Set off on a South Australian adventure. Before long, you’ll find yourself among some of the most sought-after wine and wildlife experiences in the country.
By Leah Dobihal
South Australia’s capital captivates with thrilling festivals and hidden laneways. But venture outside of Adelaide to discover rocky and rugged landscapes, relaxing wine regions and unforgettable wildlife experiences.
Holiday destinations north of Adelaide
A jaw-dropping landscape more than 600 million years old, the Flinders Ranges offer a remarkable outback adventure. A five-hour drive from Adelaide will bring you to these weathered peaks and ancient gorges, where you can four-wheel drive among waterholes, eat local produce at an outback sheep station and sleep in style under the stars at Arkaba. Don’t miss your chance to fly over the region’s most impressive formation: Wilpena Pound. You’ll be awestruck by the circular, crater-like formation from your scenic flight, but you can also access Wilpena Pound on foot, through a gorge that’s 11 kilometres (seven miles) long and eight kilometres (five miles) wide.
If you’re after a one-of-a-kind outback experience, head to Coober Pedy. It just may be Australia’s most unusual town, with much of it built underground. You’ll find many attractions hidden under the hot surface of the South Australian desert, including local homes (some have even been used as movie sets), an opal mine and museum and a Serbian church. There’s plenty to discover above ground, too. Explore the vivid colours of Painted Desert with Arid Areas Tours, or take a swing at a golf club with no grass. Spend your nights in the underground Desert Caves Hotel to complete the experience.
South Australia is known for its rustic wine regions that produce world-class whites and reds. The Clare Valley, a two-hour drive north of Adelaide, is the perfect place for a weekend of wine. Stop by boutique wineries including Claymore and Mitchell Wines, as well as the long-established Annie’s Lane and Sevenhill, which is the region’s oldest winery, established by Jesuits in 1851. Beyond wine, you’ll find a burgeoning beer and cider scene; sit back and sip a local brew at the Clare Valley Brewing Co. Photographers will want to drive half an hour to the surreal salt-scape of Lake Bumbunga, which changes from pink to blue to white throughout the year.
From reflective salt beds to red rock gorges, the destinations around Adelaide are diverse. Lake Eyre might be the most memorable of them all. The lake, known as Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre, is a mind-blowingly vast, dry expanse of shimmering salt in the South Australian outback. On cloudless days, the reflections become so remarkable that it can be difficult to distinguish between land and sky. A scenic flight is one of the best ways to take in the natural wonder, which depart from both Adelaide and the outback towns of William Creek and Marree. These towns can be reached via a 15-hour road trip or regional flight to Coober Pedy.
Holiday destinations south of Adelaide
Kangaroo Island is one of Australia’s premier wildlife destinations. A 1.5-hour drive and 45-minute ferry will drop you onto this natural island zoo, where you can walk among rare sea lions at Seal Bay, spot koalas and kangaroos on a wildlife tour and visit a hands-on wildlife park. Beyond native wildlife, you’ll find sensational culinary experiences. Visit the Oyster Farm Shop and Marron Cafe for a taste of the island’s freshest seafood. Outdoor enthusiasts should explore Flinders Chase National Park, which is home to winding walking tracks and the famous Remarkable Rocks, a formation of strangely-shaped granite boulders covered in orange lichen. Stay in luxury at Southern Ocean Lodge.
Coonawarra and Mt Gambier
Extinct volcanoes, crater lakes and cabernet sauvignon all come together just four hours from Adelaide. The countryside of Coonawarra is sprinkled with leafy vineyards and over 20 cellar doors. Don’t miss Wynns Coonawarra Estate, one of the area’s stand-out wine producers, before checking into the gorgeous glamping tents at Bellwether Wines. After a few days relaxing in the region, drive just one hour to Mount Gambier, which sits atop an extinct volcano and above vivid blue lakes. Take the 3.6-kilometre (2.2-mile) circuit around Blue Lake, which turns cobalt blue from December to March, and then explore the unusual Umpherston Sinkhole. The crater used to be a limestone cave, and is now a stunning sunken garden. Situated on the South Australia and Victoria border, Mount Gambier is also the perfect stop on a road trip from Melbourne.
Holiday destinations west of Adelaide
At first sight, the Nullarbor - the expansive plain that extends across the southern edge of Australia - may seem empty, but look a little closer and you’ll find stark sea cliffs, migrating whales and a town lost under windswept sand. Give yourself at least four days to cross the Nullarbor, gazing out at the dramatic vertical cliffs on the coast. Stop at the whale watching platform at Head of Bight between May and October to peer out at southern right whales and their calves, or take a boat tour from Fowlers Bay to get closer to the action. You’ll also find the jaw-dropping Bunda Cliffs here. Continue across the border to Western Australia to see the shifting sand dunes in Eucla, which have almost entirely covered the historic Eucla Telegraph Station.
The Eyre Peninsula, about a seven-hour drive from Adelaide, is equal parts mouth-watering seafood, stunning natural scenery and thrilling marine adventure. Throughout the peninsula lives incredible sealife; you can swim with cuttlefish, dive into the water with dolphins and sea lions and even cage dive with great white sharks. After your adrenaline-pumping adventure, slow down along the Seafood Frontier Touring Route, where you’ll taste, touch and cook everything from oysters to abalone. Don’t rush your road trip to the Eyre Peninsula; give yourself a few days to enjoy the quality food and rugged surrounds along the way.