Gunyah Beach Sand Dunes, Coffin Bay National Park, South Australia © Robert Blackburn
9-day family road trip from Adelaide to the Eyre Peninsula
Get the best of city and country on this family friendly road trip full of tasty treats, thrilling underwater adventures and untamed coastal scenery.
By Alexis Buxton-Collins
Ringed by rugged coastal cliffs, towering sand dunes and powerful swells, the Eyre Peninsula is a playground for adventure seekers of all ages. Visitors can taste seafood minutes after it’s hauled from the glittering waters, get face-to-face with friendly marine life, and travel through an ancient landscape where the outback meets the sea. This family friendly road trip will take you from the bustling streets of Adelaide to deserted beaches, ancient rock formations and some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see.
Day 1: A foodie tour of Adelaide
Adelaide’s reputation as a food lover’s paradise is well deserved, and the Central Market has everything a budding chef could dream of. Wander the aisles and discover more than 75 stalls selling colourful produce and food from around the world as vendors hawk their wares with booming voices.
Stay for lunch, then drive 10 minutes to Haigh’s Chocolates for a tour of the factory, perfect for kids and adults alike. Learn every step of the chocolate-making process from humble bean to heavenly bar. And most importantly, stay for the samples at the end.
Day 2: Adelaide’s seaside suburbs
With more than 30 kilometres (18.5 miles) of suburban beaches, you’ll have no problem finding the perfect patch of sand to call your own in Adelaide’s seaside suburbs. Try Glenelg, or book a wild dolphin tour with Adelaide Ocean Safari.
Just 10 minutes away, the kids can get a bird’s-eye view of the region from the highwires at West Beach’s Mega Adventure Park, then slowly follow the coast north before turning off to Port Adelaide. Call in to the National Railway Museum, which houses a range of historic trains and interactive experiences.
Day 3: Adelaide to Melrose
- Drive time: around 3 hours
Start your road trip by driving through Adelaide’s northern suburbs, which slowly give way to sheep-filled paddocks and sun-kissed fields of wheat. After 1.5 hours, you’ll reach the small town of Auburn, which marks the start of the famous Clare Valley and is home to a number of cellar doors worth visiting. Kids will be more interested in the nearby town of Mintaro, home to a stately Georgian mansion and riddle-filled hedge maze with a wishing well at the centre.
Further north, the former mining town of Burra is now an open-air museum that shows what life was like for 19th-century miners. Venture even further back in time at the railway station, which houses the fossilised remains of megafauna found nearby. Finish the day in the small town of Melrose, a mountain biking mecca in the Southern Flinders Ranges and close to Mount Remarkable National Park.
Stay: For a truly memorable stay, the North Star Hotel has transformed two ancient trucks into giant cubby houses that the kids will love.
Day 4: Melrose to Port Augusta via Quorn
- Drive time: around 1 hour
After a 25-minute drive along the edge of Mount Remarkable National Park, descend deep into Alligator Gorge. You’re more likely to spot a 'roo wandering between the steep orange walls than any other visitors here.
Visit the charming town of Quorn, stopping for scones with jam and cream before driving through the scenic Pichi Richi pass, a richly vegetated gap in the surrounding hills. Learn how the native plants survive in this challenging environment at Port Augusta’s Arid Lands Botanic Garden café, or explore more at the 250-hectare site, which includes a fenced children’s garden with a mini bird hide and red sand pit.
Day 5: Port Augusta to Port Lincoln
- Drive time: 3.5 hours
Creep through the jaws of a giant lizard in the Wadlata Outback Centre and learn about the dinosaurs that once roamed here. A one-hour drive brings you to Whyalla, where tens of thousands of giant cuttlefish gather in the rocky reefs just off the shoreline every winter. The males turn their entire bodies into shimmering, iridescent canvasses to attract a mate, and local dive shops lead trips to watch the mesmerising display.
Follow the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula until you see the Tumby Bay silos. Then head into town to explore the many colourful murals adorning the town’s buildings and stroll on the white sand beach before continuing on to Port Lincoln.
Day 6: Port Lincoln
You’ll need an early start today, but it’s worth it for one of Australia’s most thrilling adventures. Head to the marina at sunrise before your two-hour boat trip to the Neptune Islands. The nutrient-rich waters surrounding these islands are the hunting grounds for great white sharks.
Watch from the surface or don a wetsuit and hop into an underwater cage to observe these magnificent beasts in their own element. More serene than scary, seeing a seven-metre shark swimming metres away is truly awe-inspiring, and something that people travel far and wide to experience. After a long day at sea, grab some fish and chips and enjoy sunset before retiring for the night.
Day 7: Port Lincoln to Baird Bay
- Drive time: 3 hours
Start the day with a stroll along Port Lincoln's foreshore and a coffee from The Rogue & Rascal, a bustling café that would be at home in an inner-city laneway. Then hit the road to Coffin Bay, home of Australia’s most famous oysters. Put on some waders and head out to a lease just metres from shore, where you can shuck a few fresh from the water with the help of a friendly oyster farmer.
Head up the peninsula’s wild western coast, past steep cliffs and rugged beaches with powerful swells favoured by surfers. For the next two hours you’ll see plenty of enticing coves, but wait to explore Talia Beach, where waves and wind have eroded giant caves in the sandstone cliffs.
Day 8: Baird Bay to Port Pirie
- Drive time: around 5 hours
Baird Bay’s most famous residents are just a short boat ride away. The thriving sea lion colony is home to some 100 ‘puppies of the sea’ that rush into the water to frolic with swimmers and mimic their every movement. The Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience then heads to deeper waters to visit the equally playful local dolphins.
On the way out of town stop at Murphy’s Haystacks, a collection of striking wind sculpted boulders that are more than 1500 million years old. Then cut across the top of the Eyre Peninsula heading back towards Adelaide, passing the rust red Gawler Ranges and shimmering white saltpans on the way.
Day 9: Port Pirie to Adelaide
- Drive time: 2.5 hours
Take it easy on your way back to Adelaide, stopping after an hour for coffee at Lochiel, where the shallow saline Lake Bumbunga often has a beautiful pink hue (and a resident Loch Eel ‘monster’). Take another break at Port Wakefield to walk along the mangrove boardwalks and enjoy a breath of fresh salty air before heading back to Adelaide.