South Australia is home to one of the country’s most spectacular coastlines. The state in the south-central part of the country sits right on the edge of the Great Australian Bight, where the Nullarbor Plain meets the Southern Ocean. To the east of this, you can find the Eyre Peninsula, one of South Australia’s most pristine and stunning landscapes.
This peninsula is home to some of the most unique experiences in the state and offers travellers an incredible adventure. From the white sand beaches to the abundant wildlife, many of South Australia’s highlights can be enjoyed on this triangular-shaped point.
This article will summarise all the best places that South Australia has to offer, as well as, outline why the Eyre Peninsula should be on the top of your list for your trip.
Table of Contents
- 1 About South Australia
- 2 What is South Australia known for?
- 3 Planning a visit to South Australia
- 4 When to visit South Australia
- 5 Places to visit in South Australia
- 6 Eyre Peninsula
- 7 While you’re on The Eyre Peninsula:
About South Australia
South Australia is located in the southern central part of Australia and is the fourth largest state in the country with a total land area of 983, 482 square kilometres. The population of the state is around 1.76 million, with the vast majority living in the capital city, Adelaide. A large portion of the rest of the state is sparsely populated, with small country towns and settlements dominating much of the north and west.
Due to its unique location and shape, South Australia borders almost all of the other mainland states, except for the ACT. To the south, the Southern Ocean forms the Great Australian Bight, which is shared partly with neighbouring Western Australia. There’s no landmass to the south until the water meets the ice caps of Antarctica.
South Australia has a long history of human settlement with various Aboriginal tribes and languages occupying the land which is now considered part of the state. There is evidence of human activity as far back as 20, 000 years with some of the oldest rock art found around the Nullarbor Plain.
Its colonial history is also quite unique. It’s the only state to have never received British convicts and was set up as a freely settled British province in February 1836. The interior of the state was explored shortly after, with the landmark crossing of the Nullarbor by Edward John Eyre and his Aboriginal companion, Wylie, in 1841. Both the Eyre Peninsula and Eyre Highway were subsequently named after his extraordinary exploration.
What is South Australia known for?
The South Australian economy is dominated by mining, manufacturing and agriculture, including aquaculture. However, tourism is also a major industry in the state, with so much to offer both adventurous travellers and those looking for a relaxing and indulgent holiday.
The state is known for a range of unique features. It’s home to the semi-arid Nullarbor Plain which stretches into the Great Victorian Desert, some of the oldest wine growing regions in the country, and a spectacular coastline from the Great Australian Bight across to the Eyre Peninsula and beyond.
The state is also home to an abundance of wildlife. On land, you can find plenty of native animals such as wombats, kangaroos, emus and koalas. In the sea, the Great Australian Bight is considered one of the most biodiverse places in Australia. In particular, Southern Right Whales, bottlenose dolphins, Australian sea lions and great white sharks can all be found off the coast. It’s often these encounters with the natural world which draws people to the beautiful national parks and coastal areas in South Australia.
Planning a visit to South Australia
There are so many places to visit and things to do in South Australia that you can easily be occupied for weeks. Many people come to the state on a road trip-style holiday. This offers one of the best ways to see a number of the state’s highlights and have the freedom to take your own pace when exploring the more remote places.
The capital city, Adelaide, is usually the start point for many trips. This is where you’ll find the state’s main international and domestic airport. From Adelaide, many of the state’s top sights and places to visit can be easily accessed by shorter flights or self-drive tours.
It’s also common for people to visit South Australia on extended road trips coming across interstate on major highways. Some of these highways are through remote, arid landscapes such as via the Eyre Highway from Western Australia, the Stuart Highway from Northern Territory and the Outback Highway and Birdsville Track from Queensland. There are also major highway connections to Victoria and New South Wales that are commonly used as well.
When to visit South Australia
You can visit South Australia at any time of the year, with a relatively moderate climate. However, many people try to avoid the hot summers and cool winters by coming either in autumn or spring, when the weather is more mild but still dry. These are also the shoulder seasons and mean that you’ll find less tourists and quieter beaches.
