A blend of city life, rugged Outback, and idyllic coastline – South Australia has it all. These experiences will help you discover the diverse beauty of this vibrant Aussie state.
1. Go wild in the Gawler Ranges
Formed from volcanic eruptions 1,500 million years ago, the Gawler Ranges are home to some of South Australia’s most astonishing scenery. The red, hexagonal pillars of rock, known as the Organ Pipes, are one of the area’s most famous attractions, and the Ranges are also a good place to spot wildlife: 140 bird species can be found here, plus possums, wombats, and wallabies.
With the dramatic crimson and burnt-orange rocks as your backdrop, get to know this remote region with some wild camping – with a comfortable twist. Try the beautiful Kangaluna Camp for an unforgettable barefoot luxury experience.
2. Visit Kangaroo Island
With an array of wildlife, a thriving local food and drink scene, and crystalline beaches lapped with blue waters, Kangaroo Island is paradise in itself. At just over 150km from end to end, this small landmass is packed with activities and incredible wildlife, so it’s worth visiting for a few days to experience as much as possible.
Sample the island’s artisan food (don’t miss the seafood picked from the ocean and honey straight from the hive), sandboard down Little Sahara sand dunes and get up-close to a colony of sunbathing sea lions at Seal Bay.
3. Go underground in Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy is a place like no other. Most of the world’s opals are mined in this bumpy and dusty terrain, and half of the population live underground because of the heat. Over 800km away from Adelaide, this is one of the most isolated (and fascinating) towns in South Australia.
In Coober Pedy you can learn about opal mining in the region, and even try out some ‘fossicking’ for yourself. Underground bars, restaurants and hotels offer ways to experience the town’s unorthodox way of life for yourself.
4. Meet the locals at Outback pubs
Nothing beats cracking open a cool beer on a warm day, which is why the sweltering South Australian Outback is home to a number of top quality traditional watering holes.
Head to the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, which is on the edges of the Flinders Ranges and has been running since 1876. Here you can chat to fourth-generation locals and try some native cuisine such as kangaroo mettwurst, emu pate or camel sirloin, and sip on the hotel’s home-brewed ‘Fargher Lager’.
5. Brave cage diving with sharks
The Neptune Islands, off the coast of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, are famous for the beasts that lie beyond their shores: great white sharks. A few companies in the area run cage diving experiences, where you can come eye-to-eye with these magnificent creatures.
The pure waters around the Neptune Islands make them to the perfect (and only!) place in Australia to meet great white sharks. There’s a strong emphasis on conservation too.
6. Experience the Flinders Ranges through the eyes of Aboriginals
The Flinders Range is 540 million years old and the largest mountain range in South Australia. Rugged red peaks dominate the landscape, and the arid ground is punctuated with tufts of dry bushes and trees.
One of the best ways to discover this scenery is from the viewpoint of the people that know it best – Aboriginals. Take a tour with an Aboriginal guide to connect with deeply spiritual significance of the Flinders Ranges, unearthing the ancient stories and artwork of the region along the way.
7. Go bird watching
A diverse range of bird species can be spotted in South Australia, thanks to its wide variety of landscapes and habitats. Around 450 species of bird can be found in this state alone, several of which are endemic and rare.
Top spots for bird watching in South Australia include Coorong National Park, which is home to a large population of water birds and the largest breeding colony of Australian pelicans in the world, and Gluepot Reserve, where you can take guided birdwatching tours to spot the elusive scarlet-chested parrot. Or closer to the city you will find the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary.
8. Eat your way through the Seafood Frontier
With hundreds of miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that there’s a wealth of seafood to try in South Australia. To make sure you don’t miss a bite, drive along the Seafood Frontier, a road trip that heads west from Adelaide all the way to the state’s border.
Rake for crabs at Marion Bay, head out on a fishing charter to experience seafood foraging first-hand, and chow down on fresh prawns, squid, and oysters every single day.
9. Swim with dolphins and sea lions
Packed with marine life, the waters surrounding South Australia offer a prime opportunity to get in touch with animals of the ocean. You can do this even if you’re only visiting Adelaide: 1,000 wild dolphins live in the waters at Glenelg, a city suburb.
Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island are also popular places for swimming with dolphins in South Australia. On the Eyre Peninsula you can also jump into the water with sea lions, which are playful, friendly, and not afraid to come up close to you.
10. Take it all in on the Explorer’s Way
There are few better ways to discover all the contrasting beauty of Australia than road tripping the Explorer’s Way. This entire self-drive route can take two weeks or more and heads north from Adelaide, crossing the entire continent to Darwin.
As well as uncovering all the classic highlights – South Australia’s wine valleys, Coober Pedy, and Flinders Region, to name a few – you will also visit lesser known locations such as Mount Remarkable National Park, Woomera Rocket Range Museum, and the mesmerising Painted Desert.
Once crossing into the Northern Territory the route takes in Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kings Canyon and the outback oasis of Alice Springs in Central Australia before traversing further north to Katherine Gorge and finally Darwin in the ‘Top End’.
11. Fleurieu Peninsula
While it’s tempting to head out of Adelaide and north into the Outback, there are some treasures a stone’s throw from the city that shouldn’t be ignored. The Fleurieu Peninsula – just a 45-minute drive from Adelaide – is a haven of blue waters, quiet beaches, cliff scenery, and fresh local produce to eat and drink.
Visit the cellar doors of McLaren Vale to sip on the region’s famous wines, try some surfing, or go whale watching at Victor Harbour.