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Planning an itinerary for Australian road trips can often me a very subjective thing, changing with the interests of the traveller, the time of year and local events. This ultimate South Australia itinerary will give you a great starting point to plan your perfect trip, adjusting it to suit your own requirements and interests.


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To have a good look around most of South Australia your will need to have at least four weeks. This itinerary will assume this four week time frame. It will also assume you have your own vehicle, or have rented one for your trip. The main driving will be done on bitumen for the entire itinerary, but there are side trips and activities suggested that may require a 4WD or AWD with high clearance.

If you do need to rent a car, we use and recommend RentalCars.com. Here you can compare rental car rates and availability across most car companies all with one search, which will help you save both time and money.

Remember this South Australia travel guide is meant as a starting point, to be modified to suit your own purposes. There will be suggested timeframes, accommodation and activities that may or may not suit you.

South Australia Itinerary Overview

This map shows the approximate roads that will be used for your road trip in South Australia. I will mention some alternatives too in the details below.

Total distance is around 5000km or 57 driving hours. This only includes the direct major drives between towns, not taking detours, driving to attractions or other local drives.

This is roughly the order I recommend and the minimum number of nights in each location to cover a good portion of the state in 28 days. Note that not all destinations are recommended year round.

  1. Adelaide (3)
  2. Mount Gambier (2)
  3. Victor Harbor (2)
  4. Kingscote/Kangaroo Island (2)
  5. Hanhdorf (2)
  6. Mannum (1)
  7. Nuriootpa/Barossa Valley (2)
  8. Clare (2)
  9. Wilpena Pound/Flinders Ranges (2)
  10. Coober Pedy (2)
  11. Port Augusta (1)
  12. Head of the Bight (1)
  13. Streaky Bay (2)
  14. Port Lincoln (3)

Suggested Things to do on Your South Australia Road Trip Itinerary

This will give you a brief overview of what to do in each location on your SA road trip. You can add to it or change it as suits your own interests and needs.

It’s worth noting that I do not recommend going to Coober Pedy in the hot summer months. Even the northern part of the Flinders Ranges will have many closed businesses, hikes are closed and fire danger restrictions are in place so while you can visit in summer, the best time is certainly when it is cooler.

The whales visit the Head of the Bight from May to October. while you certainly can visit for the whole year, in my opinion, unless you are driving all the way across the Nullarbor, it’s best to leave this part of the trip until the whales are around.

So if you are planning this itinerary in summer, I would include extra days in the southern areas (and perhaps a day or two in Robe to enjoy the beach between Mount Gambier and Victor Harbor) and go from the Flinders Ranges straight to Streaky Bay.

Days 1-2 Adelaide

Photo Credit: Adelaide City Council, Adelaide

Spend your days exploring the city and suburbs. Eat at the Adelaide Central Market, go to some of the museums, ride Popeye on the Torrens, do the Adelaide Oval Roof Climb, then visit Glenelg or Port Adelaide.

While in the city, stay at the Oval Hotel, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets or the Ibis. For a family I recommend Quality Apartments Adelaide City. For a holiday park, look at the West Beach Parks for lots of different options.

Day 3 Driving Adelaide to Mount Gambier

The drive from Adelaide to Mount Gambier takes about five hours solid driving time, so get on the road early. There are two main ways to drive to Mount Gambier, the inland route and the coastal route. I recommend taking one route one the way down, and the other on the way back. I always take the inland route on the way down, but you can choose either.

There are lots of things to take a look at on the way, but if I had to recommend just one thing on the inland route, then it has to be a stop at the UNESCO listed Naracoorte Caves. Do a short tour through one of the caves to learn about the megafauna that once roamed across Australia.

Read more about both routes and things to do on the road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier in this post.

Day 4 Mount Gambier

Spend today exploring Mount Gambier and surrounds. Do not miss seeing the Blue Lake (especially in summer when it is cobalt blue), Umpherston’s Sinkhole and the Ghost Mushrooms (in May/June). Get one of the best scrolls in the state at Scroll Queen too.