However, winter in South Australia is still quite mild and it’s a great time to visit for those who are interested in catching some of the unique marine life. Southern Right Whales can be spotted off the southern coast from May until September each year, making winter the perfect time for whale watching.
Places to visit in South Australia
There are so many incredible places to visit in South Australia. The state is characterised by stunning natural wonders, a variety of wildlife and plenty of outdoor activities. This means that no matter what your interests, there’s something to appeal to everyone. Here are some of the top places in South Australia to visit.
Many trips to South Australia begin in Adelaide. The capital sits in the southeast of the state and is a laidback city with a mixture of high-rise and heritage listed buildings and plenty of green park spaces. It’s known for its great cultural scene with festivals and markets on throughout the year. From WOMADelaide in March to the wine vintage festivals in the nearby Barossa Valley, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Adelaide.
The Barossa Valley is one of the most well-known of Australia’s wine regions and is also one of the oldest. The incredibly fertile soils of this beautiful valley produce world-class wine, as well as plenty of locally grown produce. It’s a popular day trip from Adelaide at just an hour’s drive away from the capital. However, it’s best combined with a trip to nearby Clare Valley, for the ultimate wine tour in South Australia.
Along with the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley is another world-class wine region. It’s similar to Barossa in that it has a range of small towns with heritage buildings, boutique wineries and rolling hills. It’s just a 90-minute drive north of Adelaide, making it another popular day trip or weekend away. You could also easily visit Clare Valley as a slight detour on the way to Port Augusta and the Eyre Peninsula.
Kangaroo Island is often considered one of Australia’s stunning natural gems. This beautiful island sits off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and is the third largest in Australia. It’s home to incredible natural scenery and an abundance of wildlife, with over a third of the island’s area protected by nature reserves and national parks. It’s reachable by direct flights from Adelaide or via ferry from Cape Jervis.
Flinders Ranges National Park
This incredibly rugged national park stretches northward above Port Augusta into the outback in South Australia. The stunning mountain range is popular with hikers, nature lovers and keen photographers. You’ll find plenty of native wildlife in the park, as well as, Aboriginal art and cultural sites to admire. It’s a great place to explore the outdoors and go camping, but there’s also a range of accommodation to suit everyone.
Mount Gambier is an extinct volcano with beautiful blue crater lakes, close to the Victorian border. The area is particularly known for its caves, with the World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves being considered one of the most exceptional fossil sites in the world. The city of Mt Gambier is the second biggest in the state and is where you can base yourself for trips to the surrounding volcanic landscape.
The small opal-mining town of Coober Pedy is one of the most famous places in South Australia. It’s known for its underground dwellings where residents escape the extreme weather conditions by living in dugout homes in the ground. The surrounding landscape dotted with opal mines has created an otherworldly-like sight that people travel from far and wide to see. It’s a popular place to stop on the long journey north to the Northern Territory.
Another stunning natural wonder, Lake Eyre is the largest salt lake in Australia and the lowest point on the mainland at approximately 15m below sea level. It’s best visited when it floods with desert rain, which creates an incredible mirror effect. It’s located in the northeast of South Australia and is usually explored either by a self-drive tour or even a scenic flight.
At just over an hour’s drive from Adelaide, this peninsula is a popular holiday destination in South Australia. It is one of the most pristine and spectacular coastal areas in the country, with the remote and secluded Innes National Park and the Coastal Way road trip. In the warm summer months, the white sand beaches are crowded with city residents enjoying the sun.
The Murray is Australia’s longest river running from New South Wales through Victoria to the ocean in South Australia. It’s considered the food bowl of the country, with farming communities scattered along its banks. It’s also of interest to tourists, as the river offers plenty of water sport activities from water skiing to boating. It is a very popular holiday destination for families with plenty of free camping opportunities on the banks.
Stretching along the coast of the Great Australian Bight in the western part of the state, the Nullarbor is one of the most unique landscapes in Australia. The exposed limestone bedrock covers an area of around 200, 000 square kilometres of almost treeless, semi-arid plain. It’s home to a number of bucket list experiences, with the main one being a drive across the plain on the Eyre Highway. This road is the major connection that runs from Port Augusta through Ceduna to Eucla and beyond in Western Australia. It’s considered one of the greatest road trips in the country, with many people coming from all over the country to cross the Nullarbor each year.
