Of all the places we’ve road tripped in so far around this great southern land, none have inspired us more than what we found in this enormous state. Of all the best places to visit in South Australia we found ourselves in constant awe at the sheer beauty of one of the largest Australian states.
Rock-pools, surf breaks and sunshine are only some of the attractions in South Australia that the locals here want to keep to themselves.
The most famous of all the south australian wineries can be found right here here in the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and the ever popular Adelaide Hills..
Drive north and the geography turns into cascading red hills of the Flinders Ranges that have been home to Indigenous Australians, the original custodians of our country for tens of thousands of years.
South Australia on the map
Covering almost 1 million square kilometres, South Australians live year round in some of the most arid parts of the entire country.
There are 3 major peninsulas and the best places to visit to take note of when planning your road trip itinerary:
- Fleurieu Peninsula
- Yorke Peninsula
- Eyre Peninsula.
A big draw card and a major attraction is Australia’s longest straight road, the Nullarbor Plain that stretches 1100 km along the Great Australian Bight.
Getting around by car
Due to its size, you would assume flying is the preferred option of travel around SA?
Well you would be wrong, as the only major international airport is located in the capital of Adelaide, with a tinkering of other smaller domestic airports scattered around like the one in Whyalla.
You should consider skipping the line and get inside tips from a local by booking your super easy and affordable airport transfer from the airport to your hotel.
How much it costs to travel South Australia
The cost of travel in Australia is exponentially more expensive than most places in the world, which would make sense given our higher cost of living, particularly the south-east coast of Australia.
A single traveller can expect to pay
- $40-$60/ day on food
- $60-$120/night on accommodation
- $40-$100 per person on most mid-budget activities and adventures
If this sounds a bit out of your travel budget, then the alternative backpacker budget may be of suit to you:
- swapping out airbnb’s for dorm-room style hostels
- buying more of your own food and cooking instead of buying out
- opting for free tours around your area or within the CBD instead of paid activities (a lot of attractions are free to visit and free guided tours of the city are very common so look out for those)
The cost of living in Australia and therefore travel is a higher than most countries in the world; so keeping this in mind will make it easier to accept.
Crossing the border into South Australia
If you plan on jumping the border from Victoria or from anywhere into South Australia for that matter, our biosecurity laws are some of the tightest in the world.
Fresh produce like fruits and vegetables cannot be carried by you upon entry into the state as there are concerns of a fruit fly outbreak that can wreak havoc on local industries.
The border crossing from Victoria in particular has a check point where you must stop and allow the biosecurity officers to check your luggage, personal effects and van/car for any fresh fruit and veg to prevent the spread of fruit flies out of Victoria.
Your guide to 14 epic places to see in South Australia
Limestone Coast – Mount Gambier
The quaint border town less than half hour from the Victoria and SA border is Mount Gambier.
Known for the volcanic landscape, the crystal clear waters of the blue lake and the lush greenery of Umpherston sinkhole.
The stalactite caves of Tantanoola caves are simply breathtaking as are the world heritage site listed Naracoorte Caves, now considered to be one of the most important fossil sites in the world.
READ MORE: Our new guide to travelling the Limestone Coast in South Australia
This region of the Southern coastline is known as the Limestone coast and is said to have been shaped by the water and the passage of time over 26 million years.
The Southern Ocean Drive covers the trip from Mount Gambier in the east all the way through to Kangaroo Island roughly 755 km which should take you 10 hours in total.
A huge draw card to the Limestone Coast region and one of the best South Australian tourist attractions is the abundance of naturally formed freshwater lakes.
Perfect for Scuba Diving & free diving these lakes have been attracting people from all over the world to these serene locations.
Visibility is almost as far as the eye can see, and in this case as far as the light will penetrate the water.
The Blue Lake is another natural marvel not only beautiful to admire, it’s also the town’s main water supply and so there’s no access and swimming is prohibited.
A volcanic sinkhole in the middle of a paddock, it used to be a solid blue in colour however in most recent times has remained a green tinge.
The Murray river
The Murray river is Australia’s longest river that spans the states of Victoria and South Australia across 2508 km.
The Murray River is a fantastic place to relax and unwind over the christmas break.
Home to hundreds towns, native wildlife and incredible natural beauty, the Murray river is a popular destination for people visiting form both Melbourne and Adelaide who camp on the river bed all the way along the Murray River.
The Murray river spans multiple states including New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia where it finally enters the Southern Ocean via Coorong.
