The previously little-known charms South Australia are fast turning this state into a favorite destination for visitors to Australia, and for good reason: from charming cities and towns, fantastic food and wine, and renowned cultural festivals, to extraordinarily picturesque scenery ranging from barren outback to lush greenery and the iconic Murray River, there’s truly something for everyone in SA: even one of the world’s greatest fossil sites giving tourists a peek into millions of years of evolution on the most isolated continent!
The flora and fauna are amazing too, with native wildlife only minutes from the city, and if you’re a wine connoisseur, a trip to the world-famous Barossa Valley is a must. There’s also plenty of activities to do in the region: mountain-climbing, bushwalking, and surfing. And no trip to SA would be complete without visiting the intriguing town of Coober Pedy: it’s not only the opal capital of the world, but also an exotic township where much of the population live in caves. Whatever your tastes, you’re bound to have a wonderful holiday in South Australia, with many fond memories of your trip.
Lets explore the best places to visit in South Australia:
With just over a million residents, Adelaide is big enough to be fun but small enough not to have the rushed feeling of larger cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
Adelaide is famous for its cultural festivals, such as the legendary WOMADelaide and the Adelaide Festival of Arts; it’s also known for its funky atmosphere, excellent museums and galleries, the Rundle Mall shopping strip (Australia’s first pedestrian mall), and gorgeous scenery.
There’s also many farmers’ and makers’ markets, and a lovely Botanic Gardens.
Waterfall Gully is well worth a visit, as is the beachside suburb of Glenelg with its famous jetty and trams.
There are also many lovely heritage buildings in the area.
If you have time for a side-trip, check out The Big Rocking Horse an hour out of the city centre for a cute, quirky backdrop to your travel photos!
2. Murray River
Australia’s largest river is stunningly beautiful, and the land around it is so fertile that the area is often known as the “food bowl of Australia”. The Murray River is the third longest navigable river in the world, next to the Amazon and Nile, and a popular way to explore the river is by houseboat.
The Murray River spans three states (New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia), finally entering the Southern Ocean in the area of Coorong, South Australia.
The river starts off as a small spring in the Australian Alps, meandering for over 2,500km through five contrasting landscapes until it finally enters the Southern Ocean.
The river and its surrounds are perfect for exploring and relaxing alike, and there’s many interesting towns along the way to enjoy the differences in regional culture between the three states.
3. Coorong National Park
After your visit to the Murray River, exploring the Coorong National Park is a must.
With stunning beaches, abundant bird life, and great fishing, boating and bushwalking, coupled with its proximity to Adelaide, it’s a very popular getaway spot for locals, as well as beloved by tourists.
The flora and fauna in the area are spectacular: in particular, its worth visiting between September and November for the wader migration, when up to 100,000 wader birds of dozens of species come to the Coorong wetlands to feed.
4. Barossa Valley
The Barossa Valley is known worldwide for its premium wines, but it also boasts incredible produce and cuisine, as well as an interesting cultural combination of British-Australian and German-Australian heritage.
There are many winery tours and cellar-door tastings in the Valley, and lovely architectural, cultural and heritage sites: the churches in the area are particularly known for their beautiful designs.
The area was heavily settled by German-Australians, even leading to a German dialect called Barossa German.
You can still feel the German influence most strongly in Tanunda, a town which boasts delicious gourmet meats, breads and pastries in the German style.
5. Mt Gambier
Mt Gambier is known for its spectacular volcanic landscape, the crystal-clear Blue Lake, and its amazing caves: Tantaloona Caves’ stalactites are breathtaking, and the World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves are considered one of the most important fossil sites in the world.
The Cave Gardens are lush, green and gorgeous, and the Umpherston Sinkhole is a very attractive sunken garden created on the site of a collapsed cave.
Hells Hole is another sinkhole, but much larger, deeper, and full of fresh blue water.
Diving into Hells Hole is allowed with a permit.
Farina is an uninhabited ghost town, and it’s a fascinatingly eerie site! This once-thriving township reached its peak population of 600 in the late 1800s: at the time, it had an underground bakery, two hotels, five blacksmiths, a general store, two breweries, a school, a church and a brothel.
It was once a major trucking yard for sheep and cattle, and there were also several mines in the region.
When the railway line was moved away from Farina, the town’s population began moving elsewhere, leaving the town to crumble into ruins; but in recent years, volunteers with the Restoration Farina group have begun to restore the town; funds for the project come from the restored underground Farina Bakery, which is sporadically open for business.
In the future, Restoration Farina hopes to open a museum in the town; in the meanwhile, the interesting ruins make it well worth the trip!
7. Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy is a mining town specializing in gorgeous opals, but there’s plenty more to see in this popular tourist site: it’s perhaps best-known for the underground homes that many of the residents live in.
The town experiences freezing nights in winter, and extremely hot days in summer, so many of the residents live in “dugouts”, in caves carved out of hillsides.
