Want to come face-to-fin with a great white shark? Taste Australia’s best wine? Spook yourself in 19th century ghost towns? Plunge to Australia’s lowest point? Then you better book a trip to South Australia. Check out the top 10 things to see and do in the state of South Australia.
If there’s one thing South Australia is famous for, it’s wine; the state is considered one of the great wine capitals of the world, right up there with Bordeaux in France and Napa Valley in the United States. From Barossa Valley to McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek and Coonawarra, South Australia is home to an endless list of world-class wine-producing areas, which are particularly renowned for their full-bodied reds. It makes you thirsty just thinking about it…
Adelaide’s cultural calendar is crowded with exciting festivals — Tasting Australia, the Adelaide 500, Feast, the Adelaide Festival and WOMADelaide to name just a handful — but none are bigger than the Fringe. For four weeks each February and March, hundreds of performers dish up music, comedy, theatre, dance, magic and cabaret in every nook and cranny throughout the city — a tradition that dates all the way back to 1960.
Kangaroo Island is spoiled for scenic vistas but this otherworldly rock formation is Kangaroo Island’s signature landmark. The Remarkable Rocks — curiously shaped granite boulders teetering above a coastal granite outcrop — have often been compared to the sculptures of Henry Moore, like something plucked out of a modern art gallery rather than formed by millions of years of coastal erosion. Untouched beaches and abundant wildlife are Kangaroo Island’s other major highlights.
Unlike the convict colonies on Australia’s east coast, South Australia was proudly populated by free settlers in its early days — and this adventurous, optimistic spirit led to the foundation of hundreds of towns in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Drought and technology caused many of these places to dry up, and these days, spooky ghost towns like Farina and Cook pepper the barren outback landscape, like the backdrop of some C-grade horror movie.
They call Adelaide the ‘City of Churches’, but this sporting arena is probably South Australia’s most revered cathedral. Nab a ticket to a game of AFL during winter to join more than 50,000 mad South Australians barracking for either Port or the Crows, head to the Adelaide Oval during summer to watch a game of cricket, or scale the roof any time of the year — the thrilling RoofClimb offers panoramic views of the South Australian capital in every direction.
This enormous open bay defines the southern coastline of the country, and provides an unpolluted breeding ground for scores of marine creatures and sea birds. Tackle the epic road trip to Head of Bight — a whopping 1000 kilometres (621 miles) west of Adelaide on the way to Western Australia — for sweeping ocean views, as well as a spectacular lookout over the pod of southern right whales who breed there each winter.
About 700 kilometres (434 miles) north of Adelaide lies the lowest natural point in Australia, a whole 15 metres (49 feet) below sea level. Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is spectacular even when it’s bone dry, as it usually is — the salty surface shimmers and blurs the distinction between the earth and the sky — but it’s positively dazzling after some rainfall, when the lake transforms into a paradise of blooming wildflowers and native birdlife.
A couple of hours’ west of Lake Eyre is an attraction that’s even further below the Earth’s surface, and unlike anywhere else on the planet. Coober Pedy is a bizarre opal-mining town that houses its 2000-strong population in a network of underground ‘dugouts’ because it’s just too damn hot to live above the ground, with subterranean homes, churches and eateries carved out of the Mars-like landscape.
Keep going further below ground in Mount Gambier, South Australia’s second largest city. Located on the edge of a dormant volcano on the scenic Limestone Coast east of Adelaide, Mt Gambier is sprinkled with craters, such as the striking Blue Lake and the Umpherston Sinkhole, a limestone cave that’s now filled with a well-curated garden brimming with hydrangeas and tree ferns.
A face-to-face encounter with a great white shark is one of the most adrenaline-pumping experiences on the face of the Earth, let alone South Australia. Several operators arrange shark cage dives from Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula, but if living out your own personal sequel to Jaws sounds a little too scary, opt to splash around with playful sea lions instead, or head back to Adelaide to swim with dolphins off Glenelg.