By road or rail: 6 incredible journeys through South Australia

In South Australia, the journey itself is half the adventure…

Team Wanderlust
01 June 2022
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South Australia

Adelaide sits at the crossroads of some of the most spectacular travel routes in the country. From here, open roads and long-distance rail tracks spill out across the map, taking in not just the myriad highlights of South Australia but the nation as a whole. And remember: the journey itself is half the adventure…

1. Southern Ocean Drive

Coorong National Park (Mark Fitzpatrick)

A trip Down Under is all about epic undertakings – and this 10-day coastal road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne fits the description perfectly. Attractions along the way come thick and fast, with the McLaren Vale wine region and the white-sand Fleurieu Peninsula teeing you up for a ferry ride across to one of the most spectacular wildlife destinations in the country: Kangaroo Island.

The island’s furred, feathered and finned inhabitants are legendary – rare Australian sea lions, koalas, echidnas, wallabies, pods of dolphins and of course kangaroos all feature. But just as striking is the landmass itself, a spectacularly wild place with natural beauty at every turn. Don’t miss the Flinders Chase National Park in the island’s southwest which features the iconic Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.

There are far more treats to come, from the seafood and whale-watching of Victor Harbor and the dunes and lagoons of Coorong National Park to the foodie hotspot of Penola and the geological wonders of Mount Gambier. By the time you eventually reach Melbourne, you’ll have experienced some of the very best that South Australia has to offer.

2. Explorers Way

Razorback Lookout ( Thomas Quan)

Australian road trips have a time-honoured appeal for British travellers. This is partly down to the ease of driving – they use the same side of the road as the UK – but it’s also due to the sheer distances involved, the scale of which add hugely to the overall sense of adventure. This mammoth 3,000km journey from Adelaide to Darwin is a prime example, taking you right through the heart of the Outback for a very authentic Australian experience.

Heading north from the vibrant South Australian capital of Adelaide, you’ll travel first through the world-class wineries of Clare Valley – a chance to toast your trip with a chilled Riesling – before heading up through the rugged mountain landscapes and peaceful tree-lined gorges of the Flinders Ranges, full of rich cultural heritage and native wildlife.

Continuing your way up the country past farming stations and untouched wilderness, you’ll reach the legendary desert town of Coober Pedy, famed for its opal mines and fascinating lunar landscape. Several hours of driving later the border of the Northern Territory looms ahead, leading onto Uluru, the expanse of the Red Centre, and the tropical charms of Darwin and the Top End.

3. Epicurian Way

Discover fine food and wine at vinyeards (Karawatha Cottages)

The name says it all. This isn’t the longest road trip in the country – or even in South Australia – but it might just be one of the most enjoyable. The Epicurean Way covers less than 300km but takes in four of the state’s best wine regions, so for obvious reasons, you won’t want to rush. It’s about treating your time gently and indulging in the fine wines, fine food, fine accommodation and fine landscapes that South Australia makes its own.

Leaving Adelaide, you’ll head first to the coastal region of McLaren Vale, Australia’s most sustainable wine-growing region, where farmers’ markets and some of the world’s oldest vineyards await. Known as the birthplace of South Australia’s wine industry, it’s best known for its Shiraz but also produces excellent Cabernet and Grenache varieties.

The joys of Adelaide Hills lie next, where craft beer and award-winning food make a fine pairing for the cool-climate wines, before you head on to the Barossa, world-famous for its bold reds and primed with elegant estates and restaurants. As if that weren’t enough, the gourmet delights of the Clare Valley come next, to round off a decadent but unforgettable trip.

4. Seafood frontier

Sample fresh seafood (Jonathan Cami)

Loosen your belt. Here’s another option for those who prize their food and drink – let’s call it having an appetite for travel. This seafood-themed trip gives the perfect opportunity to explore the incredible Eyre Peninsula, one of the overall highlights of South Australia’s spectacular coastline. But don’t be fooled into thinking the route is purely about long meals.

After a coastal drive north from Adelaide to Port Augusta, you’ll double back towards Whyalla – famed for its dolphins and, from May to August, its migrating cuttlefish – before the chance to test your fishing skills (or, if you prefer, ordering a seafood blow-out) in Cowell. Continuing through the street art-heavy town of Tumby Bay, you’ll then reach Port Lincoln, where you can wine, dine, and book a cage-dive with great white sharks.

More one-of-a-kind activities and gourmet treats lie ahead. Coffin Bay is renowned for its oysters, while the Elliston Coastal Trail is famed for both its salmon-fishing and its scenery. As you continue west, meanwhile, whale-watching, Indigenous heritage, and the pink waters of Lake MacDonnell are also on the menu.

5. The Ghan

The Ghan (Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions)

Australia is home to some of the best known rail journeys on the planet. The Ghan is one such example, spanning the entire country as it snakes all the way from Adelaide up to Darwin, offering an all-inclusive outback journey. But this is no inter-city rattler – you can expect elegant private cabins, attentive service and the camaraderie of your fellow travellers, on this adventure from south to north or vice versa.

The Ghan takes its name from the Afghan cameleers who once frequented the outback, and the line itself represents a triumph of engineering, having taken decades to complete. These days the emphasis is on a smooth traverse of the colossal landscapes that cover the heart of Australia, with off-train experiences to create your own rich and rewarding personal journey through Australia’s outback and beyond

The on-board accommodation is befitting of a luxury experience, as is the food and drink, but best of all is the opportunity to watch the landscapes shift past your window as this very modern train passes through an age-old land. Be warned in advance that you probably won’t want it to end.

6. The Indian Pacific

Indian Pacific (Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions)

If The Ghan’s 2,979km journey seems long, it’s dwarfed by the 4,352km route of the Indian Pacific which – as its name suggests – travels from the wave-lapped shores of the Indian Ocean to the open seas of the Pacific. It begins in Perth and culminates in Sydney, or vice versa, with Adelaide serving as a hugely convenient calling point for those looking to board here and head either east or west along the rails.

Regardless of your route, it’s a hugely rewarding train to travel on. The service levels, the private cabins, the sit-down meals and the off-train excursions are all to be savoured, with stops at the gargantuan open gold mine of Kalgoorlie, the emu-dotted plains of the Nullarbor, and the rolling slopes of the Blue Mountains.

The other stop to be factored in, of course, is Adelaide itself. If you’re travelling the whole route, you can choose how to use your time here in the city – take your pick from a guided tour, a trip to the Adelaide Oval, a scenic drive to the Adelaide Hills, or breakfast in the Central Market, all included in the fare.

Make it happen

Qatar Airways

Fly to Adelaide with Qatar Airways, named World’s Best Airline at the 2022 Skytrax Awards. Stretch out in comfort, onboard one of the youngest fleets. While you dine, sleep or watch some of the 4,000-plus entertainment options, you’re sure to enjoy the inflight experience.

Trailfinders

An 11-night holiday to Australia with Trailfinders costs from £3,999 per person (based on two sharing). Includes flights, 4 days car hire, 9 nights 3-4* hotels, 2 nights all-inclusive Indian Pacific rail from Adelaide to Perth in Gold Class cabin and return ferry transfers to Kangaroo Island. Call Trailfinders on 020 7368 1354.

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