South Australia is home to quintessential road trip country and from the outback to the ocean we’ve rounded up five iconic road trips to rival their international counterparts.
The lure of the open road can be hard to ignore, especially when your coordinates are set to somewhere in South Australia. So, turn on your out of office, pack up the car, queue your playlist and get ready to experience some of the world’s best road trips right here in South Australia.
1. Seafood Frontier vs Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Great Ocean Road? We’ll raise you South Australia’s Seafood Frontier road trip. Winding along the rugged, windswept Southern Ocean coastline from Port Lincoln to Head of Bight, this epic seafood safari offers views, incredible food, wildlife encounters and natural beauty around every bend of the 1200km journey. Impressive rock formations? Forget the Twelve Apostles, the Eyre Peninsula has Cummins Monument, Murphy’s Haystack, Talia Caves and the Great Australian Bight. And along the way you’ll get some seriously good road trip snacks, plucked fresh from the ocean. The pristine Eyre Peninsula waters are famed for producing some of the best seafood in the world from oysters to abalone, crab, bluefin tuna and king fish… Sure beats a questionable roadhouse meat pie. And chic coastal towns? With cute cafes, breweries, coffee roasters and stylish boutiques, Port Lincoln rivals Lorne. The clincher? You’ll get to drive traffic free and take snaps without busloads of tourists spoiling the perfect shot.
Swap the Great Ocean Road for the Seafood Frontier with our road trip guide.
2. Explorers Way vs Route 66, USA
We know that Route 66 is America’s historic link from the east to the west coast, but the Explorers Way is steeped in history – 800 million years to be exact. Almost as long as Route 66, the 3,000km journey along the Explorers Way rewards the adventurous ready to journey through the heart of Australia. Road trip from Adelaide to Darwin at an unhurried pace, stopping in at quirky outback towns and detouring through ancient landscapes. The vast untouched wilderness, far-reaching skies and wide-open road stretching out in front of you is unlike any other place in the world, and Arizona scenery pales in comparison to the rugged, red landscapes of the Flinders Ranges. Take in Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre 700 million years older than the Grand Canyon and eight times larger than Uluru, unearth the fossils from the ice age, experience the unique outback way of life at the underground settlement of Coober Pedy, stop off at an outback oasis (that isn’t a mirage) and fall asleep under a blanket of stars. The best part? It’s all in South Australia, not a 24-hour plane journey away.
Recreate Route 66 along the Explorers Way road trip using our guide.
3. Epicurean Way vs Alsace Wine Route, France
The legendary 170-km-long Alsace Wine Route is the most famous wine route in France. A bucket list item for foodies and wine lovers, the road trip takes in picturesque villages and wine-producing towns… just like the Epicurean Way right here in South Australia. Swap your plane ticket for a corkscrew, picnic blanket and esky and hit the road. Wind your way along the dramatic coastline and through the vines of McLaren Vale, stopping in at iconic and quirky cellar doors in the Fleurieu Peninsula. Taste the Mediterranean climate influenced drops at the d’Arenberg Cube, Alpha Box and Dice or Coriole and pull out your picnic rug at Down the Rabbit Hole or Samson Tall winery. Further on, journey into the picturesque Adelaide Hills and meander down leafy groves and through picture-book perfect hamlets reminiscent of the villages found along the Alsace Wine Route. Nestled among a cluster of European-style villages, settle in at the Lenswood Pavilions and spend a few days wining and dining at Sidewood Estate, Lot 100, Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard, Golding and The Lane Vineyard. Afterwards, cruise on to Clare Valley where a glass of the world’s best Riesling awaits, and then reach your final destination and the only red light you’ll have to stop for on the Epicurean Way; a world-famous Barossa bold red.
Mark out your full hit-list with our full guide to the Epicurean Way road trip.
4. Southern Ocean Drive vs Pacific Coast Highway, USA
Sure, California’s Pacific Coast Highway has epic coastal views, but these are only made famous from their appearances on the big screen. Right here in South Australia, you can marvel at undiscovered natural wonders worthy of the silver screen along the Southern Ocean Drive. The 1200km route passes through some of the most idyllic seaside towns in South Australia, offering up sweeping coastal views and the perfect blend of beach, wine, food and wildlife. Work on your California tan at one of South Australia’s post-card worthy beaches, swap Napa Valley for a bold Coonawarra or McLaren Vale red and take your time hiking along coastal cliffs at Deep Creek. You can even stop for a night at Hotel California (Road), happily tucked among the rolling vines of McLaren Vale and not a dark desert highway. In an epic finale to the Southern Ocean Drive, float away to Kangaroo Island and spend a few days relaxing on island time… you can’t do that on the Pacific Coast! Instead of driving on the other side of the road, your only worry will be to perfect your ‘driving wave’ to the friendly Kangaroo Island locals. It’d be rude not to!
Check out our full Coastal Way road trip guide here.
5. Seafood Frontier vs Coral Coast road trip, WA
Bubble-gum pink lakes, spectacular coastal vistas, pristine beaches and abundant wildlife. There’s an undeniable affinity with nature on the Eyre Peninsula, and the Seafood Frontier road trip is one of the best ways to take it all in. Offering all the highlights of Western Australia’s Coral Coast Highway (and more) right here in SA, the Seafood Frontier is one of the best road trip routes in Australia. One of the biggest drawcards of the Coral Coast road trip is the opportunity to get up close to Australia’s incredible aquatic life, but on the Eyre Peninsula underwater wildlife encounters are part of the territory. Ok, so we may not be able to offer swimming while whale sharks, but what about Great White sharks (from the safety of a cage)? Spot whales frolicking in the cobalt waters off the Head of Bight, snorkel with sea lions and dolphins in Baird Bay, or swim with the chameleons of the sea – Giant Australian Cuttlefish - in Whyalla. Then, wander along empty, sandy beaches and set up camp where the bush meets the ocean in Coffin Bay or Lincoln National Park. Pink lakes are another highlight of the Coral Coast, and you guessed it… we’ve got them right here too. Stop off at the Instagram famous #LakeMacDonnell where Mother Nature’s full palette is on show with a super-high salt concentration resulting in some seriously intense colours.
Check out our full Southern Ocean Drive road trip guide here.
Around the world in South Australia
Have a serious case of the holiday blues? While we can’t fly overseas right now, with South Australia as our backyard an unforgettable holiday with all the hallmarks of far flung vacay is still a reality. Check out our guide to 10 South Australian holidays that rival international destinations.