Hike dramatic coastlines, wine country, farmland and coastal villages. The Fleurieu Peninsula offers untouched coastal scenery that will make you feel like you are in another country. The Heysen Trail, named after the famous landscape artist Sir Hans Heysen, features some of South Australia’s most spectacular landscapes. It passes through bushland and beaches, state forests and national parks, through bountiful vineyards and orchards in historic towns.
The Peninsula is known for its wineries, national parks, wild beaches and abundance of wildlife. The Peninsula hike is a small (112km) stretch of the epic 1200km Heysen Trail, which is a challenging and, at times, technically difficult trek. For this section, you may not be hiking in areas as remote as further up along the trail but you will still feel like you are out in the rugged wilderness and at times might find yourself wondering if you are still in Australia!
Get ready for
- Watching the sunset over Kangaroo Island from Cobbler Hill
- Stunning beaches and coastlines for which Australia is renowned
- Rolling hills and rural landscapes
- Wildlife – anything from frolicking dolphins and breaching whales to inquisitive kangaroos and shy echidnas
- Lush native bushland and gullies, waterfalls and creek crossings
- A five (million) star sleeping experience
If you were to walk the entire trail from end to end, you would need to allow around two months, including a few rest days. Traditionally the trail begins in the south at Cape Jervis trailhead and runs north finishing in Parachilna Gorge in the Ikara Flinders Ranges. Below is a week-long suggestion for the first section of the Heysen Trail (RAW Travel also offers a week-long itinerary for the final section of the Trail, through the Ikara Flinders Ranges.
Cape Jervis Trailhead to Cobbler Hill Campsite 14.5km/ 5 hours
After making your way to the Cape Jervis Trailhead (located at the Kangaroo Island ferry terminal), head along a sandy track to begin what can only be described as the perfect introduction to the Fleurieu Peninsula portion of the epic Heysen trail. The trail today is undulating through rolling hills, along grassy and dirt paths with some tricky climbs in and out of gullies. For the most part, you will be walking along rugged cliff tops offering up spectacular views – the first of many you will see in the coming days.
As you walk through farmland (complete with grazing sheep and cattle) and along these exposed coastal hillsides, take the time to enjoy your surroundings; endless green hills stretch out to one side, blue waters to the other, and in the distance the looming outline of Kangaroo Island.
The walk also includes two beaches – Fishery and Blowhole – which are fine examples of the quintessential azure water/white sand Australian beach. Keep an eye out for the playful seals and dolphins who frequent this part of the coast while you stop to catch your breath.
Both beaches are popular with local fisherman and surfers alike (as well as the odd Kangaroo). However, as inviting as the waters may look in warmer weather, we discourage taking a dip due to the strong currents and rips.
From Blowhole Beach, the trail takes you into the Deep Creek Conservation Park and a steady climb through the native bushland brings you to your final destination of Cobblers Hill. With a full pack on your back this long ascent will test your fitness for sure, but the views at the top and your campsite for the night, will be the reward.
Cobbler Hill Campsite to Tapanappa Campsite: 14km/5 hours
Today you will be spending the day further exploring the Deep Creek Conservation Park as you walk through the native scrub, up and down deep gullies, past waterfalls and through creeks crossings. While a relatively short section on paper, there are some very steep climbs and challenging descents through thickly vegetated scrub and along sections of undefined paths. If there has been recent rain you might also find the path quite slippery, so it’s best to take it easy today. It will also be your first (of many) opportunities to do some wildlife spotting, which is another reason to go slowly and calmly. Mobs of Kangaroos are a common site, but also the shy echidna can often be seen waddling alongside the track.
As the trail meanders through the conservation park, high up above the deep valley of Deep Creek, you will at times have more of those magnificent coastal views that are synonymous with this area. At the base of the valley you will find a waterfall and an ideal spot to rest and have lunch before the final ascent to Tapanappa Campsite which, once again, is the toughest climb of the day.
