sounds daunting, but the fear of a potential bogging shouldn’t put you off exploring the beaches in your vehicle. Just remember to keep your speed low and an eye out for people on the beach, and be aware of tide times.
For a relatively small park, at 21.5km², Little Dip Conservation Park does a sterling job of proving size doesn’t matter when it comes to offering an awesome outdoor/camping experience not that far from Adelaide.