It offers vast salt lakes, crazy outback towns, a capital which always seems to be throwing a festival, and amazing wildlife experiences, such as those on Kangaroo Island.
And ironically, Australia’s driest state is also famous for its (very tasty) wet stuff – wine.
For a state capital, Adelaide feels small, but it is uncrowded and attractive, priding itself on its culture, fi ne food, relaxed lifestyle and ace collection of festivals, including the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Fringe Festival and WOMADelaide.
There is also a number of good beaches in the suburbs, the most famous being Glenelg, which boasts a lively café scene and nightlife.
In the city, the hip spots are concentrated on Rundle Street – filled with cafés, nightclubs, pubs, wine bars and shops – and Hindley Street, with its motley crew of revellers.
Getting around Adelaide
Skylink buses run between the city and the airport. The main coach terminal is on Franklin Street.
(Contact the Info Centre, 18 King William St, Ph: 1300 383 783.)
Useful to know about are the city loop buses (the 99c) and the Adelaide Connector, which are both free and run every day.
You can also get free city bikes. You just have to leave some ID as a deposit.
The city and Glenelg are the most popular spots to stay. Both are well serviced by good hostels and transport.
Botanic Gardens: Very tranquil with plenty to explore.
Glenelg: Glenelg has a pleasant beach and promenade. Attractions include shops, eateries, an interesting local history museum, and an amusement park.
Adelaide Central Market: A colourful and eclectic fresh food shopping experience.
SA Museum: Natural and cultural history displays with excellent Aboriginal content. Entry is free.
Tandanya: Aboriginal cultural institute with art and craft and performances. Open Monday-Sunday.
Out on the town
Adelaide has a lively nightlife, a cool café scene and a mind-boggling variety of excellent nosheries.
For friendly pubs try Rundle Street, East Terrace and Jetty Road, Glenelg.
For information about gigs, check out Rip It Up (ripitup.com.au), Adelaide’s free music paper.
South Australia produces the majority of Australia’s wine, including the ubiquitous Jacob’s Creek label.
If you do any wine-tasting tours in Australia, do it here. The Barossa Valley is about 70km from Adelaide.
It’s a very picturesque patchwork of vineyards, wineries and German townships. The Barossa’s main town is Tanunda, while the original German settlement is Bethany. To get to the Barossa you can join wine-tasting day trips from Adelaide.
The Clare Valley is another very pleasant winemaking area to explore, with picturesque hills, high quality wine, fine old stone buildings and florid gardens.
Half-an-hour’s drive south-east from the city, the Adelaide Hills are home to some of the state’s major vineyards.
With rolling hills and market gardens it’s a real contrast to the city. You can also cuddle a koala at Cleland Wildlife Park.
Over 50 vineyards can be found along South Road from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula and the Wine Coast.
The Fleurieu is like an antipodean Tuscany which doubles as an excellent whale watching area (June to September).
Perfect for a two or three-day side trip from Adelaide, this isle is a complete gem and one of Australia’s must-dos.
The country’s third-largest island is a wild, windswept, world of giant sanddunes, turquoise bays and ancient forests, perfect for exploring by quad bike or kayak.
But most of all, it’s about the wildlife, which is both abundant and easily visible. Koalas, kangaroos, penguins, seals and echidnas wander around happily and without fear, making for some great wildlife photos.
Many shipwrecks lie offshore, which, together with the seals and other marine life, make for some pretty adventurous diving.
Kingscote and Penneshaw are the island’s main towns. Penneshaw has a large fairy penguin colony and the little birds can be seen waddling through the streets after dark.
Getting to Kangaroo Island
The most popular way to get to Kangaroo Island is on a tour from Adelaide.
An alternative is to take your car on the ferry, or hire one on the island, and explore yourself. There is no public transport.
Around Kangaroo Island
Flinders Chase National Park: See the Remarkable Rocks – huge granite hulks sculpted by the elements into weird shapes. Also check out Weirs Cove and the Admirals Arch fur seal colony.
Little Sahara: Test your nerve and satisfy your inner adrenalin junkie by sandboarding down the giant dunes.
Pardana Wildlife Park: A sanctuary for orphaned and injured wildlife.
Seal Bay: A must. Take a ranger-guided walk right through the colony of hundreds of sea lions.
North (Coober Pedy)
The northern region of South Australia covers a massive 80 million hectares. The area offers magnificent natural landscapes in national parks including Mount Remarkable, Flinders Ranges, Lake Eyre and Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges National Parks.
About six hours’ drive north of Adelaide, the Flinders Ranges are some of the world’s oldest and most amazing mountains.
And huge; 500km long, 250km wide and surrounded by vast salt lakes.
There are tours from Adelaide that will take you through the mountains. The gateway town for the Flinders is Port Augusta.
At Port Augusta, Wedlata Outback Centre and the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden offer the perfect introduction to the region. Rawnsely Bluff is spectacular on the Ranges’ south-eastern edge.
Wilpena Pound is a huge natural amphitheatre with great bushwalking.
Roughly halfway between Adelaide and the Red Centre, Coober Pedy is a hot, barren and surreal town based around opal mining. Most of the population lives underground to escape the desert heat.
Set in a dusty moonscape, the town is popular for filming movies set after an apocalypse or on hostile planets, such as parts of the Mad Max films, which gives you an idea of what to expect. It’s a very freaky, must-visit part of the outback.
Around Coober Pedy
Breakaways Reserve: Bizarre sandstone range with spectacular colours, just 30km from town.
Buy opal: Seeing as so much of the world’s opal is mined here, you won’t get better value than at Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy Tour: Entry to the minefields is prohibited without a licence, unless you’re on a tour.
Lookout Point: Above the Opal Cave. People climb up here each evening to see the sunset.
The Mail Run: Head out into the desert on the mail truck to meet outback characters, visit Aboriginal communities, plus have a beer before endless horizons and under a star-fi lled desert sky.
One of the world’s great rivers, The Murray dominates this beautiful and diverse region. Waterbased recreation such as houseboating, fishing, water-skiing, bushwalking and gliding are the key themes.
There are many nature opportunities based around birdlife, wetlands and conservation such as Riverland Biosphere Reserve and Gluepot Reserve.
Eyre Peninsula (Nullarbor Plain)
Stretching from Port Augusta at the top of the Eyre Peninsula, along the Great Australian Bight is the extraordinary, treeless Nullarbor Plain.
The 2,400km Nullarbor stretch of the Eyre Highway contains the world’s longest, straightest, flattest road.
Crossing the Plain is an incredible off-the-beaten track experience.
There are some amazing sights along the way; soaring limestone cliffs, beautiful remote beaches, astonishing cave systems and southern right whales and their calves (June to September).
You can also swim with friendly seal colonies and dolphin pods or go deep sea fishing.
There’s even the chance to take to the water with tuna and cage dive with great white sharks in the spot where much of the original Jaws was fi lmed.
Ceduna: This fishing town at the eastern end of the Nullarbor, with nearby Cactus Beach, is renowned for world-class surf. Inland, the region offers rolling hills and remarkable rock formations.
South-east (Limestone Coast)
The region offers a range of natural attractions such as Coorong and Canunda National Parks and Little Dip and Beachport Conservation Parks.
It is also home to World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves, which are great for caving.
Elsewhere, the mysterious Blue Lake in Mount Gambier forms part of the water aquifer system that sustains the region’s outstanding food and wine production.
Bordertown and Keith are good bases for 4WD experiences in the Ngarkat Conservation system.
Photos: Getty, TNT