In typical me fashion, this set of blog posts is about 12 months late
South Australia is a place that you don’t really hear much about. People would rather travel the East or West Coast of Australia with South Australia being left as an after thought. After living in Melbourne for seven ish years, I had always been fascinated by South Australia, its main city Adelaide, is the closest big city and had been described as “kind of like Melbourne but smaller” and after going there, I would somewhat agree with this statement, however I would add, “and has MUCH better beaches”.
I decided that the way I wanted to see South Australia was by van. So we packed up into a little van and drove from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road, Mt Gambier, the Limestone Coast, the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island.
We travelled for 2 weeks and let me tell you, it wasn’t long enough.
I have broken this travel guide into three parts:
- Melbourne to Kangaroo Island
- Kangaroo Island
- Fleurieu Peninsula & Adelaide
How do I get there?
Getting to South Australia is very simple. From Melbourne you can drive (taking around 8 hours) or you can fly into Adelaide from anywhere in Australia.
When should I go?
It really depends on what you are wanting to do! In summer it can get VERY hot and in winter it does get cold! I would recommend the end of the summer season or spring.
How long should I go for?
You could spend anywhere from a week to a month or longer in South Australia. There is so much to do! If I had more time the next port of call would have been the Eyre Peninsula or the Outback! Both around 6-8 hours from Adelaide heading West and those two places could add an extra 2 weeks just by themselves.
Is it expensive?
Travelling in Australia, in comparison to somewhere like Asia is always going to be expensive. However if you are smart with your money you can still have a really good time on a budget.
2 Week Itinerary Overview
- Day 1: Great Ocean Road to Mt Gambier
- Day 2: Mt Gambier & the Limestone Coast
- Day 3: Drive to the Fleurieu Peninsula
- Day 4: Fleurieu Peninsula
- Day 5: Kangaroo Island
- Day 6: Kangaroo Island – Flinders Chase National Park
- Day 7: Kangaroo Island to Second Valley
- Day 8: Second Valley and Port Willunga
- Day 9: Adelaide
- Day 10: Adelaide
- Day 11: Hahndorf and the Adelaide Hills
- Day 12: Adelaide Central & Gardens
- Day 13: Glenelg and Henley
- Day 14: Home Time
Day 1 – The Great Ocean Road to Mt Gambier Roadtrip
The Great Ocean Road road trip is iconic in Melbourne. If we hadn’t both done the Great Ocean Road before this, we would have spent much more than one day travelling up it (I would say give yourself at least 2 or 3 days). I have written a whole blogpost here which is an in depth guide to this road trip however as a brief overview of places to stop I would suggest Lorne, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, the 12 Apostles, London Bridge, Port Campbell, Warnambool and Port Fairy (from here you could drive over to SA or take the inland route back to Melbourne).
This da we of course had to stop at the 12 Apostles (the quietest I have ever seen it due to the lack of tourism) where we even managed to see a baby brown snake on the path, pretty cool. We also stopped at a few places to eat but otherwise it was an almost solid 11 hours on the road.
Day 2 – Mt Gambier and the Limestone Coast
The day started by driving into town to find some coffee. We stopped at a place called Blue Bay Espresso Bar which was amazing. It was one of those places you see the locals queuing outside so you know you have to go in and it didn’t disappoint. The coffee was great and it had a really nice vibe.
The next stop was Umpherston Sinkhole. In all the advertisements for South Australia, this is likely the one you have seen and thought wow, thats so pretty and for good reason. This was like nothing I had seen before. It is such a beautiful place to visit and have a picnic if you have time.
Also known as the sunken garden, the sinkhole was once a cave formed through dissolution of the limestone (which is everywhere in this area). It was created when the top of the cave chamber collapsed downwards. The topsoil down on the floor forms the perfect environment for this sunken garden and over the years has become incredibly beautiful.
