South Australia is one of my favourite areas in Oz because it’s slightly off the beaten track. It isn’t the first place tourists might think to visit, and it’s a little bit quieter about shouting about its charms. But charms aplenty it does have, and the kind that give you an authentic experience of Australia.
Adelaide is a wonderful, bite-sized city with great independent shops and interesting restaurants, plus it’s easy to get around. It’s definitely not your large, homogenised city. Every year in late February, Adelaide has an Edinburgh-style festival combining comedy, theatre, performance arts and music.
You must stay on the Eyre Peninsula at the beautiful, super-eco glamping place run by a charming bloke called Jeff. I’d sit outside after dark and just gaze at the clear sky through their telescope and see Jupiter. It was so peaceful – all you could hear was the melodic cacophony of the wildlife, including the owls.
The Eyre Peninsula also offers great scenic drives along the coast and inland. The highlight is a lagoon along the northern part of the peninsula, where sea lions and dolphins gather. There are several ethical operators who will take you to swim with them – the sea lions are especially curious and cheeky.
It’s a safe way of getting up close to some Australian marine life without fearing that you’re going to run into something with big teeth.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll see kangaroos everywhere, bouncing around.
For a perfect day in this area, you’d have to spend it on Kangaroo Island, a direct hop off the coast south of Adelaide. It’s renowned for its wildlife and nature reserves, my two loves.
You can hire a bike and explore the entire island, or take one of the many walking trails. It has lots of small farms and artisanal producers selling lavender, sheep’s milk, ice cream and honey.
There are magnificent views from the coastline, including sea lions and these amazing rock formations called the Remarkable Rocks. The island is dotted with lots of lakes and forests filled with koalas and rare birds.
If you’re lucky, you might see an echidna – an Australian version of a hedgehog, but with a much longer nose. They’re a timid lot, but if you stay still and quiet, they will happily snaffle up their bugs while you sit by their side watching them.
The food scene will not disappoint. A Foodie’s Guide to South Australia
You can never get enough of this. South Australia Only Leaves You Wanting More
Foraged Food: Delicious Without Pretence
If it’s luxury you’re after, stay at the majestic South Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island. It’s been designed so it fits in beautifully with the landscape. It’s low-rise and looks like a wave, perched atop a cliff.
You get a panoramic view of the Southern Ocean from the giant windows. They’ve gone out of their way to think about their impact on the environment.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a better meal than the food I ate at the South Ocean Lodge. Their young head chef specialises in foraged food and using their fantastic local producers. He puts it together in a way that’s just mind-blowing. It’s not pretentious or fussy either.
A very close second for my culinary choice would be The Louise, in the Barossa Valley. If you’re a real foodie and wine connoisseur, you have to visit the Barossa Valley. It has an area of vineyards from small boutique wines up to Wolf Blass and Jacob’s Creek.
Many of the vineyards have amazing on-site restaurants. There is also the most wonderful San Francisco-style farmers market with great producers who really know their stuff. I would recommend trying the Barossa Valley Butcher, Baker and Winemaker Trail or the Cheese and Wine Trail. Along the way there are lots of charming historical towns with art galleries and gentrified shops.
You’ll be spoilt for photogenic picture ops – from those over Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges from the air to those from your bed at the South Ocean Lodge, or nearby Admiral Arch.
The best time of year to visit is our winter months. It’s not screamingly hot or overrun with tourists, although South Australia never gets crowded. And then you’ll also be able to catch the Adelaide Festival.
You might think when you visit Australia it’s always warm, but packing sensibly is key for a good vacation there. Take layering clothes for flexibility, a lightweight waterproof jacket if you’re out on the water or going for a walk, and a really good pair of boots because even if you’re not a keen walker, if someone offers you breakfast with a kangaroo, you’re going to want to take it.
South Australia gets my vote because it’s understated, unpretentious and offers a dazzling array of outdoor activities and wildlife spotting. I’m in heaven every time I visit.
Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to South Australia.
This article was written by Kate Humble from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.