You can’t beat a good old road trip, where each turn of a corner or dirt road holds the potential for adventure, discovery, and wonder. And when it comes to road trips in Australia, few destinations offer the diversity and natural beauty that South Australia does.
From Adelaide, a city steeped in history and culture, there is plenty to explore in the surrounding areas. So, in this article, we will highlight some of the best road trips in South Australia from its state capital.
From the rugged splendour of the Flinders Ranges to the pristine shores of the Limestone Coast, we’ll guide you through the most scenic routes, hidden gems, and unforgettable experiences that this southern gem of Australia has in store for the intrepid traveller.
So, get ready to hit the open road as we unveil the secrets of the best South Australian road trips.
- South Australian Road Trips
- Barossa Valley (M2)
- Fleurieu Peninsula (M2)
- Adelaide Hills (M1)
- Port Augusta (National Highway A1)
- Clare Valley (via M2 and Horrocks Hwy/Main N Rd/B82)
- Eyre Peninsula (via National Highway A1 and Lincoln Hwy/B100)
- Mount Gambier (via National Highway A8 and Riddoch Hwy/A66)
- Yorke Peninsula (via National Highway A1 and Yorke Hwy/B86)
- Kangaroo Island (via Main S Rd and B23 & Ferry)
- Top Tips For Road Tripping in South Australia
South Australian Road Trips
Whether you hire a car or use your own trusty vehicle, the opportunity to embark on day trips from Adelaide into the heart of the state should not be missed.
Here is a selection of some of the best road trips in South Australia you can do in a day, or over a few days.
Barossa Valley (M2)
- Distance: 75 km
- Driving Time: 1 hour
If you love food, wine, or nature, visiting the Barossa Valley is one of the best day trips from Adelaide you can make.
This iconic wine region, located just an hour’s drive away, boasts a captivating landscape of rolling vineyards, historic towns and a fantastic winemaking heritage that dates back to the 19th century.
One of the most notable places to visit in the Barossa Valley is the cellar doors of its world-renowned wineries. Places like Penfolds, Seppeltsfield, and Henschke offer an opportunity to taste some of Australia’s finest wines while learning about the winemaking process and history of the region.
Beyond wine, the Barossa Valley boasts charming towns like Tanunda and Angaston, rich in old-world charm, heritage architecture, artisanal shops, and delightful eateries serving local specialties. If you love chocolate, checking out the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company is a must!
While the Barossa is somewhere you can travel all year round, head there between March and May – the Australian autumn – when the weather is mild and the vineyards are resplendent with vibrant foliage. At this time, the grape harvest season is in full swing.
Fleurieu Peninsula (M2)
- Distance: 88 km
- Driving Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
If you fancy a South Australia Coast road trip, there is no better place than the Fleurieu Peninsula.
This stunning coastal area south of Adelaide is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and pristine beaches. The tranquil waters of Port Elliot are a great place to go for swimming and sunbathing, while the rugged coastline around Victor Harbor offers fantastic opportunities for whale-watching. For those wanting to explore nature, a visit to Deep Creek Conservation Park promises stunning hiking trails and the chance to spot native wildlife.
Should you not have time to visit the Barossa Valley, the McLaren Vale wine region has more than its fair share of world-class wineries. Enjoy wine tastings at iconic estates like d’Arenberg and Wirra Wirra, surrounded by vine-covered hills.
The Fleurieu Peninsula is arguably most inviting during the spring and autumn (September to November and March to May) when the mild temperatures make ideal conditions for visiting its natural wonders. While it is a place you can easily explore on a day trip, if you wish to extend your stay, consider the charming towns of Victor Harbor and Goolwa for relaxing near the beach or quaint villages like Willunga and Normanville for a taste of the region’s laid-back charm.
