So many of the popular holiday destinations in South Australia revolve around the water, with our fantastic beaches and the Murray River. While they are all perfect to visit during summer, in the cooler months they are not quite so attractive. There are some places to visit and things to do that are at their best in the colder months of the year though. Here is the list of all the best places to visit in South Australia in winter.
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- 1 Best Places to Visit in South Australia in Winter
- 2 Things to do in South Australia in Winter
- 2.1 Visit the Wine Regions
- 2.2 Stay Underground at Coober Pedy
- 2.3 Explore the Flinders Ranges
- 2.4 Go Whale Watching at Head of the Bight
- 2.5 Staycation in Adelaide
- 2.6 Ride the Steam Trains
- 2.7 Hunt for Ghost Mushrooms in Mount Gambier
- 2.8 Swim with Giant Cuttlefish near Whyalla
- 2.9 See the Beauty of Lake Eyre
- 2.10 Embrace the Cold with a Winter Festival
Best Places to Visit in South Australia in Winter
The winter South Australia weather tends to be relatively mild. It is usually between 10 and 20 degrees Celcius, with cooler temperatures in the south of the state, on Kangaroo Island and in the hills, and warmer temperatures in the north. Don’t be fooled by warmer days in the north though, it is likely the nights could still go below zero. There will probably be some rainy days, but snow would be very unlikely. If it does snow it will only be a dusting in the hills – and all the South Australian locals will be out looking at it.
Things to do in South Australia in Winter
No matter where you choose to go in South Australia in winter, it’s the best time for beautiful sunrises and sunsets, so take the time to enjoy them on your travels. The best part, the shorter days mean you don’t even have to get up so early to see the sun come up.
Visit the Wine Regions
There is nothing better than a relaxed tasting of some amazing full-bodied red wines while sitting around a warm and toasty open fire in any one of the cellar doors. While the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills are popular, with eighteen wine regions in South Australia, there are plenty of different locations to choose from. Perhaps choose one of the lesser known regions to explore this winter, like Padthaway, the Southern Flinders Ranges or Kangaroo Island. Look out too for wineries in other locations – there are three around Port Lincoln, for example, that are not officially in a wine region.
Stay Underground at Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy might just be the warmest place in South Australia in winter – even though it is much cooler than it is in summer. The whole reason Coober Pedy is almost entirely underground is due to the intense summer heat, so it makes sense to visit during the winter. Seeing the sites in the area is a much more bearable when it’s not insanely hot. The temperatures underground are a nice 23 degrees day and night all year round, and outside in winter it is a much more palatable 18 degrees compared to temperatures well into the 40s in summer. Activities such as trying your hand at opal mining are so much more appealing in winter. The winter can also provide amazing sunrises and sunsets over some of the attractions such as The Breakaways, making them even more breathtaking.
Explore the Flinders Ranges
There are dozens of different activities to do in the Flinders Ranges during winter, and again, to escape the summer heat, this is the best time to visit. It’s possible to do some of the longer hikes in the area that are not open in the summer or tick off those last few legs on the Heysen Trail. Visit the acclaimed Prairie Hotel at Parachilna and eat their feral food during their winter opening times (they are closed in summer). Take a tour through the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, or visit the town of Blinman and learn about the mining history of the area. View Wilpena Pound from the air with a scenic flight. Do a station stay to appreciate daily life in the area, or go glamping in the safari tents at Wilpena Pound Resort for a spot of luxury.
Go Whale Watching at Head of the Bight
Winter is when the whales appear in the waters of the Great Australian Bight. Every year, hundreds of Southern Right Whales come to this area to give birth. They can be seen from around May through to October. At Head of the Bight is is not uncommon to see up to 70 whales playing in the seas below the cliffs. The best time to come to see the calves is August and September, but the adult whales will be around for the whole time.
While the best whale watching is at Head of the Bight and it really is worth the trip, if you can’t get there, then check out these other places in South Australia where you can see the whales.
