Let’s be honest – South Australia isn’t Australia‘s biggest drawcard. The states of New South Wales and Victoria host the biggest and most vibrant cities, Queensland has the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, and the Northern Territory has Uluru to draw people in. Even Western Australia has the advantage of being a short flight to many Asian cities, so is a popular stopover on the way to the eastern states. But South Australia is there in the middle, largely ignored by tourists to the country.
That’s okay though, they’re the ones missing out! There’s a lot to do in South Australia, and we’re not just saying that because it’s packed with wine regions. Adventure sports are on the rise, and there’s plenty of opportunity to get up close and personal with the wildlife.
AdelaideAdelaide, the capital of the state, has a reputation for being a boring city. It pales in comparison to the cultural mix of Melbourne and the flashy greatness of Sydney, but spend a bit of time there, and under a sleepy demeanour you’ll discover a fantastic place to spend a bit of time.
Around town, you should make sure you visit the central markets for the fresh food and quirky little shops. Visit Rundle Mall if you like – all the Adelaide information will tell you to do so – but don’t get your hopes up. It’s a pedestrian street with all the same shops as other high streets. Instead, do a tour of the city with Bookabee Tours, getting an aboriginal perspective on things. You’ll visit the Botanic Gardens and the museum and will have a chance to try bush tucker.
Hire the free city bikes and cycle out to Glenelg or Henley Beach for a coffee, or cycle down Mt Lofty with Escapegoat Tours. They’re the only operator allowed to take people down the mountain, so it’s a unique opportunity – they also run a tour which takes you around wineries in the McLaren Vale if you’re not too big on hills.
A little out of the city, at Port Adelaide, you can kayak with the dolphins. Bring your own kayak or hire one from Adventure Kayaking SA, who also run half-day tours from the Garden Island jetty.
And of course, what’s a trip to South Australia without a bit of wine tasting? The Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills are all on Adelaide’s doorstep, within about two hours’ drive of the city. Get some friends together, hire a car and spend a couple of days in Barossa and Clare, timing your visit over a Saturday morning so as to visit the Barossa Farmers market. If you’re short on time or travelling alone, a winery tour like Groovy Grape offer could be what you’re after.
Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s big drawcards -and with good reason, there’s an incredible amount to see and do there. Unfortunately, however you do it, getting there is going to be an expensive operation, with just the Sealink ferry being a large part of the budget – especially if you take a car with you.
There’s no public transport on the island, so you’ll need to bring your own car to get around if you go independently. But several tour operators run short tours to the island which include the price of the ferry, all entrance tickets, accommodation and food. We went with Surf & Sun and thought that their two-day tour gave a great overview of the island. We visited the NZ fur seals and the Aussie sealions, saw wallabies, kangaroos and koalas, visited a raptor show and saw the pelican man, went kayaking (with the option to go quad biking instead), went sandboarding, and slept in a converted shearing shed after a chance to try out the didgeridoo around a campfire.
We left the tour early to get a bit more of KI, and found it very difficult to get around without our own transport, as there is no public transport on the island. However, there was still a lot to see – the penguins at Kingscote, swimming with dolphins with KI Marine Adventures, and a quad biking adventure at dusk with KI Outdoor Action.
We’d like to thank David Pyatt from the South Australian Tourism Commission, and our friends Nev and Michelle, who helped us arrange a lot of these activities.
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- 1. Don’t drive at night in areas where there’s more dead kangaroos than live kangaroos.
- 2. Campervans have a high centre of gravity and Falcon Wagons are rear wheel drive with lots of grunt. Be extremely careful if you are not familiar with these vehicles. It’s easy to roll a van and easy to lose control of a Falcon if you’re inexperienced.
- 3. Give dirt roads / unsealed roads more respect, even 40km/h can be too fast if you’re not careful.
- 4. Don’t hitchhike–not all people who hitchhike meet axe murderers, but some do.
- 5. Check the inside edge of your front tyres regularly: poor wheel alignment causes tyres to scrub out quickly and a front tyre blow out is very scary.
- 6. Always wear your seatbelt.
- 7. If driving on left for the first time, leave the music off for a while and ask the person in the left seat to act as lookout.
- 8. Don’t leave valuables visible inside your car when parking at popular tourist destinations.
- 9. Do everything humanly possible to avoid overheating your car. If your temp gauge moves away from normal stop and call roadside assistance. Do not drive on.
- 10. Beware of retirees, offering cups of tea at outback roadside rest stops–.it could be hours before you manage to get away again without being rude.