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 South Australia. Of all the places to visit in South Australia we found ourselves in constant awe at the sheer beauty of this state.
You park your car and open the rear doors, the smell of ocean and sand hit your nose and gaze at some of the most aqua blue, pristine coastline you have ever seen.
The insanely beautiful coastlines here only make up half of the incredible places to visit in South Australia
Rock-pools, surf breaks and sunshine are only some of the attractions in South Australia that the locals here want to keep to themselves.
World class wineries can be found here from the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and the ever popular Adelaide Hills north of Adelaide.
Drive north and the geography turns into cascading red hills of Flinders Ranges that have been home to Indigenous Australians for tens of thousands of years.
There are so many places to see in South Australia that we overwhelmingly felt that our month in S.A was never going to be enough.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA ON THE MAP
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Sharing a border with most other states in this Great Southern Land, South Australia is primed for van life adventures and road trips all year round.
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 to take note of when planning your South Australia road trip itinerary:
- Fleurieu Peninsula
- Yorke Peninsula
- Eyre Peninsula.
A big draw card and a major South Australian attraction is Australia’s longest straight driving road, the Nullarbor Plain.
Stretching 1,100km long it is indeed part of the worlds largest single exposure of limestone bedrock along the Great Australian Bight, and for sure a highlight of all the tourist attractions in South Australia.
Road trip through the best of South Australia
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.
Road trips in South Australia are incredibly popular, and they are also the best way to see the landscape and the incredible beaches that the locals flock to.
When we were in our planning phase of what to do in South Australia, we made sure that seeing the beaches here became one of our top priorities.
READ NEXT: The best beaches along the Fleurieu Peninsula in our guide here
Be prepared for thousands of kilometres of driving through this state, as the distance between each place is far and wide at certain points, particularly between the 3 major peninsulas.
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 air bnb’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 South Australia attractions are free to visit and free guided tours of the city are very common so look out for those)
Where to stay in South Australia
For some this is fairly obvious and explanatory, if you have your own van, car or tent then most times your accommodation is sorted.
Laura and I road tripped through South Australia for a month most recently with a company called Cruisin Motorhomes and we loved our experience.
If you plan on free camping or staying at paid campsites overnight, there are a few apps for your iphone or samsung that become your new best friend, apps like Wikicamps and CamperMate.
These apps are VITAL and will literally show you the closest campsite to your location and guide you to the epic bucket list places to visit in South Australia.
If you just got your nails done and can’t afford a touch up, then there are plenty of places to stay in South Australia that won’t break your nails or your budget!
If you’re looking for a fantastic, budget friendly place to call home during your visit to South Australia, we recommend checking out our friends over at Agoda who can help you secure the best deal that’s right for you.
Crossing the border into South Australia
If you plan on jumping the border from Victoria into South Australia, 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 crossing from Victoria into South Australia 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.
If you forget to chuck out your things there may be a $300 fine waiting or you at the end!!
We found this a useful resource to avoid getting into trouble at the border
Your guide to the Top 10 most beautiful places to visit 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.
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 755km 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.
READ MORE: Our new guide to travelling the Limestone Coast in South Australia
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 South Australian attraction, as it’s not only beautiful to admire, it’s also the town’s main water supply, hence access and swimming is prohibited.
The Little Blue Lake however is accessible to the public for swimming year round.
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
Australia’s recorded largest river that spans the states of Victoria and South Australia, the Murray River is a fantastic place to relax, unwind and take time to enjoy the view.
Home to countless towns along the river, native wildlife and natural beauty, the Murray River spans 2508km in length and is a holiday trip on its own.
The Murray river spans multiple states including New South Wales, Victoria and South Ausralia where it finally enters the Southern Ocean via Coorong national park.
Coorong National park
Particularly if driving towards Adelaide from Robe, Coorong national park 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 a mere 2 hours and takes you straight through the old german settlement town of Hahndorf.
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!
Why not stay the night at The Lake View Motel in Robe and really get a taste of why tourists love travelling to Robe year in and year out.
Head down into Robe main street and grab a coffee from Pelligrini’s Espresso Bar for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
The beach down here is incredible and one of the best places to visit in south australia during the summer time.
The Fleurieu Peninsula is first of the three Peninsula’s along the coast and one of the more impressive destinations in south australia, in particular is the road down south will lead you all the way to Kangaroo Island.
