Almanac Bushwalking: On Granite Island

Photo: ParksSA



Of the bounteous opportunities we have here clinging to the southern coast of this wide land, circumnavigating Granite Island is, for mine, among the best for our occasionally battered souls.


Beautifully situated an hour from Adelaide and connected umbilically to Victor Harbor (note the inexplicable American spelling) by a causeway, Alex, Max and I set out enthusiastically in the gap between Easter and Anzac Day (depending on your view, either two grim or celebratory holidays) as the affirming autumnal sun drenched us with healthy effervescence.


The horse-drawn tram was also on holiday (possibly still partying in honour of the equine heroine Winx) so, gun-barrel straight, we galloped across to the island with the boys chatting ceaselessly and in that lovely, unconscious, yet stream-of-conscious way only the young and excited can.


Their old man was buoyant too so for reasons I still can’t quite unpack we found ourselves at the kiosk prior to and not following our moderate exercise. Like a pickpocketed Dickensian character, before I knew it the boys had persuaded me into a pair of chocolate milkshakes.


Such is the passage of time and the unrelenting effects of inflation that the $5 milkshake Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega shared in Pulp Fiction had long since lost its shock value and Alex and Max briskly slurped their $6 refreshments, completely unaware of any cultural and fiscal dissonance with the iconic filmography of Quentin Tarantino.


We trekked in an anticlockwise fashion and shared the gravel path with folk from across the seas and across the road. It was one of those utterly self-contained moments in which we were constantly in the company of others, yet felt no need to interact, or to broaden our world beyond our complete, little bubble. Some days, we is all we need.


Happily, however, the boys were unrelenting in interrogating the island. They rushed constantly along the path, before like an old sea dog, or Quint from Jaws, I reeled them in. They scrambled up and over the smoothed and the ragged outcrops while paying attention to my startled wishes that they not endanger either themselves or the part of me that suffers from incurable and eternal risk assessment.


On the island’s southern edge Alex declared, “The ocean here is normally cold as there’s nothing between us and Antarctica.” I felt gratitude for his global insight as I reflected upon my own worldview at his age which was, “Gee, Angaston Oval is a muddy poop-heap in August.”


The town-side of Granite Island hosts a distinctive ancient tree with stripped limbs enticing young climbers. Each branch appears as a blonde vaulting horse and indeed, upon our last visit Alex was riding its sturdy frame until, like a character in a deleted scene from Blazing Saddles, he slipped several feet directly onto another blonde bough in a way that I could tell, caused considerable shock to both his face and his groin. I could almost hear a fast-plucked banjo. I may have yelped.


On Wednesday’s lap Max spied this friendly foe and yelled, “Alex! Alex! Here’s the nut-breaker. Here’s the nut-breaker!” With this public declaration I expected either a rush of Asian tourists seeking autographs, or a rush of Asian tourists desperately seeking higher ground, but neither eventuated.


Rounding the gentle final curve we took in the long sweep of Encounter Bay and The Bluff, and bemoaned the old, dry hills. A week or so back Alex had declared that when he was older he’d live in Victor Harbor because it was “really cool.” Max then countered how he was going to dwell in the viticultural gem that is South Australia’s Clare Valley.


Of course, he added in what really should be a surprise to no-one, “And Utah.”


We then eased onto the sparkling causeway and the boys, like tightrope walkers, tried to travel the entire distance balancing on a single rail-track before we reached the car, sitting patiently by The Crown Hotel.


A few minutes later we were barbecuing our lunch just behind the clean, dappled beach.

About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Hey Mickey, Fish and chips is the go to at Victour.

  2. 6%- acknowledged, but the weather was excellent and as BBQ season winds up, I like to take every chance.

    As previously described on this site The Crown is terrific (great salad bar) and offers cheap meals, while I learnt that its neighbour, the Hotel Victor, is somewhat disagreeable of a Tuesday evening. Less than sparkling service, inflexibility with discount vouchers, overpriced kids’ meals.

    Still a fun destination though.

  3. When i think of Victor Harbor I invariably remember the huge quantities of fish, particularly salmon trout, that were caught from the screwpile jetty and breakwater on granite Island in the fifties, sixties and seventies.

    My very first fishing trip from the jetty there in ’61 produced something like 200 salmon trout. It was a fishing club trip and I finished third overall. Peter Phillips, who caught 3 more than me was runner up whilst Max Grivell, the eventual winner had 22 more than Pete. There were no bag limits in those days. If I hadn’t stopped for around 20 minutes to eat lunch I probably would have won. My record capture there occurred in ’65 and was, believe it or not, 306 caught in 8 hours. When I eventual packed it in the fish were biting even better.

    The fish, when the schools arrived in winter, would bite all day and all night and some years it was better fishing from the breakwater. To add variety, around Easter, the mullet would turn it on on you could catch stacks of them. Lumping a sugar bag of fish back to the car park was always a back breaking episode.

