Last winter, when I first shared that I was going on a two week trip to Australia, most people assumed I was on my way to Sydney or Melbourne. Wrong! My holiday was to one of Australia’s lesser-known cities, but still one with plenty to see and do. I went to Adelaide and spent a week in the city during festival season (link to earlier post), but I also made a point to get out and see more of the region – Australia’s driest state (and on the driest continent, no less).
South Australia is one of six Australian states, and, you guessed it—it’s in the south. Perhaps most famous for their wine region (Australia’s largest), the region is also a home to a number of surprising things to see and do. And with a direct connection from Adelaide (South Australia’s capital) to all the major international carriers, it’s an easy point to start, end or stay on an Australian holiday.
5 Surprising Things To Do in South Australia
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Party at Adelaide’s Mad March festivals
As the capital of South Australia, Adelaide has the most attractions. A city of over a million people, the population booms each March during festival season. The Adelaide Festival is an annual international arts and culture festival, with fringe events such as the Adelaide Fringe and WOMADelaide taking place at the same time. During March, the weather in Adelaide is still very summery and the flocks of international and regional visitors really makes the city come alive with a vibrancy, color and energy you just wouldn’t see any other time of year.
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss in South Australia, it’s the opportunity to experience the Mad March festival season.
Related: A Week in Adelaide during Mad March
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Explore the Fleurieu Peninsula
An up-market, off-road adventure company, Off Piste 4WD Tours explore the hidden and rugged beauty of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. Located between Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, the tours (which can either be booked for a day or for longer, multi-day experiences) go through McLaren Vale’s popular food and wine region with an ecological slant.
Exploring some of South Australia’s best beach drives, meeting kangaroos in the wild, or wine-tasting at off-the-beaten path locations, the tours are one-of-a-kind experiences.
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Taste some of the world’s best wines in Barossa Wine Region
First settled by German and British settlers in the 19th century, the Barossa Wine region today is one of Australia’s most robust wine-making regions. There are over 750 wineries producing everything from Shiraz to Riesling. A good day exploring the Barossa Valley would start with a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop – a cute café and restaurant overlooking a lake with a huge selection of homemade jams and other local foods.
One of the region’s most popular wineries, Seppeltsfield, hosts regular winery tours and tastings, plus they’ve got a beautiful outdoor restaurant on site. And for something really unique, Barossa Unique Tours offer chauffeured motorcycle tours combining the history and culture of the beautiful Barossa Valley with the comfort and thrill of riding aboard a “trike” —a three-wheeled Harley Davidson.
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Hike the Adelaide Hills
Australia’s other big wine region, the Adelaide Hills dates back to 1839, just three years after the colony was settled. It’s an easy day trip from Adelaide and with a number of different sights, it’s suitable for all ages. Besides the wineries, like Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard (a sustainable boutique vineyard which serves locally produced foods in their fine dining restaurant), the Adelaide Hills are great for panoramic, scenic viewpoints.
And then there’s the Gorge Wildlife Park where you can see many of Australia’s most famous animals, plus get the chance to hug a koala and feed kangaroos!
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Swim with wild dolphins
Temptation Sailing is the first company in South Australia to be given a dolphin swim license & has been conducting successful wild dolphin swims in Glenelg, South Australia since January 2002. Glenelg is just on the outskirts of Adelaide; it’s where you’ll find the city’s best beaches. But just off the shore are pods of dolphins and it’s relatively easy to swim with them.
The boat used by Temptation Sailing is a comfortable catamaran and for those that don’t want to get in the water, it’s also possible to watch from above; sometimes even the dolphins jump out of the water. Because the sailing company is equally interested in conservation, you know you’re getting a truly unique and authentic experience that’s also safe for the environment.