The sun-scorched lands of Australia harbour many gems that need only be found. From its Jurassic-like coastlines to its dramatic contrast in landscapes to its bountiful display of unique wildlife, it is a truly unique continent. Whether your interests be in the natural wealth of the area to be found in the North, the allure of a life of excessiveness in the East or an adventurer’s dream in the West, there is really something for everyone. No matter your bearings, there is one direction commonly overlooked.
South Australia detracts nothing from this eclectic beauty, but is often neglected from one’s itinerary when visiting Australia. Whether it be a lack of information on the area or a lack of international popularity, South Australia should not be left dormant at the end of a holiday. If you’re unsure of what activities lay in wait or if it is the place for you, here are 40 things to do in South Australia that might peak your interest and motivate you to explore this beautiful, but forgotten, corner of Australia.
1 # Swim with New Zealand Fur Seals
The name might have confused you, but be assured New Zealand Fur Seals live in high concentrations throughout South Australia. Fur Seals are often depicted as globuolous denizens of the sea, lounging out in the sun for extensive periods of time. In reality, they are this, but also highly inquisitive and playful creatures. Just be sure not to get too close and annoy them as they have short temperaments towards their foreign guests and are known to be a bit rough even when their intentions are good-natured.
Featured Blog: Can you swim with Fur Seals?
Where can I find them? New Zealand Fur Seals can be found throughout South Australia. However, the best location for swimming with them is near Port Vincent, due to the reasonably clear water.
Website: Seal Swim Kaikoura
2 # Cliff jumping at Second Valley
Jagged cliffs protruding from the ocean at a steep angle, turbid water funnelled into a narrow crevice and a sliver of ocean to cushion your landing. Usually this would not be an advised area to visit. However, these qualities are exactly what makes this region a popular summer location for tourists and locals alike. The cliffs are perfect for jumping off and there are a range of popularised jump spots, at varying heights, to suit anyone – even those afraid of heights.
Recommendation: The cliffs are not the kind of place you want to bring small children or animals, but the area preceding the cliffs is a great location for snorkelers and beach goers.
2.5 # Camp on a cliff at Second valley
In the opposite direction to the prior mentioned cliffs, there exists another range of cliffs, but with entirely different compositions – they are nowhere near as steep and jagged. They make the perfect location to camp under the stars. And, the next day rise with the sun as it illuminates the cliff side in a soft golden glow.
3 # Catch a wave at Basham Beach
The swell and waves of this beach are not particularly large in comparison to many of the more well- known surf spots around the world. However, they are big enough to get a few good runs. And, if you come on a weekday, you may have the surf almost to yourself.
How to find it: Despite being a popular beach locally, it can be difficult for visitors to find – it doesn’t really have any signs indicating where it is. The only indication of the road that leads to the beach is a metal mural carved in the shape of a surfer. Depending on what direction you come from, it will either be at the beginning or end of the small town of Middleton. Just follow the road directly adjacent to this sign and it will take you straight to the break.
4 # Skate Down the Anzac Highway
Bereft roads carve their way through the countryside as they make their way towards Innes National Park. Some roads form seamlessly straight bridges of asphalt that fade into the horizon, while others zigzag and turn back on themselves. These roads form the only human made structure in the land. This dramatic natural contrast complemented by the uniqueness of each road makes it the perfect place to whip out the skateboard and fly down the gentle gradient of these roads.
5 # Get lost in the Little Sahara
By no means comparable to its larger brother in central Australia, the Little Sahara is still a place worthy of your presence and somewhere you should want to go. Shifting sands motivated by a constant gentle breeze mean that at no time does the area mirror the next. I wonder what it will look like when you get there?
6 # Explore Kuitpo Forest
Covering an area of 3,600 hectares and harbouring a menagerie of wildlife, the Kuitpo community forest should be high on the list of any nature lover. Trails are dotted throughout the region and there are many designated entrances to park your car at. So, come early before the ‘crowds’ build up and you may even catch sight of the regions rare Bandicoots.
7 # Dive with Great White Sharks near Port Lincoln
The often calm and temperate coastal waters of South Australia are a favoured environment for Great White Sharks. Most people would be inclined to hop out of the water in the presence of said creatures. However, entire industries have been established around diving with sharks in the relative safety of cages. A popular diving industry can be found in Port Lincoln.
Cost: Several shark diving companies operate out of Port Lincoln. Each set their own price and do vary slightly. On average, you are likely to pay around $130 for 45-min in the cage.
