The town of Milang is around 70 kilometres south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula and is known for being a sleepy town on the shore of Lake Alexandrina, having a collection of historic colourful shacks, plenty of pelicans and birdlife, and a boat ramp for fishing or taking part in water sports on the lake. The great thing about it too, is it’s only a hop skip and jump from the Langhorne Creek and Currency Creek wine regions.
Milang is the only town on Lake Alexandrina, and in its early history it was a home base for paddle wheelers and one of South Australia’s busiest ports from 1860-1880. Today it is notable for the few rows of holiday shacks which were built from 1947 onwards. There are around 70 of them that were on life tenure leases and at various times they have been threatened with demolition but the Port Milang Shack Owners Association lobbied for the shacks to stay and currently the state government have committed to allowing transferable leases with the shack holders for now.
The Alexandrina Council and the Government Heritage Branch have recommended Heritage classification for the shacks but so far this has not been accepted by the Government. Personally I think they should be allowed to stay as there aren’t many places left in SA where a whole neighbourhood of shacks still exist. That is provided they are kept up to a standard, some of them are looking pretty unloved and shabby, while others are obviously used a lot and well maintained.
As well as the shacks there is the Milang Regatta Club building which still plays a part with an annual regatta called The Lake Alexandrina Classic, a sailing race from Goolwa to Milang, held in January each year. Visitors and locals love Milang for the opportunity to use the lake for sailing, windsurfing, boating activities, swimming and fishing.
Commercial fishers also use the lake and boat ramp which explains the abundance of pelicans patiently waiting at the jetty every day, no doubt hoping for an easy feed.
Milang’s history as a bustling river port in the early days has left a legacy of historic buildings around town and you can pick up a brochure for a self-guided walk to take a wander and see them. In the mid to late 1800s, wool was transported to Milang by paddle steamers from stations on the Darling and Upper Murray River and then sent by horse and bullock teams to Port Adelaide.
Wheat was also brought down and processed in a mill at Milang before being sent back as flour. Some of the historical buildings still standing are the railway station, the Lakeside butter factory (which is being restored at the moment), the Pier Hotel (Milang Inn), and a few more original buildings in nearby streets.
The Milang jetty still stands but is shorter than it was when it was used for trade in the 1800s, due to damage from flooding. When it was reconstructed its length was reduced, but it does still have a hand crane from 1859 situated at the end. This would have been used to assist with loading and unloading boats and it’s the oldest crane of its type in South Australia.
Milang is a friendly town and one worth spending a few days to walk around and discover the history. The Lakeside Caravan Park is dog friendly and conveniently located overlooking the lake and a large green park where you can take the dog for a bit of exercise.
As for the park itself, well as a group we enjoyed ourselves and were very grateful that campfires were allowed and fire drums provided for us to use, especially as it rained for quite a bit of the time we were there. The park however has sadly gone downhill from when I stayed here last, a couple of years ago. The number of permanent residents has increased and some are making the park look more like a shanty town, and we unfortunately witnessed some verbal fights and foul language used amongst them, which is anything but what you’re looking for on holidays.
If the park wants to continue to see visitors I think it drastically needs to manage how and where they accommodate permanent residents so that tourists can still be made to feel safe and welcome, and free to enjoy the town and surrounds. I would stay there again in future, because the good reasons for staying outweighed the bad at the moment, but it does desperately need conditions to improve to make it family friendly.
Not far from Milang is the wine region of Langhorne Creek and although things aren’t quite as per usual at the cellar doors because of Covid 19 restrictions, we could still enjoy wine tasting and mouth wateringly delicious food at restaurants in the wineries. Just be sure to check the wineries websites or phone ahead to book in.
The wineries that we were able to visit and that I would highly recommend include, Lake Breeze Wines, Bleasdale Winery, Rusticana Wines and The Winehouse which is home to a few different wine producers and Meechi Beer.
The Winehouse also wins points from me for having the best venue for dining and food to absolutely rave about. Also conveniently close to The Winehouse, is a free camp known as Frank Potts Reserve where caravan travellers or campers can stay for up to 72 hours. It is all unpowered and campfires aren’t permitted but there is a toilet facility on site. This looked to be another good place to stay while discovering the Langhorne Creek region.Cheers