While you will want to push on to get to your end destination, just before camp it is worth the detour out to Tapanappa Lookout where you will be rewarded with fantastic views over the Southern Ocean to the Pages Islands and Kangaroo Island. Return to your campsite in the company of the feeding kangaroos who come out by the dozen along the Tapanappa Ridge at dusk. Set up your tent and settle in for a good night’s sleep – tomorrow will be a big day
Tapanappa Campsite to Balquhidder Campsite 17km/6 hours
A diverse and challenging mixture of farmland, more bush, stretches of coastal sand and hills make up your walk today, starting with some amazing 180 degree views from Tapanappa Ridge as you leave camp and return to the trail. As you gaze towards the horizon keep your eyes peeled for whales, while in the bush it is quite common to see many Kangaroos and the occasional Emu.
You will find it quite hard going today, so fortunately the picturesque scenery will be a good distraction!
After some time in the native bushland, there are several steep descents down into Boat Harbour, a secluded rocky cove where dolphins are a common site. From here you leave the Deep Creek Conservation Park entering what is considered to be the most spectacular section of the day, as you follow the rise and fall of the track across farmland, winding along the tops of the steep cliffs high above the jagged coastline and deep blue surf below. In the distance you can still faintly make out Kangaroo Island and views of the Pages Islands. Ahead lies the long stretch of Tunkalilla Beach – which is going to be your next challenge – just over 4km of sand walking.
It’s important to be across the tides today, and depending on the timing, you may be in for a long slog through the soft sand. Let the wild winds coming off the southern ocean clear your mind and surrender to the meditative tramp that comes with a long beach walk, punctuated by the waves crashing on the sand. Just as your legs are starting to tire, you have one last obstacle to face – a very steep, at times slippery, climb up from the beach. Good stability is required (particularly on wobbly legs from the last couple of hours trudging on the sand combined with carrying a full pack) as you make your way up the near vertical path with sheer cliffs that drop to the ocean. Once at the top, head across some exposed grassy hills – often the track can be difficult to spot here so keep your eyes peeled for the next red Heysen Trail arrow. You are crossing a lot of private farmland here with countless fence stiles to clamber over to add to the adventure. A quiet country lane completes your day, and leads you to your secluded campsite for tonight set among the eucalyptus trees in a pretty junction of two creeks.
Balquhidder walk in site to Waitpinga campsite: 15km/5 hours
This morning head back along the country lanes as you walk towards the Newland Head Conservation Park, crossing more farmlands (complete with stiles) and back out into the stunning landscape you are getting accustomed to by now. This section feels more isolated and rugged, the difficulty is increased with some slippery and steep paths as well as remote rocky beaches and creek crossings. The trail is often quite narrow and if there is a wind, it can feel a bit precarious.
Once more, you will be accompanied by the many Kangaroos who call the cliff top pastures and deep v-shaped gullies their home. Walk across carpets of yellow daisy cape weed flowers as you pass along a series of headlands and a few more remote beaches, before leaving the grassy meadow over yet another stile, and enter into the conservation park, emerging at Parsons Beach. After a section of sand walking, climb up over the rocky heath-covered Parsons Headland, before dropping back down onto Waitpinga Beach. Both beaches are natural and wild, backed by rising sand dunes and are popular with local surfers – but they do have strong rips and currents so are only for the experienced surfer – and definitely not for swimmers.
Your campsite tonight is located close to Waitpinga Beach in the sand dunes – what better way to fall asleep than listening to the distant sound of waves crashing on the sand?
Waitpinga camp site to Robinson Hill walk-in site: 26km/8 hours
Your last chance to walk along this stunning coastline is also one of the most striking sections as you walk through the coastland scrub and along dramatic cliff tops of Newland Head Conservation Park. A long walk, however it is one of the easier sections in terms of terrain compared to previous days.
Continuing from your camp the walk begins along sandy tracks and then out onto more of those breath-taking cliff tops, past sea eagle nesting areas which provide the opportunity to spot the rare white-bellied sea eagle. Other wildlife sightings here often include seals, dolphins and whales.
There is a gradual decline towards Kings beach where you say farewell to the coast, and head inland following the country roads as you enter the Adelaide Hills and South Mt Lofty Ranges.
From here it is a gentle walk along forest trails and lanes, following the farm fence lines and overlooking the classic Fleurieu Peninsula farmland vista. Along the way an abundance of native flora, in particular wildflowers, coupled with plenty of birdlife, make for a delightful walk.
Once you get to your campsite at Robinson Hill – the views watching the sunset from your tent will be an unforgettable experience.
