When you think of South Australia, you’ll be forgiven for thinking of wineries, cultural attractions and stunning beaches. We can’t blame you—our Southern state has all these beauties but we reckon it's high time you put your tires to the bitumen (or the dirt), packed up the car and embarked on one of the incredible road trips that showcases South Australia’s untouched and off-the-beaten-track (literally) side.
Imagine rugged coastlines, secluded beaches and unique natural wonders all waiting for you, just a road trip away. From easy cruises meandering along the coastline to long journeys embarking to the centre of the red outback, South Australia is filled with some truly bucket-list worthy adventures.
Pack the snacks, fill the car with good company and start prepping your best good vibes playlist—it’s road trip time. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best road trips in South Australia and all the stops you need to hit along the way.
So your wheels are well acquainted with coastal roads, but have they encountered the red dust of the great outback? We’re hitting you up with the longest, and perhaps the best, road trip first. You’re welcome. Set your GPS to the Flinders Ranges and get driving—you’ll be travelling over 1,142 kilometres over eight to ten days and encountering over 20 noteworthy attractions on your journey. The vast untouched wilderness, Mars-like landscape and wide-open road stretching out in front of you is unlike any other place in the world.
Set off from Adelaide to the Clare Valley, where vineyards roll into the edges of the outback and be sure to cycle to the Clare Valley Riesling Trail. Nestled between the lush vines of the Clare Valley and the red dirt of the outback is Melrose, the oldest town in the Flinder Ranges, and the incredibly scenic Brachina Gorge Geological Trail, which is absolutely bucket list worthy. Journey deeper into the Flinders Ranges to the iconic Ikara-Flinders National Park, where you can pitch your tent and fall asleep under a blanket of stars. This area is of immense cultural significance to the Adnyamathanha people and an Aboriginal cultural walk exploring the jewel of the Flinders Ranges, Wilpena Pound, is one of the best ways to learn about the area’s history. Finally, you’ll be cruising the final stretch of the Explorer’s Way road trip to Coober Pedy, where you can discover the labyrinth of underground houses and hotels and learn about the quirks of this sun-baked lunar landscape. Sleep deeply (underground) at Ali’s Underground, which is truly a stay like no other.
The Coastal Way
So you’re looking for a laidback, quintessentially Australia road trip that showcases our beaches, sand, ocean and, yeah, you get the idea. Make tracks towards The Coastal Way road trip, which follows more than 700 kilometres of coastline along the Yorke Peninsula. The Coastal Way showcases the Yorke Peninsula’s stunning beaches, secluded coves and sweet towns and generally takes five to six days to explore.
Start your sand-coated roadtrip at Port Wakefield, a historic maritime town, and if you’re feeling hungry on the road, Stansbury is the place to stop for the freshest oysters, plucked straight from the Yorke Peninsula's waters. On Yorke you are never far from great beaches and Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park packs more than its fair share of secluded coves and Maldive-blue waters. Venture upwards to Port Hughes, which is one of the best spots to cast a line on the peninsula and spend a night in Moonta Bay, a popular seaside haunt for families and those looking to sample one of Moonta’s famous Cornish pasties. Finish your Yorke Peninsula roadie at one of the peninsula’s most popular coastal escapes, Wallaroo, which boasts a rich maritime history, sandy beaches and a plethora of fishing options. This is what we call pure Aussie summertime goodness. Glam things up and soak up uninterrupted beachfront views at Wallaroo Marina Luxury Apartments.
The Seafood Frontier
South Australia is well known for its plentiful seafood and this road trip along the Eyre Peninsula takes you right into the heart of seafood culture. Dare we call it a seafood safari? Road trip through the Eyre Peninsula’s oceanic utopia, spanning a stunning 955 kilometres from Whyalla all the way to Head of Bight, where you’ll traverse ever-changing landscapes and spot 15 main attractions. It’s recommended that you allow eight to ten days for The Seafood Frontier roadtrip, to allow plenty of time for feasting, getting up close and personal with nature and soaking in the beauty of your surroundings.
