South Australia is a stunning state with plenty of hidden gem destinations. If you’re looking for a road trip that’s out of the way, check out some of these beautiful towns and landscapes. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or longer holiday, there’s plenty of places where you can explore the culture, wildlife, and exceptional food and wine South Australia has to offer.
#1 Whyalla - Beautiful Coastlines & Beaches
Distance from Adelaide: 390 km
Attractions: Cuttlefish snorkeling or diving, The Maritime Museum, Steelworks tour
There’s something for everyone in Whyalla. From wartime history to steelworks and the environment. On the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula, it might be the third largest city in South Australia but it caters well for visitors and is an underrated holiday destination.
Whyalla is also famous for its marine life as it’s the only known location that giant cuttlefish congregate annually. The giant cuttlefish visit shallow Whyalla waters every June to August to mate and lay eggs. Snorkel or dive in Stony Point to see the giant cuttlefish and plenty of other sea creatures for a unique experience.
Do a tour of the 100-year-old OneSteel operations to find out how they make the steel. The dry docked HMAS Whyalla is a town landmark sitting proudly outside the maritime museum, with a WWII Bathurst Class Corvette to keep it company. Learn about Whyalla’s ship building history at the museum and guided ship tours.
Visit Hummock Hill Lookout for 360-degree views of the bay and city. Find out about the four gun placements on the hill that defended SA during WWII.
#2 Coober Pedy - Go Underground in Remote SA
Distance from Adelaide: 850 km
Attractions: Underground town, Opal mines
Coober Pedy is definitely out of the way, but it’s one of South Australia’s most famous towns. Known for its underground homes, Coober Pedy is also a tourist mecca for its opal mining and grassless golf course. Most of the town’s residents escape the heat by living underground where the temperature sits between 23-25 degrees all year round. Take a tour of a dugout home and visit SA’s only underground church and art gallery. Be sure to check out the world’s largest display of opals and visit the historic Old Timers Mine.
From Coober Pedy, you can explore the Kanku Breakaways Conservation Park, the Dog Fence, Australia’s largest salt lake at Eyre National Park, the Painted Desert and the Oodnadatta Track. Located halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, Coober Pedy is a popular South Australian stop-off on the way to Alice Springs and Uluru.
It’s best to avoid the summer months as Coober Pedy’s desert climate can make it difficult to get out and see everything you want. April to October are far more pleasant months to visit. No matter what time of year you visit, try one of the underground hotels or backpacker accommodation for the full Coober Pedy experience.
#3 Mt Gambier - Volcanic Landscapes
Distance from Adelaide: 430 km
Attractions: Blue Lakes, caves, sinkhole
Mt Gambier is a well-known South Australian destination. Sitting close to the Victorian and South Australian border, it’s a good halfway point to stop if you are travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne.
Mt Gambier is famous for its blue lakes. The Blue Lake is a crater lake in a dormant volcano which is now the town’s water supply. Walk around the 3.5km perimeter track stopping off at several viewing platforms to take in the amazing blue colour. The lake’s colour is best between November and late February and then fades to a less vivid blue and grey in the cooler months. The Little Blue Lake has steps down to the water’s edge and a pontoon for swimming.
The Umpherston Sinkhole was created when the chamber roof of a limestone cave collapsed. There are stairs to take you down to the bottom of the beautiful flower lined sinkhole.
The Engelbrecht Cave in town offers short tours to learn about its history. An hour away is the Naracoorte Caves National Park, South Australia’s only World Heritage site because of two fossil sites. Visit one or two of the 26 medium and small sized caves in the park.
#4 Lochiel - Pink Lake Bumbunga
Distance from Adelaide: 125 km
Attractions: Lake Bumbunga
Lochiel is a small settlement on the edge of the Hummocks Ranges but it’s the pink Lake Bumbunga that attracts the visitors. The lake was a salt mine in the early 1900s, with the three pans harvested for 30 years. The lake’s name means ‘rain water lake’. Photography enthusiasts will be thrilled if it’s a bright pink on the day they visit.
The lake can change colour from pink to white to blue, depending on the salinity of the water. Lake Bumbunga even has its very own Loch Eel Monster, made from rubber tyres in the 1970s. While in the Clare Valley, there are plenty of wineries to choose from if you are thirsty after your salt lake visit and want to try some of the wine SA is famous for.
The Hummocks and Barunga ranges are the locations of the Snowtown Wind Farm, the largest in South Australia. Check out the historic town site and cemetery at Barunga Gap, 15 minutes away.
#5 Beachport - Stunning Coastlines
Distance from Adelaide: 380 km
Attractions: Jetty, Obelisk at Robe
If you like a good beach, you can’t go past Beachport. The colour of the water is stunning and the 772 metre jetty is perfect for a good walk or spot of fishing. Visit Beachport Surf Beach if surfing is your preference. For a swim with a difference, check out the Pool of Siloam on the Bowman Scenic Drive where the water is seven times saltier than the sea. Continue on your scenic drive to see the Martin Lighthouse and Penguin Island in the distance.
