Ultimate South Australia Road Trip Guide: 1/2/3 Week Itinerary
Thinking about doing a South Australia road trip but unsure what to see and do? While South Australia is famed for having jaw dropping pristine beaches, beautiful vineyards and so much more, British expat writer Lucy Timperley is sharing her personal South Australian itinerary to help you plan your trip!
Lucy is no stranger to writing for Londoner In Sydney. You can read her epic guide for walking the entire Bondi to Manly Walk in a single weekend! Originally from Manchester, she swapped rainy days for living in Bondi Beach. You can follow her expat adventures at @lucytimperley
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Table of Contents
Why visit South Australia?
As a wine lover, Barossa Valley and McClaren Vale wine regions have been on my list for a while and following the devastating bushfires on Kangaroo Island, I really wanted to visit to try to contribute to their recovery in a small way.
Other than that, I hadn’t really considered exploring South Australia as a holiday destination. It was only when I started doing some research that I realised how much there so many things to do in South Australia, so we ended up extending our initial 1 week trip turned into a 3 week South Australian road trip!
Best time to visit South Australia
While South Australia is known for having some scorching hot days in Summer, when we visited it was unseasonably cool at 25C most days. Spring and Autumn would be beautiful times of the year to visit this underrated part of Australia.
How to logistically do a South Australian road trip
Because I live in Sydney, I flew to Adelaide Airport, and then hired a car which cost us $930 for three weeks. The car hire included payments to reduce the excess to zero and for additional drivers so we could switch it up each day.
What to do in Week 1 on a South Australia road trip
I’m going to break it down so you can see what to do in Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3 of the road trip. This is perfect for anyone looking to do a shorter trip so you can pick and choose each destination.
Days 1-3: Explore the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula
You could easily spend way more than four days exploring the stunning coastline of the Fleurieu Peninsula – some of the views from the drive around the Peninsula rivalled the Great Ocean Road!
These were some of the best beaches I have visited in Australia by far with white sand and clear blue water.
My favourite beach is Carrickalinga where we stayed in an AirBnB over the Christmas period and pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves everyday – not something you usually get on Christmas Day in Australia!
Nearby to Carrickalinga there is a lovely local brewery and restaurant, Forktree Brewery, with beautiful views over the rolling hills and the ocean. We visited on Christmas Eve and it was absolutely packed with a great atmosphere – locals had obviously travelled from far and wide to visit. The barman told us it’s that busy almost every day throughout the year so would recommend booking a table in advance.
For a special occasion, the Star of Greece fine dining Mediterranean (not Greek!) restaurant Port Willunga was exceptional. I’d recommend booking well in advance to avoid disappointment!
On the other side of the Peninsula is Victor Harbor – a lovely little town with a few shops, cafes and pubs, there’s enough to do to spend a full day here. The best way to explore this coastline is the 30km Encounter Bikeway linking Victor Harbor and Goolwa. Admittedly we did only make it about halfway to Port Elliot because we opted for a tandem which was great fun.
We used A. Rite Minibus, a family owned business, for a full day tour of McClaren Vale wineries – we were able to pick our own itinerary and they arranged the tastings for us and kindly made a lunch booking on our behalf too. We paid $75pp for the transport for the day (10am-6pm) in a minibus for 7 of us. Les, the driver was an absolute legend and was very flexible on allowing us to stay longer at wineries where the wine was too good to leave! Here’s a summary of our day:
1. Paxton Wines: a family owned winery, specialising in organic and biodynamic wine. We had a beautiful table outside overlooking the vineyards. The wines were delicious and the sommelier did a perfect job of providing us with information on each as well as leaving us time to chat and enjoy the wines.
2. Angove Family Winemakers: the setting here was beautiful with a balcony overlooking the vineyards which you can wander round. Unfortunately, neither the wine nor the service left much to be desired – it felt very rushed and impersonal, probably because they were so busy at the time, but I wouldn’t hurry back to this one.
3. Oscars Restaurant: a very yummy Italian for some carb-loading to soak up the wine. I’d recommend the arancini followed by the marinara fettuccini – unusally, the wine list wasn’t great considering we were in the heart of the wine region so probably opt for a beer here instead.
4. D’Arenburg Cube: probably the coolest/weirdest winery you’ll visit! Your entry includes a self-guided tour of the Alternate Realities Museum so make sure you allow a bit longer for this one. You can also pay a bit extra to visit the Salvador Dali exhibition on the ground floor which unfortunately we didn’t have time for. Also make sure you make a bathroom stop at this one – they are pretty cool!
5. Maxwell Wines: we didn’t do a tasting at this one and instead just took a couple of bottles of wine down to the vineyard where they have a couple of picnic benches and logs you can sit on. Pretty wined-up by this point we had a great time racing against each other in the maze outdoor maze too!
I’d love to try Down the Rabbit Hole winery next time as it’s been recommended by so many people but unfortunately, it’s closed on Wednesdays when we visited so plan around that!