My favourite two places to stay in Mount Gambier are the Pine Country Caravan Park if you are camping, have a caravan or want to stay in a glamping tent, or the Old Mount Gambier Gaol, for quirky budget accommodation. The Barn is possibly the most luxurious place to stay in town, and a good mid-range hotel is the Mid City Motel.

Day 5 Driving Mount Gambier to Victor Harbor

Photo credit: Graham Scheer, Fleurieu Peninsula

Driving back towards Victor Harbor today, take the coastal route through the picturesque towns of Beachport, Robe and Kingston. Enjoy seeing the birdlife as you drive along the Coorong. The drive takes around five hours, so you will have a little time to linger and see the sights on the way through. Look out for the quirky ostrich statue in Meningie and learn about one of the strangest bushrangers seen in Australia.

In Victor Harbor stay at The Buff Resort Apartments. If you are camping or caravanning, try the Victor Harbor Holiday & Cabin Park or for some luxury stay at the McCracken Country Club. You could also consider accommodation at the nearby towns of Port Elliot and Middleton. There are plenty of holiday homes available through VRBO/Stayz

Day 6 Victor Harbor

Spend today in and around Victor Harbor. Take a walk or jump aboard the historic horse drawn tram across the Causeway and see Granite Island. Catch the Cockle Train along the coast to Goolwa and spend some time exploring there. Hike to the top of the bluff and do some whale watching if you are travelling during the winter months.

Alternatively you could have a look at the surrounding areas. Of course the McLaren Vale wine region is not too far away and you could visit for some wine tasting. Another option is to spend the day (or half a day) kayaking the Coorong to learn about this diverse and fragile location, or perhaps do a Quad Bike Tour with scenic views over the ocean (and a whole lot of fun zooming through the sand).

Days 7-8 Kangaroo Island

Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Kangaroo Island

Victor Harbor isn’t too far from Cape Jervis (about 45 minutes) where the Kangaroo Island ferry leaves from, so book an early ferry to get you over to the island with plenty of time left to explore. Spend the rest of the day visiting the eastern end of the island. Call into some of the wineries, visit some of the other food & beverage producers, eat some great seafood, or do some of the other great island activities.

The following day head to the western end of Kangaroo Island to see the well-known attractions in Flinders Chase National Park. On the way back, take the southern road and take a look at Little Sahara and Seal Bay. If the timing is right, also stop in and see the birds at Raptor Domain, which is great fun.

On Kangaroo Island I recommend staying in either Kingscote or American River. Both have lots of holiday homes available, and Kingscote has a few different apartment/motel/ options. For typical hotel style, try Ozone Hotel in Kingscote or the Mercure in American River.

Day 9 Getting to Hahndorf

Catch an early ferry back to the mainland and spend today meandering through the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Peninsula region before getting to your Hahndorf accommodation.

You could spend your day visiting the beaches of Aldinga or Sellicks Beach, hike or kayak around the Myponga Reservoir, and visit the lovely towns of Willunga or Strathalbyn. There are even some special activities available, such as a flight in a Bi-Plane or doing a skydive over the vineyards.

There are dozens of wineries that you can call into for tasting or lunch, and they are all great. There is one though that you really must see, and that’s d’Arenberg – best known for its iconic cube cellar door.

Hahndorf has many accommodation options. Last stayed at The Manna by Haus and would happily recommend that. Another option is the Hahndorf Resort Tourist Park which offers a range of accommodation from cabins to camping sites. There are also many boutique B& B style places around town if you are looking for something a little more unique. Perhaps the Winemaker’s Hut if you are looking for a place amongst the vines.

Day 10 Hahndorf

Photo credit: Hahndorf Business and Tourism Association, Adelaide Hills

Today is more of a relaxed day. Spend your time exploring the town of Hahndorf. Enjoy taking your time while browsing through the shops and linger over meals at any of the dozens of restaurants, pubs and cafes in town. Meander up the road a little to Beerenberg and stock up on delicious sauces and jams – they also have yet another fantastic cafe there too. If it’s the summer months, you can go out into the field and pick your own strawberries to take with you.

If relaxing is not your style, you could also include some visits to surrounding towns, perhaps Mount Lofty to see the views over the city and the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, and of course do some more wine tasting. The Adelaide Hills wines are very different to the McLaren Vale or Barossa wines because they are cool climate varieties, so it is interesting to compare.