Staycation in Adelaide
Winter is a great time to book a cozy hotel room and play tourist in the city. Spend your days exploring the galleries and museums, doing a spot of shopping and warming up in the great cafes. Relive your childhood with a visit to Adelaide Zoo and take a ride on Popeye. In the evenings check out the laneway bars and restaurants. Time your stay for when there is a football game on at Adelaide Oval and go along for the show. To really do it in style, consider watching from the top of the Southern Stand with an Adelaide Oval Roof Climb. Make sure you visit the Winter Village at the Torrens Parade ground to enjoy a magical winter wonderland.
Read about more things to do in Adelaide here
Ride the Steam Trains
There are a few options to ride steam trains in South Australia, but they generally only run during winter due to the risks they pose during our bushfire season over summer. Head to Quorn in the Southern Flinders Ranges to ride the Pichi Richi Railway, or down to Victor Harbor for the Cockle Train. The Steamranger also offers various services from Mount Barker including special dinner services or wine trains.
Hunt for Ghost Mushrooms in Mount Gambier
This is possibly my favourite of the winter holidays in South Australia. In May and June each year Ghost Mushroom (Omphalotus nidiformis) emerge all through the pine forests in the South East. These glow-in-the-dark mushrooms are an incredible phenomena and worth the drive to see them. Just outside of Mount Gambier there is a particular area that has a good concentration, and has been set up as a location to view them. It’s called Ghost Mushroom Lane, and the best place to get information about it is to visit the tourist information centre in town. They will be able to tell you if the mushrooms are doing their thing and give you all the directions to find them.
Read about more things to do in Mount Gambier here
Swim with Giant Cuttlefish near Whyalla
Getting in the water in a South Australia winter may not be too appealing but this is the only time you can have this amazing experience. Between May and August the Giant Cuttlefish come into the area around Stony Point on Eyre Peninsula to breed. Once you have donned your super thick winter wetsuit, you can simply wade into the water and by the time you are waist deep the cuttlefish will be all around you. Don’t have a wetsuit? See the dive shops, such as Whyalla Diving Services to hire everything you need.
Read more about things to do in Whyalla here
See the Beauty of Lake Eyre
South Australia is home to the largest lake in Australia, but for much of the time Lake Eyre is an expanse of salt. The best time to visit it is during once of the floods that happens every few years, and the most common time for that to happen is towards the end of winter in South Australia. Of course even if you are not visiting at the time of a flood, a winter visit will be most comfortable to avoid the intense heat of summer. While it is possible to visit Lake Eyre by car, by far the best way to experience the beauty and expanse of the lake is to take a scenic flight over it. Flights leave from Maree, William Creek or even Coober Pedy.
Embrace the Cold with a Winter Festival
Each year there seems to be more and more winter festivals popping up around South Australia – it’s not called the Festival State for nothing!
Some of the best things to do in winter are the alpine villages that pop up, mimicking winter in Europe and embracing the cold. Think igloo villages and ice skating rinks and, sheepskin rugs and mulled wine, snow machines and “Christmas” markets. Each year there are a few different ones – this is where you will find them this year:
- The Winter Village: Torrens Parade Grounds, Adelaide, 14th May – 5th September 2021
- Alpine Winter Festival: Mosely Square, Glenelg, 25th June – 4th July
Another festival in 2021 is Illuminate Adelaide, from 16th July -1st August. Over a two week period there will be many events using light, art and technology. Take a look at the free City Lights installations throughout the city or attend one of the paid events like Light Creatures at the Adelaide Zoo or Van Gogh Alive.
Is it raining in Adelaide? Here are some things to do when it’s wet
What to do in Adelaide in the Rain
Visiting more great South Australian locations? These posts might help
Adelaide 3 Day Itinerary
Best Places for South Australia Whale Watching
Glamping South Australia – The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Style
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.