Whale watching in Victor Harbor
Located just 52 miles (84km) from Adelaide, Victor Harbor, on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, was originally a whaling station. While the whaling days have finished, Victor Harbor’s whale watching days are in full swing. Every winter, tens of thousands of visitors flock to the Bluff to view the southern right whales from the rocks. While they often come first to view the whales, they stay on to see everything else Victor Harbor and the Fleurieu Peninsula have to offer.
From 1837 to the mid-1860s, Southern Right Whales were so extensively hunted, their numbers dwindled from an estimated 200,000 to just a handful. They got their unusual name because these slow moving whales, who feed close to shore, were the “right” whales to kill. Their numbers were decimated so quickly, whaling was no longer a viable industry and the few remaining whales migrated to safer waters to breed and feed.
Fortunately, efforts have been made to protect the species and today, their numbers are up to around 7000 and growing. Since the 1990s, they have been coming back to Victor Harbor on their migratory circuit from the sub-Antarctic. They have been coming in ever increasing numbers, too and with each passing year they can be seen more frequently from the same place on the Bluff where the old whalers used to raise a red flag to alert the ships in harbour of their arrival.
Another “Must See” Victor Harbor attraction is the horse drawn tram that runs across a long wooden causeway out to nearby Granite Island. Many people think this colourful tram is just a tourist attraction, but in fact it has a proud place in Victor Harbor history as part of the first public railway line in Australia. Originally, the railway ran from the Murray River port of Goolwa and Port Eliot, 11 kilometres (6 miles) away. Horses were used instead of coal because they were more cost effective. The line was extended to Victor Harbor and from there out to Granite Island.
The horse-drawn tram today is used for pleasure purposes only, but it is such a big attraction that there is a causeway crossing every 20 minutes. The ride out to Granite Island across the wooden causeway is just part of the attraction. Granite Island is also home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins. The penguins are best viewed at night and the best way to see them is on a guided tour. Strict rules apply in order to protect the little penguins and their environment.
Southern Right Whales can be viewed best during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean you can miss taking a walk out on the Bluff in the summertime. The views from the Bluff are breathtaking. Close you eyes and imagine what it was like for discoverer Mathew Flinders when he encountered Nicolas Baudin, the French “interloper” in 1802.