They’re a lot more comfortable than they sound, though: Faye’s Underground Home is a gorgeous example, and it’s open to visitors; it even has a swimming pool in the living room! There’s also two dugout churches – the Serbian Orthodox and the Catacomb – and you can even stay in an underground hotel, or eat and drink at an underground restaurant or bar!
Several mines in Coober Pedy are open to tourists.
The nearby Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park is also well worth a visit, boasting breathtaking views and exotic flora and fauna.
If you’re a movie buff, you’ll also want to visit the Coober Pedy spaceship, which featured in the 2000 sci-fi movie Pitch Black.
8. The Painted Desert
150kms north of Coober Pedy, the Painted Desert is the barren outback at its most beautiful: awash with soft, fragile and colorful rock formations.
80 million years ago, this area was a seabed, and a combination of rain, weather and erosion has left masses of orange, yellow and white shale on the sloping hills, giving the area its apt name.
The desert is particularly beautiful at sunrise or sunset, and it’s a great spot to get a charming taste of Australia’s beautiful desert landscapes.
9. Clare Valley
Clare Valley is a popular wine region, specializing in Riesling, and also a popular tourist destination: there are many gorgeous walking trails and beautiful scenery to enjoy.
Spring Gully Conservation Park is a 400ha woodland with many lovely native orchids, and it’s a great place to spot a kangaroo or echidna, or to go bird-watching.
Budding palaeontologists will love the Red Banks Conservation Park, considered one of Australia’s richest megafauna sites.
There’s also a golf course, and many small local galleries to enjoy.
10. Kangaroo Island
Australia’s third largest island boasts 509km of coastline, gorgeous scenery, and an abundance of wildlife: you can easily spot sea lions, echidnas, wallabies, goannas, koalas, pelicans, and of course kangaroos! Much of Kangaroo Island is still unspoiled greenery, so it’s perfect for bushwalking or hiking.
Enjoy the premium wine and gourmet food, check out one of the many studios and galleries, or enjoy the many water sports available on the island – scuba diving, fishing, surfing and more.
Seal Bay is a particular must-see, as it’s home to the third largest sea lion colony in the world.
While you’re on the island, make sure you visit the Remarkable Rocks: this natural rock formations are very interesting and unique.
11. Eyre Peninsula
Eyre Peninsula is considered the “seafood frontier”, with delicious local Bluefin tuna, Yellowtail kingfish, Pacific oysters, mussels, crabs and prawns.
There’s also seafood festivals such as the Oysterfest Festival.
Murphy’s Haystacks, a unique geological feature, is well worth a visit, and there’s plenty of fascinating eco-tourist options here: swim in a cage with Bluefin tuna, sea lions, or even great white sharks! You can also snorkel with sea lions and dolphins, and sometimes spot a humpback whale.
The Gawler Ranges are a particular highlight of the peninsula, with stunning rock formations such as the famous Organ Pipes, and a wide variety of native flora and fauna.
12. Flinders Ranges and the Outback
The largest mountain range in SA stretches for 430km, and the unspoiled 540 million-year-old landscape is breathtaking.
You can experience a taste of the true-blue outback with a station stay on a farm or cattle station, go camping in the depths of desert nature, and spot an abundance of native animals.
It’s also a great place to try bush-tucker – ever wanted to eat an emu egg? The Pichi Rich steam railway from Quorn is a heritage highlight, and the Tunnel of Time at the Wadlata Outback Centre is a fascinating insight into the ancient history of the region.
13. Yorke Peninsula
Yorke Peninsula is known for its gorgeous beaches, coastal towns and inland mining towns, and the scenery of the stunning national parks.
It’s a great spot for seafood, surfing, and shipwreck diving.
Natural beauty abounds in the area, with many walking trails and plenty of Australian wildlife to see, and the Peninsula has a fascinating history (both indigenous and European) which you can learn about at the many museums in the area.
The Moonta Mines Museum is fascinating, and nearby Kadina is a particularly lovely town to enjoy.
Wallaroo is also well worth a visit: the Heritage and Nautical Museum even offers ghost walks!
14. Lake Eyre
Lake Eyre is an oasis in the barren Aussie outback, covering 1 million square km and crossing the borders of three states: SA, NT and QLD. Technically two lakes connected by a channel, it’s the largest salt lake in the country, albeit not often filled with water: it has only been filled to capacity thrice in the last 160 years.
When the lake starts to dry up and the water evaporates, it appears to turn pink, and when it has dried up completely, the remaining snow-white salt crystals are a stunning sight to behold in of themselves.
15. Fleurieu Peninsula
Just under an hour south of Adelaide, Fleurieu is known as Adelaide’s playground: known for its wineries, water sports, and picturesque scenery, it’s a fun spot either for a day trip or to stay a few days.
The food is fantastic, the galleries and museums are fascinating, and there’s plenty of activities to keep any kids that are tagging along for the ride entertained: camel rides, a horse-drawn tram and even penguin tours!