What to do in Week 2
Days 5-7: Pick up a camper van and travel round Kangaroo Island
We had two full days on Kangaroo Island and managed to get around pretty much everything we wanted to see in that time but you might want to do three days to do things at a slower pace. It may be because we were at peak season over the Christmas break but I would recommend booking your ferries early because the car spots get really booked up.
The ferry is also not cheap (we paid nearly $400 return for two adults with the camper) so factor that into your budgeting! We picked up a campervan for this part of the trip because we couldn’t find any accommodation at all on the island. A campervan is definitely a great way to see the island and was such a novelty for a few days. I’d recommend filling up with fuel before you board the ferry as it’s not cheap on the island!
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island so the size shouldn’t be underestimated! Also, a lot of the roads are unsealed so choose an appropriate car/van and make sure your insurance covers unsealed roads. I’d recommend staying the first night on the east and exploring that side of the island then staying further west towards Flinders Chase National Park for the second night. This interactive map is a great source of information and allows you to plan and save your own itinerary.
We were on the last ferry out of Cape Jervis so arrived late and headed straight to the Penneshaw Hotel for a lovely pub dinner. We stayed at one of the free council campsites at Vivonne Bay on the first night, around a 1 hour drive from the ferry – this has no facilities (no toilets, showers etc.) so might not be for everyone but it’s totally free and we were the only ones there!
In hindsight, we probably should have just stayed near Penneshaw that evening as we ended up heading back over that way anyway the next day.
We started the day at the famous Seal Bay – you actually can’t see any seals unless you pay which we didn’t realise… you can take the boardwalk tour or $16.50 or a guided tour on to the beach for $37 which only goes at certain times. We actually saw loads of seals on Day 2 at Flinders Chase, so unless you’re desperate to see them up you might want to miss this.
For lunch, we headed back to Penneshaw to a cute little café – Millie Mae’s Pantry. They have a range of yummy salads and sandwiches and a quirky little shop inside too. We had booked a 2 hour dolphin and seal snorkelling trip with Ocean Safari in the afternoon but given we didn’t get lucky unfortunately!
We needed a drink so we headed to KI Spirits, a craft gin distillery after our unsuccessful snorkelling trip. You could try a flight of 5 gins with tonic for $20 which were all great – my favourite was the Mulberry gin – and they also do gin masterclasses which I bet would be amazing!
We stayed at Western KI Caravan Park for the second night. The park had great amenities as well as wild kangaroos and koalas roaming around! We headed off early the second day to Flinders Chase – this is really where you start to see the impact of the bushfires as the Western side of the island was most badly affected with 96% of the park burnt.
It was great to see some green regrowth coming through and they have done a fantastic job of rebuilding the National Park infrastructure. You will be charged a National Park entry fee of $11pp and given a map of the route to the 5 key stopping points.
The rock formations at Remarkables Rocks and Admirals Arch are truly incredible and the coastline is stunning.
At Admirals Arch, you can see hundreds of seals playing on the rocks and in the water too!
We headed to the north of the island for lunch at Rockpool café in Stokes Bay. From here we drove to Emu Bay, about 40 mins. Emu Bay is a beautiful long stretch of white sand – we went for a walk down the beach. If you have a 4×4 you can drive along the beach here too.
Our last stop before the ferry back was Bay of Shoals winery near Kingscote where we had a tasting of 5 wines of our choice for $5 (bargain!). The views are stunning overlooking the water and was the perfect way to end our Kangaroo Island leg of the trip!
Days 8-9: Pitstop at Port Willunga and drive to Port Lincoln
Without flying, the quickest way to get to Port Lincoln from Fleurieu Peninsula is to drive up to Wallaroo and cross the Spencer Gulf by ferry to Lucky Bay. This avoids needing to drive all the way around the peninsula to go back down to Port Lincoln. We paid $185 for 3 people and a car for a one-way trip.
The drive from Port Willunga to Wallaroo took us about 3 hours with a comfort break and dropping off the camper van on the way.
The ferry itself is a couple of hours and then the drive down to Port Lincoln is another couple of hours. It does end up being quite a long day so don’t plan too much for the evening of your arrival in Port Lincoln!
Days 10-14: Dive with sharks and eat oysters in Port Lincoln
On our first day in Port Lincoln, we walked up to Boston Bay Wines (get a cab instead as there’s no view on the walk). The winery is in a lovely setting and we paid $20 for a flight of wine – given we’d walked so far they even stayed open a bit later so we could have another bottle of wine which was much appreciated. The owner, Tony, had some great jokes to keep us entertained…
On day two we had an early start for great white shark cage diving. This is an absolute must and Port Lincoln is the only place in Australia where you can do it! We went with Calypso Star Charters and paid $535 each. Calypso are the only company who are allowed to use bait for the sharks, so you have more chance of seeing them. If you don’t see one, you get the next trip for free, but pre book as we missed out on swimming with sea lions because it was booked up.
The boat departs at 6am and it takes around three hours to get out to near South Neptune Islands. Bring sea sickness tablets as it can get quite choppy out there.
We were very lucky that a great white started circling the boat almost as soon as we arrived and they started to get each group in. If you can, try to put your name down for one of the first groups into the water – that way there is less chance that the shark will disappear before your chance to get in.