Flickr: Davide Lopresti
8 # Pig-out in Chinatown
Chinatown in Adelaide is a melting pot of culturally iconic dishes and unique cuisines, all collected into a single easily accessible food court. Complemented by a handful of small shops that sell unique items from all over the world – Persian rings, Nepalese jumpers and Thai massages, to name just a few, are all readily available 6 days a week.
9 # Skydive over arid lands
For many it’s a rite of passage into adulthood – doing something completely terrifying to know your alive. For others, it’s a regular activity to get that adrenaline running. Either way, South Australia offers many opportunities for those would-be skydivers. You need only choose what you prefer; descending to the site of dramatic coastlines receding into turquoise oceans or watching as the ever-shifting sands of a desert rapidly approach from below or maybe you’d be more inclined with a city view beneath you.
Flickr: Alex L’aventurier
10 # Visit the secret Pink Lake
Nestled into a forgotten corner of south Australia, the Pink lake is a beautiful, yet widely under-utilised tourist attraction. (This is actually probably the reasons it is so good). Tiny bacterium interacts with the natural salt content of the lake giving rise to the landmarks signature pink water.
11 # Hunt for the Secret Quarry
Few people know of it and even fewer know how to find it. An abandoned quarry lays dormant in a secluded area of the Adelaide Hills. The Quarry itself is not particularly amazing in its looks. But, the pleasure derived from finding a secret swimming hole that is relatively devoid of tourists is quite alluring.
12 # Watch the sunrise at the Mount Barker Summit
Foreshadowing the dainty town of Mount Barker is a modest peak some 15km from the centre of the town. This summit is the highest point in the region and the perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset. You can drive most of the way, but will have to walk for about 200m from the carpark to the actual peak. It is not difficult, so you do not need to worry about any fancy hiking gear.
13 # Go shopping at the iconic Rundle Mall
Rundle Mall offers a bounty of options for any shopper. Whether you’re looking for food, clothes or, something less mainstream, such as military gear, you will find it at Rundle Mall. I can’t recommend the area enough, purely based on my love of Gong Cha – a cold Chinese bubble tea.
Where to park? Unfortunately, the only place to park your car is in one of several paid parking lots. For a 3 hour stay the park costs about $15 :/ The only other option is to walk several kilometres.
Flickr: Sharon Wills
14 # Find rare birds at the Coorong
The Coorong is a nationally recognised National Park residing in the vicinity of Goolwa. As the name suggests, it is a Coorong. As such, there is not much in the way of terrestrial fauna. However, you don’t have to be a birder take interest in this place. The area plays host to a bounty of rare and beautiful seabirds, all of which flaunt striking colours and/or unique looks.
Featured Blog: Journal # 9 In search of the Coorong’s rare birds
15 # Snorkel the Reef at Port Noarlunga
Imagine a reef system residing two hundred metres off shore that separates a cove from the open ocean and whose natural protection has promoted an abundance of sea life. Couple this with a natural inclination held by the fish to associate humans with potential bread-givers i.e. they will eat bread out of your hand. This is exactly what you will find at Port Noarlunga.
16 # Swim in crystal clear water at Moonta Bay
Moonta Bay has earned a reputation for itself as the haven of summer retreats. And rightfully so. Throughout the months of December to February, the waters off this reclusive town become crystal clear under the constant scorching of the harsh Australian sun. Perfect for a relaxing day out or an exploration of our neglected underwater world.
Flickr: Ardash Muradian
17 # Climb to the Three Falls in Morialta Conservation Park
Over 10s of thousands of years, immense volumes of water have coursed through Morialta Conservation park. To this day they are flowing and rarely dry-up. Over this time, the water has carved its own route through the rocks. The result being a smallish stream typified by three relatively large waterfalls. These falls are dotted along a popular walking trail about 7.3km long.
Flickr: Rhiannon Jones
18 # See African animals in Australia
Monarto Zoo is an internationally recognised and popularised zoological park administrated by the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia. The park contains Lions, Cheetahs, Giraffes, Chimpanzees and a variety of other animals that would never otherwise be found in Australia.
Cost: Entrance to the park can be gained for a fee of $19.50 for children and $35.00 for adults. However, to fully enjoy the open-range zoo you are going to have to charter a bus which will cost extra depending on the animals you wish to see.