Day 11 Mannum

Today there are a couple of different choices for how you spend your day. My top recommendation is to arrive at Monarto Safari Park as the gates open and spend at least half a day there seeing all the animals. You could do one of the animal experiences, like the awesome Lions 360 or meet the rhinos.

Make your way to Mannum then and spend the afternoon learning about the history of the Murray River paddle steamers. If you time it right, there are also river cruises available here too

For basic hotel rooms right in the centre of town, try the Pretoria Hotel. If it’s a cabin in the caravan park right on the banks of the river your family would prefer, then it’s the Big4 Breeze Holiday Parks – Mannum. For a little luxury, have a look at Riverview Rise Retreats.

Day 12 Driving to the Barossa Valley

Again you have choices today. You can spend the morning in Mannum (perhaps enjoying that river cruise) and then take some time driving through to the Barossa. A nice detour could be to the National Motor Museum at Birdwood along the way. If you like hiking, there are many opportunities for that along the route.

The second option is to high-tail it straight to the Barossa Valley and get started on the wine tasting and exploring there. I do recommend at least stopping to see the Whispering Wall along the way, and perhaps have morning tea at the Lyndoch Lavender Farm, which will tick a couple of things off that Barossa sightseeing list.

Once you arrive in the Barossa Valley there is a huge range of accommodation over a wide distance. If you are looking for typical hotel accommodation, the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort is popular. For a little luxury, check out the stunning Loiuse, or for budget, there are lots of options at Discovery Parks Barossa Valley.

Day 13 Barossa Valley

Photo credit: John Montesi, Barossa Valley

Spend today enjoying all things Barossa Valley! If you are looking for a special start to the day, book a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. You will be back in time for breakfast and still have a whole day of exploring in front of you.

Of course the Barossa Valley is best known for it’s world-class wines. There are over 80 different cellar doors here for you to choose from. Many of them are well known names, and many others are tiny, family run places with tasting in their back shed. I recommend you try some of each. Pick out one of two big names you want to visit, then as you drive around, stop intone you’ve never heard of. You may just find your new favourite wine.

One special wine I would like to highlight is Langmeil’s 1843 Freedom Shiraz. This wine is made from the oldest producing shiraz wines in the world. South Australia was lucky enough to not be affected by phylloxera, which devastated to wine industry world wide, and there are many vines around that precede this time. The Freedom Shiraz is not normally available for tasting, but you may be lucky to find a bottle open if you ask – I have been lucky enough to have a taste in the past.

Many of the cellar doors have food options, from cheese platters to fine dining. Plan to have lunch at one of them along the way.

Day 14 Driving to the Clare Valley

Depending on where you are staying in the Barossa Valley and Clare Valley, you have barely an hour of driving today, so you may like to have a little sleep in before hitting the road. Alternatively, you could plan that hot air balloon ride for this morning instead.

On the drive between the two areas, stop at Kapunda and explore the Heritage Trail, either by car or by foot and learn about the copper mining history of this region. Get a selfie with Map the Miner as you enter the town.

Clare Valley is yet another of the South Australian wine regions. It’s best known for it’s Rieslings and is the home to well known wine brands Taylors and Jim Barry. But there are other aspects of the Clare Valley too – on it’s northern border is the historical town of Burra which is worth a visit too.

So if you have already had enough wine tasting for one trip over the last few days, I recommend staying instead in Burra and enjoying a different side of the Clare Valley. You can even stay in one of the original miners cottages at Paxton Square Cottages – I promised they have been renovated since they were built! Other options in town are the Burra Motor Inn or the Burra Caravan & Camping Park.

If you prefer to stay in Clare, like the other wine regions, there is a huge range of boutique B&B style accommodation. A unique – and highly recommended – place to stay is Bukirk, which has luxurious glamping tents and “chicken coops”. For a more traditional style, take a look at the Clare Country Club, or for caravanning and camping, look at Discovery Parks Clare.