A lot of Australians drive north to the Murray River to set up camp for a few weeks and spend their days relaxing by the water fishing, swimming and boating with family and friends during the summer.
This Murray river highlights and luncheon cruise is the perfect adventure to fill up your day
Coorong National park
Far away enough from the Murray River that if you’re driving towards Adelaide from Robe, Coorong is a great place to stop and enjoy the views.
Incredible bird life, stunning natural beauty coupled with great walking trails gorgeous beaches, bushwalking and a 100,000 strong population of wader birds flock here between September and November.
The drive from Coorong national park to Adelaide is just on 2 hours and takes you straight through the old german settlement town of Hahndorf nestled within the Adelaide Hills.
Feel like exploring more of Coorong national park? This 3.5 hour cruise and walking tour of Coorong comes highly recommend, complete with bird spotting and seals if you’re lucky!
A favourite of ours on our journey was the coastal town of Robe, one of the more relaxed places to see in South Australia and your last stop along the drive towards Adelaide.
Robe Brewery located at the back end of the main town is the perfect afternoon escape, a signature collection of local brews, friendly staff and pooches allowed!
Head down into Robe main street and grab a coffee from Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Asides from being home to the Peramangk, Ngadjuri and Kaurna people for tens of thousands of years, Hahndorf became known as a quaint german town that evolved out of years of German and English settlement.
European settlement led to the development of a German Barossa dialect specific to the Adelaide hills.
You’re not far off from arriving into Adelaide’s wine growing region so make sure you book your Barossa Valley wine tour below to not miss out on this incredible deal
With plenty of restaurants, cellar doors, art exhibitions and vineyards as far as the eye can see the Barossa Valley is poetically beautiful.
While you’re in the centre of wine making region you should also head to the Clare Valley; named after County Clare in Ireland. Every May the Clare Valley gourmet weekend is held as a celebration of the regions locally produced food and goods.
Second to the Barossa Valley is this popular wine region specializing in Riesling located under 2 hours north of Adelaide.
One of Australia’s oldest wine regions has an abundance of beautiful natural scenery to enjoy on the hiking trails through the Spring gully Conservation park, or simply go bird watching all afternoon.
Producing world class wine, the town of Clare was named after Country Clare in Ireland, and has since since a mix of both English, Irish and Polish settlers that have influenced both the culture and gastronomy of the town.
The Fleurieu Peninsula is first of the three Peninsula’s along the coastline, and if you basically follow the main road to the southernmost tip, you’ll arrive at the port to Kangaroo Island.
Leave the sights and sounds of Adelaide and head west towards the beaches and main attractions of Sellicks Beach, Port Elliot, Port Willunga & Second Valley.
READ NEXT: Read all about our favourite region to explore in all of South Australia
Holiday makers and locals flock here during the summer months to their beach houses to enjoy the crazy pods of Dolphins that patrol the beaches almost daily – a truly incredible south australian attraction that you should seek out when you travel here.
If you’re really into your wildlife then we highly recommend a full day tour of the Fleurieu that takes you to Victor harbor to experience a whale watching interactive exhibit that records the largest log of spotted whales anywhere in the state.
Port Elliot is one of the coolest towns to hang out in for a few days and sits right on the border between the Limestone coast and the Fleurieu Peninsula coast outside Coorong national park.
Jump on board a cruise and go searching for southern right whales and humpback whales whilst admiring the stunning coastline and natural beauty of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Sitting between her two cousins, the Yorke Peninsula is not to be underestimated.
We spent 4 nights camped out here in our van in the incredible Dilbha-Guuranda Innes National park located at the southernmost tip of the Yorke Peninsula.
Having already explore the Eyre Peninsula and the Fleurieu Peninsula prior we will honestly say that we rushed the Yorke and drove straight down to Innes national park; but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of places to stop along the way.
Check out the many camp spots jettied along the park here, including the beautiful Stenhouse Bay Jetty and Ethel Wreck.
Had we more time we would have ventured far and wide in the Eyre Peninsula and really discovered every nook and cranny (aussie colloquialism)
The westernmost section of the Eyre Peninsula lies just before the start of the town Ceduna, your gateway to the Nullarbor plain heading into Western Australia.
The Eyre Peninsula is home to Coffin bay national park where a large, sustainably run Oyster farm supplies both the state and rest of the country with it’s fresh saltwater oysters.
It’s also the world’s most epic locations to go shark cage diving with Great White sharks off the Neptune Islands.
If you have time to visit Port Lincoln and its within your budget then we highly recommend a trip here to cage dive with Great White Sharks and see these magnificent creatures for yourself.