We then headed back on the road towards Naracoorte but not before stopping at the famous Blue Lake which thankfully was very blue! It changes colour at different times of the year but the time we went was perfect. If we had more time, there were other places I would have loved to stop and explore in Mt Gambier including:
- Swim in Little Blue Lake
- Dive in the Kilsby Sinkhole or Pincanine Ponds
- Visit Engelbrecht Cave
- Centenary Tower
In fact, if we had more time I would have loved to spend a few days slowing driving down the limestone coast as there is so much to see and do if you have the time.
Naracoorte Caves National Park – Fossil Cave Tour
Around an hour drive from Mt Gambier is the Naracoorte Caves National Park. This is a World Heritage listed site and it is one of the world’s most important fossil sites. There are loads of things you can do here including general cave tours, the fossil centre, hikes, bat observation sites.. there is a lot to do and definitely something I wish I had researched more before going to try and plan for more time here. We ended up rushing our visit meaning that we didn’t see as many caves or as much of the National Park as we would have liked. However, still well worth a visit. You can click HERE to find out more about the Naracoorte Caves.
After we had finished at the caves we started the long slog to the top of the limestone coast. We booked a camp site at the Lake Albert Caravan Park in Meningie. This was the perfect place to set up for the evening, cook some dinner and hang out with all of the residents of the lake whilst watching the sunset. The facilities were really good and a place I would recommend.
Day 3: Drive to the Fleurieu Peninsula
To drive to the Fleurieu Peninsula from Meningie you have to drive all the way around Lake Alexandrina. Its a pretty long drive and since we were in the area we decided to break up the trip by stopping at The Bend Motorsport Park. This Motorsport Park is very new, only built around 2016 and it is amazing. If you have ever been to a motorsport park before you will know that they are usually pretty old and the facilities aren’t great. This place is one heck of an exception.
There is a hotel within the park as well as a Big4 Caravan park nearby so if you are heading there for the weekend or just in general you won’t struggle to find a place to stay, They have a range of driver experience options and the event calendar at this place is pretty packed so there is almost always something on to watch, if not just the driver experiences zooming around the tracks.
From here we drove another few hours to Port Elliot.
First impression of Port Elliot… Beautiful. We parked up at Freeman lookout and made some lunch in the back of the van whilst admiring the view. We were so lucky on this day because the weather was perfect. After lunch we went for a walk around the coastline and through the town.
This place is filled with cute coffee shops, old book stores, second hand clothing and knick knack shops. You can spend quite a long time just poking your head into them and browsing. On the main street you will find restaurants, a pub and of course the famous Port Elliot Bakery.
We headed down to the beach and decided to go for a swim in the amazing rock pools and on the main beach. The water here is so warm and clear. (Side note – even after all my travels around Australia since, it is still one of my favourite beaches in Australia).
We stayed at the Big 4 Holiday Park in Port Elliot this night which was good. It’s a easy walk into town and a 5 minute walk into the beach. We headed out for fish and chips, because when by the beach, you have to and walked back up to the lookout to eat.
Day 4: Fleurieu Peninsula
Every road trip will always include a day or two of bad weather, a lot of driving and generally have not a lot happen. That was day four. We woke up to our first day of really crappy rainy weather and since this was the day we made our way down to the bottom of the Fleurieu Peninsula we slowly spent the day driving down.
We stopped at a few places along the way, including the Fleurieu Distillery, Victor Harbour, Encounter Bay, the Deep Creek Conservation Park and finally Cape Jervis.
If we had more time (and a 4WD) there are some pretty cool places and things I would have liked to do in this area including:
- All the wineries (duh)
- Wildlife exploring on Granite Island
- Hikes and Waterfalls at Deep Creek National Park
- Hindmarsh Falls
We ended this day taking the Sealink Ferry, heading over to Kangaroo Island. It was pretty perfect seeing dolphins playing in the harbour at sunset and swimming around the ferry. We had food at the local Penneshaw Hotel and then headed down to the Kangaroo Island Seafront Holiday Park.