Check out the Woakwine Cutting, an engineering feat in 1957 to cut a channel through the rock to drain a swamp to Lake George. Learn a little more about the history of the area with a visit to the Old Wood and Grain Store Museum.
There are plenty of walking trails around Beachport.
For another quaint beautiful coastal country town, Robe is just 35 minutes down the road. Be sure to visit the Cape Dombey Obelisk at sunset for a stunning photo or walk along the picturesque coastal trail by day. There are another 80 other historic sites around town to discover.
#6 Kimba - Rural Service Town
Distance from Adelaide: 462 km
Attractions: Silo art, The Big Galah
Not usually top of the list of South Austalian destinations, there isn’t much to the small town of Kimba, home to several hundred residents. When you need to get out and stretch your legs after you’ve driven to the top of the Eyre Peninsula, it’s an ideal place to stop. It’s so out of the way, that it’s the half-way point between Sydney and Perth. Take a photo of the family in front of the half way sign.
It’s also home to one of the state’s amazing outdoor art installations making it a popular landmark. The 30-metre tall grain silos are covered in a beautiful sherbert-coloured mural. Kimba is also home to Australia’s big galah.
Be sure to check out the Edward John Eyre Sculptures, dedicated to the first man to cross the continent and the indigenous men who provided bush skills to help them survive the incredible exploration trek.
If you are keen to check out some silo art in other regional towns around SA, follow the silo art trail.
#7 Victor Harbour - The Horse Drawn Tram
Distance from Adelaide: 84 km
Attractions: Clydesdale horse-drawn tram, heritage train, in-sea aquarium, historic town
Victor Harbour is a much loved destination for SA locals and visitors alike. It’s a great place to spend the weekend because of its short distance from Adelaide.
The iconic horse drawn tram has been in operation since 1894 and is a must-do attraction. Cross the heritage listed Causeway to visit Granite Island. Take the boardwalk stairs to the island’s highest point for views of Victor Harbour and Encounter Bay or walk the 3 km Kaiki Trail around the island.
Take the Cockle Train between Port Elliott and Victor Harbour for a look at the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula coastline. In winter you may even spot a Southern Right whale.
Do a tour to visit the colony of wild Little Penguins. If you prefer, there’s the opportunity to swim with Southern Bluefin Tuna at the Victor in-sea aquarium, near Granite Island or check them out in the underwater observatory. If you would like to find out more about Victor Harbour’s history, take the 3km self-guided heritage trail walk around town to learn about 38 historically significant buildings.
#8 Streaky Bay - Picturesque Coastal Town
Distance from Adelaide: 730 km
Attractions: Jetty, sea lion viewing, Murphy Haystacks
Streaky Bay is another picturesque coastal town that is definitely worth a visit. Located on Eyre Peninsula’s western side, there is plenty to do and see on the coast and in-land.
The Point Labatt Sea Lion Scenic Drive takes you to a viewing platform perched 50 metres above the only colony of Australian sea lions. Take your binoculars for a closer look at the endangered sea lions New Zealand fur sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks below.
Another popular stop for photographers is Murphy Haystacks, massive pink granite inselbergs jutting out of the ground.
Standing on top of a hill, the wind eroded rock forms are amazing during the day and beautiful at sunset.
Take the Cape Bauer Loop Coastal Scenic Drive to visit Whistling Rocks and Blowholes. Walk out along a boardwalk to hear the blowholes with every incoming wave. Keep an eye on the sky for a peregrine falcon, southern osprey, or sea eagle.
Granites beach dishes up some impressive surf waves and offers a sheltered rock pool for swimming out of the breaks.
#9 Border Village - The Big Roo & The Great Australian Bight
Distance from Adelaide: 1300 km
Attractions: Great Australian Bight, Bunda Cliffs, Nullarbor Links Golf, Eucla
If you are up for a trip along the Nullarbor and into WA, Border Village or Eucla is a must stop (and not just because you will need fuel). Border Village is a roadhouse at the SA/WA border. If you are playing the Nullarbor Links golf course, you’ll find Hole 6: Border Kangaroo Hole here. Ticking off big things around Australia? The Big Kangaroo with its jar of vegemite is waiting for you to take a selfie.
If you’re travelling between May and November, you may be treated to the sight of Southern Right whales swimming in the Bight. The calm waters make the Bight an ideal nursery for mums and their calves around June. Visit the Head of Bight Whale Watching Centre, just off the Nullarbor Plain. Even if you’re outside whale season, the 90 metre tall limestone Bunda Cliffs are spectacular against the blue water of the Bight.
Eucla is just 11 kilometres over the border into WA. Established in 1877, Eucla was the repeater station for the overland telegraph. The Old Eucla Telegraph Station is slowly being buried by the constantly shifting sand dunes but you can still see the walls of the historic station.