Things to Do in South Australia
With its unmistakably Aussie name, it’s little surprise that Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to spot native Australian wildlife. Australia's third-largest island, this unspoiled haven is a trove of natural wonders, from red rock cliffs to sandy beaches, sweeping dunes, and wild bushlands.
One of the world’s most scenic arenas, the Adelaide Oval dates back to 1871. Best known for cricket, the defining sport of British colonies, it also hosts concerts, rugby, Australian rules football, and more. Besides a cafe, fine dining restaurant, and corporate events spaces, it offers a museum devoted to cricket legend Donald Bradman.
In the world of wine, the Adelaide region is known for producing some of Australia’s best vintages. Such is the case at Wirra Wirra Vineyards, where talented winemakers have mastered the craft since 1894, enticing visitors from around the globe to sip on the fruits of their labor. One of South Australia's most iconic wineries, Wirra Wirra Vineyards is known for quirky, eccentric environment and affable, fun-loving staff, as well as for its fine Shiraz wines and array of reds and whites.
Take a part in a Wirra Wirra wines master class to learn the technique behind the award-winning wines of the world-renowned McClaren Vale region, and to explore the vineyard, tour the winery, and sample some of Wirra Wirra winery's best. To get in the celebratory spirit without imbibing, visitors can ring the winery's nearly one-ton church bell, the Angelus Bell, which is used during special occasions and also completely at random.
On the southwestern tip of Kangaroo Island, Admirals Arch offers one of the island’s most photo-worthy views. Framed by the jagged arch of an ancient cave—carved out of the sea cliffs by centuries of pummelling surf—the vast swathes of blue ocean and cloud-free skies are even more magical at sunset.
Everyone knows that the Australian mainland has swaths of wide-open desert, but it’s the southern coast of Kangaroo Island that has the most impressive system of sand dunes. Here, in the area known as “Little Sahara,” wind-sculpted dunes and shifting white ridgelines stretch out for a full square mile, with the tallest dunes rising to over 250 feet above the nearby ocean.
For as naturally gorgeous as they appear, however, the real fun in Little Sahara is in climbing the dunes, taking in the view, and then flying down the soft white slopes while strapped to a sandboard or toboggan. Much like snowboarding or riding a sled, sandboarding provides an adrenaline rush without the icy hard landing, and you can make tracks down the side of a dune in only your bathing suit or board shorts. Sandboards, however, aren’t the only tracks that you’ll find imprinted on the dunes, as early morning visitors will often find wildlife has left behind footprints in the night. Since the sea of sand dunes is devoid of shade and the sun can be scorching in summer, it’s only a short drive to Vivonne Bay and its famously turquoise waters. Not only can you cool down at one of Australia’s nicest beaches after a visit to Little Sahara—but also wash off all of the sand from high-speed tumbles in the dunes.
Kangaroos aren’t the only Aussie creatures that call Kangaroo Island home—you’ll also find one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world here. Seal Bay Conservation Park is dedicated to protecting and preserving the endangered animals, and gives you the chance to admire wild sea lions in their natural environment.
The iconic Aussie kangaroo might be the star sighting for those visiting Kangaroo Island, but the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is home to many more native Australian creatures. Over 600 animals and 150 different species inhabit the 10-acre (4-hectare) park, including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, cassowaries, and little penguins, most of which came to the park as part of their rescue and rehabilitation work.
As well as guaranteed sightings of koalas and kangaroos, visitors to the wildlife park can learn about the cassowary breeding program, see the penguins swimming and playing, and watch the penguins, pelicans, and wombats being fed by zookeepers.
On the south coast of Kangaroo Island, the Remarkable Rocks are one of the island’s most photographed landmarks. A geological wonder dating back some 500 million years, the series of gigantic sea-weathered granite rocks-- perched on the clifftops against a backdrop of the Southern Ocean-- make for a dramatic sight.
Despite its name, Mt. Lofty is far from lofty, standing just 2,385 feet (727 meters) high in the Mt. Lofty Ranges, part of the Adelaide Hills. The summit offers views across Adelaide and the ocean, with a café, an information center and shop, and hiking trail access. Mt. Lofty Botanic Garden and Cleland Wildlife Park are on its slopes.
With wind-sculpted coastal cliffs, remote bushland trails, historic lighthouses, and woodlands teeming with wildlife, Flinders Chase National Park is one of Australia’s most diverse wildernesses. Blanketing the western tip of Kangaroo Island, the park is ideal for hiking, animal-spotting, and outdoor activities.
More Things to Do in South Australia
Cape du Couedic
Lighthouses hold a romantic allure that regular buildings can’t muster, and the blinking light on the cliffs of Cape du Couedic is about as romantic as lighthouses come. Squired away on the southwestern cape of rugged Kangaroo Island, this light was commissioned after two passing ships met their ultimate doom on the rocks.
When visiting the windswept Cape du Couedic, you’re likely to be sharing the wave-battered rocks with colonies of wriggling fur seals. The Cape is part of the Flinders Chase National Park that occupies the western tip of the island, where shipwrecks, seals, and the sound of silence form the coastlines history and future. It’s only a short drive to Admiral Arch and the rock formations along the coast, and oceanfront boardwalks invite a relaxing stroll along the cliffs of the salt-battered coast.
Grand 19th-century architecture laid out on a classically elegant street plan fringed with green parkland makes Adelaide perhaps Australia’s most beautiful city center—and North Terrace is at the heart of it. From galleries and museums to the state parliament, state library, and Adelaide University, the landmarks are all here.