Adelaide Hills (M1)
- Distance: 33 km
- Driving Time: 33 minutes
If you are coming on the M1 from the eastern part of Australia, the Adelaide Hills is somewhere you can visit even before you arrive in Adelaide. Characterised by its rolling vineyards, lush forests, and charming towns, it is also a fantastic day trip destination from the city.
The biggest drawcard in the region is Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German settlement, where you can wander along the cobbled streets lined with quaint shops, artisanal bakeries and traditional German pubs. Consider staying the night here to make the most of the experience.
Elsewhere, the Mount Lofty Summit provides awe-inspiring panoramic views of Adelaide, while Cleland Wildlife Park offers a chance to get up close and personal with native Australian wildlife. Additionally, those travelling with kids should head to Stirling Linear Park, Mt. Barker Laratinga Wetlands or Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, which all have excellent places to play. At the same time, the cellar doors of renowned wineries like Shaw + Smith and Hahndorf Hill Winery are a must-visit for wine enthusiasts.
If you love natural wonders of flora and fauna, head into the Adelaide Hills during the spring and autumn to witness the wildflowers in bloom or the changing colours of the leaves.
Port Augusta (National Highway A1)
- Distance: 308 km
- Driving Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Nestled at the crossroads of the Spencer Gulf and the stunning Flinders Ranges, Port Augusta is the gateway to some of South Australia’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders. So, if you plan on going on South Australia Road trips to any of these destinations or onward towards the Nullabor Plain or Northern Territory, it is worth coming here.
This coastal city, positioned at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula, also makes a good overnight road trip from Adelaide, offering a unique blend of maritime charm and outback adventure, making it a fascinating destination for travellers of all ages.
One of the most notable places to visit in Port Augusta is the Wadlata Outback Centre. This interactive museum provides a captivating insight into the region’s rich history and Aboriginal heritage. The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden is another must-see, where you can explore a vast collection of arid-adapted plants against the backdrop of the majestic Flinders Ranges.
For families with kids, Port Augusta offers a range of activities. The Homestead Park Pioneer Museum immerses visitors in the pioneer era, while the adjacent playground keeps the little ones entertained. Remember to visit the picturesque Whidbey’s Beach, which is perfect for swimming, picnicking, or simply enjoying the coastal serenity.
Port Augusta can get very hot during the summer. So, a visit during the shoulder seasons on either side of it represents the best way to experience this stunning coastal location.
Clare Valley (via M2 and Horrocks Hwy/Main N Rd/B82)
- Distance: 142 km
- Driving Time: 1 hour 50 minute
The Clare Valley is another fabulous destination for oenophiles to visit on a day trip from Adelaide. Full of rolling vineyards and historic towns, the region offers plenty for those who want to discover new varietals. Head to the cellar doors of renowned wineries like Sevenhill Cellars, Knappstein Wines, and Skillogalee Winery to discover their best offerings.
Those travelling with kids should also visit the Clare Valley because it offers a delightful selection of family-friendly experiences. One is the Clare Valley Railway, a charming heritage railway operating on selected weekends. Another is the Mintaro Maze, a fun spot for kids to get lost in a living hedge maze while exploring the Riesling Trail – a scenic cycling and walking trail – is a great way to spend a few hours, especially around March to May and September to November when the landscape is radiant.
Eyre Peninsula (via National Highway A1 and Lincoln Hwy/B100)
- Distance: 650 km
- Driving Time: 7 hours
If you are looking for a South Australia Coast road trip that will take your breath away, look no further than the Eyre Peninsula.
This pristine region is renowned for its rugged coastline, stunning beaches and abundant marine life. At the heart of it lies Port Lincoln, often referred to as the seafood capital of Australia.
Here, you can indulge in fresh, locally caught seafood and even embark on shark cage diving expeditions to get up close with the majestic Great White Sharks. The stunning beaches of Port Lincoln are perfect for swimming, surfing and beachcombing.
