We hung out in Penola, loitering in the town square and asked locals what they love about their region.
Go and get a coffee from Metro in Mount Gambier. It’s across from the Town Hall. We play live music there and it’s fantastic. The food is great and it has a really cool vibe. They are very forward thinking and often invite artists to paint the walls. It’s been there for a few years. They keep expanding. Metro Bakery and Café, 13 Commercial Street East, Mount Gambier.
Walk around the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier. It’s relaxing and looks beautiful during summer.
Go to Beachport. It’s a small town where everyone seems happy. The beach is lovely during summer. Salmon Hole is the nicest beach there. It has massive sand dunes you can slide down. It’s a calm beach… really pretty.
My friend Doug Balnaves has a winery up the road (Balnaves of Coonawarra).
It has lovely roses. Thousands of them. It has a lagoon that runs right under the cellar door. It’s worth a look. His wine The Blend is my favourite red wine. Balnaves of Coonawarra, 15517 Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra.
Majella Wines is directly behind my grandparents’ block. Try The Musician. It was named after Brian ‘Prof’ Lynn’s son. Majella Wines, Lynn Road, Coonawarra.
Wander around. You should always walk down historical Petticoat Lane – it’s very cool.
Bellwether cellar door is wonderful. Winemaker Sue Bell is amazing. She really cares about everything and everyone and I really like the vibe. It feels very homely. They have glamping tents there – I think that’s the best place to stay. Bellwether Wines, 14183 Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra.
Also go to the Coonawarra Siding. It’s the old station. It’s cool… eerily cool. There’s also a lake (Greenrise) that’s not completely empty. I sometimes get up early on a Saturday morning and walk around it. Giles Road, Coonawarra.
Go to the local wineries.They’re unique and you’ll meet some amazing people.
The beaches are an hour away. Beachport and Southend are a drawcard for me. The views are stunning. Robe is beautiful, too.
My friend owns the shop in Mount Gambier called The Makers Art and Craft – 63 artists sell their work there. My work is there and I do workshops for adults and kids. 12A James Street, Mt Gambier.
The Mount Gambier Library is a place people should see. All sorts of things happen there. I don’t go there to borrow books, I go there to meet people and have coffee. 6 Watson Terrace, Mt Gambier.
The Twisted Threads craft group meets at the library 9.30am on Wednesday mornings. It’s open to everyone. It’s all ages… we even have a young guy who knits.
I like the idea of food. Dining out at some of the restaurants here is really good. You’ve got Piper’s of Penola, The Barn, and the Wagyu beef people [Mayura Station’s The Tasting Room] over near Millicent.
Pipers of Penola, 58 Riddoch Street, Penola.
The Barn, 747 Glenelg River Road, Mt Gambier.
Mayura Station, Canunda Frontage Road, Canunda.
I think people also need to seek out real genuine experiences. Raidis Estate lets you make your own wine. There’s lots of things like that and seeking them out makes the stay even more meaningful, gusty and earthy. One-of-a-kind things really make you feel part of the region. Raidis Estate, 15741 Riddoch Highway, Penola.
The traditional sites like the Naracoorte Caves and Blue Lake in Mount Gambier are visually very good.
A friendly German Shepherd greets visitors at Guy Detot’s Le Max Gallery. The welcome from the French artist is even more of a treat. Guy, a former ballet dancer in Paris, Germany and with Australian Dance Theatre, is a larger-than-life character full of stories and joie de vivre. His gallery (somewhat of a warehouse) is packed full of his sensual wooden sculptures (he has a thing for red gum) and work by other talented artists. You’ll stay longer than you meant to. Young Street, Penola.
Penola’s Heritage Trail is a do-it-yourself walk marked by posts with heritage badges and green arrows. It takes you past points of historical interest (there’s plenty!). Petticoat Lane is a highlight. Sharam Cottage dates back to 1850. Make sure you stop off at the cute-as-a-button Gammon Cottage (5 Petticoat Lane). The ‘art house’ is the smallest art gallery in Penola and has changing exhibitions by local creative cats. Venture out back and you’ll find Penola blacksmith Bruce Kennewell making magic with the forge set up in the old stables at the rear of the cottage.
Love vintage clobber? Jill’s Vintage has to be one of the top vintage stores in the state. Jill scours the globe for beautiful frocks, accessories, jewellery and homewares. The pieces on display in the tiny historical house on Petticoat Lane are in top condition and Jill is a delight. She knows her stuff. Beware, you won’t leave empty handed. 9 Petticoat Lane, Penola.
Penola is located about 338 kilometres south-east of Adelaide in the Coonawarra wine region. Stop off on your way to Mount Gambier or the Great Ocean Road. The Penola Arts festival is held annually in May and is a great time to visit.