SWAP BOLIVIA FOR LAKE GAIRDNER, GREECE FOR THE FLEURIEU AND UTAH FOR THE FLINDERS. HERE’S OUR 10 ALTERNATIVE HOLIDAYS THAT RIVAL POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS.
Have a serious case of the holiday blues? While we can’t fly overseas or travel interstate right now, with South Australia as our backyard that doesn’t mean we have to forgo an unforgettable holiday. Seriously. A little taste of Bordeaux? The Barossa Valley will quench your thirst. English countryside? We’ll raise you the Adelaide Hills. Beachside bliss? We challenge you so find a better patch of sand than those on offer right here in South Australia. Arid American landscapes? Don’t bother, we’ve got the Flinders Ranges. Pack up the car and grab your camera, and go glocal, your holiday of a lifetime awaits in South Australia. Go abroad, in Adelaide with our guide to some of the best holiday destinations in South Australia.
1. Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia V. Lake Gairdner, Eyre Peninsula
The otherworldly terrain of Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats draws crowds of tourists each year eager to soak in the unique vistas. But we’ll let you in on a little (well actually 5,000 square kilometre) secret, deep in the South Australian outback lies the ethereal expanses of Lake Gairdner. An equally impressive and surreal inland salt lake, here seemingly never-ending plains of glistening crystal-like earth span into the horizon. Remote enough to feel like you’ve escaped to another world, but within reach of a long-weekend road trip, this shimmering, dreamy landscape must be seen to be believed. Surrounded by the rugged, red foothills of the Gawler Ranges, jump on a guided tour with Desert Sky Tours, or pack up the car, mark Lake Gairdner on the map and set off on the ultimate road trip on the Explorer’s Way. Extra salt? Check out our guide to the best pink lakes in South Australia.
2. Lake District, England V. Adelaide Hills
Fairy tale-style villages, lush green landscapes, rolling farmland, cosy cottages and restaurants dishing up produce sourced from just down the road. Sure, you could wait and take a 20-hour flight to England to explore the Lake District. But really, why would you when picture-perfect leafy hamlets, gastronomic pubs and artisan restaurants serving incredible local food and drink, cosy fire-side hideaways to settle down at and colourful walking trails through nature, bubbling brooks and bridges await in the Adelaide Hills. And, with more than 60 wineries pouring cool-climate varieties, road-side fruit stalls and abundant wildlife, it’s game, set and match – we’re heading for the hills. Here's our top five things to do in the Adelaide Hills.
3. Koufonisia, Greece V. Fleurieu Peninsula coastline
Searching for post-card worthy perfection? Jaw-dropping limestone cliffs towering above pristine sandy white shores, sparkling turquoise water spilling out to the ocean beyond. Secluded coves, seaside caves, restaurants perched above the beach and just down the road, rolling vineyards and countless restaurants. Yep, it’s the perfect advertisement for an island escape in Greece. But forget Koufonisia, the Fleurieu Peninsula packs all the Mediterranean vibes we need, less than an hour from Adelaide. From kayaking through secret ocean grottos in Second Valley, to picnicking in the insta-famous seaside caves of Port Willunga, or floating cliff-side in the calm waters of Port Noarlunga South’s inlet, the Fleurieu Peninsula is the ultimate coastal getaway destination to replace Greece and the ultimate family holiday in Australia. Keen to don your European-style swimwear? There’s always Maslin Beach.
4. Isle of Skye, Scotland V. Rapid Bay, Fleurieu Peninsula
And just down the road? How about a quick trip to Scotland, without leaving the Fleurieu Peninsula. While this seaside paradise may be known as the ultimate summer destination, as winter rains turn the bordering hills emerald green and impressive rocky cliffs fall away to the sapphire waters below, the transformation into a dramatic coastline reminiscent of Scotland is complete. The lush green vistas of Rapid Bay transport us right to the historic Isle of Skye, and with walking trails, boating, camping and luxury accommodation right here, there’s no need to travel any further. You can even wind your way along the coast to Fleurieu Distillery, where Australia’s best whisky awaits. You’ll find the acclaimed single malt Fountain of Youth whiskey - named Champion Australian Whisky at the Australian Distilled Spirit Awards - in the historic river port of Goolwa, where the Murray mouth and Southern Ocean meet. As you sip the warming liquid gold and soak in views of the wharf precinct, you’ll have to pinch yourself as a reminder that all this awaits right here in South Australia. BYO kilt and haggis.
5. Arizona, USA V. Flinders Ranges
A trip to visit the rugged landscapes of Arizona is on nearly every traveller’s bucket list. And while we can’t claim the Grand Canyon here in South Australia, we reckon the ancient ramparts of Wilpena Pound are the next best thing… and you’ll be able to tick off that bucket list whole a lot sooner! Quintessential road trip country, the Flinders Ranges is a remote wilderness with towering clifftops and jaw-dropping mountain ranges. Discover deep craters and spectacular gorges and navigate dusty, red roads. If you’re really looking for an adventure as old as time, South Australia trumps Arizona (without Trump). In fact, at an estimated 70 million years old, the Grand Canyon is a baby compared to the 800-million-year-old peaks of Wilpena Pound. Here's our guide to the ultimate weekend away in the Flinders.
