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Embark on an awe-inspiring journey along the South Australian coast, where stunning seascapes and charming towns await in this perfect winter road trip adventure.
Road trips are often associated with summer, but it’s about time that changed. Yes, you heard it here first: winter is actually the perfect time to take a road trip — and specifically in South Australia, which is home to some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes in the country. After all, what better way to rejuvenate mid-year than getting cosy in your car with some excellent tunes, and exploring the diverse offerings of South Australia by road?
South Australia’s great outdoors really shine in the cooler months, and the Southern Ocean Drive road trip is the perfect example. The trip can be done at your own pace, usually taking somewhere between five and nine days, with plenty of natural wonders to explore along the way. Here are some of our favourite destinations along South Australia’s Southern Ocean Drive.
Explore Mount Gambier To Kingston S.E.
Duration: 2.5 to 3 days travelling across roughly a 130km stretch of the Southern Ocean Drive
Mount Gambier boasts so many wonderful sights, with natural wonders you just won’t see anywhere else.
The Blue Lake/Warwar is a breathtaking body of water – inside a volcano! And it changes colour throughout the year. If you go in winter, it should be a gorgeous, deep blue.
If you’ve never swam in a sinkhole, the Little Blue Lake is your chance. It’s a natural pool of water accessible by stairs that’s great for kids.
You can also have one of the most beautiful sinkhole barbecues of your life in Umpherston Sinkhole/Balumbul, an enormous garden and picnic area adorned with hanging vines.
Once you’ve explored Mount Gambier on the surface, you can head underground for a tour of the mysterious tunnels and waterways of Engelbrecht Cave.
Penola & Coonawarra Wine Region
There’s so much to explore (and feast on) in this area. While the Barossa offers amazing shiraz, this area is known for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon (the shiraz is pretty good too), and it’s sitting on the same kind of terra rossa soil that produces amazing red wine along the Mediterranean.
You could easily spend a week tasting the offerings from over 25 cellar doors and lunch spots like Hollick Estates, Koonara Wines, Brand’s Laira, and Highbank Winery. Pick up unique treasures in the boutique shops around Penola, and even take a trip through time down Petticoat Lane, with its cute historic cottages and lavender farm.
It’s not a real road trip unless you encounter something “Big” — which is right where Larry the Big Lobster steps in. If you’ve never eaten seafood underneath a giant crustacean before, the experience can be quite surreal.
For something more modern, check out “Wind Dance”, an augmented reality mural in town. The actual art is unique, gorgeous and culturally significant – and it can become delightfully animated on your phone.
You can also explore Pinks Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand with plenty of camping opportunities.
The scenery at Cape Jaffa is astounding and its lighthouse features rare artifacts and shines a light on the little known aspects of the lives of lightkeepers.
And if you haven’t had enough of that terra rossa-produced wine, there’s even more to enjoy in this region from wineries like Kingston Estate and Wangolina Station.
Coorong National Park to Victor Harbor
Duration: 2 days travelling across roughly a 350km stretch of the Southern Ocean Drive
Coorong National Park
This serene spot offers your chance to explore Storm Boy country — Coorong National Park is the setting for the iconic Australian book and the movies based on it. You can even check out the largest breeding colony of Australian pelicans from the vantage of Jack Point Observatory.
But it’s not all pelicans. Aspiring ornithologists will be able to spot over 200 migratory birds coming from Asia, as well as grebes, terns and cormorants. The park also preserves a variety of endangered flora and fauna amid its walking trails, making it a unique natural exploration experience.
The Port Elliot Bakery is famous for its pies, which are well worth the trip on their own — but there’s also plenty more to delight in here.
Both modern and rustic at the same time, Thunderbird’s menu features locally sourced ingredients and an outstanding regional wine offering.
Yeo Haus is a truly unique café/bar/surf and skate shop that reflects the culture and character of the area. Come in for a beer or buy a hoodie.
You can also pick up some unique gifts — for others or yourself — in the boutique shops, antique stores, and bookstores the town is known for. The local beaches, meanwhile, draw pods of majestic Southern Right Whales during winter, making the cooler months the perfect time to stop here and see them breaching.
Victor Harbor to Kangaroo Island
Duration: 1 day travelling across roughly an 80km stretch of the Southern Ocean Drive
Victor Harbor & Granite Island
If you enjoy coastal walks and hikes, this is your ideal pitstop. Victor Harbor plays host to rugged cliff top hikes, and rich maritime heritage sites. And if you want something more quaint, you can take the horse-drawn tram (yes, a horse tram) to Granite Island, a majestic spot known for its huge granite boulders coloured by orange lichen, or even feed some alpacas at Softfoot Alpaca Farm.
On the breathtaking end of things, a Big Duck Boat Tour will give you the chance to see not just whales but also dolphins and seals frolicking in the bay. And if you love seafood, there’s lots of delicious and fresh local fare to try.
Located on Kangaroo Island, Vivonne Bay has been voted one of Australia’s best beaches, and it’s easy to see why. Its U-shaped shores offer visitors a slice of idyllic island life. In other words: it’s absolutely gorgeous and an ideal place to relax — or, if you’re up for it, go sandboarding on the Little Sahara sand dunes.
Also unmissable for animal lovers: the birds of prey experience at nearby Raptor Domain, where you can get extremely close to an eagle or an owl or even a python while learning about some of Australia’s most deadly reptiles. Seal Bay Conservation Park provides an unparalleled window into the lives of a community of gorgeous, endangered sea lions in their natural habitat.