Josephite School House, Ken Stepnell

Population 1315

Penola is one of the oldest towns in south-east South Australia, and has some excellent wineries nearby. The town is noted for its association with Mary MacKillop, a Josephite nun who in 1866 established Australia's first school to cater for children regardless of their family's income or social class. In 2010 she was canonised by the Vatican, making her the first Australian to be declared a saint. Penola is also noted for its literary roots – several Australian poets have been inspired by the landscape and lifestyle.

Visitor Information

The John Riddoch Centre, 27 Arthur St; (08) 8737 2855 or 1300 045 373

Nearby national parks

  • Mount Eccles National Park

    Mount Eccles National Park is Victoria’s first co-managed national park, being managed by the traditional owners,...more

  • Coorong National Park

    Coorong National Park is a long, narrow ribbon of saline wetlands, saltpans, coastal dunes and wild ocean beaches stretching for 150...more

  • Wyperfeld National Park

    In the state’s arid north-west, Wyperfeld is a vast park of open plains and spreading mallee eucalypts. The usually bone-dry bed of...more

Nearby towns

  • Coonawarra

    Unlike many other Australian wine regions, Coonawarra was a planned horticulture scheme – and a very successful one at that. John...more

  • Naracoorte

    Naracoorte dates from the 1840s, but its growth has been slow. In the 1850s it was a stopover for Victorian gold escorts and miners. Since...more

  • Millicent

    Millicent, a prosperous, friendly and vibrant community located in the heart of the Limestone Coast region, is named after Millicent Glen,...more

In Town

Mary MacKillop Interpretive Centre and Woods MacKillop Schoolhouse: details the lives of Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Tenison (who shared Mary's dream) through photos, memorabilia and displays in this 1860s-style schoolhouse; Portland St.

Petticoat Lane: heritage area of original cottages, including Sharam Cottage, the first built in town; many are now retail outlets.

The John Riddoch Centre: incorporates the Local History Exhibition and Hydrocarbon Centre, featuring hands-on and static displays on natural gas; Arthur St.

Toffee and Treats: old-fashioned sweet sales; Church St.

Heritage walk: details from visitor centre.


Coonawarra wine region Here, the red earth and particular climate create excellent cabernet sauvignon. Wynns Coonawarra produces world-class shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, some for purchase at reasonable prices. Read more

Yallam Park: a magnificent 2-storey Victorian home with original decorations; by appt (08) 8737 2435; 8 km W.

Penola Conservation Park: signposted woodland and wetland walk; 10 km W.

Coonawarra Wine Region: more than 20 wineries, most open for tastings and cellar-door sales; north to Coonawarra.

Nangwarry Forestry & Logging Museum: features a fascinating array of mill machinery, firefighting equipment, photographs and other artefacts from a bygone era; 18 km S.

Glencoe Woolshed: built in 1863, this shed is unique as it was never converted to mechanised shearing. Now a museum with relics of the period; via Nangwarry; 50km S.

Fishing spots near town

Konong Wootong Reservoir 74 km

Coleraine in the Western District is in the heart of prime wool- growing country. The small town is famous for its chocolate factory, but less well known is the trout fishery in the picturesque 60 ha impoundment just out... Find out more

Eco-friendly activities around town

Picnicking around Mount Gambier 51 km

Mount Gambier has some extraordinary picnic spots around collapsed caves that are now beautiful sinkhole gardens. Try Cave Gardens or the stunning Umpherston Sinkhole, which has free barbecues and good facilities.... Find out more

Cafes & restaurants around town

Pipers of Penola

It might be modest in proportions but this restaurant housed in a revamped church delivers divine dining. The interior is simply dressed in timber, natural stone and white linen. It’s the food that’s main... Find out more

Campsites around town

Hacks Peninsula camping area 31 km

Signposted access to this camping area is 27 km south of Naracoorte via Bool Lagoon Rd. Lagoon water levels vary seasonally. There is a self-registration station for permits; gas/fuel stoves only.... Find out more

Baileys Rocks camping area 32 km

Baileys Rocks, in the Bogalara block of Dergholm State Park, are so-called for the ancient granite tors found here. Aside from ogling the impressive stonework, you can also follow the Rocky Creek walking track, which... Find out more

Naracoorte Caves Caravan Park 37 km

This fully equipped park with plenty of accommodation options, including extensive tent sites, is on Caves Rd, 14 km south of Naracoorte. Laundry facilities are available.... Find out more

Big Heath camping area (bush camping) 37 km

Located 35 km south-west of Naracoorte via Bool Lagoon Rd, there are no marked tracks or campsites here. Details and permits are available from Parks SA Naracoorte.... Find out more

Edenhope Lakeside Tourist Park 55 km

Right in the middle of the small township of Edenhope is Lake Wallace, on the southern shore of which you’ll find a tourist park with shady campsites as well as on-site cabins and vans. When it has enough water,... Find out more

Geltwood Beach camping area 62 km

This campground offers coastal access  for conventional vehicles, accessed from Oil Rig Square Track off Canunda Causeway Rd, 14 km west of Millicent. The 4 sites are 700 m west of the track.... Find out more

