From exploring sweeping vistas in national parks, to swimming with some of the world’s most dangerous predators, to sipping wine in an artisan winery, South Australia has something for everyone. Get a head start on planning your trip and check out what to see and where to go with this ultimate guide to South Australia.
How to Get to South Australia
There are several options for getting to South Australia, but chances are if you’re travelling any distance, you’ll find yourself in Adelaide first. If you’re travelling domestically, there are plenty of options from other Australian capitals, with flights from Brisbane taking under two hours, from Sydney just over an hour, and from Melbourne less than an hour! There are also a host of international carriers that service Adelaide airport, with flights from all major European, Asian and American hubs (if you don’t mind a stopover or two).
If you fancy getting to South Australia by car, the drive from Sydney to Adelaide is about 14 hours, and from Melbourne you can arrive via the famous Great Ocean Road (but more on that later). Another alternative is the transcontinental train, which is an experience in itself.
The Best Times to Visit South Australia
Summer in South Australia is hot, with temperatures often soaring above 30°C (86°F), so if you’re a sun worshipper, the warmer months might be the perfect time to explore this beautiful state. However, if you’re looking for a more ‘chilled’ trip, consider heading to South Australia in spring or autumn, when temperatures are lower and the wilderness is either in full bloom or enchanting shades of red.
Things to See and Do in South Australia
If you’re coming to South Australia, your first port of call will almost certainly be Adelaide, the vibrant capital of the state, offering a cosmopolitan atmosphere and everything you’d expect of a major city. While you’re there, take the time to explore the city’s heritage through the architecture and cultural offerings. You could spend your entire trip here, with Adelaide consistently voted one of the top ten most liveable cities in the world according to publications like CNN and Business Insider, but there is much more to see only a short distance away.
If you’re only going to do one thing in South Australia, Kangaroo Island should be it. The island is much larger than most people expect: 155km from east to west, along with 509km of coastline overflowing with native flora and fauna. You can get there by car or bus (with a ferry) or by taking a flight from Adelaide. This place is wild beauty at its best, with sea lions basking on the beaches and koalas hanging out in the trees, but there’s also plenty of great local food and drink as well as places to stay if you fancy taking some more time to explore the island.
Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley
Do you like fine dining, great wine and sweeping views? Then the wine regions of Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley should definitely be on your South Australia hit list. The largest is Barossa Valley, with over 150 wineries, whereas Clare Valley only houses about 40 – many of which date back well over a hundred years. McLaren Vale is the new kid on the block, with a host of new wineries opening in recent years, which offer wine experiences, tours and tastings.
About an hour south of Adelaide is Victor Harbor, a favourite among Australian holidaymakers, especially during the hot summer months. This makes it home to many tourist-specific attractions as well as restaurants, bars and more historical spots, such as a heritage railway.
If you consider yourself even a part-time foodie, Port Lincoln is a must-stop location on your South Australia tour. It’s considered the Seafood Capital of Australia and is home to ‘some of the most sought-after seafood in the world’. Additionally, this is the place to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s more notorious inhabitants – sharks. Port Lincoln has a range of tour operators offering you the chance to dive in shark cages.
No Australian trip would be complete without exploring the outback, and South Australia is the perfect place to do it. The expansive Gawler Ranges offer numerous trails to explore. Packed with wildlife, it’s a wonderful place to be at any time of the year, but late winter into spring is when everything comes to life.
Another spot to head to is the dusty town of Coober Pedy, the Opal Capital of the World. This mining town is best known for its residents, who live in underground houses, dug into the earth. Iconically ‘outback’, this is a great place to see an alternative side of SA and check out some of the beautiful gems found in the town’s museums and tours.
Head out to sea rather than into the outback to experience one of the most unique events in the natural world – the congregation of thousands of giant cuttlefish. The Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park in Whyalla is filled with these vibrant creatures, whose luminescent colours fluctuate and change right in front of your eyes.
Ready to move on?
Make your journey part of the destination by driving from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road. This road trip takes from five to seven days, so be prepared to be in it for the long haul. However, you’ll be rewarded for your trek with magnificent wilderness, breathtaking vistas and a whole host of authentic coastal towns to explore. Combine some of the state’s best spots by visiting Kangaroo Island as part of your road trip via the scenic ferry.
Another option for travelling in style is the Indian Pacific Train, which runs between the Indian and Pacific oceans – from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide. A once-in-a-lifetime way to get to or from South Australia, and also a holiday in itself with luxurious experiences both on and off the train as it travels along its 4352km route.
Whether you’re looking to explore Australia’s wilderness, swim with some of the most beautiful – or scary – creatures in the ocean, or sit back with world class seafood and wine, South Australia has a little something for everyone. And with such amazing ways to get to and from its capital, like the Great Coastal Road and the famed transcontinental railway, there’s no reason not to visit!