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South Australian Travel & Vacations Guide

orange bulletSouth Australia Highlights

bullet wideAdelaide - capital city and its famous festival
bullet wideBarossa Valley & the vineyards - a premier wine region
bullet wideKangaroo Island  - some of the best Australian wildlife
bullet wideFlinders Ranges - sightseeing and walking trails
bullet wideMurray River - paddlewheel steamers and historic towns
bullet wideSouth East - crater lakes, lobsters and fine red wines
bullet wideEyre Peninsula - rugged coastlines
bullet wideFar North and The Outback - enter Australia's red centre

 orange bulletSouth Australia At A Glance

The state capital is Adelaide... current population 1.2 million. South Australia has the largest proportion of dry desert regions of all the Australian states. Look at a map of South Australia and the word "desert" is very easy to find. Great Victoria Desert, Simpson Desert, Sturt Stony Desert and Nullabor Plain (ie desert) dominate the geography of this state.

The state is also synonymous with dry salt lakes throughout the inland areas and ragged coastlines plunging to the sea. South Australia is also home to the Barossa Valley, the origin of some of Australia's best known wines. The state hosts a world renowned Art Festival and has fleets of paddlewheel steamers that cruise the lower reaches of the Murray River.

The naturalist haven at Kangaroo Island is a popular attraction and there is excellent hiking and bush walking in the Flinders Ranges to the north of Adelaide. The ocean off the southern coast provides excellent seafood and many of the coastal villages are home to an assortment of fishing fleets. The majority of the population and business activity is located in the south east corner of the state on the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas which sit on either side of Spencer Gulf. There are several small mining centres in the more remote inland areas.

South Australia boasts one of the few remaining classic train trips. "The Ghan" runs north-south between Adelaide and Darwin in the Northern Territory. The name was taken from the word "Afghan" in recognition of the early camel train drivers who established many of the inland routes in Australia.

While not the biggest of the states, South Australia is nevertheless still very big and a journey of a couple of hundred kilometres is considered a short trip. In terms of distance, the state is approximately 1350 kilometres (845 miles) north-south and 1200 kilometres (750 miles) east-west. Those are straight line map distances, actual road distances are considerably further.

orange bulletWhat Will I Be Able To Do?

South Australia offers visitors a wonderful selection of things to do and places to see. From the rugged cliffs overlooking the Great Australian Bight, through the world famous vineyards of the Barossa Valley, across the unique Flinders Ranges and on into Australia's red centre... that's just a part of the diversity this state offers.

Renowned for its festivals, gourmet trails and wine routes, South Australia is also the place where adrenalin junkies can dive with sharks and where the armchair traveller can ride the Ghan across the red centre into Darwin. Take a cruise on the Murray River in a stately paddle wheel steamer and visit the sites of some of Australia's early history. Take the ferry to Kangaroo Island and spend some time face to face with the wildlife.

Here are just some of the things to do in South Australia. Book your adventures from the ExperienceOZ ad block in the left column.

  • Cruising & sailing
  • Great Adelaide restaurants
  • Wildlife on Kangaroo Island
  • Scuba diving and snorkelling
  • Day Tours & historic sites
  • The National Park trails
  • Off-shore sport fishing
  • Whale watching tours
  • Gourmet trails & vineyards
  • Sea kayaking and canoeing
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • River Cruises
  • Houseboats on the Murray
  • 4WD outback safaris
  • Eco tours in the tall timber forests
  • Hang gliding, parasailing & skydiving
  • Horse riding
  • Farm holidays
  • Gem fossicking on the opal fields
  • Cold beer in a historic pub

orange bulletWhat Are My Accommodation Options?

The majority of South Australian accommodation is traditional hotels and a small number of self contained apartments in and around Adelaide and the surrounding areas. South Australia has an excellent range of bed and breakfast establishments, most of which are located in the tourist hot-spots such as the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills.

The majority of rural centres offer motel and motor inn style accommodation. If your plans coincide with school holiday periods, make sure you have confirmed bookings for travel and accommodation arrangements. The same advice applies to major events such as the Adelaide Festival.

orange bulletHow Do I Get Around?

There is no shortage of flights to all of the regional towns and bus services also run the major highways through to Darwin in the north, Perth in the west and east to the cities on the eastern seaboard. There is only one route to the north and one to the west but several routes are available to the east.

A network of sealed roads cover the state's major centres and the southern and south-east corner of the state, but off the major routes, expect unsurfaced roads. Train services are the Indian Pacific service that links west to Perth and east to Sydney, The Ghan that operates to Alice Springs and Darwin and the Overland operating to Melbourne. Adelaide has a metropolitan commuter train and bus service.

All major car rental companies are represented in the major cities and towns throughout the state. If you are flying in at Adelaide to start your SA visit, consider picking up a rental car at the airport and save on transfer costs.

Australian camper hire, as well as 4WD rentals for off-road touring, are a great way to see the best of South Australia. Rentals are available only from Adelaide and advance bookings are essential. Tour operators provide itineraries that cover all popular sites.

Driver information and maps are available from offices of the Royal Automobile Club of SA (RAA) which has offices throughout the state.

Some typical road distances are:

  • Adelaide to Melbourne = 732km (457 miles)
  • Adelaide to Sydney = 1420km (888 miles)
  • Adelaide to Perth = 2720km (1700 miles)
  • Adelaide to Alice Springs = 1538km (961 miles)
  • Adelaide to Darwin = 3040km (1900 miles)
  • Adelaide to Mt Gambier = 454km (283 miles)
  • Adelaide to Port Augusta = 320km (200 miles)

orange bulletWhen Is The Best Time?

South Australia is a year-round destination that experiences high summer temperatures over much of the inland areas. Any travel in those areas at the height of summer should be done with all due care, in a roadworthy vehicle, well stocked with emergency spares and equipment.

Carry additional drinking water, plenty of 15+ sunscreen and protective clothing. (Refer to the Australian travel tips section) Pay particular attention to the welfare of any small children in your party. Consider using any of the several tour operators to get to the sights off the beaten track if your personal comforts are an integral part of an enjoyable travel experience.

The state experiences climate variations ranging from coastal Mediterranean to desert extremes. Winter is June - August and temperatures along a narrow coastal strip range from around 6°C min. to 15°C max. Away from the coastal influence, the inland regions experience minimums around 4°C rising to 20°C maximums.

Summer is December - February and temperatures along a narrow coastal strip range from around 15°C min. to 27°C max. Temperatures in the central desert areas can be extreme with summer maximums typically upwards of 40-45°C. The southern areas of the state experience winter rains. The further removed from the coast, the less the rainfall and that which does fall is not necessarily seasonal.