Robinson Hill walk-in site to Inman Valley – Myponga: 23km/7-7.5 hours
Your final morning is a memorable one as you awake to that view from Robinson Hill. Enjoy a cuppa as you look out over the countryside stretching below, before lacing up your boots and getting back on the trail for a long, final day. You will want to head off early to ensure you arrive into Myponga in time if you intend to catch the local bus out.
Continue back along the country roads, through pine forest reserves and past more farmland along a relatively flat trail with some small hills. Your friends today mainly be cows, horses and some Shingle Back Lizards (affectionately known as Stumpy’s). Striking gum trees create a corridor pathway leading to the climb up Sugarloaf Hill – your final challenge which is rewarded by some amazing rural scenery. The trail then takes you into the Myponga Conservation Park, meandering through this hilly landscape which covers 168 acres of heath and forest and features rocky outcrops and delightful waterfalls. More quiet country roads round off your walk into Myponga and the completion of your experience on the Heysen Trail.
Duration: 6 days
Route type: Linear trail, from A to B
Start: Cape Jervis
End: Myponga General Store
Location: Fleurieu Peninsula
Closest city: Adelaide
6 day Trail end at Myponga general store
On the trail
You’ll experience a variety of terrain on this walk, from coastal tracks to rural and bushland areas. Days on this section of the Heysen trail consist of weaving in and out along sandy coastal tracks to exposed coastal hillsides and along dramatic clifftops, before going back into the lush bushland, through gullies, over creeks and past waterfalls. Each day will present its own challenges in terms of a lot of sand walking (one day has just over 4km in one continuous stretch), steep hills, narrow trails that are not always well defined. There are some sheer cliffs, strong winds and slippery trails.
- Our detailed guide to hiking the Heysen Trail – contains all the essential information you need to know in advance
- 6 days worth of food for your adventure; breakfast, lunch and dinner each day – delivered straight to your home
- Our own range of Lightweight, highly nutritious meals that are locally sourced, delicious and easy to carry & cook ( freeze dried and dehydrated)
- We make the bookings for your campsites & overnight hiking permit, including:
- 3 nights National Park camps fees included at Waitpinga, Tapanappa & Cobbler hill
- Our ‘state of the art’ Navigation app to guide you on the track; showing huts, campsites and all points of Interest along the way
- Delivery to your door* of our ‘Adventure in a box’ food parcel
- 10% GST Included
We can also arrange services such as pre- and post – trip accommodation at additional cost (see FAQ’s)
Transport or transfers to Cape Jervis / Myponga trailheads
No equipment included
Our essential information guides give you everything you need to know – and none of the information you don’t – to prepare well for one of these hikes. We cover off all transport and transfers with contacts, full equipment lists tailored to each walk, and safety factors to consider that can be unique to each track. We give you the information you need to know about water and where the best accommodation is before and after your trip, plus overviews of Aboriginal & European history and wildlife you can expect to encounter.
It saves countless hours of trawling through websites, guidebooks and forums to get to the essential information you need to know, so you don’t forget to factor in anything for your adventure.
Finding your way
Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the trail. Simply download your map with the link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localised for each of your overnight stops, detailed information on each campsite/ hut and what facilities are available there so you don’t need to carry our trail guide. There are important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.
Need to Know
Independent adventures place you at the centre of the experience, giving you the confidence to be a self-reliant walker on the trail. We take care of the research needed and give you all the essential information relating to the trip ( a task that seasoned walkers can tell you often takes many hours to get the correct information) so you can be thoroughly prepared and confident that you have everything you need for your adventure. We give you all the contacts & details to nearby transportation, accommodation and hire services, highlight any risks to be aware of and how to mitigate them.
The food prep is a major hassle of many hikers trips and we solve that for you. We prepare all the food that you need for your trip, all pre-measured and dehydrated / freeze dried to take away the weight but keep the freshness. Our meals are reviewed by Nutritionists to provide the right daily nutrition and energy for your demands of the walk. And our ingredients are prepared from the best local ingredients here on the Mornington Peninsula, cooked to order and freeze dried fresh – not sitting on a shelf for years at a time!
