8 Great Reasons To Visit South Australia
South Australia has always been overshadowed on the main Australian tourist map by the golden beaches of Queensland, the glitz of Sydney, the urban charm of Melbourne and the mystic of the Red Centre in Uluru. But on our recent visit we discovered the southern charm of South Australia and here’s why it deserves to be on the itinerary on your next adventure Down Under. It can hold its own with its elegant buildings and beautiful parklands of Adelaide and picturesque countryside in the Adelaide Hills; a nature paradise on Kangaroo Island and a relaxing cruise on the Murray River.
1 Adelaide A Vision Of Light
Named after Queen Adelaide, the Queen Consort of King William IV (1765-1837) of Britain, Adelaide is the state capital of South Australia. Unlike Sydney and Melbourne which were penal colonies, Adelaide was founded in 1836 as a freely-settled British province that welcomed immigrants promising them civil liberties and religious tolerance.
One of the most striking features about Adelaide is its cleanliness and expansive greenery. It was designed by Colonel William Light, the founding father of the city and first Surveyor-General of the Colony of South Australia. Light was the son of Captain Francis Light the founder of Penang for the British East India Company in 1786 in Malaya. Adelaide owes its orderly town-planning to William Light who had the foresight to choose the perfect location for the city by the River Torrens and designed the settlement with wide boulevards surrounded by open spaces of greenery known as Adelaide Parklands in the shape of figure 8 in harmony with the topography of the land. He also designed the city in a grid system for easy logistics. Today Light’s design is known as Light’s Vision.
2 Discover The Charm Of Adelaide
Adelaide is a charming city with elegant colonial edifices interspersed with modern buildings. There are five lovely squares with greenery and lawn that serve as green lungs of the city. To get an overview of the city, start with an orientation of the city. Take a coach tour with Sealink Travel Group that takes you around the city with a running commentary by the driver-guide who will point out the various attractions and important historic facts. Note the heart of the city at Victoria Square, named after Queen Victoria with her statue sited in the middle of the square. It is surrounded by imposing historical buildings. From there, the roads radiate to various main attractions of the city.
The organisers, Sealink Travel have various pick-up points across the City. The passengers are taken to the Central Bus Station where the passengers are sorted to the various tour coaches. The reverse procedure is carried out on the return back to the hotels.
3 Don’t Miss These Highlights In Adelaide
Visit Central Market, established in 1869 and holds the record of being the largest under cover fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere. It is a bustling hub for food, cafes, eateries and stalls selling clothing, crafts and souvenirs patronised by local residents and tourists alike. The massive food court serves Australian, Asian and international food and is heaving with diners at lunch time. Nearby is Chinatown at Moonta Street, a lively enclave with Chinese and other Asian restaurants, grocery stores and market. It grew in the 1970s and 1980s with influx of Asian immigrants especially from Vietnam.
The Rundle Mall is the busiest and longest mall in Australia with 700 retailers, 4 departmental stores and 15 arcades. If shopping is your thing, head to this happening place. Look out for “The Pig” life size bronze pig statues called “A Day Out” sniffing around a bronze rubbish bin, believed to bring good luck if you touch them. The Spheres is another famous sculpture with two large stainless-steel spheres balanced on top of the other standing at 4m tall with 2.15m in diameter.
The Adelaide Arcade
A charming Victorian arcade at the Rundle Mall established in 1885 with old world style speciality stores. It is rumoured to be haunted by six ghosts notably the ghost of Francis Cluney the caretaker who came to a gruesome end when he fell to his death into the generator that powered the lighting. You might have a spiritual encounter with him. Spooky! It was one of the first retail establishments to have electricity.
If you are a fan of chocolates, you must not miss the tour to Haigh’s factory at Parkside. The free tour takes you round the small factory to see a team of artisan confectioners hand finish the fine chocolates with a free sample of chocolate buttons at the end of the tour and complimentary tea and coffee. The factory store sells the finished products beautifully gift packaged. Haigh’s Chocolate is an old family business established in 1915 who prides themselves in making premium quality chocolates from cocoa beans sourced from sustainable plantations from around the world. If you can’t make it to the tour, they have various outlets in the city. Their original store is at the beautiful building at Beehive Corner at the junction of Rundle Mall and King William Street. The corner was called Beehive by the original owners because it was a busy and buzzing place for shoppers. (history and detail in their website)
4 Free Walking City Tour
The coach tour is an excellent way for an orientation of the city but to appreciate Adelaide fully join a Free Walking tour with enthusiastic guides who would take you down lively laneways with cafes and street arts. The guides would regal you with the colonial history and other interesting snippets of the city. The plethora of grand colonial buildings is a testimony to its wealth during the colonial era. You will discover the real charm and attractions of Adelaide on this two-hour walk. The Free Walking Tour is tip-based and you can show your appreciation at the end of the tour by giving tips to the guide on whatever amount you see fit.