Day 15 Clare Valley

Spend today taking a look around the Clare Valley. Perhaps do some wine tasting, visit some of the historical sites, walk or ride a section of the Riesling Trail or simply find a nice cafe and enjoy the ambiance.

I do recommend a more relaxing day as you are about to have some long driving days ahead. Since it is around the half way mark of the trip, this could even be a could time to add in an extra day for some downtime if you have the flexibility.

Day 16 Driving to the Flinders Ranges

The Flinders Ranges cover a huge area – they start not too far from Clare and continue on for about 430km. so where you are planning to stay will make a big difference to how much driving you are doing today.

During the summer I recommend sticking to the southern areas, perhaps Melrose or Quorn or Hawker, but for the rest of the year, Wilpena Pound Resort is one of the more popular places with a range of accommodation options. It’s certainly not the only option though, and I suggest perhaps looking at one of the fantastic Station Stays so that your tourist dollar is going straight to the families running them. Other amazing options in the area are the Prairie Hotel (known for it’s fabulous Flinders Feral Food menu) and Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

Day 17 Flinders Ranges

Again, what you do today in the Flinders Ranges will l likely depend on exactly where you are staying. If you can, I recommend doing a short scenic flight over Wilpena Pound as it is the best way to really see what it is all about – and the views are spectacular. Flights leave from both Wilpena and nearby Rawnsley Park.

For the rest of the day, take a drive through Brachina and Bunyeroo Gorges in the Ikara- Flinders Ranges National Park and stop at all the lookouts and scenic spots to enjoy, visit the town of Blinman and take a tour into the mine, sign up for one of the Aboriginal tours in the area and learn a little of the indigenous culture, or simply go for a walk on one of the many hiking trails in the area.

Tomorrow is a huge driving day, so you may want to consider moving accommodation for your second night in the Flinders to somewhere like Quorn which will cut a little time off. This will also give you the opportunity to see the Quorn Silo Light show that happens after sunset each night.

Day 18 Driving to Coober Pedy

If you look at the drive from Wilpena Pound to Coober Pedy you will notice a shorter, but longer-in-time northern route through Maree. You COULD go this way, but I would not recommend it. at this time Much of the trip will be on dirt roads, a portion of which is the famed Oodnadatta Track. While I absolutely think this is a really great drive in itself, you need to be properly set up, and I would recommend doing it over multiple days so you can stop and take a look around along the way.

My recommendation is to go back down to Port Augusta (hence perhaps staying in Quorn) and then up to Coober Pedy along the main highway, which means you will be on bitumen the whole way and there is no need for a 4WD vehicle.

There are a few stops along the way, such as the tiny “town” of Glendambo, but also stop at some of the roadside viewpoints to take a look at the area. My favourite stop along the way was at Lake Hart where we were able to walk out onto the salt lake.

When you are looking for your Coober Pedy accommodation, you will probably want to enjoy the experience of sleeping underground. The “best place in town” is the Desert Cave Hotel. They have both above and below ground rooms available. For the budget traveller, stay at Radeka Downunder Underground Motel, which also has dorm rooms available. We were camping on during my last visit, and got to pitch our tent underground at Riba’s Underground Camping and Caravan Park.

Day 19 Coober Pedy

Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Flinders Ranges & Outback

Spend today in Coober Pedy learning about the town’s unique opal mining industry. I recommend spending the morning exploring the town and visiting some of the quirky attractions such as Boot Hill, Crocodile Harry’s house, Faye’s Underground House and the Big Winch.

In the afternoon, take the Coober Pedy Town & Breakaways Tour offered by Noble Tours Australia. This will give you a great overview of the opal mining industry and an underground home at Umoona Opal Mine. You will visit the Serbian Church and head out to the magnificent Breakaways, the Dingo Fence and the Moon Plain. You will also get a brief look at a working opal mine that many visitors do not get to see.

Days 20-21 Driving to Head of the Bight

The drive from Coober Pedy to Head of the Bight is a long way. I recommend staying on the bitumen and going back through Port Augusta, staying the night there. All up the drive will be around 1300km and will require 13.5 hours of driving time, so will tack up two whole days.

