Do you love getting off the beaten path and enjoying smaller communities on your travels? If you have been to South Australia before, or you just love exploring these lesser-known gems, here are some small towns in South Australia to visit.
Think unspoilt beach towns or towns with a rich history. Towns with just one pub, and some colourful locals sitting at the bar.
Towns where Saturday footy is the social event of the week. Towns where you are certain to come away with a good story or two, guaranteed to be exaggerated in the telling.
Have Questions? – Come and join the Facebook Group and ask any questions you may have about travel in South Australia. We can provide answers, make further suggestions and update you with the latest information. Click here to join now.
TL;DR? Here's the outline
As a small town girl myself, I have a real affinity with these places. To get the most out of a small town visit, take the time to involve yourself with the locals. There are always opportunities to strike up a conversation.
Most people tend to be curious about visitors and proud to share their town. It takes no time at all to be invited to the local lawn bowls club or named in the cricket team that weekend!
So rather than just drive through to the next big town on the road, try stopping at a smaller one instead.
I’ve tried to come up with a list of the best small towns in South Australia for you, but there are so many contenders. Let’s just say that these are my own personal favourites from all my travels across the state.
Location: Flinders Ranges
Located about half an hour north of Port Augusta, Quorn is often seen as the gateway to the Flinders Ranges. Just out of town is the picturesque Warren Gorge to give you a taste of the ancient Flinders Ranges landscape.
In town, jump on the historic Pichi Richi Railway and enjoy the nightly silo light show. Learn about the town with a walking tour and taste the local Flinders Gin. Look out for events such as the Quandong Festival and Rock the Ranges
Location: Flinders Ranges
While Peterborough is officially in the Flinders Ranges & Outback region, I don’t think of it in the same way. Peterborough has a rich railway history, with around 100 trains a day passing through the town in its heyday.
Today there are plenty of reminders of this heritage, from the town signs to the light & sound show at the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre.
As you are driving to or from Peterborough, make sure you visit Magnetic Hill, and experience your car rolling up hill!
The Peterborough Motel offers good accommodation while in town
Location: Eyre Peninsula
Smoky Bay is one of my favourite places in SA. Located on the western side of Eyre Peninsula, it’s a sleepy seaside town loved by locals and best known for its oyster industry.
You are not going to find much to do here in Smoky – there’s not even a proper pub, the sporting club is the place to go – but you will find great fishing, a beautiful beach, friendly locals and pure relaxation.
There is one thing you should do though and that is to tour the oyster beds with SA Premium Oysters and learn about this industry that has changed the town.
In Smoky Bay, stay at the Smoky Bay Caravan Park & Cabins
Location: Eyre Peninsula
Tumby Bay is located on the main highway to Port Lincoln, but it is so easy to drive right past and continue on that last 50km. My advice – don’t drive straight past!
Stop into Tumby Bay to check out the incredible street art that covers many of the walls in town, including the silos.
The beach here is great for a dip, and snorkelling under the jetty may give you a rare glimpse of the elusive leafy sea dragon. There are also a couple of museums in town for the history buff, and some good places to eat too.
In Tumby Bay stay at Modra’s Apartments
Location: Yorke Peninsula
Marion Bay is the southern-most town on Yorke Peninsula, right near the entrance to the Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park.
It is a popular beach town for South Australians who like to escape from the hustle and enjoy some quiet time. Relaxation is king here, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do.
Take advantage of the stunning views and history the national park, including some of the best surf beaches in SA. The waters around here are great for fishing too – my kids each caught their first fish right off the beach!
Location: Limestone Coast
Yet another of South Australia’s best beach towns is Beachport. Located right in the south of the state, not too far from Mount Gambier, it is worth spending a night or two here relaxing.
It is also one of the closest beach locations from Mount Gambier, so good for a day trip if you are staying there too.
Beachport is a little bigger than some of the other towns and has a more developed tourism industry so there are more services to be found here.
Apart from the second longest jetty in the state and a beautiful sandy beach right in town, there are some great nearby swimming locations too, including the Pool of Siloam, SA’s answer to the Dead Sea.
Also check out the historic cinema in town, and catch a movie if there is one running during your stay.
Stay at Bonnies of Beachport for great beachfront apartments
Location: Fleurieu Peninsula
This beach town is located only one hour south of Adelaide and is a favourite location for surfers and a great place to do those “learn to surf” classes.
Since Middleton is one of the small towns near Adelaide, it is perfect for a weekend getaway from the city with so much more than just the beach.
To get to Middleton you will pass through the McLaren Vale wine region and you are also close to the Langhorne Creek wine region.
Check out the popular Middleton Beach Huts for your stay.
Not all the good small South Australian towns are by the beach, here’s one that is instead on the river – or to be precise, on the banks on Lake Bonney, part of the Murray River system.
Barmera is around 2.5 hours drive from Adelaide and the lake location makes it perfect for watersports and a great place to stop when you’re exploring the rural areas in South Australia.
This is a favourite location for families as the water tends to be calmer than the sea. There are some good places to eat in town and an interesting museum.
Location: Clare Valley
Burra is located at the northern end of the Clare Valley, around 2 hours from Adelaide. This is a historical mining town from the copper boom days.
There was a point in time when Burra was the seventh largest town in all of Australia, bigger than both Brisbane and Perth at the time. Oh, how things change!
Today it is a lovely town for a few days stay.
There are good facilities for visitors and plenty of things to do, from exploring the history of the mines, visiting the nearby Red Banks Conservation Park, or admiring a relic of Australian rock’n’roll history.
I’m not actually sure that William Creek could be called a town. This outpost on the Oodnadatta Track consists of a pub, a caravan park, and the office of Wrights Air with one or two houses for the pilots and pub staff (often the same people!).
William Creek is iconic though, and well worth a visit to do the two things that you can do in town.
You absolutely need to do a scenic flight over the incredible landscape nearby. I personally recommend the Painted Hills, but Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is also pretty cool, especially in times of flood.
Then after the flight, enjoy a meal and a drink at the pub, chatting to locals and other travellers in one of Australia’s renowned Outback hotels.
While accommodation here in William Creek is limited, there are a range of options at the caravan park including cabins, so you don’t need to have a caravan or tent.
Don’t forget to come on over and join the Facebook group for more South Australian inspiration and to get all your questions answered. Click here to join now.