5 Head Up To The Adelaide Hills
A day out in the countryside is the ideal excursion to explore the surrounds of Adelaide. Head up to the Adelaide Hills to explore this beautiful region of undulating landscape clad in eucalyptus and pine trees among pastoral land and quaint towns. The area is blessed with fertile land for agriculture and the perfect terroir for vine growing. It was said that pioneer German settlers first brought vine cuttings to Australia and thus started the wine industry in the country in the 19th century. The area is famous for its winery notably at Barossa and McLaren Vale. Many German-origin Australians still live in the Hills. Hahndorf, a state heritage German town is one of the major attractions from the city, about 30-minute drive away.
Hahndorf is the oldest surviving German settlement in the area first settled by Lutheran immigrants in 1838. Its village atmosphere is reminiscent of small towns in Germany with some original German architectures of timber frame houses along the main street with a hint of Bavaria. There are souvenir shops, quaint restaurants, cafes and stores selling authentic German food such as German pastries, bread and sausages and other delicacies.
It’s worthwhile having lunch at the charming 150-year-old Hahndorf Inn with its atmospheric saloon bar-cum-restaurant bedecked with timber frame and wooden beams spanning across the ceiling and an open fireplace. The servers wear traditional Bavarian costumes. The bar serves German beers while the restaurant offers traditional Bavarian cuisine of scrumptious giant sausages served with sauerkraut and freshly baked pretzel smothered with yummy gravy; pigs’ trotter; mouth-watering barbecue spare ribs, schnitzels and other German fares.
6 A Hop To Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is a must-visit place in South Australia. It is 112 km southwest of Adelaide and takes about 1.5hrs to get to Cape Jervis the ferry point to the island. The 45-minute sailing is operated by Sealink ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw in Kangaroo Island. Sealink offers a package tour from Adelaide that includes the coach transfer from Adelaide, the ferry crossing and a whole day tour of the island. Kangaroo Island is the third largest island in Australia. It was once the settlement of seal and whale hunters in the 19th century.
Passengers were collected from their hotels at about 5 am. For a single day excursion, the estimated return time is about 12 midnight even when departure from Kangaroo Island at about 6 pm. There is an alternative option of flying back to Adelaide thus avoid the tedious return coach journey. There is so much to see on this island that it is worth having a second day than the rush one-day excursion.
Today it is mostly agricultural land and nature reserves to protect its natural vegetation and native animals. It is a stunning island blessed with the wild beauty of rugged coasts, sandy coves and pristine forest and native scrubland. Its remoteness and isolation lend itself to be a sanctuary for endangered wildlife species. The South Australian government is very protective of this island and there are very strict quarantine rules on what is allowed to be brought in by visitors.
But at the Seal Bay Conservation Park you are almost guaranteed to see sea lions lolling about on the beach. A resident guide would give a narration of the behaviour and nature of the sea lions and warning not to get closer than 10 metres from the sea lions as they could be aggressive when they felt threatened. Kangaroo Island has the third largest sea lion colony in Australia. Once hunted to near extinction, they are now a protected species.
7 Flinders Chase National Park
The island’s outstanding beauty is most evident on Flinders Chase National Park on the north-western tip of the island with dramatic coastline against a rugged landscape and a historic lighthouse to boot. It was gazetted as a national park in 1919 as a sanctuary for endangered species. Two of the island’s most famous geological monuments are found here. The Remarkable Rock is a natural rock formation straight out of Salvador Dali’s surreal painting or a Henry Moore sculpture. It’s weird grotesque formation sits on a granite outcrop wind-sculpted into an extraordinary shape.
Further down the coast through a boardwalk and a flight of steps is Admirals Arch, a natural archway carved by nature over thousands of years forming a rock bridge. Jagged stalactites spear down from the rocky ceiling giving the arch a spectacular window into the raging sea. A wooden platform overlooking the arch allows visitors to observe the New Zealand fur seals that have set up home on the rocky platform. They are smaller than the sea lions and they spend their time lazing in the sun in between breaks of finding food in the sea. Kangaroo Island is an unmissable unspoilt corner of paradise where nature and wildlife are in harmony orchestrated by people who care. Their official tagline is “Kangaroo Island – Too Good To Spoil” and bravo to that.
8 A Cruise On The Murray River
Murray River has been dubbed as Australia’s Mississippi and is the third longest navigable river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile. It is 2520km long and flows through three states – New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It is an important source of water supply for consumption and irrigation in the catchment areas. Its scenic riverscape is also the playground for holiday makers.
Take a leisurely 3-hour cruise aboard the Captain Proud paddle boat from Murray Bridge Main Wharf. The vessel is an old-style boat with a turning paddle wheel and period décor in the dining room. There are front and back observation decks to admire the passing scenery. The cruise includes a two-course lunch. The scenery along the banks is not particularly spectacular with no dramatic landscape on this stretch of the river. Nevertheless, it is quite enjoyable to observe activities of sailboats, water-skiers and houseboats. Nature watch here is fascinating with wildlife such as pelicans with their comical giant beaks bobbing along on the water; black swans gliding gracefully like champion skaters while cormorants wait on the banks for a catch of fish.
Sealink Travel Group offers tours in and around Adelaide and ferry link to Kangaroo Island.