I get it, I really do! There are so many amazing things to see and do in Australia that it’s hard to decide what makes it on the itinerary and what doesn’t. Let me make those itinerary decisions even more difficult by telling you all the reasons SA SHOULD be on your Australian itinerary.
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
- Why Visit South Australia?
- Adelaide is one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World
- There are Unique Experiences Found Nowhere Else
- Come to Enjoy Mad March
- Adelaide is a UNESCO City of Music
- So Much is Accessible from Adelaide
- The Best Beaches and Coastline
- See all your Favourite Wildlife
- Learn about Australia’s Megafauna
- South Australia is Cheaper than the Eastern States
- Visit Iconic Buildings
- Adelaide’s Progressive Past
- There’s a Great Food and Bar Scene
- You Will Earn Bragging Rights
Why Visit South Australia?
Many times South Australia is skimmed over as too far away with not much to see. Visitors come to Australia to go to Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Uluru, and at a stretch, Perth.
And I don’t blame them, because all those places are awesome with some pretty amazing things to do and see – I love visiting them myself.
Or perhaps SA has not even appeared on your radar? Or it did and was immediately dismissed as being of little interest. How wrong that is, but you are forgiven if that was your initial thought.
In fact, when I travel internationally, I often have to explain where South Australia is, that it is a state not just a region of Australia and there it really is worth the time to come here.
But South Australia is starting to make its mark on the world stage. This year, Kangaroo Island was included at number seven on the NY Times list of “52 Places to Travel in 2023“, and it has now been included as one of the top regions to visit in 2024 by Lonely Planet.
Botanic Restaurant has been named as the best restaurant in Australia, and Port Lincoln is one of the friendliest places in the country
If you still need convincing, take a look at all these reasons why you should visit South Australia.
Adelaide is one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World
There are only ten other cities in the world given this accolade, so it is a pretty special one. Adelaide is up there with the likes of Bordeaux, Verona, Porto and San Francisco (Napa Valley) in the eyes of the wine experts, and who are we to argue!
South Australia has 18 official wine regions (but you can find wine in other areas too) and many of them are easily accessible on a day trip from Adelaide.
If you want to venture further afield, try the Clare Valley for Riesling, the Coonawarra for Cabernet Sauvignon, or Langhorne Creek and the Riverland for something a bit different. There is a style of wine here somewhere for everyone.
There are Unique Experiences Found Nowhere Else
Where else in the world can you swim with giant cuttlefish? Sleep in an underground hotel? Drink wine from the oldest Shiraz vines? Eat a pie floater?
These are just some of the unique experiences you can have only in South Australia. There are plenty more too if you look a little deeper.
While not quite unique, shark cage diving can only be done in three places in the world, and Port Lincoln right here in South Australia is one of those places.
Come to Enjoy Mad March
Late February, and into March are an amazing time to visit Adelaide.
It’s not called the Festival City for nothing, and this time of year is when many of the festivals happen (although there are plenty throughout the rest of the year too) so the locals affectionately call this time “Mad March”
The most well-known festival is the Adelaide Fringe, the largest arts festival in the southern hemisphere and second only to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. There are thousands of artists and hundreds of events all over the state.
At the same time the Adelaide Festival occurs (a more formal sort of arts festival) and Womadelaide too (three-day international music festival).
There’s the Adelaide Cup (horse racing), the Barossa Vintage Festival and dozens of other smaller festivals around the place. Look out for Wonderwalls (street art), Grapes of Mirth (wine & comedy), Castaway (music) and Adelaide Writer’s Week (books).
Adelaide is a UNESCO City of Music
Given the honour in 2015, Adelaide has been recognised by UNESCO as having a special connection to music. It is the only city in Australia to be given the accolade and is rightly proud of its musical heritage.
The music scene is diverse and vibrant, with almost all music genres present somewhere in the city.
It is well known for being the starting point for some iconic artists, such as bands Cold Chisel, The Angels and The Hilltop Hoods, and artists Sia and Guy Sebastian.
To commemorate the UNESCO listing, some of the city laneways have been renamed. Lookout for Cold Chisel Lane and Sia Furler Lane to start with.
Some of the street art has been done to commemorate not just South Australian artists, but some big international stars too. See if you can find Freddy Mercury, David Bowie and Sia.
So Much is Accessible from Adelaide
Adelaide is sometimes referred to as the 20-minute city. It was often used in a derogatory way meaning after that, there’s nothing else to see in the state. But now it is more of a good thing.
While twenty minutes might be stretching it a little, if you travel an hour from the centre of Adelaide you can easily be enjoying the beach (almost all 70km of it), the wine regions, the picturesque Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Just a little further and you are in the Clare Valley, can visit Monarto Safari Park, get to Kangaroo Island, go surfing at Middleton, be on a Murray River paddleboat or explore the historic Copper Coast.
Adelaide is also one of the closest cities to “the outback”. In a little over four hours you can be enjoying the red dirt, the big open skies, the incredible views (and the flies!) of the Australian outback.
Getting around Adelaide is simple too. As a planned city, it has wide streets and a great grid network. This lack of traffic snarls also helps to contribute to that 20-minute city label, in a good way.
The Best Beaches and Coastline
South Australia has over 2,500 km of stunning coastline, with beaches ranging from secluded coves to bustling surf beaches. Visitors can swim, surf, fish, or simply relax on the sand and soak up the sun.
Adelaide itself has over 70km of beaches, right from North Haven to Aldinga. Being on the St Vincent Gulf, with Kangaroo Island blocking some of the entry, the waters here are calm and great for swimming.