    Anyway, these days there is a bag limit of 20 salmon trout per person. In times past that would take between 15 and 20 minutes to catch that amount. Schools of dolphins would round the salmon trout up and send them fleeing under the jetty to escape only to be caught by the anglers there.

    Some nights the fish couldn’t be coaxed out from under and so some enterprising anglers would find a hole and drop there line through it. Of course every so often a fish was too big to fit through the hole and was lost.

    Naturally I’ll never forget those incredible fishing times with my mates but knowing what I now know would never attempt to catch so many..

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Plenty of profit in $6 milkshakes! Not for the the poor dairy farmers though.

    Loved the nut-breaker tale!

  5. Superb Mickey the Asian tourists line got my 3 votes and trust me,Fisho could catch a fish in the middle of
    Rundle mall.Well said Luke.Mickey next time I am in Victor hope I have time to look for the nut breaker tree

  6. Fisho! It seems that you are indeed well-named. That’s a remarkable set of statistics. I went to Elliston a few times with some mates and loved catching salmon off the beach at Lock’s Well on those mild, still winter’s afternoons the state’s West Coast is often witness to.

    Thanks Luke. Happily, neither son remarked in the style of Vincent Vega, “Five dollars? That’s a pretty expletive good milkshake!”

    Cheers Malcolm. Of course, many argue the best experience in Victor is standing on the first tee at the golf course and taking in the wide sweep of the ocean. Superb.

  7. Thanks Mickey. I forgot to mention how great it was fishing from the Granite Island breakwater. Whilst we caught plenty of fish, you had to keep watch on wave surges. Many times i got wet whilst fishing on the seaward side.

    However some times it was too rough to fish on that side and so we stood on the town side. One day a friend of mine, Des Simpson (I wasn’t there that day) didn’t here the tell tale sound of rising water and didn’t duck down behind one of the granite boulders in time.A few others went over too.

    Result – he was washed overboard but fortunately was able to scramble back onto the breakwater. All he lost was his catch. Undeterred and quite wet, he carried on regardless and finished with about 70 odd.

    Incidentally, the newspapers got hold of the story and mixed up the details -reporting a freak wave washed over the jetty leaving anglers stranded in the drink.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Our eldest took a liking to some Norfolk Island pine needles on her first trip to Granite Island. We didn’t find out until the drive home, around Mt Compass from memory, when the screaming stopped. Lucky we kept the bib on her.

  9. A fine Croweater tradition Mickey. Some things never change – other than the price of the milkshakes. My dad could have written the same match report in 1963 when milkshakes were sixpence (genuinely Dickensian) and therefore to be envied rather than consumed.
    Rumbelows Crays were further around Encounter Bay toward the Bluff. On Saturdays in the 70’s and 80’s they would journey up to Victoria Park, Cheltenham and Victoria Park to sell their wares to the needy and the greedy. My trick was to buy a couple mid-afternoon when their was still something in the kick and get them to keep them on ice until after the last. I could return home a conquering hero whatever the result. The deception didn’t last, but jeez they were the best Saturday night dinners ever. Lobster and Green Death.

  10. Mickey, I have only had the good fortune to visit Victor Harbor on one occasion, that being in the late-80’s with my old mate Tucky. In one of the pubs on a Sunday arvo, we watched Mike Tyson belt the bejesus out of an ageing Larry Holmes. From memory, I reckon it was an Australia Day weekend as there were no rooms left at the inn, and our rental car made for most uncomfortable and cramped sleeping quarters.

    A nice story, mate – I reckon you could bar-b-que for Australia.

  11. Fisho- I’m unsure if this has been done, but I’d love to read some of your angling tales. You should write ’em!

    Swish- I’ve had the same experience as your eldest in Mt Compass, but this was due to my dreadful golf on the otherwise lovely course there.

    PB- I sense an upcoming post- the Great and Not-So-Great Milkshakes of Australia.

    Smokie- Sleeping in the car at Victor Harbor. I reckon this might be a rite of passage.

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

  12. Mickey, I assure you what I have written about my fishing is all true. Also, for a while I wrote fishing articles for SA ANGLER MAGAZINE. Whilst not all of my articles were published , 25 of them were. The reason some weren’t was a lack of photos to illustrate them.

    Finally, I challenged myself to write something else besides fishing – result 3 baseball books (another of my passions).

    Incidentally, for 12 and a half years, I conducted a fishing course for beginner anglers for WORKERS EDUCATION FOR ADULTS (WEA). That was where I first met Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood and discovered our mutual love of the Norwood Football Club.

  13. E.regnans says

    “…chatting ceaselessly and in that lovely, unconscious, yet stream-of-conscious way only the young and excited can.”

    Lovely, Mickey. I’m there.
    So much chat. So very much chat.

  14. Congratulations on your writing and angling career Fisho. Great stuff. I worked with a retired teacher who runs beer and wine courses at the WEA. Often thought I should enrol.

    Thanks E.r. Much to discuss in the NFA front bar in a few week’s time. Indeed, so much chat. So very much chat!

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