Top 10 things to do in Naracoorte
1. World Heritage-listed fossils
Be amazed by Naracoorte's Australian Fossil Mammal Site, the first (in 1994) and only World Heritage listing in South Australia. See the bones of ancient megafauna – short-faced kangaroo, giant snake, and pygmy hippo – as shown to the world by Sir David Attenborough in "Life On Earth" on TV in 1979. UNESCO says it's among the world's ten greatest fossil sites and opens a window to the ancient animals that roamed up to 530,000 years ago.
Spend a day or two among the natural wonders of Naracoorte Caves National Park. Venture underground to Alexandra and Victoria Caves for a guided tour of magical stalactites and stalagmites created from water and limestone. Be your own guide in the Wonambi Fossil Centre, Wet Cave and World Heritage Walk. For a real adventure, pull on overalls and headlights and crawl through Stick-Tomato Cave or other caves for advanced explorers. Above ground, take a break in the Fossil Hunter's Playground, nature walks and Caves Cafe.
Naracoorte is central to three premium wine regions
Coonawarra wine region, starting 20km south of Naracoorte, is world-renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon. See why it's called the Bordeaux of Australia, with 30 winery cellar doors. Visit historic Wynns Coonawarra Estate featuring the famous triple-gable roof and stone buildings, and Rymill Coonawarra with its full-sized bronze dancing horses, art and viewing gallery. Other must-visits include Balnaves of Coonawarra for its pond and rose gardens, and Hollick for its restaurant Upstairs At Hollick.
Padthaway wine region, north of Naracoorte, has nearly 30 large and small vignerons spread along more than 60km north and south of Padthaway township. Take the time to visit the region’s only winery cellar door, the hilltop Longbottom Vintners featuring tastings and sales of two wine labels, Henry’s Drive and Farmer’s Leap, as well as snacks and light meals. You can pick up other Padthaway wines in Naracoorte liquor outlets.
Wrattonbully wine region, east and south-east of Naracoorte, is a relative youngster but has expanded rapidly and now has about 50 vignerons and 20 wine producers. Most of the grapes are sent outside the region for winemaking. Call into Redden Bridge Wines, the only Wrattonbully producer with a cellar door sales outlet in Naracoorte at 3/44 Robertson Street. But you'll also find a range of Wrattonbully label wines for sale at the Naracoorte Hotel and Bushman’s Arms bottle shops and Woolworths liquor store in Kincraig Plaza as well as on the menus of some hotels and restaurants. Wild Game Wines, of Coonawarra, has a boutique cellar door at the rear of Naracoorte Art Gallery, 91 Ormerod Street, open noon to 8pm Friday and noon to 6pm Sunday. Pop in on Friday night for a cheese platter and wine.
4. Naracoorte Swimming Lake
One of Naracoorte most loved features for 60 years. Cool off or make a splash in this man-made lake seven times bigger than an Olympic pool, with concrete floor and sides and clear, chlorinated water. Children can play safely in the shallows of the sandy beach and in the fenced pool. Lawns and shady trees offer many lakeside places to relax. Open December to March and admission is free.
5. MiniJumbuk, Smith Street, Naracoorte
The 1986 Australian Small Business of the Year, MiniJumbuk is the maker of top-quality woollen bedding products sold all over Australia and exported to the world. Drop into the MiniJumbuk shop and viewing gallery. Choose from underlays, quilts and pillows at factory prices – even "pet pieces" to take home to your cat or dog. There is also a wide range of souvenirs.
6. Museums and Galleries
The Sheep’s Back, MacDonnell Street. Learn about Australia’s wool industry on the three levels of a historic former flour mill. Models of shearers, sheepdogs and homemakers join the many exhibits of pioneer life in this award-winning museum. Limestone Landscapes tell the story of the environment shaped by the indigenous and Europeans.
Naracoorte Regional Art Gallery, 91 Ormerod Street, is South Australia's first public regional gallery. Browse traditional and contemporary visual art from local and visiting artists. And view its permanent collection focussing on prints and works on paper.
Yulgilbar Wood Gallery, on a corner of Wonambi Road and Caves District Road. See and feel the allure of handcrafted local timber furniture, bowls, frames, trays, homewares and souvenirs. Appreciate the age, character and sheen of red gum, blue gum, sheoak, bull-oak and blackwood. You can even ask for pieces to be custom made and shipped.
Bourne’s Bird Museum. From Bool Lagoon Game Reserve, follow the sign to this treasure trove of beautifully preserved large and small native birds and eggs, displayed in lifelike natural environments. Opening hours are limited, so phone ahead. Children love seeing the colours and plumage of birds up close.
7. Parks and Playgrounds
Naracoorte Community Playground, MacDonnell Street, has heaps of fun play equipment for young and older children and it's fully enclosed for safety and is mostly under shade cloth. Bring a picnic lunch or barbecue. Public WCs.
Get your skates on at the adjoining Skate Park, between MacDonnell Street and Park Terrace, with easy bits and tougher challenges, including half-pipes and grinding bars, for skaters of all ages.
Children love clambering on the 1877 V9 class steam locomotive in the centre of Pioneer Park, MacDonnell Street. The original local cemetery, it’s now a grassy hillside park with shelters, barbecues and public WCs.
Get exercising on the adult gym equipment at Memorial Oval parklands, in Memorial Drive, including a 1.1km walking track.
Take the kids to the Tiny Train Park, for a safe but exciting train ride, and Mini Golf course, for all ages, at Naracoorte Holiday Park.
8. Nature walks
Go for a walk on the wild side on the self-guided trail in Naracoorte Nature Park (next to the Swimming Lake). Banksias, proteas and wattles feature among the native plants. Stroll on the 5km Naracoorte Creek Walk along a low impact track. Or take a hike on the 45-minute Roof Top Loop Walk, a self-guided walk above the underground world at Naracoorte Caves National Park.
9. Bool Lagoon Conservation Park
About 35km south of Naracoorte, get the feeling of walking on water when you step out on the boardwalks at Bool Lagoon Game Reserve, on Bool Lagoon Road, off the Riddoch Highway. A bird watcher’s paradise, it’s one of the largest and most diverse freshwater lagoon systems in southern Australia. See why this seasonal wetland provides essential drought refuge to 150 bird species. The brolgas are spectacular. Explore the adjoining Hacks Lagoon Conservation Park, another wetland habitat worth seeing.
10. Shops in Naracoorte
Naracoorte has a great variety of retail therapy. Discover the delights of the discount department store Target Country and local institutions Heard Bros menswear, Trends and Vilma's for women's fashion, Attwood's Shoe Store, and Naracoorte Sportspower for sports and surfwear. There are also many giftware specialists including Store 21, The Laundry Hub, Ormerod Pics & Pieces, and Amali Gifts & Accessories. Get lost in Trev's Bargain Emporium with something for everyone – kids love it.
For the best local souvenirs, head to MiniJumbuk showroom in Ormerod Street and The Sheep’s Back visitor centre and craft shop in MacDonnell Street – both open seven days a week.