Note: Make sure you call ahead before you book with the private tour operators; shark sightings can be as low as 50% so do your research and be a conscious consumer.
Related Article: Our handcrafted guide to the Eyre Peninsula
During the Autumn months, tourists and photographers flock into Whyalla, 2.5 hours north of Port Lincoln to see the annual migration of Australian Giant Cuttlefish on the shores of the Spencer Gulf of the Southern Ocean.
We managed to sit down with acclaimed and award winning Australian wildlife photographer Scott Portelli and interview him about the plight of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish and his conservation efforts through his photography to protect the species.
Far enough away from the urban lights and main south australian tourist attractions, places like Greenly beach, Streaky Bay, Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln are insanely gorgeous and our favourite spots on the Eyre Peninsula.
Coffin Bay and the surrounding park in the far west of the Eyre Peninsula have beautiful beaches and walking tracks along Almonta beach, Golden island lookout, Venus Bay and Baird Bay further up the coastline.
We’d recommend spending 3-4 days within Port Lincoln to really get a feel for the city and the surrounding regions.
The drive down to Port Lincoln is fairly straight and easily done in half a day or so if you don’t mind not stopping for breaks along the way.
Lake MacDonnell sits just outside of the Eyre Peninsula and boasts spectacular scenery and is the site of the largest gypsum deposit anywhere in the southern hemisphere.
Taking a trip into Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is a full sensory overload and an iconic South Australia attraction, home to the Adnyamathanha people of Flinders Ranges National Park.
This uniquely rugged, semi-arid desert range fills 95,000 hectares of land and is most easily accessible from the Flinders Ranges highway heading North towards Northern Territory.
During your stay at Wilpena Pound Resort in the Flinders Ranges, you’ll have easy access to some of the most stunning natural beauty and dramatically formed mountainous ranges anywhere in Australia.
Everything from bushwalking, camping, bird watching to astro-photography lovers, this wild and untouched landscape in the Flinders Ranges has been home to the Indigenous people of Australia for tens of thousands of years.
While you’re up in the Flinders Ranges outback you should definitely take a jaw dropping scenic flight over Lake Eyre; the largest salt lake bed in the country that spans the borders of Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia.
Flinders Ranges is also one of the countries driest lakes having only ever been naturally filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years.
Any time you visit SA we highly recommend a trip up to Flinders Ranges to admire the natural beautiful scenery in one of the largest mountain range in the state.
There aren’t too many accommodation options in Flinders Ranges because the weather gets so ridiculously hot and super cold and night, most people live underground to avoid the sweltering heat.
Visit Kangaroo Island
Devastated by the bushfires of 2019, the locals and australian wildlife of Kangaroo Island have bounced back in a big way.
This secluded island off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula takes 45 minutes to reach via Sealink ferry from Cape Jervis but it’s well worth the visit.
There is so much to see and do on the island, we found the best way to see it all is to book a guided day tour from Adelaide and take the hassle out of your trip.
We spent just under a week on Kangaroo Island and we felt this was more than enough time to get a good feel for the island and tick off all the activities and landmarks we’d planned on seeing.
We loved spending time at Kangaroo Island brewery sinking back a few beers, as well as visiting Vivonne Bay and admiring Australian sea lions at Seal Bay.
A day trip to Seal Bay was incredible to see and explore, particularly the guided tours on the beach and the information provided by the staff at the centre was so detailed and passionate!
Get up close and personal with the Sea Lions of Kangaroo Island by participating in a paid tour with qualified professionals, or enjoy the budget friendly boardwalk where you can actually get just as close to the Sea Lions as a guided tour!
The sea lions are protected by the state government as well as by the national park ranges and staff and has become a world first in terms of their protection and conservation.
For more natural wonder we’d recommend a trip to the Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase national park and Admirals arch where you can see a large colony of sea lions sunbathing on the rocks below.
Read More: Use our guide on 15 Amazing Things to do on Kangaroo Island when you plan that trip to the island
South Australia’s Flinders Chase national park makes up approximately 49% of the island, but was also burnt to 96% of the land, hence the recovery and rebuild effort has been extensive and arduous, but nonetheless the flora and fauna are in fact regenerating.
Fortunately, the Remarkable Rocks were left untouched during the devastation but the shrub surrounding it did not.
Only an hour’s drive from Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is one the most well known wine regions in the world and a short hour’s drive from the centre of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
This incredibly fertile land is one of Australia’s oldest grape growing regions, a haven for foodies with their selection of artisan and fresh, farm grown foods you will simply love a day exploring the Barossa.