READ NEXT: Explore 9 incredible things to do on the Fleurieu Peninsula with this guide here
Leave the sights and sounds of Adelaide and head west towards the beaches and main attractions of South Australia like Sellicks Beach, Port Willunga & Second Valley.
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.
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 and the Fleurieu Peninsula prior we will honestly say that we rushed the Yorke and drove straight down to Innes National park.
However we still maintain that the Yorke Peninsula is still one of the best South Australia destinations if you choose not to drive too far west.
Check out the many camp spots jettied along the national park here, including the beautiful Stenhouse Bay Jetty and Ethel Wreck, a main South Australian attraction.
Stay for the sunset and get your camera out along the famous roads that lead into the park and and enjoy one of the best places to see in South Australia.
Related Article: Travel the Yorke Peninsula and visit Innes National park using our destination guide
Other places to visit in South Australia
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.
Port Lincoln is in our opinion one of the best places to visit in South Australia, as it is also one of the only places on Earth you can go cage diving with Great White Sharks off the Neptune Islands.
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 Scott Portelli and interview him about the plight of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish and his award winning photographer Scott Portelli experience photographing these majestic creatures
Far enough away from the urban lights and main south australian tourist attractions, places like Greenly beach, Coffin bay National Park, Streaky Bay & Port Lincoln are insanely gorgeous and our favourite spots on the Eyre Peninsula.
We’d recommend spending 3-4 days within Port Lincoln to really get a feel for the city and the surrounding regions.
Lake MacDonell 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.
Here’s out top list of attractions in the Eyre Peninsula:
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, and a massive tick off the bucket list for the best places to go in South 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 far north South Australia you need to take a scenic flight in an aeroplane over Lake Eyre; the largest salt lake bed in the country that spans the borders of Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia.
It’s also one of the countries driest lakes, having only ever been naturally filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years
Visit Kangaroo Island
Devastated by the bushfires of 2019, the locals and wildlife have bounced back in a big way.
This secluded island off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula takes 45 minutes to reach but it’s well worth the visit.
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 south Australia attractions we had planned.
We loved spending time at Kangaroo Island brewery sinking back a few beers, as well as visiting Vivonne Bay and admiring the sea lions at Seal Bay.
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 by undertaking 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!
For more natural beauty 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 South Australia
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.
It was a fascinating national park to visit and from looking at the photos pre-bushfires I’m sure in its heyday it was stunning; nonetheless it was for us one of the most beautiful places to visit in sa.
Use the links below to get more information about the best things to do in Kangaroo island and the best things to do in South Australia
Things you cannot miss out on –
- Quad Bike Tours K.I
- Best of Kangaroo island 4WD Day Tour
- Gourmet Food and Wine tour of K.I
- Full day tour of Flinders Chase National Park
- Ocean Safari wildlife tour Kangaroo Island
- Spend a day touring the island, visit Seal bay, Flinders Chase and more!
McLaren Vale Wine Region
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.
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.
If wineries tickle your fancy then look no further than Mclaren Vale winery region article using this guide here
Being in the middle of the Peninsula it gets breezes from both sides of the coast meaning mediterranean weather and growth year round.
Our favourite wineries to visit were
The most notably famous wine region within South Australia is about an hours drive out of Adelaide is one of Australia’s oldest grape growing regions in the Barossa valley.
Asides from being home to the Peramangk, Ngadjuri and Kaurna people for tens of thousands of years, but most recently an original German and English settlement landmark that has surprisingly led to a German Barossa dialect.
With plenty of restaurants, cellar doors, art exhibitions and vineyards as far as the eye can see the Barossa Valley is one of the best places to visit in South Australia.
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.
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 marketplaces in the southern hemisphere.
At the beginning of each year Adelaide hosts one of the most fun things to do in sa, the Fringe Festival, a collection of eclectic dance, art and culture to inspire and stimulate the senses.
Change this 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.
If you have time try and catch an AFL game at Adelaide Oval and watch the Adelaide swans play a home game.
Some of the most popular wine regions in all of Australia can be found in South Australia, places like the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley.
These are not only some of the most popular wine regions in the state, but are also heavily regarded as world class wineries.
Bang smack in the middle of the state and probably one of the most epic points of interest in South Australia is also 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 underground to escape the scorching heat of the summer and cold winter nights.
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.
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.