This brief guide to South Australian Road Trips is designed to help you decide which of the states spectacular regions you should explore next. Read on for our tips on the what, where, when and why of exploring South Australia by road.
A Beginner’s Guide to exploring South Australia
South Australia is the perfect state for a road trip. From the stunning coastline of the Yorke and Eyre Peninsula’s, multiple world-famous wine regions, the wildlife of Kangaroo Island, and the red hues of the South Australia outback, the diversity on offer in this state is second to none.
We recently spent almost five weeks exploring the state from Kangaroo Island to Port Lincoln and north to Wilpena Pound, with quite a few towns in between. We probably need another five weeks to cover all the sites we wanted to see, so plenty saved for next time.
For a fairly compact state, there is a lot to see here.
FAQs about planning a South Australian Road Trip
How long does it take to drive around South Australia?
You could spend months driving around South Australia, but you can see quite a lot in a month, and two months should be enough for many explorers. However, you could easily spend twice this and not run out of things to see and do.
While you can do any of these road trips as a stand-alone holiday, they do string together quite well. We started with the Fleurieu Peninsula and then moved to Kangaroo Valley, then on to the Epicurean Way and the Flinders Ranges before heading down the Eyre Peninsula and home via the Barossa Valley. These 4 trips of about a week each fill our June escape.
Do I need a 4WD for exploring Kangaroo Island or the outback?
No, you can do just fine with a regular SUV or any 2WD, although a car with decent clearance will be helpful for driving in the gorges of the Flinders Ranges. In wet weather, you would need a 4WD
When is the best time of year to do a South Australian road trip?
You can visit SA year-round, but some regions are better in specific seasons.
Summer – Kangaroo Island, the Fleurieu Coast and the Eyre or the Yorke Peninsula are great in the summer; in Dec and January, you can even take a dip without freezing. It can, however, get pretty hot with temperatures in the high 30s common.
Autumn – The wine region looks its prettiest in autumn when the colours change. It’s also festival season in Adelaide and a perfect time to visit the city. The temperatures have dropped enough towards mid-late autumn for comfortable hiking in the outback.
Winter – A great time to explore the outback and desert, although nighttime temperatures mean you should pack those thermals. For the coast and KI, it’s the wettest season and best for those who are happy to carry a brolly at all times! It is, however, a great time for whale watching.
Spring – Wildflower Season in the Flinders and a good all-round choice for visiting South Australia.
Flinders Ranges and the SA Outback
If you’re looking for an outback drive with spectacular views all the way from Adelaide, then the Flinders Ranges should be top of your list. After travelling to every state in Australia, we think this region offers one of Australis’s best outback experiences for the least amount of effort.
How long do you need for a Flinders Ranges Road Trip?
Before you decide how long to allow for this trip, it’s worth noting that this region covers 70% of the state. You either need to choose one area to see, have a few weeks to spare or plan repeat trips to see it all.
In one week, you could discover the beauty of the Flinders Ranges National Park in an itinerary that takes in the Quorn, Wilpena, Blinman and Parachilna Gorge.
- You would need at least another week to include Coober Pedy, The Painted Hills and Lake Eyre.
- Spent a night in Clare Valley or historic Burra as a stopover on the way home.
- See Wilpena Pound both on foot and from above on a scenic flight for incredible views of this stunning formation.
- Four-wheel drive owners will probably want to add Arkaroola Wilderness sanctuary on their list.
Kangaroo Island in a week
Explore South Australia’s Island destination, where you will meet kangaroos, koalas, seals and sea lions. Along the way, you will discover local businesses selling amazing fresh produce and delicious wines, beers and spirits. It’s a great choice for food and animals lovers in equal parts.
How many days do you allow for a Kangaroo Island road trip?
We say five days is the best amount of time to explore Australia’s third-biggest island, but you can get away with three days if that is all you have.
Make sure you see:
- Flinders Chase National Park
- The Sea Lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park
- Pennington Bay
- Iconic Remarkable Rocks
When: Any time but spring and autumn are ideal – the summer swimming season is short except for the most hearty.
Fleurieu Peninsula Road Trip
From Hahndorf to Strathalbyn on to Victor Harbor, Port Elliot, then home via the southern beaches, this is one of the perfect summer road trips in the state. It’s only a couple of hours from the city to the Victor Harbor, giving you plenty of time to stop off in McLaren Vale along the way for some wine tasting or a fancy meal.
On an extended holiday, you could easily spend a couple of nights in this wine region where you are less than an hour from the beach.
We lost count of the number of incredible beaches we passed and found it almost impossible to choose a favourite.
If you do this as a loop drive from Adelaide, we suggest going via the pretty town of Strathalbyn on the way down and the beaches on the way back.
Highlights of the Fleurieu Coast include:
- The historic coastal town of Port Elliot
- The pretty town of Strathalbyn
- Port Noarlunga
- Bluff Lookout at Encounter Bay
The waters of the Southern Ocean make swimming only really the most hearty among us for most of the year, but the coastal views are spectacular year-round. This is the best road trip in South Australia for beach lovers.