Tucked away in the Adelaide Hills, the tree-lined lanes and historic taverns of Hahndorf have a distinctly Bavarian feel; so much so that the village has dubbed itself “Australia’s oldest German town.” Founded by German settlers in the early 19th century, Hahndorf displays its heritage in its culture, architecture, and cuisine.
Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery
The first Aboriginals to walk Australia’s forests discovered the power of eucalyptus oils. In addition to its trademark, earthy aroma, the oils contained in the eucalyptus leaves can naturally bolster health. Once the Australian continent was settled, eucalyptus oil became the nation’s first export and the global source of the product. Today, however, diluted sources from other nations dominate the global market, and the original eucalyptus oil industry has seen a steady decline into obscurity.
Here on Kangaroo Island, however, South Australia’s only eucalyptus distillers still operate out in the bush. With rusting relics scattered about the property and an eccentric taste of the outback, the family-run Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Oil Distillery still churns out the sweet-smelling elixir. Learn the ways that the oil is extracted from the narrow mallee leaves, and the healing benefits the oils can have for aiding wounds or illnesses. Group tours and self-guided tours help visitors experience the property, and in addition to the enchanting historical feel, there is a small bar attached to the farm where you can sample the locally made spirits.
Adelaide Zoo is home to almost 2,500 animals, with around 250 different species from all around the world. Along with Aussie favorites like kangaroos, koalas, and Tasmanian devils, the zoo is famous for its pair of Giant Pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, the only animals of their kind in Australia.
One of the oldest buildings in South Australia, Adelaide Gaol is remarkable for its architecture, its history, and—allegedly—its ghosts. During its years of operation, 1841–1988, the jail housed over 300,000 prisoners, 45 of whom were executed on-site. Today it offers an interactive exhibition, a range of food options, and a shop.
As the island’s largest town and main commercial hub, Kingscote is the gateway to Kangaroo Island and the starting point for many island tours and day trips. Perched on the northeast coast, it’s a lively town with a rich history—founded in 1836, Kingscote was the first European settlement in South Australia and the original state capital.
Clifford’s Honey Farm
Kangaroo Island is known for its wildlife, but honeybees usually aren’t part of it. At the fascinating Clifford’s Honey Farm, however, hives of pure blood Ligurian bees create a strain of honey that is so tantalizingly sweet it has becomes a staple of Kangaroo Island. Sample honey that has been carefully collected from the world’s only purebred Ligurians, and savor the famous honey ice cream that draws visitors from the mainland and beyond.
More than just pleasing to the taste buds, however, a visit to the farm provides an intriguing insight to the complex social structure of bees. Learn the way they interact in the hive and the intricacies of the honeybee hierarchy, and watch as honey is collected from hives and bottled for visitor’s enjoyment. And while it might not have the same level of “wilderness” as the rest of Kangaroo Island, the swarms at Clifford’s Honey Farm might become your favorite animals of the trip.
St. Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide
Occasionally overshadowed by neighboring Adelaide Oval, the Gothic Revival spires of St. Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide are an architectural landmark. The leading place of worship for the city’s Anglican community, it was built between 1869 and 1911 from local sandstone. English craftsmen contributed much of the stained glass.
Adelaide Central Market
With a history dating back more than 150 years, Adelaide Central Market has long been at the center of Adelaide’s foodie scene. It remains one of Australia’s largest covered food markets, with about 80 stalls stacked with fresh, seasonal produce.
Like the beloved dome of Grand Central Terminal, words whispered at one end of this historic reservoir wall can still be heard crystal clear by listeners stationed at the other end—some 100 meters away. This surprising fact is what gave the famous Whispering Wall its name, and what drives thousands of tourists to this popular site each year.
Travelers can take in the beauty of the Barossa Reservoir, which was created in the early 1900s, while they test the much-storied wonder of this wall that allows quiet whispers to be heard from far away. Picnic areas, public toilets and shade tree areas make an ideal setting for a quiet afternoon in nature.
Mengler Hill Lookout
One of the most popular scenic overlooks in the Barossa Valley, visitors to Mengler Hill Lookout can take in bird's-eye views of the region’s expansive vineyards and rolling hills. The nearby sculpture park, which sits at the foot of Mengler Hill (formerly known as Mengler's Hill), offers travelers a whimsical, playful look at the works of nine artists who visited the area in 1988. Visitors say this picturesque peak is the perfect place for snapping scenic photos or escaping into the quiet and quaint rural countryside on a trip to Barossa.
Central Adelaide’s most important square, Victoria Square is known to the Kaurna people as “tarntanyangga” (red kangaroo dreaming). A special-events space and popular lunch spot for local workers, it’s home to statues, lawns, gum trees, and the 1960s Three Rivers Fountain. Nearby landmarks include St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
Penfolds Barossa Valley Cellar Door
Since 1844, Penfolds Barossa Valley winery has been offering travelers access to a wide variety of wines, luscious tastings and idyllic vineyard views. And while strong pours of favorite vintages are a treat for visitors, it’s the Make Your Own Blend Tour that gives Penfolds Barossa Valley Cellar Door the air of something new. After touring the grounds and exploring the Cellar Door, travelers enter the winemakers’ laboratory and use popular grapes, like Grenache and Shiraz, to blend their own wines to bottle and take home.
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