Once you arrive at the trail it’s all over to you the adventure begins! You are free and independent to create your own experience the way you want it. We provide you with an app to help you navigate in real time on the trail and give you the campsite locations and points of interest but you are completely autonomous & self – supporting on the walk. These trips are best suited to people who relish that sense of liberation and freedom that comes with being self-reliant and don’t need the back up of a leader or group travel. Independent Adventures are different from our other self – guided walking trips as there are no briefings, transfers or local support from RAW Travel staff. It’s just you and nature out on the trail!
We have classified this walk as a moderate – challenging one, The rolling coastal terrain means many ups and downs so it requires a reasonably good degree of fitness and hiking experience and some navigation skills are required. You also need to be self-reliant in regards to safety and weather hazards.
There is an outlet in Adelaide where you can hire equipment, details are given in our information guide. Where you can’t borrow equipment consider how much you think you might use an item before you buy it. If you can see yourself being a regular hiker in future then it’s worth investing in good equipment that will last you for many, many years to come. Otherwise renting gear for your trip may be your best option and sometimes a combination of both: i.e. buy a good jacket or stove, but rent a PLB and tent.
Adelaide is accessible by domestic flights from all major Australian airports.
The airport is only 8km from downtown and a short drive or taxi ride. There is also the JetExpress bus.
From Adelaide to Cape Jervis you have the option of a coach service, car hire or taxi.
If you plan to self-drive, the start of the walk is around 1.5 hours’ drive from Adelaide’s CBD. At the end of this itinerary you would return to Cape Jervis at the conclusion of your walk to pick up your car (easy with the daily bus).
The Heysen Trail has campsites, huts and shelters in a combination of free/first -come, first-served and pre-booked for a fee – these are usually the ones in National Parks and forests. Further along the trail you will encounter private campsites and accommodation which also require payment
Huts are small and will vary from either stone or timber settler’s cottages and old public buildings. Their primary purpose is to collect rain water so don’t expect a lot of space or facilities, though some may have simple bunks, tables and chairs. Most have a rainwater tank, toilet and firepit.
For this section on the Fleurieu Peninsula, you may not be hiking in areas as remote as further up along the trail, however you will still feel like you are out in the rugged wilderness and at times might find yourself wondering if you are still in Australia!
Many days may not look like they are long kilometre-wise, however it is not an overly flat trail and it will still challenge you, particularly when carrying a full pack and water.
Days on this section of trail consist of weaving in and out along sandy coastal tracks to exposed coastal hillsides and along dramatic clifftops, before going back into the lush bushland, through gullies, over creeks and past waterfalls. Each day will present its own challenges in terms of a lot of sand walking (one day has just over 4km in one continuous stretch), steep hills, narrow trails that are not always well defined. There are some sheer cliffs, strong winds and slippery trails. Care must be taken especially with a full pack on your back.
The Heysen Trail is open to walkers in autumn, winter and spring (April to October). Most of the trail is closed for the remainder of the year due to fire danger in the warmer summer months.
After the heat of the summer months, autumn brings warm days with cool breezes and optimum hiking weather. Temperatures average in the low 20s on
the Fleurieu at this time of year, featuring stretches of cloudless blue skies. The night times are not too cold yet the clear skies mean that you can relax
comfortably and gaze up at the brilliant starry expanse.
Winter: The wet weather begins as the coastal winds cause temperatures to drop. This can also mean foggy mornings and the rains mean you do need to think and plan your walk – check the tide conditions and creek crossings. Consider that your walk times may be slowed by slippery paths. This time of year is the ideal time to do some whale watching.
Spring: The mild weather returns with temperatures sitting at an average of 22°C and plenty of sunny days. Wildflowers, birds and butterflies infiltrate the
conservation parks and the wildlife comes out to play with their young. The days get longer, everything is green after the winter rains and it is a beautiful time to
be exploring the trail before the heat of summer starts.
Social and environmental
All our adventures are fully carbon offset so that you know your travel has minimal impacts. Hiking itself is a low impact activity but we offset the cost of all our office operations and food production as well, so you can be satisfied that you have chosen a form of travel that is both good for you and good for the planet. Each year we also plant trees on behalf of every customer who has travelled with us, aiming to build towards a carbon positive effect with our operations.
As a B-Corp a focus on local community is an important part of who we are. We are committed to buying locally and source our produce from growers here on the Mornington Peninsula. We care about people in our community and for every meal pack you buy with us we donate a meal to a homeless support charity, to spread some love and share good food with those who need it most.
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed