The 10 Best Ecotourism Experiences in South Australia

Australian sea lions on Kangaroo Island
Australian sea lions on Kangaroo Island | © Domenico Salvagnin / Flickr
Photo of Tom Smith
8 April 2018

From arid desert, to pristine coastline, South Australia is blessed with some of the country’s most spectacular outdoor experiences — and these are the top 10 eco-friendly adventures you can enjoy across the state.

Swimming with sharks

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© RooM the Agency / Alamy Stock Photo

Live out your very own sequel to Jaws on the Eyre Peninsula, where you can stare a great white shark square in the eye. A number of tour operators based out of Port Lincoln run shark cage dive tours, which give intrepid visitors the opportunity to hop in a cage as these apex predators of the sea circle right outside. Shark attack survivor Rodney Fox operates eco-certified expeditions with more than half a century of experience under his belt.

Swimming with sea lions

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Sea lions off the Eyre Peninsula © Tom Smith
Sea lions off the Eyre Peninsula | © Tom Smith

There are far more friendly animals you can swim with near Port Lincoln, a short 45-minute flight from Adelaide. For a less nerve-jangling ecotourism experience, swap sharks for sea lions and you’ll quickly discover why they call these adorable creatures the puppy dogs of the sea, as they somersault, swirl and swim alongside you. Choose an eco-certified operator, such as Calypso Star Charters for your sea lion encounter.

Swimming with dolphins

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Dolphins in Adelaide © Greg Scales / Flickr
Dolphins in Adelaide | © Greg Scales / Flickr

You can tick a dolphin swim off your bucket list back in Adelaide, where Temptation Sailing operates cruises out of Glenelg Pier. You’ll cling to a rope dangling off the back of the 58-foot sailing catamaran, as Flipper frolics beneath your feet, producing an unforgettable encounter with wild bottlenose dolphins in an eco-friendly way that doesn’t disturb their natural habitat.

Kangaroo Island

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© Andrew Michael / Alamy Stock Photo

Australia’s third largest island isn’t far from Adelaide, but its laid-back vibe makes it feel much further away. As well as its untamed coastal scenery, Kangaroo Island is famous for its abundant native wildlife, including sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park, six unique species of frog, 15 distinct types of bird and — of course — kangaroos, hopping all over the place alongside wallabies, koalas and echidnas.

Wilpena Pound

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The rugged prehistoric landscapes of the Flinders Ranges supply a treasure trove of ecotourism experiences, but the highlight of the region is without a doubt Wilpena Pound. A five-hour road trip north of Adelaide, the Pound is an enormous natural amphitheatre that’s both a hotspot for rock-climbing and bushwalking, as well as scenic flights for a bird’s eye view of this iconic landmark.

Walk the Yorke

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Balgowan Beach © Michael Coghlan / Flickr
Balgowan Beach | © Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Located just across the St Vincent Gulf from Adelaide, the Yorke Peninsula is a coastal playground that’s best explored on foot. The boot-shaped peninsula is criss-crossed by 500km of walking trails, linking Port Wakefield in the north to Marion Bay in the south, then all the way back up to Moonta Bay. The lengthy Walk the Yorke trail is divided into 16 smaller sections if you’re looking for a more manageable distance.

Adelaide Zoo

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Rock wallaby at the Adelaide Zoo © Anthony Cramp / Flickr
Rock wallaby at the Adelaide Zoo | © Anthony Cramp / Flickr

First opened in 1883, Adelaide Zoo is Australia’s second oldest zoo, and significantly, it’s operated on a not-for-profit basis by conservation charity Zoos SA. The attraction is surrounded by botanic parkland on the doorstep of the city centre, providing a home to more than 250 species of native and exotic animals. Zoos SA also operates the open-range Monarto Zoo about an hour’s drive east of the city.

Sinclair’s Gully

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Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills © badjonni / Flickr
Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills | © badjonni / Flickr

South Australia is renowned for its wine, and the only eco-certified winery in the Adelaide Hills is Sinclair’s Gully. Husband and wife team Sue and Sean Delaney opened this award-winning sustainable winery on a 26-acre property in 1997, and in the two decades since, they’ve forged a formidable reputation for their Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes, picked from hand-tended vines.

Coorong National Park

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Pelicans in the Coorong National Park © denisbin / Flickr
Pelicans in the Coorong National Park | © denisbin / Flickr

The Fleurieu Peninsula southeast of Adelaide boasts some of the most beautiful coastline you’ll find anywhere in Australia, and it doesn’t get more scenic than the Coorong. This 140km stretch of lagoon straddling the Southern Ocean is sacred to Indigenous people and the wetland supports hundreds of species of significant birdlife, such as pelicans, swans, cormorants and ducks.

Cleland Wildlife Park

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Want to get up close and personal with Australia’s most iconic animals? Then plan a trip to Cleland Wildlife Park, less than 20 minutes from Adelaide’s city centre. This conservation park allows the animals to roam around in their natural environment, and organises a series of koala experiences, reptile encounters and even breakfast with the birds.