There is a shorter route, turning off the main highway north of Glendambo and going down through Kingoonya. You will meet the main highway again at Wirrulla. Only take this route if you have 4WD and are adequately set up to do so. There is very little in the way of civilisation, and no phone connection along the route. It will cut more than 400km off the drive, but the roads are so much rougher and it will still take you more than 11 hours. If you are set up to do this drive, I suggest driving from Coober Pedy to Ceduna, staying there overnight, then perhaps doing a day trip across to Head of the Bight the next day.

Between Ceduna and Head of the Bight there are a few stops I recommend. Check out the Windmill Museum in Penong, and take a short detour off the highway to see the pink Lake MacDonnell. If times tight, you can leave these stops until the return trip tomorrow.

There is really only one place to stay near Head of the Bight, and that’s at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, which offers motel rooms and sites for caravans and camping. There is also a free-camping site right on the road into Head of the Bight if you are fully self contained.

Day 22 Head of the Bight & Driving to Streaky Bay

Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission/Adam Bruzzone, Eyre Peninsula

Make your way to Head of the Bight as soon as it opens for the day to see what you came all this way for – the whales. We spent a good ninety minutes to two hours watching during our visit, but you can spend more or less if you like.

Once you have your fix of whales, it’s back on the road again to Streaky Bay, a distance of just under 400km. Between Ceduna and Streaky Bay ,stop in and check out the beaches at Smoky Bay and Perlubie. These are both great spots for a relaxing beach getaway during the summer months.

At Streaky you can stay right in the centre of town at the Streaky Bay Hotel Motel or Discovery Parks Streaky Bay Foreshore. There are also some great holiday homes to choose from too, such as doi’s Ocean Front Apartments

Day 23 Streaky Bay

Today is for exploring Streaky Bay and surrounds, and is also a good day to take it easy a little after so many big driving days. I recommend relaxing on the beach, trying a little fishing from the jetty and perhaps taking a short scenic drive to Cape Bauer to see some of the dramatic coastal scenery.

Day 24 Driving to Port Lincoln

Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, Eyre Peninsula

The drive today from Streaky Bay to Port Lincoln is a little under 300km, but I still recommend taking all day as there are lots of stops along the way..

One of the things you could do along the way is to go swimming with the sea lions at Baird Bay. These tours run from September to May, and you will need to book well in advance in the busier summer months (ask me how I know?) So if you know you are doing this tour, then you can work your time around it with the other things to do on the drive.

The first stop out of Streaky Bay should be Murphy’s Haystacks. You have likely see photos of these, but there are a lot more than you imagine and quite fun to explore. Who knew rocks could be this interesting?

Next call in to see the Talia Caves. This is another site that is just fun to look around. If it’s hot, there are some rock pools near Woolshed Cave to take a quick dip in.

For a beach walk, I recommend Lock’s Well. There might be a few steps down to the beach here, but it is well worth the effort to enjoy this pristine beach.

Before you get to Port Lincoln, you will come to Coffin Bay. You may choose to spend the night here, especially if you are planning to do a Coffin Bay Oyster Tour in the morning. There are not a huge amount of accommodation options, but Coffin Bay Caravan Park has a range of options (including some luxury eco tents!)

Otherwise, continue on to Port Lincoln and your accommodation there. The most popular place to stay in town is the Port Lincoln Hotel, conveniently located right in the centre. Another central option could be the Hilton Motel. Budget travellers might like the Port Lincoln YHA, and caravan and campers could look at the Port Lincoln Tourist Park.

Day 25 Port Lincoln

You could easily spend a week in Port Lincoln, but this itinerary has only two days so you will have to make some choices as to what you want to do.

One of the biggest attractions here is the opportunity to go Shark Cage Diving. There are only three countries in the world where this can be done, and Port Lincoln is the only place in Australia. I went and did it a couple of years ago, but unfortunately the company I used no longer exists and the experience is a little different – but I have heard from many people that it might even be better than what I did! If you choose to do this, it will take up your whole day, but is certainly a bucket list item to tick off.

Another great thing to do is to take a scenic drive along Whaler’s Way. If you are going in the cooler months, also stop into Mikkira Station and see the koalas too (you will need to get a key and permit in advance for both of these).

