Victor Harbor Down, Beside The Sea

Victor Harbor, ‘down beside the sea’ is for many people, a top retirement location or ‘retirement hotspot’ as well as a great place to holiday.

We’ve researched Victor Harbor for editions of Where To Retire In Australia. We look at the facilities, services, cost of living – to name just a few on our checklist. We also speak with, and interview, many locals.

One medical professional told me that in his (unbiased!) opinion the medical facilities in Victor Harbor were ‘excellent’.

It’s a special place.  A book that captures the spirit of the town, its history and people is ‘Victor Harbor, Down Beside The Sea’.

I asked co-author Deb Kandelaars about the book that she and her husband, Ron wrote.

Lady and man standing on beach at sunset with man wearing a large straw hat.
Authors of Victor Harbor Down By The Sea, Deb and Ron Kandelaars

Why did you write ‘Victor Harbor Down, Beside  The Sea’

South Australian publisher, Wakefield Press, asked us to write the book. Wakefield Press had previously published a book on the iconic seaside town, Robe  and the Victor Harbor Library approached Wakefield Press to write a similar publication for their town.

Cover of a book with a curved pier on front.

Ron and I have written for Wakefield Press in the past with the ‘Postcards’ books (based on the Channel 9 tourism program of the same name which Ron produced for many years) ; and Wakefield Press also published Deb’s novel ‘Memoirs of a Suburban Girl’.  

What makes Victor Harbor unique?

Victor Harbor is set in a stunning landscape framed by the Bluff-a huge unmissable landmark-used as a lookout by whalers during the brutal whaling days. The Bluff is estimated to be around 500 million years old and features in the Ngurunderi Dreaming as a place where Ngurunderi threw his club to the ground in anger, creating a massive granite landmark in the shape of a traditional fighting club. Today the waters around the Bluff are a breeding sanctuary for the southern right whale, and people flock to the town during whale watching season.

Horse tram travelling acoss the pier at Victor Harbor
Horse Tram, Photo Credit: The Victor Harbor Times

Granite Island, just off Victor Harbor, has long been a drawcard for visitors to the town. A horse drawn tram service has been ferrying visitors across the causeway to the island since 1894.

 What surprised you about Victor Harbor? (history, community?)

From the 1880s, there was a tourism boom in Victor Harbor and thousands of visitors would pile aboard trains from Adelaide for a six-hour journey to Victor Harbor to stay for the day or longer in one of the many guesthouses set up in the town. Some guesthouses were purpose-built, beautiful stone buildings; while others were family homes opened up to the public to make a bit of extra cash (not dissimilar to Air BnB today). Families could have comfortable accommodation and three meals a day – a break from their everyday lives. After World War II, the much loved guesthouses eventually made way for caravan parks, motels, shacks and bed & breakfast-style accommodation. Some of the original guesthouse buildings still stand today.

We interviewed many locals and it was apparent from those we talked to that Victor Harbor people have a very strong sense of community and locals are passionate about their home.

What do you think attracts visitors to Victor Harbor?

For many South Australians, Victor Harbor is a place of childhood memories of seaside holidays, riding the horse drawn tram, climbing the Bluff, fish and chips on the lawns & wandering the town with an ice cream. For those new to the place, it is all these things and more: a place of incredible natural beauty, particularly as they drive into the town for the first time and take in the sweeping view of the Bluff, Granite Island and the township framed by surroundings hills.

Victor Harbor is also a wonderful place to call home, offering a tight-knit community and schools, clubs, shopping and health facilities, all in an idyllic setting an hour or so from Adelaide.

Victor Harbor Down Beside The Sea, is published by Wakefield Press

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