Exploring South Australia doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Sustainable, eco-friendly, responsible or green travel. Whatever the name, it’s clear that today, more and more people are endeavouring to live and travel a little lighter. With pristine natural environments and abundant native wildlife, thankfully it’s easy to explore South Australia while putting Mother Nature first. Leave nothing but footprints behind on your next South Australian adventure with our guide to the best sustainable and eco-friendly accommodation, experiences, tours and producers in South Australia.
South Australia is home to some of the most pristine and untouched pockets of wilderness in Australia and checking into an eco-friendly accommodation is one of the best ways to appreciate our natural environment, and help conserve it. In fact, many South Australian properties are leading the way when it comes to innovative eco-accommodation concepts and designs, with recycled materials, passive energy systems and sympathetic environmental designs ensuring you can kick back in comfort with the reassuring feeling that your stay is having a minimal impact on the environment.
From luxury villas, to modern tiny homes and seaside glamping, it’s easy to look after yourself, and the environment on an eco-friendly getaway in South Australia. Like at Ecopia Retreat on Kangaroo Island, where eco-friendly villas tucked in the wilderness use an off-grid energy system and rely 100% per cent on rainwater. Owner’s Yael and Rob are also committed to making a tangible impact to the surrounding environment, planting more than 500 native trees to create habitat for the rare Glossy-black Cockatoo. Or check into Tanonga Luxury Eco Villas in the Riverland, where corridor plantings of more than 25,000 native trees, shrubs, and grasses have regenerated the local environment, and with it brought an abundance of native wildlife. The eco-designed villas were built using the most sustainable constructions practices with eco-friendly features including passive design, solar power, double glazed windows and an organic worm treatment for wastewater.
Then there’s Earthship in the Adelaide Hills, where sustainable accommodation is taken to a whole new level. One of the most ecologically conscious housing designs in existence, this self-sufficient home is made from a variety of natural and recycled materials, including car tyres filled and rendered with earth and an incredible beer and wine bottle brick wall. Earthship also ticks every box for solar, water and energy efficiency. Even deep in the South Australian outback, sustainability is front of mind. At Rawnsley Park Station in the Flinders Ranges, the advanced ecotourism accredited villas are designed to complement the natural environment and are energy-neutral, with rendered straw-bale walls, polished timber floors over suspended concrete slabs and raked ceilings with natural exhaust venting creating the perfect indoor climate.
Ready to get back to nature? Start planning your sustainable stay in South Australia with our guide to the best off-grid accommodation in South Australia.
Eco-friendly wildlife encounters
Nothing compares to the thrill of seeing wildlife in its natural environment, and in South Australia there are endless opportunities to do just that. Here, untamed landscapes spanning lush rolling hills, pristine sandy beaches, dense bushland, rugged mountain ranges and arid desserts provide vital habitats for some of Australia’s most unique and loved animals. And from the outback to the ocean, eco-friendly tours that put wildlife and the environment first and foremost are one of the best ways for nature lovers to encounter iconic Australian animals.
On the Eyre Peninsula, come face-to-face with an apex predator on an adrenaline-fuelled eco-certified shark cage dive with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. Pioneered by South Australian shark attack survivor-turned-researcher Rodney Fox, the pristine waters off the coast of Port Lincoln are one of only two places in the world you can shark cage dive with Great Whites. Beyond the adrenaline rush, each dive provides environmental scientists vital research opportunities to help conserve these impressive creatures, so you can feel good about your dive. Calypso Star Charters and Adventure Bay Charters also offer eco-certified shark cage dives and sea lion swims, and a little further down the coast, Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience offers eco-certified sea lion dives. On the Yorke Peninsula, a rewilding project, dubbed the Great Southern Ark, is on a mission to protect more than 20 indigenous species of mammals, and has already brought species back from the brink of extinction. Working together with the Department for Environment, Zoos South Australia reintroduced the Mainland Tammar Wallaby to Innes National Park, a species once extinct in the wild. Now, Innes National Park offers some of the most authentic wildlife spotting opportunities in the state.