Every week you can find yourself exploring one of the many markets in the Barossa Valley, some of which include the Barossa farmers market, Mount Pleasant farmers market on a Saturday morning.
Finish off your weekend at the Barossa valley chocolate company who source all 250 varieties and blends of their Belgian/Australian chocolate sustainably.
McLaren Vale Wine Region
Don’t leave here without first reading all about the most popular wine region this side of South Australia getting to know where you should be going to experience the best Mclaren Vale winery region using this guide here
A beautiful glass of red overlooking the sunset hills of the southern Mount Lofty Ranges at Down the Rabbit Hole winery makes for a perfect end to a full day exploring the region.
You will find Mclaren vale sits just north of the Fleurieu Peninsula, however driving around you will come to forget the boundaries and find it easier to refer to the entire region as the Fleurieu Peninsula.
With over 88 cellar doors to choose from the entire region sees great weather year round and apart from being our favourite winery, it’s also one of the more chill and scenic places to go in South Australia.
Being in the middle of the Peninsula it gets breezes from both sides of the coast meaning mediterranean weather and growth year round.
Read Next: Don’t leave without checking out the 23 amazing things to do in Adelaide
Although we are not city slickers, Adelaide has a little something for everyone without feeling like a big town and should always make the list of the top 10 things to do in South Australia.
We know you will want to stay a few nights here and with so many fun things to do in Adelaide, pour the champagne and enjoy your hot bubble bath at the Crowne Plaza right in town or visit the Adelaide central market, one of the largest indoor market places in the southern hemisphere.
The Adelaide Central market has so much on offer, everything from fruit vendors, specialty coffee roasters, the oldest camera store in adelaide and all kinds of meats, cheeses and international cuisines; it’s an all round melting pot of global goodness.
At the beginning of each year South Australia’s capital Adelaide hosts the Fringe Festival, a collection of eclectic dance, art and culture to inspire and stimulate the senses.
Change things up a little and take the tram to Glenelg from Victoria Square and admire the seaside ambience, walk along Glenelg jetty and grab a bite to eat, or head due east into the Mount Lofty Ranges of the Adelaide Hills.
Some of the most popular wine growing estates in all of Australia can be found in South Australia, places like the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and the Clare Valley and all of these can be achieved in a day trip from Adelaide.
If you have time try and catch an Australian rules football game at Adelaide oval or book your Adelaide Oval roof climb here as this tour sells out quickly through GetYourGuide.
Bang smack in the middle of the state and probably one of the most epic points of interest in South Australia is Coober Pedy, which also happens to be one of the hottest places down under.
This opal mining town gets its name from an Aboriginal phrase meaning of ‘white folks living in a hole’, as most of the inhabitants live in underground hotels and houses to escape the scorching heat of the Coober Pedy summer and cold winter nights.
Coober Pedy sits roughly halfway between the southern ocean coastline and the Northern territory border along the Stuart Highway in the foothills of the Stuart ranges and is known as being the world’s largest supplier of gem-quality opals and the largest open mining field anywhere in the world.
Travel 150 kms north of Coober Pedy and you’ll come across the Painted Desert, the remnants of an underwater world some 80 million years ago that truly gives meaning to the phrase south australian outback.
All that remains today is a mix of orange, yellow and white salt beds thats have painted the mountains and hillside providing a taste of Australia’s beautiful desert landscape.
South Australia Travel Guide
Best accommodation- where to stay in South Australia
There are a number of different options to choose from ranging anywhere from luxury, beachside accommodation through to backpacker friendly and budget options.
Use this guide here to help you plan where and how you intend on sleeping and what fits into your budget
Best budget accommodation – Ibis Adelaide
In the heart of Rundle Mall is the Ibis, a global chain owned by Accor which cater for the budget accommodation option for both singles and couples.
Sit back and enjoy the excellent wifi and modern, well equipped gym, you’re uniquely positioned in the best part of touristy Adelaide.
Best luxury hotel – Eos by Sky city
Experience the new era of luxury accommodation at Eos with over 4 different types of Suites and Villas to cater for your every need, they even have a spa treatment package available as well as bed and breakfast options.
The Radiance river view villa is a fantastic option overlooking Adelaide Oval, or splurge a little and book the Grace Villa- fit for a goddess.
If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for we recommend checking out our friends over at Agoda who can help you secure the best deal that’s right for you
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