So what are the best activities in Australia? A simple word association test will more than likely give you results like these:
Northern Territory = Uluru.
Queensland = Barrier Reef.
New South Wales = Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Tasmania = Cradle Mountain.
Victoria = The Great Ocean Road.
Western Australia = Wildflowers.
Australian Capital Territory = Parliament House! And all those wonderful politicians …
But South Australia = ? Well … WHAT??
OK, so you think South Australia doesn’t have a main attraction. Well, I say who needs just one, when South Australia is chock-a-block with things to do! Whether you’re looking for a fun family holiday, adventure activities, a weekend away, cool country towns or just some fabulous natural attractions , South Australia is the place to be!
So here’s a list of the best activities to do in South Australia you can choose from with confidence because they’re hand-picked by a local – me – and they’re some of my faves!
1 Ridge Top Tour, Arkaroola
Getting to Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Australia’s premier eco-tourism destination, by car is half the fun – and a tour of some of the most spectacular South Australian Outback scenery to boot. The Sanctuary Village is set amidst a stunning landscape of fantastic rock formations, low ranges, multi-coloured minerals and a massive sky. So how do you top that? Take the Sanctuary’s signature Ridge-top Tour – a rugged 4 hour return 4WD adventure through the (almost) trackless wilderness to Sillers Lookout. I’m calling it the best lookout AND one of the best adventures in OZ!
2 Lions at Naracoorte Caves
It’s just as well that Thylacoleo carnifex is extinct. It’s scary enough seeing a ghostly skeleton silhouette deep underground in the Naracoorte Cave system when you know it’s long dead. But imagine meeting a real live one face to face above the ground? These days, the scariest wildlife (not counting snakes) above the ground along the Limestone coast are the wombats! South Australia’s only World Heritage listed site is an awesome blend of fascinating Pleistocene megafauna fossils, stunning limestone formations and intriguing pre-history.
3 Whale Watching at Head of Bight
I’m not sure if the LOOOOONG drive across the Nullarbor Plain just above the LOOOOONG curve of the Great Australian Bight stretching for thousands of kilometres along the southern coastline and the LOOOOONGest unbroken line of sea cliffs in the world means the Head of Bight whale-watching experience qualifies as EXTREME whale-watching!
In season, from May to October, Head of Bight becomes a whale nursery with 40 or more whales and calves cavorting below the cliffs. But you won’t come across it by chance – it’s over 800 km west of Adelaide so it’s best experienced as part of a Nullarbor crossing en route to Perth (or Adelaide if you’re heading east). And that’s a pretty cool road-trip adventure in itself!
4 Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges
Unless you’re planning a lengthy stay in the magnificent Flinders Ranges, it’s way too big to see it all in just one visit. So make a start by exploring its iconic centrepiece, the spectacular Wilpena Pound, a massive 8 x 17 km natural rock amphitheatre once used by early pastoralists as a grazing ground!
If Wangara Lookout near the old Homestead doesn’t give good enough view; or a sighting from atop St Mary’s Peak is too challenging; or a flight over the Pound too expensive, take the up close and personal (and fewer people) option and walk across it! The Bridle Gap trail (also part of the Heysen trail – see below) crosses Wilpena Pound and climbs its southwestern edge for spectacular views back across the Pound and out across the layers of ranges beyond.
5 Troubridge Island
Troubridge Island is about 2000 km too far south to make it into the tropics. But if you were washed ashore on a fine day, you’d think you really WERE on a deserted tropical island. Luckily, a Troubridge Island escape means you can stay on this tiny island, deserted but for the Little Penguins and Cormorants for whom this is a breeding ground AND whoever else you brought with you to share the solitude!! But snorkelling the clear waters surrounding the island, hauling in a fish or two for the BBQ, wandering the beaches and staying in a renovated lighthouse-keeper’s cottage about 6 km offshore from Edithburgh on the Yorke Peninsula is a mighty fine deserted-tropical-island substitute.
6 Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island
The odd-shaped wind and sand-blasted granite Rocks aren’t the only remarkable thing about the third largest of Australia’s 8222 islands! Vivonne Bay regularly makes the lists of the top 10 eco-friendly beaches in Australia, if not the world. Because of its relative isolation it’s got the purest strain of Ligurian bees in the world – just one of the reasons that foodies flock here. And if you like the smell of fish, get up close to the permanent seal colony! BUT … head back to Flinders Chase National Park to see why these rocks ROCK!
7 Going Underground at Coober Pedy
Just between us, you don’t actually have to go underground to find your very own piece of Australia’s national gem, the Opal! I found a piece in Coober Pedy’s main street without too much effort at all – although it WAS in a shop attached to a rather attractive ring with a price tag of just $600 😀
Mostly underground, tiny outback opal mining town Coober Pedy is classic South Australian Outback with a harsh climate, distinctive mining town moonscape, the only underground campground in the world, the BIG Winch and just up the road, the longest man-made structure on earth – the Dog Fence!
It’s not short of natural attractions either, with the stunning natural landscape of the Breakaways a few kilometres down the road.
8 The Cockle Train
It’s not just South Australia’s first railway line AND first public line laid with iron rails in Australia; this coastal railway line running from Goolwa to Victor Harbor is also unbelievably scenic.
Break your journey and explore the stunning coastline at Middleton and Port Elliot; then take a stopover in Victor Harbor and take the horse-drawn carriage to Granite Island.
Back in Goolwa, there’s the Murray Mouth and Coorong – end of Australia’s longest river system, and the chance to explore the wonderful coastline visible from the train.
9 Farina Bakery
7 hours north of Adelaide, the driest part of the driest state of the driest continent on earth isn’t the most logical place to set up a town to service a fledgling wheat-growing industry. Maybe that’s why Farina is now a ghost town – except for a few weeks in May, June and July when the Farina Restoration Group move on-site. But historic site restoration isn’t the only attraction on offer at Farina – one of the first buildings to be restored was the smokin’ HOT Farina Bakery! All the better for being so unexpected, the Bakery’s volunteer bakers turn out an extraordinary amount of perfectly baked goods in the middle of the Outback!
In 2020, the Farina Bakery is open from 23rd May to 19th July! Don’t miss it!!
10 The Heysen Trail
One of Australia’s Great Walks, the 1200 km Heysen Trail is a great way to see the best of South Australia. And if you haven’t got a spare 60 days to do the whole walk, then use the route map as a guide, choose a few sections in areas like the Barossa Valley, Mount Lofty Ranges, the Mid North and Flinders Ranges and see the highlights on foot. Starting in Parachilna Gorge and ending at Fleurieu Peninsula coastal town Jervis Bay, the walk is named for legendary artist Sir Hans Heysen, whose works showcase the beauty and diversity of South Australia.
11 Lake Eyre
12 Cameron Corner, where 3 States Meet
13 Pichi Richi Railway
14 Time Travel in Port Augusta
15 Trek a Track, Outback South Australia
16 Lighthouse Loop
17 See South Australia’s Outback Rock Stars
Breakaways, Painted Desert, Painted Hills
18 Festival Theatre
19 Volcanic History
20 Silo Art Trail
21 The Rocket Range
22 Scenic Loo Trail
23 Australia’s Longest Golf Course and Halfway point
24 Organ Pipes
25 Whyalla Ship
Of course there are plenty more RED HOT South Australian experiences to be had, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? And if you’re ready for a South Australian adventure, take a look at the best flights and get started!
Have YOU been to South Australia? Do share YOUR favourite things to do in South Australia in the comments below!!