Eyre Peninsula Loop
Travelling from Port Augusta down to Port Lincoln at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula is a fabulous way to spend a week road tripping in South Australia. The roads are mainly sealed, and the driving is relatively easy with communities and towns every couple of hours or less.
Coastal towns, unspoilt beaches, and the freshest seafood make this a destination reminiscent of the past. Large parts of the Eyre Peninsula have avoided development and feel very much like a summer holiday of yesteryear. Most towns feature a beachfront caravan park at affordable prices, something pretty rare on the rest of the Aussie coast.
Port Lincoln and Coffin Bay
Spots not to miss include:
- Whyalla – Dive with the cuttlefish in May
- Cowell – classic seaside town
- Tumby Bay street art and silo
- Port Lincoln shark experiences
- Coffin Bay oysters
On the journey down the coast from Port Augusta, you will pass two of South Australia’s silos, the first at Cowell and another at Tumby Bay. If you take the inland road back to Port Augusta on the way home, you can add Kimba to your list.
Once you reach Port Lincoln, you will be spoilt for choice for both adventure activities and fine food and wine. The town on the edge of the southern ocean is one of the best fishing spots in the world. However, the most famous activity in town is the chance to cage dive with the great white sharks.
This is a long drive and one best done over at least a week, preferably two, especially if you are starting and finishing in Adelaide.
Our week-long Eyre Peninsula journey only got us as far as Ellison before heading inland to Kimba and back to Adelaide. As part of a longer road trip, you could continue all the way to Ceduna and Streaky Bay and the Great Australia Bight. Many travellers include this drive on their journey across Australia.
When: Summer is best – it was winter on our trip, and while we still enjoyed our time, it was freezing cold and rained for quite a few days.
Barossa Valley / Adelaide Hills / Clare Valley
Unless you are a wine critic, you will probably be happy to pop these three regions into one delicious week-long road trip. Distances are short; it’s only 2 hours to Clare, the furthest stop.
These three regions easily combine into one itinerary to create the perfect SA road trip for Aussie food and wine lovers. Spend a week in search of your favourite wine and eat your way through countless cellar door restaurants.
Clare and Barossa Valley
- The Barossa – scenic roads and historic town centres. Tanunda and Angaston are the highlights with gardens, cellar doors and cafes galore.
- The Clare Valley – home the states best white wines and the pink Lake Bumbunga
- The Adelaide Hills – best known for the German town of Hahndorf and Mount Lofty Lookout – it’s right on Adelaide’s doorstep, the hills offer a mix of bushland, farmland and wineries.
- McLaren Vale – Part of the Flu
We would be more likely to visit the Adelaide Hills region as a day trip or weekend drive rather than a road trip due to its proximity to the city and suburbs. Many people visit Mount Lofty Lookout, Cleland Wildlife Park and Hahndorf in a day – if you want to include it in your S
When: It’s beautiful in Autumn when the vines change colour, but this works any time of year.
Limestone Coast Road Trip
We had intended to drive the Limestone Coast across to Victoria; however, border restrictions forced us to change our plans, so we slotted this in for our next visit. You can find out more about a road trip here from our friends, the Curious Campers, who have covered this extensively.
Highlights of the Limestone Coast we have on our list for next time:
- Robe – famous fishing town famous for crayfish and historic buildings
- Penola – the town that was home to Australia’s first saint
- Blue Lake – the famous blue lake that is really only bright blue at the right time of year.
- Umpherston Sinkhole – stunning lush garden that looks like it popped out of a fairy tale
- Naracoorte Caves – South Australia’s only World Heritage area.
You can explore the key sites over 3-4 days but could easily spend a week enjoying the delights of the region. Check out these itinerary ideas from Tourism SA
Murray River Road Trip
A Murray River road trip is the perfect choice for history lovers. In the late 1800s, this was one of the busiest inland trade routes. The region covers that land between Murray Bridge and the Victorian Border.
As you follow the river to the border, you will find campsites along the water to suit free camping or those who prefer the facilities of a caravan park. You could also consider trading the car for a houseboat or even a paddle steamer trip.
This road trip begins in Goolwa, where the Murray meets the sea, but if you have time, you can extend your trip and explore the wetlands of Coorong National Park.
Highlights of this region we have bookmarked include:
- Goolwa – One of the world’s Official ‘Slow Towns’ and home of the Cockle Train.
- Murray Bridge – Water sports and Monarto Zoo
- Mannum – Port that the Murray Princess departs from
- Morgan – Historic town with a number of well preserved sites
- Renmark – The ‘fruitbowl’ of Australia and home to a number of wineries
Need more help planning your South Australian Road Trip
South Australia Tourism has put together several fantastic touring routes.
Planning to travel further – see our guide on the Northern Territory.
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