Flickr: Kim Farnik
19 # Catch a Sunset in the Mouth of an Eagle
If you happen to find yourself on Kangaroo Island, it is well worth taking a drive over to Flinders Chase National Park to see the Remarkable Rocks. One in particular is easily recognised by its eagle-like appearance. If you come at the right time of year you can even watch the sunset in in its ‘mouth’. (You’ll need a lot of luck, though)
20 # 4WD through the Flinders Ranges
The Flinders Ranges covers an area of 200km, making it the longest mountain range in Australia. Through the dramatic orange landscape and extensive 4WD tracks it has garnered a good reputation for itself among outback explorers. Mind you, this is not only to the appeal of motor enthusiasts. Anyone would find appeal in the magnificent Australian landscape.
Some Popular Sites: Razorback Lookout | St Mary Peak | Wilpena Pound | Arkaba Station
Flickr: John White
21 # Tour the worldly renowned vineyards of Barossa Valley
If you’re into wine, you’ve come to the right place. Barossa Valley is to wine what Silicon Valley is to tech companies. Many of the wineries in the region are internationally accredited and produce a variety of difference wines at varying prices for any budget. You’re sure to find one that takes your fancy.
Flickr: Kuoni Travel
22 # Find the wild side in Flinders Chase National Park
This is the second time Flinders Chase National Park has been mentioned on this list. And for good reason. Along with hosting the remarkable rocks, the area is a place that highlights the exquisite beauty of nature. From unique wildlife to dramatic coastlines, this region has everything for those that find serenity or interest in natural beauty.
23 # Sandboard down huge dunes at Goolwa
The allure of Goolwa has been typified, in part, by the presence of immense sand dunes nestled between an ocean and a great Coorong. From 4WDing to Hiking, the sand dunes are used for a multitude of recreational activities. Recently though, the areas large sand dunes have been popularised as a great location for sandboarding.
Note: As it stands there is no place to higher specially designed sandboards. However, just about in flat object will serve its purpose fine as a makeshift sandboard.
Flickr: IIan W
24 # Hike to Alligator Gorge
If your keen on adventure or not afraid of a bit of strenuous exercise, then it will be well worth taking a drive down to the starting point of the Alligator Gorge walk. It isn’t particularly difficult, but it is secluded. So, bring your camping gear and be ready to find a campsite in the rugged Australian outback.
25 # Camp-out on a Beach on the Innes National Park
Innes National Park is iconic for its beautiful landscapes, lingering wildness in this urbanised world and, most importantly, its relatively secluded beaches. There is no better feeling than setting up camp on a secluded beach and watching the stars settle in for the night.
Note: Not all beaches can be camped on legally.
26 # Take a Risk and Dive for Abalone
Abalone is one of the most expensive seafood’s in the world. It can sell at around $60 per/kg. Here in South Australia, there are pockets in the ocean where these denizens of the sea live in abundance. So, why buy it when you can catch it yourself for free? Just be aware that this environment is also the favoured environment of Great White Sharks.
Where? Abalone can be found all along the waters of the Eyre Peninsula. It can be worthwhile consulting with local experts on the best place to dive, so you do not spend days aimlessly searching in areas that do not have a high population.
Flickr: Erny Chua
27 # Australia’s own Horseshoe Bend
America has the horseshoe bend. But, what about Australia? Well, as it turns out, so do we. It is not the exact proportions of its larger American relative, but is, by no means, not astounding. A short drive from Mannum along the Murray River will bring you to a point recognised as the highest point of the river and also where the river takes a snake-like course, curving and bending back on itself. Hence the name, ‘The Big Bend’.
Where to find it: The nearest town is Nildottie. When you reach this small town, your destination is reasonably easy to find – just follow the many sides.
Note: You will want to make sure you are on the correct side of the river, as it is a long drive back down the beaten trail to the nearest ferry to cross to the other side.
Featured Blog: Australia’s own Horseshoe Bend
28 # Swim with Dolphins at Second Valley
If you’re lucky, you will be able to swim with dolphins at second valley. There not always there, but I have found that they come in greater concentrations and in higher frequencies to this region.
Flickr: Wildquest Bimini
29 # Watch the annual Whale migration off the coast of Kangaroo Island
The months of May through to September mark the prime time to see Southern Wright Whales migrating off the coast of Kangaroo Island. If you charter one of the many whale watching businesses in the area, you are almost guaranteed to have a close encounter with a whale.
Flickr: Rod Brunker
30 # Hike the Deep Creek Conservation Park Trek
This will not be a leisurely stroll through the park. The Trek is quite extensive, with some being 13km long, up steep hills and through narrow valleys. While difficult, the area is incredibly beautiful. You will be welcomed by a great host of birds, mammals, reptiles and plants.
