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10 Self-Drive Day Trips from Adelaide

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Are you visiting Adelaide, have access to a car, but want to explore a little further? Here are some great self-drive day trips from Adelaide.

As a country girl living in the city, I love nothing more than getting in the car and exploring the areas slightly further afield. Adelaide has so many great areas just an hour or two away from the city that a perfect for a day trip to explore.

You can head to the wine regions, explore small towns or hit the beaches. Here are some of my favourite suggestions for your own self-drive day trip from Adelaide.

Feature image photo credit: Olivia Reynolds, Steingarten, Rowland Flat, Barossa


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Barossa Valley

Two men and two women standing at a bench with glasses of red wine in their hands. On the bench is a variety of wine bottles and more wine glasses. Another man is on the other side of the bench showing them the wine in his glass.
Photo credit: John Montesi, St Hugo, Barossa

Getting in the car and heading off to the Barossa Valley is always top of my list, mostly because of where I live in the city – it’s very easy to access. It’s simple from the city centre too. Get onto the South Road Expressway, and just keep driving north.

In about 45-60 minutes you will be in the heart of the Barossa, and can spend the day exploring.

You will likely want to stop into a cellar door or two, and with over 80 in the area, there are plenty to choose from. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but some of my favourites are Pindarie, Seppeltsfield and Yalumba.

Of course wine tasting is popular here, but there are plenty of other things to do here that don’t include wine. I recommend a visit to the Whispering Wall if you haven’t been before, or some kayaking on the Barossa Reservoir.

McLaren Vale

A large black and white cube-like building with red umbrellas on top of it. It sits amongst grape vines with autumn leaves.
Photo credit: d’Arenberg, d’Arenberg Cube, Fleurieu Peninsula

Instead of going north to the Barossa, you can instead drive south and visit another wine region, McLaren Vale.

Start your adventure at the d’Arenberg Cube, a unique building that looks like a puzzle piece. It’s a winery where you can taste some great local wines. It’s also a gallery and has two restaurants, and is my pick for a McLaren Vale must!

As you drive through McLaren Vale, you’ll see plenty of beautiful vineyards. You can stop at a few for wine tasting – the region is especially known for its delicious Shiraz.

Apart from wine, there are art galleries around for a bit of culture. In the town’s main street, you’ll find lovely cafes and shops, perfect for a midday break and a bite to eat.

If you fancy a bit of nature, head to Port Willunga. The beach there is stunning, with the old jetty ruins adding a touch of history.

McLaren Vale offers a mix of good wine, art, and beautiful landscapes, making it a fantastic and varied day trip.

Adelaide Hills

Looking at the Mount Lofty lighthouse at sunrise
Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Mount Lofty Summit, Adelaide Hills

Heading out on a self-drive day trip to the Adelaide Hills is a splendid way to discover the charms of this region near Adelaide.

Your first stop could be Mount Lofty Summit, which offers breathtaking views of Adelaide’s skyline – it’s a great spot for some photos!

Then, drive down to the town of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. Stroll along its main street, lined with quaint shops and traditional German eateries – it’s like stepping into a little piece of Europe.

Along the way, make sure to visit one of the local wineries. The Adelaide Hills are known for their excellent cool-climate wines, and a wine-tasting session is a must-do. Enjoy the serene vineyard views as you sip on some exquisite wines.

My favourite Adelaide Hills winery is Hahndorf Hill. They do a fabulous chocolate and wine tasting. Another option is The Lane or Bird in Hand – both have lovely cellar doors.

If you’re an animal lover or traveling with kids, consider a detour to Cleland Wildlife Park. It’s a fantastic place to interact with native Australian animals in a natural setting. You can feed kangaroos, cuddle a koala, and see a range of other wildlife.

This day trip combines scenic views, cultural experiences, delicious wines, and wildlife encounters, offering a delightful taste of what the Adelaide Hills have to offer.

Victor Harbor

A historic steam train puffing along tracks near the beach
Photo credit: Graham Scheer, The Cockle Train, Fleurieu Peninsula

Just an hour’s drive from Adelaide, the journey to Victor Harbor takes you through picturesque landscapes before arriving at this lovely seaside town.

Victor Harbor is famous for its historic horse-drawn tram which takes you over a causeway to Granite Island. The island is a great spot for a leisurely walk with chances to spot local wildlife and enjoy stunning sea views.

Back in town, you can explore the bustling main street with its shops and cafes, perfect for grabbing a bite or a coffee. For nature enthusiasts, visiting the South Australian Whale Centre is a must, especially during whale-watching season.

Jump on the Cockle Train for a nostalgic steamtrain ride along the coast to Goolwa and back.

If you’re up for more adventure, consider taking a scenic coastal walk or visiting nearby Encounter Bay for its beautiful beaches.

Goolwa

An early morning view through reeds to the lake. There are wooden sailboats scattered around
Photo credit: Graham Scheer, Goolwa, Fleurieu Peninsula

Speaking of Goolwa, it is found at the mouth of the mighty Murray River and makes for another great day trip.

Goolwa has a laid-back atmosphere and a rich history as a former river port. As you wander through the town, you’ll find lovely heritage buildings and local art galleries, perfect for a stroll.

Be sure to visit the bustling Goolwa Wharf precinct, where you can watch boats glide by or hop on a river cruise. For those interested in local produce, the Sunday markets are a treat, offering a range of fresh, local goods.

If you fancy a bit of beach time, Goolwa Beach is just a short drive away. It’s a popular spot for a walk along the shore, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot some cockle diggers at work.