If you are into photography or enjoy breathtaking natural wonders, head to the Great Australian Bight, where the cliffs dramatically plunge into the Southern Ocean. This area is also famous for its stunning coastal walks and terrific beaches, which offer excellent whale-watching opportunities between May and October.
Due to the long time it will take you to get here, you should spend a few days in the Eyre Peninsula. Towns like Coffin Bay, known for its stunning oyster farms and national park and Tumby Bay, which offers serene beaches and excellent fishing opportunities, are lovely places to base yourself.
- Continuing on west from Eyre Peninsula with our detailed guide to crossing the Nullarbor to Western Australia.
Mount Gambier (via National Highway A8 and Riddoch Hwy/A66)
- Distance: 436 km
- Driving Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Visiting Mount Gambier from Adelaide on a road trip requires an overnight stay. But it is worth going there through the Limestone Coast’s captivating landscapes to experience its fantastic blend of natural wonders and cultural experiences.
This city, known for its stunning geological formations, is renowned for its striking Blue Lake, which transforms from a deep steel blue in summer to a vibrant turquoise in winter, creating a mesmerising sight.
It also features the Umpherston Sinkhole: sunken gardens set within a limestone crater, creating a serene and picturesque spot for a picnic or stroll. For those wanting to spend time doing something more adventurous, the nearby Tantanoola Caves offer guided tours and underground exploration of captivating limestone formations.
Autumn and spring are delightful for a road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier and the wider Limestone Coast. The weather is mild, and the region’s natural beauty is at its best. These seasons also offer an excellent opportunity to explore the surrounding attractions like the Coonawarra wine region, the picturesque beaches of Robe, and the Naracoorte Caves National Park, which boasts an incredible underground world of limestone wonders.
- Continue this road trip on to Victoria to experience the Great Ocean Road and dig into our more detailed itinerary with interesting stopping points from Adelaide to Melbourne
Yorke Peninsula (via National Highway A1 and Yorke Hwy/B86)
- Distance: 183 km
- Driving Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Over on South Australia’s western shores, the Yorke Peninsula is another coastal gem worth exploring on a day trip from Adelaide. This picturesque region combines natural beauty and seaside charm, offering several gorgeous beaches and historic towns to explore.
During your visit to the Yorke Peninsula, check out the Innes National Park, a coastal wilderness renowned for its rugged cliffs and sandy coves. The park offers hiking trails, opportunities for birdwatching, and splendid vistas from landmarks like Cape Spencer Lighthouse, best explored during spring or autumn.
If you are into history, the historic mining town of Moonta is a must-visit destination. You can explore the Moonta Mines Museum and take an underground tour to learn about the area’s mining heritage. Elsewhere, the quaint coastal town of Ardrossan is an angler’s paradise in summer, featuring a scenic jetty perfect for fishing and picnicking.
Kangaroo Island (via Main S Rd and B23 & Ferry)
- Distance: 210 km
- Driving Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Kangaroo Island, often referred to as Australia’s Galapagos, is an enchanting destination just off South Australia’s coast. You’ll need to catch a ferry to get there on a day trip from Adelaide.
This pristine island, which backs onto the Great Australian Bight, is a natural wonderland, boasting diverse landscapes, abundant wildlife and breathtaking coastal beauty. One of its most notable places to visit is Flinders Chase National Park, where you can witness the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch – iconic rock formations carved by the forces of nature.
Elsewhere, Seal Bay Conservation Park offers an unforgettable opportunity to observe Australian sea lions in their natural habitat. Additionally, kids can spot plenty of kangaroos and wallabies, explore caves like Kelly Hill and enjoy swimming on beautiful beaches in the warmer summer months.
Top Tips For Road Tripping in South Australia
- If you intend to visit some of South Australia’s national parks or more remote areas you will need a 4WD vehicle, particularly during the wetter months of the year when some dirt roads can become unpassable.
- South Australia can experience four seasons in a day and significant drops in temperature over the course of a couple of hours. So you should pack for all weather conditions, even when it is sunny.
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