The first leg of your journey will take you from Whyalla to Port Lincoln, where you can swim with giant cuttlefish in Whyalla and dive into one of the peninsula's most famous beaches—Memory Cove. From Port Lincoln, stop in at Coffin Bay for an oyster farm tour, swim with sea lions and then discover the jaw-dropping magenta waters of Lake McDonnell, one of South Australia’s most photographed lakes. For absolute serenity, rest your head at the luxurious Eco Bali Paradise. Finally, you’ll finish your Seafood Frontier trip at the cliff top Head of Bight, where you can view the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the display of migrating whales.
Southern Ocean Drive
Hit the Southern Ocean Drive for a truly epic road trip experience that showcases some of the lesser known treasures of our Southern state. Now, you want to know the basics. You’ve got 940 kilometres of gorgeous natural terrain, 18 noteworthy highlights and it should take you between five and nine days to traverse. Got it? On the Southern Ocean Drive you’ve spoiled with some of Australia’s best wineries, untouched beaches and iconic geological marvels.
Start the car at Mount Gambier, home to deep lakes and an underground Garden of Eden, then take a break from the road and spend a few days sipping your way around the Coonawarra wine region. Now, it's time you soaked up the natural wilderness of Coorong National Park, which stretches 130km down from the Limestone Coast to the Fleurieu Peninsula, and be sure to pay a visit to Victor Harbour, a sweet holiday town known for its horse-drawn tram and penguin colony.The final stop on your journey is Kangaroo Island; the ultimate island escape where you can visit Vivonne Bay, once voted Australia’s best beach, and admire the rugged wilderness of Flinders Chase National Park. Overlook the views of Kangaroo Island from the aptly named House On The Hill.
The Epicurean Way
Foodies and wine lovers, this is for you. You can literally feast your way through the culinary heart of South Australian on The Epicurean Way road trip. This foodie road trip dots through South Australia’s four most iconic wine regions—McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Clare Valley, creating a journey that’s just as delicious as it is scenic. Your deliciously decadent drive will cover 223 kilometres, will take four to five days (or longer if you like to take things nice and boozy) and is jam-packed with 21 attractions.
Grab your picnic basket and start your journey at Willunga, before stopping for happy hour in a giant Rubik’s Cube at the d'Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale. Celebrate all things seasonal, local and fresh in Adelaide Hills, where you can dine at award-winning restaurants, pick your own produce and dig into artisan cheese. Taste and sip your way through the famous Barossa Valley (stopping to have a sip at every winery, of course) and you’ll end up in Clare Valley, where the region’s signature riesling is renowned among the world’s best. Stay a night (or a few) at the White on Wright Clare B&B, which is a refurbished historic home and sleep up to eight boozy friends. If you’re looking for a road trip that showcases the culinary delights of South Australia, stop the search.
Mighty Murray Way
On this road trip, you’ll be following one of the world’s longest rivers and discovering the hidden gems of the mighty Murray River. As you follow the curves of this ever-changing beauty, you’ll traverse over 382 kilometres of stunning South Australian land and visit 22 main attractions, in just five to seven days.
You’ll start in the laidback Riverland region and sample gourmet delicacies and diverse cultures as you make your way to the Murray Mouth. Renmark is located deep in the Riverland district and is home to numerous creeks, best explored by canoes, and the historic Loxton’s The Village, which will take you on a trip back in time. Set your coordinates for Lake Bonney, which has been a favourite haunt for photographers for years and is one of the best sunset viewing spots in South Australia. Next stop: Africa. Well, technically it’s the Monarto Safari Park but we think that’s close enough. This 1500 hectare open-range sanctuary is something straight off an African safari and is an absolute must-do. Finally, cruise along the last stretch of the river to the Murray Mouth and soak up the untouched beauty of the Coorong National Park. The Coorong Country & Waterfront Retreat is set among 100 acres of waterfront land, with views overlooking both the Murray River and Coorong National Park.
Now that you’ve got your road trip itinerary sorted, slap on some sunscreen and lay down a towel at the ten best beaches in South Australia you need to visit.
Image Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission, dronedynamicssa, As We Wander, Cassandra Missen, Jaxon Foale, _roamingaus_, Michael Waterhouse Photography