The beaches are often very shallow, making them perfect for kids playing in the waves too.
Some of the best beaches though are more remote. Stokes Bay, on Kangaroo Island, has just been named the best beach in Australia for 2023, which is a pretty big call since we have some amazing beaches here.
Just go to any beach on the Eyre Peninsula and enjoy the white sand, the pristine water and the lack of crowds.
Robe on the Limestone Coast is a popular area for summer holidays, and Middleton on the Fleurieu Peninsula is popular with surfers. For a truly iconic surf beach head to Cactus Beach, near the remote town of Penong to the west of Ceduna.
For breathtaking coastal views, do the scenic drive along Whaler’s Way. This can be found at the foot of Eyre Peninsula, just outside Port Lincoln.
See all your Favourite Wildlife
If it’s wildlife you want to see, South Australia has an abundance of it. If you leave the city, or even on the outskirts of it, you will come across plenty of the local favourites, kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and emus.
If you want a guaranteed sighting of these Aussie animals and more, then there are plenty of wildlife parks all over the state, with a few of them easily accessible from Adelaide.
If there was one place in the state to see a lot of wildlife in the wild, I would recommend a visit to Kangaroo Island, where you can spot kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, echidna, goannas, and the elusive platypus.
There are also seals, sea lions, dolphins and penguins, and plenty of birds like the Cape Barren Goose and the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black Cockatoo.
If it’s non-native species you are after, SA has plenty of them too.
It will include a hotel and glamping facilities, so waking up watching animals grazing around the waterhole will be possible right here.
Learn about Australia’s Megafauna
The Australian megafauna are not quite dinosaurs, but they are only around today in their fossil forms. Most of them became extinct about 40000 years ago, and there is evidence that the early Aboriginal people hunted these animals.
Learn all about these creatures at the UNESCO-listed Naracoorte Caves, where the best bone deposits have been found.
The megafauna tends to look like large and slightly macabre versions of today’s cuter animals, such as wombats and kangaroos. See full-sized models, as well as skeletons, and a moving diorama of the creatures too.
Go down into the caves where the bone pits were found and the excavations are still going on.
South Australia is Cheaper than the Eastern States
We all know Australia is on the more expensive side in general, but if you are comparing states, it is cheaper to travel in South Australia than in the other states.
You will find accommodation, restaurants and tours slightly more affordable here, and every dollar counts right?
Visit Iconic Buildings
Sydney may have the Opera House, but have you seen Adelaide’s Festival Centre? It’s another eye-catching performing arts venue nestled on the banks of the Torrens River. Catch a performance, or just visit to enjoy a drink and the views of the river.
Across the Torrens, you will find Adelaide Oval, considered one of the best cricket grounds in the world. It was always praised for its beautiful surroundings, the hallowed turf being Don Bradman’s home ground for much of his career.
A redevelopment finished in 2014 has turned the oval into a world-class sporting venue, known for its cauldron-like noise from the passionate supporters during the AFL season.
You can also see rugby and soccer played here, and it’s the home of the big stadium music concerts in SA too.
Adelaide Town Hall had its moment of fame on 12th June 1964, when four young lads from Liverpool stood on the balcony.
A crowd of over 350 000 people gathered along King William Street to catch a glimpse of The Beatles, the largest crowd they attracted anywhere in the world.
Adelaide’s Progressive Past
South Australia is a little different to the other states when it comes to our history. It was the only state that was not founded by convicts. Every European settler who came here was free, and there is a strong German heritage to show for it.
Another of Adelaide’s many monikers is the City of Churches.
It’s not because there are lots of churches (although there are) it is because even from those first days, there was freedom of religion, so churches, temples, synagogues and all sorts of other places of worship popped up, often side by side.
It didn’t stop there though, the Colony of South Australia (before Australia existed as a country) was the second place in the world where women were granted the right to vote.
At the same time, they were also granted the right to stand for parliament, making it the first place anywhere where women and men had equal political rights.
Next was South Australia becoming the first state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1975, and just this year (2023) South Australia is the first Australian state to introduce an Indigenous voice to parliament.
Learn about all these things at the Centre of Democracy
There’s a Great Food and Bar Scene
I mentioned earlier that Botanic Restaurant has been named the best in Australia, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of South Australia’s food offerings.
With so much fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood produced right near the city, the local menus are innovative and delicious.
Look out for local wagyu beef from Mayura Station, Coffin Bay oysters, and the Flinders Feral Food (at the Prairie Hotel).
Adelaide has great laneways in the city with interesting bars and popular restaurants. Try the Pink Moon Saloon, Casablabla, Bread & Bone or the Lady Burra Brewhouse.
Pick up some of the great produce yourself at the Adelaide Central Market and put together a delicious picnic – or just eat the freshest food at one of the many stalls in the markets.
As well as all the wine, there are plenty of craft breweries and distilleries all over SA too.
You Will Earn Bragging Rights
Imagine going home and being able to tell everyone you know about this awesome, off-the-beaten-path location that you have now been to but none of them have.
It’s kinda like being able to say you’ve been to Antarctica, or Madagascar, or Timbuktu (okay, maybe not, but you get the idea).
Since most visitors to Australia skip right over SA, you will become the intrepid traveller who didn’t miss out on this gem and can brag about exactly that to everyone you know.
So is South Australia worth visiting? You betcha it is!
Have I convinced you? Will you be including SA on your Australian itinerary?
If so, some of these posts may come in handy
Adelaide 3-Day Itinerary
The Ultimate South Australia Itinerary
Fifteen Places to Visit in South Australia
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