From the ocean to the depths of the outback, you can experience more of South Australia’s unique wildlife at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary: a fully accredited ecotourism hot spot. Transformed from a grazing property and uranium exploration field into a wilderness sanctuary in the 60s, this ancient landscape is now an important habitat for more than 160 species of birds, the endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, Kangaroos, echidnas, a huge array of lizards and snakes, and rare and endangered flora. Offering 12 advanced ecotourism-certified tours, here you can uncover some of the most breathtaking and rugged county on earth as you traverse granite mountains and craggy clifftops on a ridgetop tour, or gaze up at some of the clearest skies in South Australia on an astronomy tour.
Meanwhile, Kangaroo Island is home to crucial habitats for many native species. Spanning 2,000 acres, Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is on a mission is to conserve and protect the island’s unique flora and fauna, and the sanctuary’s eco-certified tours are one of the best ways to experience the island’s diversity. On tour, you’ll spot koalas, kangaroos, Tammar Wallabies, possums, echidnas and goannas, and the illusive Bush Stone Curlew in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is also blessed with a stunning array of birdlife, including Blue Wrens, Scarlet Robins, Lorikeets, Crimson Rosellas, Black Cockatoos, Scrub Wrens, Crescent Honey-eaters, Banded Plovers, and Cape Barren Geese. A biodiversity hotspot, more than 190 native plant species have been recorded on the property. For a responsible up-close encounter with wildlife, head for Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. Spanning a massive 50 acres, the park is home to more than 1,000 animals and played a vital role in rehabilitating rescued koalas after the January bushfires. Sustainability extends to the sea, too. With eco-certified charters from Kingscote and Emu Bay, discover remote coastal beaches with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures and swim with wild Bottlenose dolphins and frolic with seals. KI Marine Adventures are also actively involved with conservation group Dolphin Watch, monitoring the well-being and habitat of our local whales and dolphin pods. Get back to nature with our guide to the best wildlife experiences in South Australia.
Food foraged from forests, sustainable seafood plucked straight from the ocean and onto plate, food scraps transformed into fine dining and a love of local, seasonal produce. From low food mileage, minimal food wastage and ethical production, South Australia’s restaurant scene is leading the way when it comes to sustainable dining and conscious consumption.
At Fino Seppeltsfield in the Barossa, the menu is curated to showcase regionality and seasonality whilst supporting small-scale, sustainable producers with 95% of the restaurant’s produce sourced locally. While at Botanic Gardens Restaurant in the heart of Adelaide, the lush surroundings are alive on the plate with a garden to plate philosophy to minimise food wastage and a menu featuring ethically farmed and sustainable produce. In McLaren Vale, Coriole head chef Tom Tilbury relies on close relationships with the region’s producers to create his seasonal fine-dining menu. Focusing on celebrating local ingredients, Tom sources regional, ethically harvested and sustainable produce from trusted farmers wherever possible. The same can be said at Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant, where ingredients such as mushrooms, watercress, vegetables, herbs and flowers are foraged from the gardens, which in turn are fertilised using composted kitchen waste.
Low food mileage and traceability is also at the heart of the menu at Etica in Adelaide. Here, a small and carefully curated menu ensures the team always knows exactly where their food is sourced, with a belief that only by understanding where your food comes from can you truly enjoy it. An ever-changing menu is a testament to the sustainable ethos at city institution Peel St, where bountiful plates with a heavy focus on vegetables showcase the freshest, in-season South Australian produce. Africola’s Duncan Welgemoed shares this passion, with locally sourced food underpinning the fiery African menu. Living and breathing this commitment, Welgemoed can often be spotted wandering one of South Australia’s pristine beaches, hand-picking small amounts of local seaweeds and grasses to dish up at the North Terrace restaurant.
Meanwhile tucked in the foothills of the Adelaide Hills at Topiary, head chef Kane Pollard’s commitment to sustainability starts from the ground up. Every scrap of food has been deliberately selected and prepared from root to leaf and nose to tail. Century-old techniques of culturing, churning, curing and smoking mix seamlessly with a menu featuring foraged edible weeds like nasturtium, wood sorrel and wild fennel. Whatever can’t be picked from the surrounding gardens is sourced locally, a nod to Kane’s philosophy of minimising waste, supporting those around you and respecting the environment. For more dining inspiration, check out our guide to the best foodie experiences in South Australia.
