Start your South Australian sojourn in Mount Gambier, the second biggest city in the state. Located on the slopes of a dormant volcano, Mount Gambier is famous for its craters — particularly the striking Blue Lake and the otherworldly Sunken Garden in the Umpherston Sinkhole. Work your way up the Limestone Coast, pencilling in stops at the quaint fishing port of Robe and Kingston’s iconic Larry the Lobster landmark, before spending the night in Langhorne Creek, your first taste of SA’s world-renowned wine scene.
Coastlines don’t get any more scenic than the Fleurieu Peninsula, straddling the seaside south of Adelaide. Canoe the wetlands of the Coorong National Park near Goolwa, swim with tuna in Victor Harbor, watch whales in Port Elliot, take a boat tour to check out the resident birdlife, dolphins and sea lions, dive reefs and ship wrecks, or dip your toe into any number of other unique aquatic attractions. End your day in Cape Jervis, a famed fishing spot and the start of the 1200km Heysen Trail walking track.
Catch the ferry from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island, which feels like a zoo with no fences thanks to the abundance of native Australian wildlife protected by a bevy of nature reserves. We’re talking kangaroos (of course!) as well as echidnas, wallabies, possums, bandicoots, koalas, penguins, sea lions, dolphins, fur seals, fish, sea dragons, birds, goannas, snakes, and even six species of bat and five types of frogs that are unique to KI.
Take two days to explore Australia’s third largest island, starting with the all the gourmet food and drink around the tiny townships in the east of KI, such as the Dudley Wines cellar door near Penneshaw, the Kangaroo Island Brewery in Kingscote and Clifford’s Honey Farm in between. Day two is all about the great outdoors, like the sea lions lazing around at Seal Bay, the roos and koalas at the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and the picturesque Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch within the Flinders Chase National Park.
After tackling the two-hour trip back to Adelaide, check in for four days in the South Australian capital. Once a staid city nicknamed the City of Churches, Adelaide has blossomed into a dynamic place exploding with cutting-edge bars, cafes and restaurants that complement all the windswept beaches and colonial sandstone architecture its always boasted.
Adelaide offers no shortage of attractions to fashion an itinerary out of. Have breakfast at the Adelaide Central Market, whose 80 stalls attract eight million visitors a year. Learn something at the excellent clutch of museums as well as the zoo and the colonial gaol. Stroll down the Rundle Mall shopping precinct, picking up some Haigh’s chocolate for a souvenir. Visit the new Adelaide Oval, and even climb the roof for 360-degree views of the River Torrens and the city. Watch the sunset over Glenelg beach with some fish and chips or a cold pint of Cooper’s fresh from the source. Throw yourself into Hindley St’s lively nightlife, or sip on something a little more laid-back in the moody small bars of Peel St. And try and squeeze in some other must-visit attractions if you’ve got any time left in your schedule.
You should also devote one day to the Adelaide Hills, part of the Mount Lofty Ranges east of the city. Cuddle a koala at the Cleland Wildlife Park, enjoy a little slice of Deutschland in the German settlement of Hahndorf, have a quiet tipple in one of the many cellar doors, saunter through the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens or scale Mount Lofty itself for sweeping views of the region.
Just an hour’s drive north of Adelaide is a wine region that’s as historic as it is beautiful. The first vines in the Barossa Valley were planted by German settlers in the 1840s and they’re still producing a world-class drop almost two centuries later. The 150 wineries dotted throughout the stone villages of the Barossa are famous for their full-bodied Shiraz, as well as other grape varieties such as Riesling, Semillon, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon.
You’ll enjoy a taste of the real Australian outback on the four-and-a-half-hour drive from the Barossa to Wilpena, passing through ghost towns like Terowie and Kanyaka Station plus acres of bone-dry terrain. Upon arrival, the mountainous natural amphitheatre that is Wilpena Pound looks like a piece of another planet, best explored via helicopter or one of the many bushwalking trails criss-crossing the rugged landscape.
Spend the next day exploring the gorges, creeks and mountain ranges that surround Wilpena Pound in this 95,000-hectare nature reserve. The Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park — named after the mountain range and the traditional Indigenous word for the Pound — is laced with some of Australia’s most impressive mountain landscapes, native wildlife, fossils and Indigenous rock art sites, serene campsites, and great routes for walking, cycling and four-wheel-driving.
It’s a long drive from the Flinders Ranges to Port Lincoln — six hours, to be precise — but there are plenty of places to stop for a feed along the Eyre Peninsula, Australia’s seafood capital. Tuck into Blue Swimmer crabs in Cowell, kingfish in Arno Bay and King George whiting in Tumby Bay before arriving in the tuna hub of Port Lincoln, where you’ll spend the night before a big couple of days at sea.
There’s one attraction that’s worth the trip to Port Lincoln alone, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Shark-cage diving is one of those rare experiences that every adventure-seeker needs to tick off their bucket list, and the tip of the Eyre Peninsula is one of the few places on earth where you can do it. It’s a three-hour boat trip along the craggy coastline of the Lincoln National Park before reaching the sheltered waters of the Neptune Islands, where adrenaline junkies can jump in a cage as Great Whites circle nearby.
Spend your second day in Port Lincoln swimming with something a little friendlier: sea lions, the puppies of the sea. Take a half-day tour to Hopkins, Blythe, Grindal or Langton Island to enjoy a dip with the friendly little fellas before returning to shore to sample some of Port Lincoln’s famous seafood, the last meal on your two-week trip of a lifetime through South Australia.