motor museum fun ON THE FLEURIEU


How fascinating is it to walk into a vintage bazaar or museum and see how life once was? Whether it was the life you lived as a child, one your grandparents or parents spoke about, or a time completely unknown to you, it’s such an all-consuming experience.

Regardless of your interests or life experience to date, you’d be hard pressed to not walk into a venue like this without hearing an ‘OMG remember these?’, or ‘no way, that takes me back’.

I’m obsessed with beautifully preserved or restored things of the past. Even the rustic variety.  There’s a certain charm quality about them. And none other than automobiles. If you feel the same vibe may I suggest jumping in the car and heading to Strathalbyn and nearby Milang for an educational day out.

Perfectly positioned over the road from the Antique Bazaar on High Street, Gilbert’s Motor Museum in Strathalbyn is deceiving from the front. It presents as a quaint service station from days past, set with a bowser and gorgeous potted plants hanging from the rafters. Once you walk inside, smiling faces greet you and it comes to life. Rows of vintage automobiles expanding around every corner. 

Classic cars, racing cars, army trucks, weekenders, motorcycles. One of each please, and a head scarf and pair of large sunnies for the convertible darling. There is honestly something for everyone here. So much memorabilia, it’d be an Australian movie producer’s dream.

The brass, leather interiors, and timber steering wheels. The horns, and mirrors, and luggage racks. Headlights that demand attention. Solid steel. What an era, and how lucky that we have this in South Australia we can visit!

When walking the aisles, I love hearing stories of being taken to hospital in the back of the ‘3 on the tree’ EJ Holden, head on the vinyl bench seats, eyes looking up at the sky. The cigarette holder almost pride of place in the rear centre.

Having conversations about which car you’d choose if you could drive one right outa here. We had to expand this to at least three as there were too many.  I had my heart set on the 1913 Rover Roadster from the moment I spotted her… or him.  

Then there’s the memorabilia.  Castrol Oil signs, shiny hub caps, rusty spanners and vices. Tandem bikes which had me flashing back to photographs I’ve seen of my mother with her girlfriends. 60s eat your heart out! When life was footloose and fancy free.

The piece de resistance at the moment is the Lotus 12 which raced its first Grand Prix in Monaco in 1958. A sleek forest green racing machine. Who said red cars go faster? The lovely volunteers are on hand too to answer any questions if you have any.

If trains are more your vice then grab a pasty and fuel up at the Strath Corner Bakery or maybe a take away coffee and cake at Bean Machine, and take the short drive to the Milang Railway Museum.

A bright turquoise weatherboard building with verandah, ticketing box to the right, and shiny red letterbox out the front. The ‘Milang’ black and white railway station sign adding to the charm.

There’s a lot you can see outside during the week but to take a look inside and enjoy a Sunday Devonshire tea seated in an old carriage, head there on the weekend.

To round out the day, I can honestly say packing a picnic and sitting on the peaceful banks of Lake Alexandrina is bliss, while marvelling at the river shacks on the shoreline.

Did you know Milang was the largest inland port in South Australia in the 19th century? Nope, neither did I. Fascinating. And a far cry to the quaint, quiet charming town it is now.

Only 75 kilometres from Adelaide the drive home is only short, but better still, bring and park the van and stay the night at the Milang Lakeside Caravan Park and experience the magical sunrises. They are spectacular! If you don’t take my word, a quick hashtag search on Instagram will have you jumping in the car.

Gilbert’s Motor Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm, and entry is $8 with U16 accompanied by an adult free. 

Milang Railway Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays 12pm to 4pm and entry is free.


Guest blogger: Kelly Golding @kelly_golding_
Photography: Kelly Golding @kelly_golding_