Nal-a-wort camping area 66 km

There are more camping sites around 100 m further along the Bevilaqua Ford Track, next door to the Kotgee camping area.... Find out more

Kotgee camping area 66 km

There are 7 sites here for self-sufficient campers, 2.6 km south-east of Southend via Boozy Gully access road. The sites are 400 m along Bevilaqua Ford Track.... Find out more

Number Two Rocks camping area 66 km

There are 2 self-sufficient camping areas found 14.6 km and 14.8 km north of Carpenter Rocks. Access is 4WD-only along the marked coastal track. A permit is required from one of the self-registration stations in the... Find out more

Princess Margaret Rose Caves camping area 69 km

Underground pools, cave coral, shawls and delicate, unpredictable helictites are just some of the memorable sights within Princess Margaret Rose Cave, one of the star attractions of the national park. A number of walking... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Kalganyi Holiday Park 48 km

This is a very good park set in a quiet, treed area on the northern outskirts of Mount Gambier. It has extensive facilities including ensuite sites. This is a good base from which to explore the Mount Gambier region.... Find out more

Millicent Lakeside Caravan Park 50 km

This is a spacious, neat and tidy park with good basic facilities. A convenient, wellstocked shop is adjacent, at the town’s excellent swimming complex (an artificial lake). Bookings are required in peak periods,... Find out more

Blue Lake Holiday Park 53 km

Located south of the city centre, this wellshaded quality park adjoins the golf course and is adjacent to Mount Gambier’s premier attraction, the spectacular Blue Lake. This is a fabulous base for exploring the... Find out more

Beachport’s Southern Ocean Tourist Park 74 km

This large, spacious park in a popular resort town has very good amenities and sites are reasonably priced. It is situated in an area where fishing and recreational water activities are the main attractions. Bookings are... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Merlot and Verdelho

These adjoining luxury townhouses have colour schemes sympathetic to the hues of their grape namesakes. Both offer outstanding living spaces, incorporating a master mezzanine bedroom with ensuite and two downstairs... Find out more

must @ Coonawarra

Seriously stylish, these studios and apartments are adorned with cutting-edge comforts and technology. Fully self-contained, yet adaptable to the needs of groups and families, they’re neatly turned out with sleek... Find out more

Sarah’s Cottage

Intimate and endearing, this refurbished stone settler’s cottage captures the essence of the Victorian era with restrained elegance. From the country kitchen and pink-accented bedroom to the heritage bathroom with... Find out more

Rest areas around town

Greenrise Lake park area 2 km

3km S of Penola (R) or 48km N of Mt Gambier (L)

Just off the highway on the shores of the (usually dry) lake.

Penola South rest area 11 km

12km S of Penola (R) or 39km N of Mt Gambier (L)

Adjacent to the highway among a few trees. 

Coonawarra rest area 12 km

38km S of Naracoorte (R) or 13km N of Penola (L)

Just off the highway among a few trees.

Forestry Info rest area 15 km

16km S of Penola (L) or 35km N of Mt Gambier (R)

Just off the highway on the edge of a forest.

Father Woods rest area 20 km

31km S of Naracoorte (L) or 20km N of Penola (R)

Just off the road near several unique wood carvings.

Struan rest area 30 km

18km S of Naracoorte (L) or 33km N of Penola (R)

Adjacent to the highway among a few trees.

Bool Lagoon camping area 32 km

T/O 18km S of Naracoorte (R) or 33km N of Penola (L)

At the lagoon 7km west of the highway.

Mount Gambier Park Area 50 km

North-east side of town

Parking area at the Lady Nelson Visitor Information Centre.

Pinnaster rest area 53 km

18km SE of Mt Gambier (L) or 70km NW of Heywood (R)

Just off the highway among the trees.

Clay Wells rest area 53 km

77km S of Kingston (R) or 28km N of Millicent (L)

Adjacent to the highway among a few trees.

Casterton park area 56 km

At Casterton

Under shady trees on the eastern bank of the Glenelg River.

Black Cockatoo Bush camping area 57 km

T/O at Naracoorte

Large campground in a natural bush setting 14km (partly unsealed) north-east of Naracoorte via Cadgee and Chapples rds. Some powered sites and other accommodation available.

Princess Margaret Rose Caves camping area 69 km

T/O 1km E of SA border (R) or 76km NW of Heywood (L)

Near the caves 10km (unsealed) south of the highway via Princess Margaret Rd in Lower Glenelg National Park.

Morambro Creek rest area 72 km

83km S of Keith (L) or 25km N of Naracoorte (R)

Under shady trees at the junction with Bordertown Rd.

Glenelg River park area 73 km

33km SE of SA border (L) or 40km NW of Heywood (R)

Just off the highway among a few trees.

Fort O'Hare camping area 73 km

At Dartmoor

Under shady trees on the east side of town.

What's on around town

Vigneron Cup: Jan.

Petanque Festival: Feb.

Arts Festival: arts, food and wine; May.

Cellar Dwellers: July.

Cabernet Celebrations: Oct.

Show: Oct/Nov.

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