No diving experience is necessary – the regulators are all attached to the top of the cage and you just put it in your mouth and get in. You are provided with a wetsuit, boots, goggles and weights to weigh you down in the cage.
You get around 25 minutes in with the sharks which was terrifying and incredible in equal parts.
I was literally centimetres from a great white shark which felt so surreal! This was easily one of my highlights of Australia so far.
We also spotted a few pods of dolphins off the side of the boat too. You have to wait for around 8 groups to get into the water but we just had a nap (and got very sunburnt!) whilst we waited and then you have a 3 hour trip back. We arrived back at around 6pm although I understand this could be as late as 9pm if you are a bit more unlucky with the shark spotting.
On our last day in Port Lincoln, we drove across the Eyre Peninsula to Coffin Bay (about a 45 minute drive away). We stopped for coffee and a bite to eat at the buzzing Beachcomber Café before heading into the National Park. The beaches around here are stunning white sand with shallow blue water, almost like a lake. We hopped between Yangie Bay and Long Beach. If you have a 4-wheel drive you can also drive along the length of Long Beach.
In the afternoon, we went on the “short & sweet” oyster farm tour booked through Experience Coffin Bay. This 90 minute trip takes you out into Coffin Bay with a brief history of the oyster industry provided by oyster farmers Chris and Linda and you get half a dozen freshly shucked oysters included too. This was an excellent tour and well worth doing to pick up some tips on how to shuck oysters and the best time to buy!
What to do in Week 3
Days 15-17: Head out to The Flinders Ranges
We set off early for the 5 hour drive up to Flinders Ranges, stopping at Port Augusta on the way to stock up on food for the few days – I would definitely recommend doing this because there’s really not in terms of shops once you reach Flinders! We stayed 3 nights at Rawnsley Park Station in a two-bedroom apartment which had a pool – a life saver as it was really hot out there.
The receptionist recommended we climb up one of the hills for sunset which was absolutely incredible. You could see sunset on one side and the full moon rising on the other side. We had dinner at the onsite restaurant, the Woolshed, on the first night with kangaroo on the menu!
In the morning, we embarked on a couple of scenic drives through Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges and an 8km hike through a gorge. The drives plus the walk took us way longer than we had expected, about 5/6 hours, so make sure you allow plenty of time and take enough food and water.
The scenery is pretty spectacular, somewhat similar to Uluru with the red rock and we didn’t see any other people or cars for miles!
On our second day we decided to check out the historic town of Blinman, around an hours drive from Rawnsley Park. With a population of 35(!) there isn’t much going on but it is a pretty cool place to check out as on of the main settlements in the South Australian desert.
You can do an underground mine tour (unfortunately we had missed the last one for the day!) which sounded cool. We had lunch at the North Blinman Hotel, a really great local pub – we had a lovely afternoon here playing cards and looking at the tons of historic photos and paintings lining the walls.
Days 17 – 18: More wine at the Barossa Valley
We headed down to the Barossa Valley early with an idea to stop at one of the instagrammable pink lakes, Bumbunga Lake, en route. The pink lake was, well… not pink and very disappointing. Check out our guide for the 10 Best Pink Lakes in Australia!
We stayed one night at the Barossa Weintal Hotel in Tanunda, one of the main towns in the Barossa region. I wish we’d stayed longer as I really loved it here. We booked in for lunch at Casa Carboni, a delicious pasta restaurant where you can also do pasta making courses. The food was SO good and great to line the stomachs for a big day of wine tasting.
We booked tastings at Chateau Tanunda and Yalumba which were both absolutely stunning venues with delicious wines. After the tastings, we headed to the main street in Tanunda to Z Wine which is a cool little wine bar with live music on – it had such great vibes! We had dinner at 1918 which was really yummy with a lovely garden at the back of the restaurant and finished off with a few drinks at Musque, a cool little gin bar which stays open til midnight!
Days 18 – 20: Finish off with a city break
I have to admit – I didn’t have high hopes for Adelaide, but I think it gets a really bad rep. We had a couple of nights here to finish off the trip.
For the most part of the trip, you are snorkelling, holding on to a rope on the back of the boat being pulled along and the dolphins swim underneath you – it really is incredible. One tip is there is no food on board the ship and nothing open in the area when the trip starts so make sure you eat beforehand!
After the trip, the Glenelg Beach area has a really nice vibe. The Moseley Beach Club is really great with deck chairs on the sand and live music – you could spend all day here! I felt like I was in a European resort rather than Australia.
For dinner, we ate at Shobosho in the laneways. Oh my – the food is amazing – 10/10 would recommend! There’s also lots of intimate bars in the laneways area – my favourite was the Biblioteca Bar and Book Exchange which has an extensive cocktail list as well as a whole library of books!
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Looking for more places to visit in Adelaide?
Check out our complete guide for the Best Things To Do In Mount Gambier which is an amazing town full of incredible sink holes you can go diving in. It’s an awesome place that it totally underrated!
A big thanks you Lucy for sharing such a wonderful guide to South Australia! If you would like to share your favourite places, things to do or tips anywhere in Australia, simply fill out our Write For Us form just like Lucy did.