The nearby Coorong National Park is also worth a visit, especially for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Goolwa’s blend of cultural heritage, charming streetscapes, and beautiful natural surroundings make it a delightful destination for a day trip.

Strathalbyn

A red and white building with a sign on it, located in Strathalbyn.

Strathalbyn can be combined with Goowla for a full day out or can stand on its own as another day trip from Adelaide.

It’s a beautiful country town with its well-preserved 19th-century architecture and scenic riverbanks. The antique shops and boutiques along High Street invite you to browse and perhaps find a unique treasure.

The town is famous for its antique stores, making it popular with collectors and history buffs.

Strolling through the streets, you’ll feel a sense of stepping back in time, especially when you reach the iconic Strathalbyn Bridge overlooking the Angas River. The parklands surrounding the river are perfect for a relaxing picnic.

Extend your trip with a short drive to the nearby Langhorne Creek wine region, where you can sample some of South Australia’s finest wines amidst vineyard settings.

Strathalbyn’s blend of historical charm, scenic beauty, and peaceful atmosphere makes it a perfect choice for a leisurely day trip.

Monarto Safari Park

A large wire cage with five lions sleeping on top of it. There are two more lions sleeping nearby. There is a white 4WD car backed up to the cage.
Photo credit: Zoos SA/ Adrian Mann, Monarto Safari Park, Murray River, Lakes & Coorong

A self-drive day trip to Monarto Safari Park offers an adventure just an hour’s drive up the freeway from Adelaide, perfect if you have children to amuse.

This vast open-range zoo, one of the largest in the world, brings the African safari experience to South Australia. You’ll have the chance to see animals roaming in large, natural habitats. Keep your eyes peeled for lions, rhinos, giraffes, and cheetahs, among others.

The park’s guided bus tours are a highlight, offering up-close encounters and informative commentary about the wildlife.

For those seeking a more thrilling experience, the ‘Lions 360’ encounter is a must-try, allowing you to safely walk through a tunnel and emerge within claw’s reach of these majestic big cats.

Monarto Safari Park is also deeply committed to conservation, and you’ll learn about their efforts to preserve these amazing species.

Combining wildlife, education, and conservation, a day trip to Monarto Safari Park is not only entertaining but also inspiring, providing a unique opportunity to connect with nature on a grand scale.

Southern Beaches

An aerial view of a long white beach. A car is driving along the beach and a few more cars are packed on the sand.
Photo credit: Tourism Australia, Off Piste 4WD Tours, Fleurieu Peninsula

A self-drive day trip exploring the stunning beaches just south of Adelaide is an idyllic way to enjoy South Australia’s picturesque coastline. You could follow the Route 31 Coastal Drive or make your own way.

Starting from the lively Christies Beach, known for its vibrant esplanade and clear waters, you can soak up the sun or enjoy a leisurely swim.

Moving on, Port Noarlunga is next, offering not just beautiful sands but also a spectacular reef that’s a haven for snorkellers and divers. The historic jetty here is perfect for a stroll or a spot of fishing.

Further south, Moana Beach welcomes you with its unique drive-on beach, making it a favourite for a day of fun in the sun, especially if you’re bringing along a picnic or surfboard.

As you continue, Sellicks Beach unveils breathtaking views where the hills meet the sea, and its long stretch of sand makes it an ideal spot for a peaceful walk or a relaxing day by the waves.

Each of these spots has its charm, offering everything from aquatic adventures to places to unwind.

Clare Valley

A woman in front and a man behind walking through tall grass, higher than their heads
Photo credit: Josh Geelen, World’s End Gorge, Clare Valley

Just under two hours drive from Adelaide, Clare Valley is known for its world-class Riesling and picturesque vineyards. As you drive through the valley, you can stop for tastings and maybe a chat with the winemakers.

A visit to the heritage town of Mintaro is worth it, with its historic buildings and a relaxed country vibe. Try out the giant maze for some fun. Stop by Martindale Hall, used as a set for many movies filmed in SA.

If you fancy a bit of outdoor activity, the Riesling Trail is perfect for a leisurely walk or cycle, offering beautiful views of the vineyards and countryside.

And for a lunch stop, there are plenty of cosy cafes and country pubs serving delicious local produce. I personally love the Watervale Hotel or Mr Micks.

The Clare Valley combines stunning landscapes, great wine, and a peaceful atmosphere, making it a fantastic destination for a day trip.

Tailem Bend

A race car on a race track with two people beside it. one is walking, the other is in a wheelchair. Above the car is a sign across the track saying "The Bend"
Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Shell V-Power Motorsport Park at The Bend, Murray River, Lakes & Coorong

This one is for the revheads! Located about an hour and a half drive from Adelaide, Tailem Bend is home to The Bend Motorsport Park, one of the most significant and exciting developments in Australian motorsport.

If you’re a racing fan, checking out the track events or experiencing a hot lap can be a real thrill. Many of the driving experiences offer great accessibility for those who require it too.

Besides the racetrack, Tailem Bend is rich in history. The town’s Old Tailem Town is one of Australia’s largest pioneer villages.

Here, you can step back in time and explore over a hundred buildings, each with its own story. It’s a great spot for families and anyone interested in Australian history.

The surrounding area also offers lovely views of the River Murray, making for a scenic drive.

Tailem Bend offers a unique mix of high-octane adventure and historical exploration, making it an interesting and varied day trip destination.

For more great SA locations, read these next
23 Great Things to do in the Flinders Ranges
25 Best Things to do in Port Lincoln
42 Great Things to do in Mount Gambier


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About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. 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.