For people with extra time, a detour from the Eyre Highway onto the Eyre Peninsula is a popular addition. The white sand beaches and relaxing towns offer the perfect places to rest after a long trip across the Nullarbor or as preparation for the journey ahead.
Ceduna is a large coastal town on the Eyre Highway. It’s conveniently located on the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula and on the eastern fringes of the Nullarbor Plain. This makes it a popular destination in South Australia, as nearly a quarter of a million vehicles pass through the town on the epic road trip across the Nullarbor. The town is also known as the oyster capital of Australia, with foodies stopping to enjoy the incredibly delicious seafood and a chance to visit a working oyster farm in Smoky Bay. At eight hours from Adelaide, Ceduna is a convenient base for exploring many of South Australia’s highlights.
Gawler Ranges National Park
Running along the north of the Eyre Peninsula is this rugged national park. The Gawler Ranges is characterised by volcanic rock and a red earth, outback landscape. It’s home to a variety of wildlife and sacred places for Aboriginal people, which can be explored either on foot or by 4WD. It offers an incredible contrast to the white sand beaches of the nearby Eyre Peninsula and a great detour off the Eyre Highway. There are also plenty of opportunities for camping inside the national park which means you can enjoy the landscape once all the day trippers have gone home.
The Eyre Peninsula is a triangular-shaped peninsula in South Australia and one of the country’s most beautiful coastal regions. It’s known for its abundant wildlife, with the pristine landscapes being home to plenty of native animals and rare marine life. There is also some incredibly raw natural beauty, especially within the Coffin Bay and Lincoln National Parks.
The peninsula is home to a few major towns, including Ceduna on the western side, Port Lincoln towards the southern tip and Port Augusta in the northeast corner. The journey time from Adelaide is around six hours to Port Lincoln, which makes it a nice place to head from Adelaide before heading further west. The peninsula is a popular detour on the Eyre Highway for people heading across the Nullarbor or coming from Western Australia to Adelaide.
There’s such a variety of things to do on the Eyre Peninsula with many of South Australia’s best experiences to be found in the area, including:
The Eyre Peninsula is known as the seafood frontier of Australia with so many opportunities to throw a line in. You can enjoy boat fishing, jetty fishing and beach fishing almost anywhere on the coast. Fishing charters are also a popular activity for travellers. This way you can have a good chance of catching the famous King George whiting, as well as a variety of other species such as tommy ruffs, salmon, garfish and snook.
The western coast of the peninsula is also a great place for surfing. The most popular surf beaches are around Fowlers Bay, Venus Bay and Elliston, where you can find breaks for all levels of surfers. However, the most famous spot and one reserved for experienced surfers only, is Cactus Beach near Penong. This world-class surf spot draws people from all over the world who come to surf the breaks there.
Finding secluded beaches
If you’re looking for a place to relax, the Eyre Peninsula has some incredible white sand beaches to spend hours lying in the sun. The most beautiful of these are inside the two national parks on either side of the peninsula’s southern point. Coffin Bay National Park and Lincoln National Park has some truly incredible, pristine beaches. Some of these spots are often accessed by 4×4 or on foot, making them incredibly secluded and rewarding adventures.
One of the most famous wildlife experiences on the Eyre Peninsula is the chance to spot Southern Right Whales off the coast. During the cooler months from May until October, these rare mammals migrate up from Antarctica to the sheltered coastline of South Australia. There are some land-based lookouts from where you can enjoy a view, but the real highlight is heading out on a whale watching tour.
These two-hour boat trips enable you to see these impressive giants up close. You can usually organise a whale watching tour from towns like Ceduna, Fowlers Bay or Baird Bay on the western side of the peninsula.
Camping is one of the most popular activities on the Eyre Peninsula. Whether inside the national park, free camping on the secluded coast or at a caravan park, it’s a great way to experience the natural landscape. However, if you’re opting for camping as your preferred accommodation, ensure that you follow leave no trace principles and carry all your rubbish out with you.
While you’re on The Eyre Peninsula:
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