31 # Visit Lake Eyre
Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia and its largest lake. It remains resolute in a barren and dry landscape and stands as one of the few bodies of water in the visible land. It is quite a site to be had whilst standing on a desolate lake bed – during the dry season – with nothing but uninhibited horizon to be seen.
Did you know? If you come at the right time of year, the lake will be bone dry and will have taken on the form of a giant salt pan constituted of white crystals that glisten in the sunlight.
Flickr: Kevin Lebre
32 # Hike a dormant volcano near Mount Gambier
This is a two-for-one listing. You can spend the day climbing a dormant volcano – a rewarding activity on its own merit. Once at the top you can lounge around and admire the beauty of a lake that has filled the dormant volcano and turned a dark blue colour.
33 # Drop-a-line in the Murray Mouth
This listing is for those avid fishermen out there. Not everyone enjoys the activity, but for those of you that do, the Murray Mouth is rumoured to be a fishing hotspot. From bountiful schools of small fish to large Mulloway, there is a range of fish to challenge any fisherman.
Note: This location is only accessible by a car that can tackle large sand dunes.
34 # Admire the majesty of nature at Admirals Arch
Many of us can forget to embrace the power and majesty of nature. Sometimes we need to take a step back from the hustle-bustle of the 21st century and admire nature for these qualities. Admirals Arch can offer this experience. From the dramatic rock formations worn by millions of years of ocean waves to the large seal colony that calls these coastal waters home, it is easy to get back in touch with nature here.
Flickr: Ross Holmes
35 # Search for Koalas in a forest
Few Australian species rival the Koala as a symbol of the countries unique biodiversity. Unlike other species, such as the Emu and Echidna, Koalas can be found quite easily in several high-density pockets around South Australia. The Morialta conservation park is a renowned Koala habitat and you are bound to see multiple ones on any given day.
Flickr: Aliaa Almaliki
36 # Get lucky and spot a Penguin on historic Granite Island
Despite extensive conservation and breeding programs, there are now only 17 Little Penguins left on the island. Anthropogenic pressures and natural predation have devastated the population. If you’re lucky you might get to spot some penguins exiting the water at dawn after a night of fishing. Although if you’re not lucky enough, the island hosts a very pleasant walk that is well worth the visit alone.
37 # Don’t fall in at the Umpherston Sinkhole
It may sound like a daunting task to brave the rims of a sinkhole. However, in reality the sinkhole is extensive and placid. It even has a garden at its base. Few people upon first sight would likely describe it as such. Nonetheless, it is an incredible place to relax.
Flickr: Dirk HR Spennemann
38 # Swim with Sea Lions
Unlike their larger relatives the New Zealand Fur Seal, mentioned earlier in this article, Sea Lions are well known as playful, friendly and inquisitive creatures. They also do not have anywhere near the temperament of Fur Seals. Just be mindful that sharks do petrol these waters and realise that, should any trouble occur, the ramifications are entirely your own doing and not that of the inquisitive sharks!
Where to find them? Port Lincoln has several companies offering tours to a Sea Lion Colony and snorkelling gear. They even claim to offer a level of protection from sharks through their ‘shark deterrent’ technology and trained ‘water scanners’. They can take you out for the day at the cost of $195 for Adults and $135 for those under 16.
Flickr: Joost van Uffelen
39 # Don’t get lost in the Kelly Hill Conservation Park
The region plays host to an extensive cave system, which may be explored with a tour guide and is one of the main attractions of the Park. It may not sound particularly alluring, but the caves are quite spectacular and learning about the history of the caves from the experienced guide, informative.
Flickr: Graham Watson
40 # No visit would be complete without visiting the Giant Rocking Horse or the Giant Lobster
Is there anything more alluring than a lobster and a rocking horse of epic proportions. Apparently not. And so, someone built these exact things – this is sarcasm should that not have been obvious. I can’t really speak to the travel value of these two icons, but they are something to consider visiting if you find yourself in the vicinity.
Flickr: Bruna Ragaini
(Bonus) # 41 Camp under the stars in the Simpson Desert
Since the last ‘thing’ wasn’t all that awe-inspiring, I thought I would give a bonus suggestion. Camping under the stars is always a great experience and doing so in the Simpson Desert is just as memorable. But, doing so after a day of exploring his vast and red desert will make the whole experience that much grander.
Flickr: Toni Moran
Note: I’ve been to all these places, but many were before my time as a photographer. All photographs that have been taken by someone else have the names of the owners listed underneath. Show some love to these talented photographers 🙂