6. Utah’s Great Basin Desert, USA V. Arkaroola, Flinders Ranges and Outback
Put photos of the arid landscapes of Utah’s Great Basin Desert and South Australia’s Arkaroola wilderness side-by-side and you could be forgiven for thinking they were taken in the same area, not tens of thousands of kilometres apart. Tucked beyond the Flinders Ranges, the ancient landscapes of Arkaroola are one of South Australia’s best kept secrets. Travel through time traversing spectacular craggy peaks, where granite mountains and golden Spinifex-covered hillsides give way to breathtaking views across the Freeling Heights, Lake Frome and the desert beyond. This awe-inspiring landscape is brimming with wildlife; spot the once endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, kangaroos and echidnas. From the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, set up camp, reach new heights on a ridgetop tour or take to the skies on a scenic flight. The Great Basin Desert is also renowned for its stargazing opportunities, but you guessed it – Arkaroola’s night skies are a star-studded masterpiece. With next to no night pollution, Arkaroola is one of the best places to stargaze in South Australia and is home to a dedicated viewing platform and telescopes to explore the cosmos and admire distant galaxies. The best part? It’s all in our own backyard waiting to be explored. In fact, we’re packing up the car now for a romantic getaway!
7. Maldives V. Antechamber Bay, Kangaroo Island
Forget the Maldives. With powder-white sand stretching as far as the eye can see and sparkling turquoise water, the secluded beach paradise of Kangaroo Island’s Antechamber Bay is just one of South Australia's beaches worthy of any postcard. The secluded cove is just one of the many spectacular beaches that you won’t believe are in South Australia, but there’s just one difference. Ours don’t have hordes of tourists. Meet the locals and jump on a tour with Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari and swim with wild dolphins and seals in crystal clear water. As for luxury accommodation? Kangaroo Island has you covered with no end of retreats on the water’s edge waiting to welcome you; some of our favourites include Hamilton & Dune, Sea Dragon Lodge, Oceanview Eco Villas, One Kangaroo Island, Cliff House, Stowaway and Ecopia. For a budget friendly option, Antechamber Bay has a campground (could you stay in the Maldives for $16?), or stay in the historic Antechamber Bay Retreats which has its own private beach. Plus, you’ll have the rest of the island to explore; pristine coastline, bushland packed with wildlife, a mini desert, artisan produce and wineries all at your fingertips. Kangaroo Island literally has everything you need for the perfect island escape, minus the jetlag. We rest our case. Here's our guide to the ultimate Kangaroo Island escape.
8. Noosa rockpools V. Greenly Beach, Eyre Peninsula
There’s nothing like diving into a pool made perfectly by nature. And while Noosa’s rockpools have found fame on Instagram, the rockpools of Greenly Beach are just as photogenic, without the crowds to ruin the perfect shot. You’ll find the mermaid-worthy seawater pools oceanside at one of the best beaches on the Eyre Peninsula, just an hour's drive away from Port Lincoln. A stunning swimming and surfing spot, Greenly Beach is home to a series of crystal-clear rock pools, bordered by the Southern Ocean and dramatic rock formations. Chill out rockpool-side with a freshly shucked oyster in one hand and glass of famed local wine in the other before venturing on to explore another pristine beach on the Eyre Peninsula with our three-day itinerary.
9. Bordeaux, France V. Barossa
One of the great wine capitals of the world, the Barossa Valley can definitely hold its own against the best wine regions of the world. So, if your dream holiday comes paired with a glass or 10 of the world’s best wine, upgrade from Bordeaux to the Barossa. Check in to your very own chateau nestled among vineyards and start exploring. In the Barossa, days are best spent with wine on the lips, chatting to local winemakers, tasting wine as old as you, tucking into sumptuous local produce at award winning restaurants or soaring over vines in a hot air balloon. In true French style, pair your wine with handmade cheese at the Barossa Cheese Company or stock up on local breads, pastries and produce at the Barossa Farmer’s Market. But back to the wine… The Barossa’s wine history speaks for itself, home to century old wineries and some of the oldest vineyards in the world. In fact, some vines date back to the 1840s. The Mediterranean climate of the Barossa (cool summers and rainy winters) is perfectly suited for red wine production, particularly Shiraz and a richly flavoured Cabernet, and you’ll find more than 80 cellar doors to taste your way around. And did we mention the Barossa is also home to the world’s official best wine? The award-winning drop awaits at the boutique, family run vineyard Kellermeister Wines. For this picture perfect view, head to Barossa Valley Estate and sip Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre surrounded by lush gardens and vines.
10. Napa Valley, California V. McLaren Vale
Bold red wine, vineyards rolling towards the ocean and mouth-watering artisan produce. Napa Valley and McLaren Vale have a lot in common; except the travel time… Less than an hour versus a whole day (and a whole lot of money)? We’ll see you in McLaren Vale! Renowned for Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet varietals, sustainable wine production, world-renowned labels and unparalleled gastronomic experiences, Mclaren Vale is a wine lover and foodie’s paradise. Looking for sea and vines? McLaren Vale and its surrounding vineyards are on the doorstep of the Fleurieu Peninsula’s stunning coastline and sandy beaches. Plus, can you drink wine in a giant Rubik’s cube, on board a vintage double decker bus or sky dive down to your wine tasting in Napa Valley?