Largest City: Adelaide; 1,305,000
Currency: Australian dollars
When to Go
The state of South Australia's climate is hot and dry inland, mild and wet in the south and coastal regions. Autumn (March to May) and spring (August to November) are the best times to visit Adelaide and the south. Summer (December to February) brings some hot days to Adelaide and the coast while the outback bakes. April to October is the preferred time to visit the northern outback regions. From around November to March, some of the state’s walking trails are closed due to wildfire risk, and some national parks may close if fire risk is extreme.
South Australia is a mostly dry state on the driest inhabited continent, with desert landscapes and outback adventures to explore. Most people live in the fertile southeast of the state, which has an abundance of the finer things in life: good food, good beaches, world-class wines, and a sunny cosmopolitan lifestyle. Don’t miss:
Adelaide: The gracious state capital has colonial architecture, fine museums and galleries, lively beach suburbs, and a packed arts festival calendar.
Barossa Valley: This is South Australia’s most important wine region, where Old World wineries and impressive new wineries like Jacob’s Creek are open for tours, with a side of fine dining and gourmet produce.
Adelaide Hills: Leafy towns, gardens, wineries, and orchards make a scenic retreat from Adelaide’s bustle and heat. The pick of the hill towns is Hahndorf, which celebrates its German-settler heritage.
Flinders Ranges: Just a few hours’ drive from Adelaide, you’ll find the outback and this majestic, ancient range. An oasis in the desert, these multihued mountains have hiking, Aboriginal rock art, gorges, and wildlife.
Coober Pedy: This opal-mining town, where residents live underground to escape the searing heat, is an outback icon. Stay in an underground hotel, go prospecting for opals, and tour desert mesas.
Kangaroo Island: This windswept and remote island, just a short flight from Adelaide, has fine beaches. However, the chance to see kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, sea lions, seals, and other wildlife is the big lure.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Don’t miss South Australia’s fine wines, best sampled in scenic wine districts like the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, or McLaren Vale. The most famous wine is Penfolds Grange, a luscious full-bodied red made principally from Shiraz (aka Syrah) grapes; rare vintages can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The state’s long coastline produces an abundance of rock lobsters, oysters, prawns, crabs, and fresh fish, as well as unique freshwater crayfish. Endemic yabbies and marron, introduced to Kangaroo Island from Western Australia, are local freshwater delicacies that many regard as superior to lobster.
The Flinders Ranges are spectacular from the air, or for a classic shot of an ancient red river gum with Wilpena Pound as a backdrop, head to Cazneaux’s tree. Made famous by Harold Cazneaux’s 1937 prize-winning photograph, the tree lies just north of the turnoff to Wilpena.
South Australians will proudly tell you that their state was not settled by convicts. Adelaide was founded by free settlers, unlike the penal colonies established in other states. Free of the convict taint, they have long had a reputation for a superior air and more refined English accent.