Robe (est. 1847) is one of the oldest towns in South Australia, founded by the colonial government as a seaport, administrative centre and village just ten years after the Province of South Australia was established. It became South Australia's second busiest international port in the 1850s (after Port Adelaide), and the trade was drawn from a large hinterland that extended into Western Victoria. Most of the wool produced in the district left through its harbour and most imports entered into Guichen Bay, which was also the site of numerous shipwrecks.
During the Victorian gold rushes around 1857, over 16,000 Chinese people landed at Robe to travel overland to the goldfields, as Victoria introduced a landing tax of ten pounds per person (more than the cost of their voyage) to reduce the number of Chinese immigrants. The immigrants then walked the 200 miles (320 km) to Ballarat and Bendigo.
|Caledonian Inn, Robe|
|Star of the Sea, Catholic Church, Robe|
The Customs House was built in 1863 and used for 25 years as a Customs House and office of Harbour Master and Receiver of Wrecks for the south east coast as far as the Victorian border.
|Robe Customs House|
A morning walk through the village took us to guess where...
A stone obelisk was built on Cape Dombey in 1852 to assist ships to navigate safely into the bay. Despite this, there were many shipwrecks along this coast. Access to the obelisk is severely restricted due to erosion. The rocks on which it stands will surely fall into the sea, which seems curiously poignant.
|Cape Dombey Obelisk, Robe|
An automatic lighthouse was built on higher ground in 1973. Like most things built in 1973 it is ugly and concrete. But at least it is functional.
We paid a side trip to Cape Jaffa because we had heard there was a lighthouse and a winery there. We didn't find the lighthouse but we found this memorial to those who had lost their lives at sea. As the area still supports a strong fishing industry, this is rather high.
|Cormorants on Cape Jaffa jetty|
Fortunately we did mange to find the winery. The biodynamic winery is delightfully unpretentious and revels in making exceptional blends that reflect the sense of place. We liked the Cape Jaffa Shiraz (bright fruits; subtle florals; bold flavours) and La Lune Field Blend made from eleven different varieties of all colours grown on the same block resulting in a complex wine, rich and creamy in texture with generous fruit and spicy flavours.
|Cape Jaffa Wines|
Maris Biezaitis at Robe Town Brewery was very welcoming and gave us a tour of the premises and a tasting of the beers although he was not officially open. The hand-made and cobbled brewhouse incorporates several historic and traditional brewing methods, such as timber mash tuns with straw filtration for extracting sweet wort from malt, a wood-fired kettle for heating water and boiling/ hopping the wort, and open fermentation in a shallow, square tank.
|Open fermentation at Robe Town Brewery|
We tasted the range of products from the Shearer's Joy (fantastic light and flavourful beer made with malt and potatoes) to the Solstice Baltic Porter (superbly made; soft and rich and everything it should be), via everything in between.
The Pale Ale is more bitter than most Australian pales and with a decidedly British soft earthiness in the finish; the Amber Ale is another great example of style (not usually my favourite) but this subtle blend of hops and malt works well; the Sourfest is funky, fruity and sour with a light touch of leather and tartness; and the Shipwreck Stout is mighty fine with all the dried fruit bitterness I like and none of the over-roasted barley I don't.
We also tried the Wild Muntrie (a tart, wild fermentation, fruit beer made from muntrie berries (also called emu apples) that grow wild along the coast, which pours cloudy and a light pinkish colour) and the Moby Dick Ambergris Ale. The last time we had this was at GABS16 where it was a novelty festival beer. It is made with ambergris, obviously, which was described ad 'whale vomit', and it was pungent, sweaty and unpleasant. Maris admitted he had no idea how much of the substance to use so had been rather heavy-handed. Version 2 is so much better than the first time around and is a lot more subtle and aromatic with a lingering flavour that intrigues rather than appalls.
|Maris Biezaitis at Robe Town Brewery|
Later that evening we enjoyed a glass or two back at the Caledonian Inn with our meals.
Next morning we went for another walk along the coastline - I just love the beaches and the sea!
And then we encountered this sculpture of wood, stone and iron. I don't know what it is meant to represent, but I assume the timbers are salvaged from a shipwreck, and the rustic equine feel of it appeals to me.
At Kingston SE we found the Cape Jaffa lighthouse looking like some rocket on a launchpad. It was moved here from its original position on Margaret Brock Reef in 1976 and opened as a museum. It contained eight rooms and accommodated two lighthouse keepers and their families. When we visited it was closed for renovations.
Robe's importance decreased with the advent of railways which did not come to the town. It became a local service centre for the surrounding rural areas and is still home to a fleet of fishing boats, with its economy now mainly based on sheep, wine, fishing (particularly lobsters) and tourism.
|Mosaic mural in Kingston SE|
This guy at the entrance to Kingston SE is apparently known to the locals as Larry the Lobster.
Walking in the Coorong National Park, we came across sand and dunes and sea and more sand, and roads that were basically just sand. This is South Australia.
|Walking in the sand dunes at Coorong National Park|
|South Australian road|
Between 1856-58 large numbers of Chinese men, amounting eventually to around 16,500, arrived off ships at the port of Robe on their way to the Victorian gold diggings. This was to avoid paying the £10 ($20) tax if they had disembarked at Melbourne. Instead they preferred to walk the 200 miles (320 km) across the Victorian border. However many ended up paying exorbitant fees to the locals to ferry them from the ship and guide them across the border.
Some turned back near the start of the journey and decided to take up farming instead, supplying the influx of travellers en route. There are three wells in the Coorong area, originally ten feet deep, carefully walled with trimmed stone and overlaid with a circular slab with an access hole in the centre. This broken stone is likely to be one they tried to prepare earlier.
|Jack Point, Coorong National Park|
The final lighthouse of the trip is unique, being the only inland lighthouse in Australia. The Point Malcolm lighthouse was built in 1878 on the eastern side of the narrows between Lake Alexandria and Lake Albert. It was built due to the importance of the Murray River trade and to assist ships that were passing through Lake Alexandria on their way to Lake Albert or the ports on the Murray River.
The lighthouse was turned off in September 1931 due to a decline in river traffic. An automatic 'light on a pole' has been installed next to the old tower to guide recreational and commercial traffic using the river and the lake system. There was due to be a 150th celebration of the nearby town Meningie in October at which the light was turned on again for the first time in 85 years.
The keepers were self-sufficient and sold extra produce to locals, but now the keeper's cottage and adjacent buildings are boarded up and derelict. The site of the lighthouse is opposite the lake from Narrung, a small Aboriginal community, which is accessible by a small cable car ferry, which crosses the waterway.
|Point Malcolm Lighthouse|
|The 'light on a pole'|
|Another of those 'unexpected waves'|