Or you can stay in town and do some more wine tasting or craft beer tasting or picking up some of the delicious seafood and local produce the town is known for.

Day 26 Port Lincoln

Photo credit: Brad Griffin Photography, Eyre Peninsula

Today is more of the same in Port Lincoln. If you haven’t been over to Coffin Bay, then the oyster farm tour there is definitely a highlight. There is also two cruise options, one during the day, the other at sunset with Sunset Charters. You could also explore the Coffin Bay National Park and do some hiking or just relaxing on the beach.

If one national park is not enough, there is also the Lincoln National Park to visit too. Again, there are some great walking trails and beaches, and some historic sites such as a lighthouse to see here too.

If you want more options to get out in the water but don’t want to go near the shores, then there is also a tour that will take you to swim with the sea lions offered by the same company.

Back in town the history buffs can visit the Axel Stenross Maritime Museum or a number of other small museums and galleries.

Day 27 Driving to Adelaide

The South Australian road trip is coming to an end and today it’s time to head back to Adelaide. It’s about a 7 hour drive, but you can cut a big chunk of driving time out of that by taking the ferry from Lucky Bay across to Wallaroo. The ferry times vary depending on the day and the time of year so check out the timetable to see if it works for you.

Time allowing, on the way back to Adelaide I suggest you call into Tumby Bay and take a look at all the fantastic street art in town, Each year they have the Colour Tumby festival and more is added.

Further along the coast, if you are travelling from May to July you might like to take the opportunity to see the giant cuttlefish at the top of the gulf, just north of Whyalla. The come up the gulf at this time each year to breed, and visitors can simply jump in the water and snorkel amongst them. You might want a nice thick wetsuit though (they can be rented in Whyalla). Another option is to go on a glass bottom boat tour to see them that way.

If you have time to take a break in Port Augusta, you can stretch your legs at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens or learn about some of the history and hardships of the local indigenous people and the early settlers at Wadlata.

Day 28 An Extra Day!

I am exhausted just looking at this itinerary, I know there is a lot crammed into it and a lot of driving, so I thought it was also important to leave a spare day. You can take this day and put it anywhere in the itinerary. It doesn’t have to sit here at day 28. Instead it can give you a rest day or a day exploring further in a region you love.

Some More Points of Interest

Take a look at these blog posts, they may give you some more ideas for small detours or must-see things to add to your itinerary.

If this is your first time in South Australia, you might also find this blog post on planning useful.

Alternative Itineraries for The Big Lap

Photo credit: Jaxon Foale, Eyre Peninsula

If you are travelling around Australia doing a Big Lap (or a version of it) then you will not want to be starting this itinerary from Adelaide. This is my recommendation for entering South Australia from Victoria on the Great Ocean Road and leaving via Western Australia. It will also work in reverse too.

  1. Mount Gambier (2)
  2. Victor Harbor (2)
  3. Kingscote/Kangaroo Island (2)
  4. Adelaide (3)
  5. Hanhdorf (2)
  6. Mannum (1)
  7. Nuriootpa/Barossa Valley (2)
  8. Clare (2)
  9. Wilpena Pound/Flinders Ranges (2)
  10. Coober Pedy (2)
  11. Port Augusta (1)
  12. Port Lincoln (3)
  13. Streaky Bay (2)
  14. Head of the Bight (1)

If you are coming into South Australia from Victoria and leaving through the Northern Territory, try this version

  1. Mount Gambier (2)
  2. Victor Harbor (2)
  3. Kingscote/Kangaroo Island (2)
  4. Adelaide (3)
  5. Hanhdorf (2)
  6. Mannum (1)
  7. Nuriootpa/Barossa Valley (2)
  8. Clare (2)
  9. Wilpena Pound/Flinders Ranges (2)
  10. Port Lincoln (3)
  11. Streaky Bay (2)
  12. Head of the Bight (1)
  13. Port Augusta (1)
  14. Coober Pedy (2)

 

Looking for more itinerary ideas? These more detailed regional itineraries might help
Adelaide 3-Day Itinerary
Outback Road Trip Itinerary
5 Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary
Eyre Peninsula Road Trip


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