Eco-friendly wineries, brewers and distillers
Sustainable sipping is a way of life for a plethora of boutique wineries, small-batch distillers and craft brewers in South Australia. McLaren Vale’s Gemtree Wines’ commitment to sustainable production has roots as deep as their decades-old vines. The wineries’ organic and biodynamic credentials speak for themselves, as does their commitment to improve the land for future generations. Flocks of sheep replace pesticides to keep weeds under control, ground quartz prevents fungal infections and negates the need for chemical fungicides, cow manure and recycled water feeds the vineyard and solar powers the irrigation, winery and cellar door. This holistic approach to wine production and commitment to sustainability is alive down the road at d’Arenberg Wines, the largest biodynamic wine grape grower in Australia. Also reliant on sheep agistment, solar power and natural disease control, the harmony between environmental sustainability and cutting-edge production techniques is evident in every glass poured. Sustainability is a theme that carries on through McLaren Vale, with Paxton Wines also leaders in organic and biodynamic viticulture, resulting in exceptional fruit and wine.
Low intervention methods and certified organic practices are at the forefront of boutique Barossa winery Hayes Family Wines. Here, winemaker Andrew Seppelt draws on generations of knowledge to farm the vineyard sustainably, boycotting synthetic herbicides and pesticides and limiting additives in the wine making process (all of their wines are vegan friendly). The result is a wine that’s good for you, and the environment. Nearby at part winery-part farm, Hutton Vale Farm has embraced a sustainable approach to wine and food production. A seventh generation run farm, the Angas family believe as the current custodians of the land, they should take only what is necessary and give back wherever they can to allow for future generations. In practice, they focus on conserving water, minimising herbicide use, relying on solar power and replanting natural habitat on and around the farm. In the Adelaide Hills, Unico Zelo has minimised water consumption by forgoing conventional grape varieties for vines that require minimal water. Husband and wife duo Brendan and Laura have an ever-evolving sustainability strategy tackling everything from replacing plastic packaging to reducing product waste. When life gives them (ugly) second-grade lemons that would otherwise go to compost, Brendan and Laura make Unico Cello, aka Limoncello.
By choosing a tour company that cares for and invests in the environment, you’ll not only have access to the best bits of South Australia, you’ll also be doing your bit to help conserve the environment we all love.
South Australia is home to the only touring company in Australia that offsets its carbon footprint internally. Operating 100% carbon neutral, advanced eco-certified tours on the Eyre Peninsula, Xplore Eyre and Nullarbor Traveller plant 1.2 hectares of native vegetation at their property Coodlie Park Farm Retreat each year, with one third of the property set aside for environmental rehabilitation. And their commitment to conserving the Eyre Peninsula’s natural assets doesn’t end there. Actively involved with environmental education programs for schools and partnerships with land conservation projects, Xplore Eyre and Nullarbor Traveller have serious eco-cred.
Along the banks of the Murray River, the Riverland is also home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in South Australia. Cast off in your own canoe and explore backwaters, creeks and lagoons with Canoe the Coorong. With the knowledge of an eco-tourism expert as your guide, you’ll be able to experience the magic of this unique ecosystem and get up close to incredible wildlife without impacting the natural ecology. On Kangaroo Island, you can jump on tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island or KI Odysseys for a sustainable encounter with wildlife in their natural habitat. With expert local guides, small group sizes and local produce, it’s one of the best ways to explore Kangaroo Island’s pristine environment and ensure that it stays that way.
An eco-friendly walking tour is another way to tread lightly and experience South Australia’s stunning landscapes. Dust off your hiking boots and explore some of the best walks in South Australia. Traverse the ancient landscapes of the Flinders Ranges on the Arkaba Walk, journey through bushland teeming with wildlife and along the rugged Fleurieu Peninsula coastline with Southern Ocean Walk, or meander along the banks of the mighty Murray on the Murray River walk. Cruising around the city? Swap the car for hybrid-electric rickshaws and get pedalled to any destination within the CBD. Ecocaddy’s zero-emissions transport is one of the most sustainable, and fun, ways to explore Adelaide.
Get to know South Australia’s Wildlife
With expanses of untamed wilderness, South Australia is one of the best places to get up close with iconic Australian wildlife in their natural environment. From swimming with Australian Sea Lions to shark cage diving, having lunch with a kangaroo or taking selfies with a koala, check out our wildlife lover’s guide to South Australia.