You’ve got to love a place where the sky is blue, the sea is bluer and looming on the horizon is a giant fibreglass burger! This is the start of the new Granite Island Sculpture Trail on Granite Island, near Victor Harbour in SA – and just one of the cool things you can do on this South Australian idyll. Here’s what you need to know about the Granite Island Sculptures.
Before I saw a picture of James Dive’s ‘What a Tasty Burger’, I’d never heard of Granite Island, let alone considered visiting it.
Now, admittedly, my British roots might be part of this because Granite Island and the nearby town of Victor Harbor have been traditional Australian holiday destinations since the 1800s. I spent my childhood in Clacton and Wales.
However, once I’d seen the burger, heard about the new Granite Island Sculpture Trail – and a few other cool new things to do on the island – it was well and truly on my radar for my recent trip to Adelaide.
See, despite its remote sounding name, Granite Island is only about an 80-minute drive from Adelaide and so, one bright, sunny Tuesday morning, squealing ‘road trip’ and carrying my own bodyweight in Werther’s Originals and a Spotify playlist of power ballads, The Boyfriend and I set off on the quest to see the giant quarterpounder!.
The Day Begins at Victor Harbor
No cars are allowed on Granite Island itself so we parked up in Victor Harbor (grabbing a Cornish pasty from the Ocean Street Bakehouse on the corner before we hit the island) and set off towards the causeway that connects the island and the mainland.
There’s two ways to get across this – walking or, the famous horsedrawn tram.
The tram began service in 1886 and is the world’s only daily horsedrawn tram service. In fact, it runs every day except Christmas.
About 20 times a day, it goes back and forth across the 630-metre causeway that connects Victor Harbor and Granite Island and six horses work the route doing 4-5 trips each.
Now, before you start to worry about the horses, I have good news.
The tram isn’t as hard to pull as it looks. Yes, it weighs 4.8 tonnes, but because it runs on rollers, it actually uses momentum to move – as such, the men who man the trams can pull one on their own, it’s, therefore, no match for a 1000kg Clydesdale. In fact, the horses don’t actually have to use that much effort to keep the trams moving at all.
The trams run roughly every 40 minutes in either direction and you can check the timetable here. A single fare cost $7 for adults, a return is $10. Children cost less. If you have a bit of a wait, the off-duty horses chill out in their barn just behind the ticket office so you can go and say hi to the pass the time.
Tempting as it was to rely on horsepower, I had a Cornish pasty to wear off, so we left the horses to do their thing and walked across the causeway in search of ‘arts’.
About The Granite Island Sculptures
The Granite Island Sculpture Trail is part of a new redevelopment scheme aiming to bring more people to the island which up until now was mostly known for the colony of little penguins that live there.
The trail opened in January 2018 and is curated by the same people who put together the famous Sculpture by the Sea exhibitions in Sydney’s Bondi and Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, so I was expecting it to be good.
And it didn’t disappoint.
While the burger was probably still my favourite piece (even if it’s not the more subtle of the bunch) there were heaps of different sculpture styles to please everyone.
How Many Sculptures Make Up the Granite Island Sculpture Trail?
It opened with ten sculptures but when I went there, in April, I spotted at least two that weren’t in the original brochure. This isn’t actually surprising as the plan is to keep the exhibit constantly changing adding another two to four exhibits every six months for the next three years.
Since I last visited they seem to have added a heap more sculptures including a giant egg whisk, a fun take on a directions sign and a cute looking lighthouse.
Other than the giant burger, most of the sculptures fit in nicely with the natural surroundings using muted colours and natural raw materials like wood and stone.
In fact, I nearly walked past one of my favourite pieces as it was so well hidden – these quirky rocks by South Australian artist Magaret Worth.
They’re actually made with a paint that’s designed to fade and eventually disappear sending the whole thing back to nature. Personally, I just liked their cute little faces, but I’m an art heathen!
Generally, the sculptures are quite close to the 2.4km of trails that circle the island, however, there’s no official ‘route’ marked.
Because of that we nearly missed the mesh sculpture by Japanese artist Masayuki Sugiyama below, and only when I got back and looked up the information to write this post did I realise there was at least one other sculpture we didn’t see at all – a rather fantastic plant pot by Marcel Cousins.
If you don’t want to make my mistake and ensure you see everything on offer, you’ll find a list of the current exhibiting artists on the exhibition website which allows you to tick things off.
Also, while signs by each sculpture tell you its name and who it’s by, there’s also not a lot of information about the meaning behind the sculptures on the trail itself.
If you do like to know what an artist is thinking, you’ll also find an exhibition brochure on the link above that you can download before you go and which gives you a few extra clues about their motivation.
You do have to look quite carefully to appreciate some of the sculptures. One sculpture I just thought was a black blob was actually made of power cords.
I’m, not going to show you any more of what’s on there as it will spoil the fun if you see every piece of work, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
I thoroughly enjoyed it – and, as it’s there permanently, there’s unlikely to be the huge crowds associated with the temporary exhibitions like Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi. .If you’ve ever battled the crowds at Bondi on a Sculpture by the Sea Sunday you’ll understand why this is a massive selling point.
And talking of selling…
All the sculptures are for sale. So, if you’ve got the room in your house or garden for a giant burger or a huge ball of power cords, you now know exactly where to come!
What Else Is There to Do on Granite Island
Sculptures aren’t the only thing to see on Granite Island, it’s full of natural wonders – particularly wildlife.
You’ll often see dolphins in the breakwater at the end of the pier behind the cafe, seals commonly play in the waters around the island (you can also book a tour to go and see them) and, if you’re super lucky, between the months of May to October you might spot whales and calves offshore.
If you are there in whale season, the staff at the South Australian Whale Centre on Victor Harbor can give you advice on the best places for sightings.
If you prefer flora to fauna, keep your eyes peeled when you cross the causeway. for the waving fronds of the seagrass meadows that line the seabed. It’s one of the best places for the grasses in Australia. Lastly, Granite Island is famous for its orange rocks coloured with lichen – they make a great backdrop to the newly installed art.
Our day out also included a trip to another new attraction on Granite Island – Oceanic Victor where you get the chance to swim with tuna or cuddle a shark in their in-sea aquarium. I
t was a fantastic experience. You can see exactly why we loved it in the full post on our swim with the tuna at Oceanic Victor.
Lastly, as night falls, the little penguins also come back to their homes on the island and you can also take a Granite Island Penguin tour to visit them with Oceanic Victor.
We couldn’t stay for that sadly as we had to get back to Adelaide in time for dinner – funnily enough, I fancied a burger.
This was just one of the day trips we took from Adelaide, click the link to read about the others.
Or, if you’re looking for a list of more things to do in Adelaide itself we can help you out there too with a list of 17 Unusual Things to Do In Adelaide.
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