Local slate and a mix of exotic and native plants bring a Mediterranean feel to Port Willunga, SA.

Story Kate Le Gallez  Photo John Kruger

The small, seaside town of Port Willunga on the Fleurieu Peninsula, SA, sits above one of the state’s most picturesque beaches. The coastline gently curves in, cupping the clear blue waters of St Vincent Gulf as they meet white sands that rise into golden cliffs. Inland, the countryside is lined with McLaren Vale vines and the odd olive grove. The aesthetic is distinctly Mediterranean, although the water isn’t quite as warm. 

It was this particular “Port Willunga vibe” that Lucy Chipchase wanted to capture when she was considering the garden to accompany her humble, straw-bale holiday home. Situated just a few hundred metres from the beach, the now maturing garden achieves the almost impossible in this coastal location – it makes you want to stay home. 

When Lucy bought the property 5 years ago, the garden was very much a blank canvas. Apart from combining the region’s Mediterranean sensibilities with complementary Australian plants, Lucy’s list of must-haves for her garden was very short. She knew she wanted a fire pit and a flat space where an outdoor setting could make the most of the northerly aspect. She also wanted to screen out 3 useful, but unsightly, water tanks, and she wanted compost bays. Sustainability was top of mind. “I wanted to create something local and sustainable, done by local people and using local materials as much as possible,” Lucy says.

One local material is slate, which was first discovered by Europeans in nearby Willunga in 1840. It’s used in one of the standout features of Lucy’s garden – a dry-stone slate wall that sweeps a wide curve through the backyard. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #150

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2023