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The cage ... a Great White looms.

From beach driving to the perfect long lunch – top 10 things to do in South Australia

  1. Cuddle a koala at Cleland Wildlife Park, Adelaide Hills

    Cuddling a koala is on the must-do list of many international visitors – but plenty of Australians are also keen to snuggle up to their national icon for a furry fix. An up-close encounter with resident koalas, such as Edmund and Goro, is included in the entry fee at Cleland Wildlife Park, a 20-minute drive south-east from Adelaide’s city centre in the Mount Lofty Ranges (it’s also possible to reach the park via public transport). During these koala close-ups, visitors can pat a koala, learn about their unique characteristics (such as the fact they each eat about 1000 eucalyptus leaves a day) and pose next to them for a photo. These sessions happen twice daily (between 11am and noon, and 2pm-4pm). For an extra fee, visitors can be photographed cuddling a koala. These popular sessions, which are run on a first-come, first-served basis, run daily between 2pm and 3.30pm (with an extra session on Sundays and public holidays between 11am and noon). There are also many other animal attractions within the park, which is known for its absence of enclosures. Most of the animals, which include kangaroos, wombats, emus, forest birds and echidnas, live in a natural-looking habitat.

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    Cleland Wildlife Park

     

  2. Scenic flight over Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges

    The centrepiece of the Flinders Ranges (named after the explorer Matthew Flinders) is Wilpena Pound – an extraordinary natural amphitheatre encircled by jagged quartzite ridges that rise up sharply out of the surrounding landscape. The crater and remnant valley floor were formed as natural forces whittled away an ancient mountain range over millions of years, leaving behind only the resistant quartzite walls. Trees and shrubs envelop Wilpena Pound’s flanks, the greenery contrasting sharply with the surrounding rust-red arid landscape. Many visitors explore the area on foot but to really appreciate the sheer scale of Wilpena Pound – the crater-like formation measures some 17km long and 8km wide – take a scenic flight over the ancient landscape. There are a range of scenic flights to choose from. One operator offers flights varying from 20 to 60 minutes that depart from the Wilpena Pound airstrip to showcase geological highlights such as St Mary Peak, the highest point along the formation’s rim, and Pound Gap where a road once led into the valley floor. Early pastoralists kept horses within the Pound (in fact, the word “pound” means an enclosure for animals); the valley floor was also once used for wheat farming.

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    Scenic Flights

     

  3. Shark cage dive off Port Lincoln, Eyre Peninsula

    In the waters off Port Lincoln, 640km from Adelaide, swimming with tuna is out but heading underwater to stare down a great white shark is in. One of the operators, Adventure Bay Charters, offers two ways for participants to come eyeball to eyeball with one of the ocean’s most feared creatures. For the shark cage dive, people wriggle into wetsuits before being lowered to about a metre below the ocean surface while accessing a surface air supply – meaning no cumbersome air tanks and no need for scuba-diving qualifications. The operator attracts the sharks not through bait (which could distract them from normal feeding activities) but by playing rock’n’roll through underground speakers. They say the acoustic vibrations that come from playing the likes of AC/DC and The Hilltop Hoods encourage curious sharks to come closer to investigate the source. People who want to stay dry have another option. The Aqua Sub can also submerge six people at a time to see the sharks at close range. The shark cage diving takes place at the North Neptune Islands, about a 2 ½ -hour boat ride from Port Lincoln. Those prone to seasickness should pack preventative medication.

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    Adventure Bay Charters

     

  4. Cruise the Murray River on a houseboat

    There are plenty of paddle-wheeler cruises plying the Murray River but, for total freedom, there’s nothing like renting your own houseboat and taking charge of your holiday itinerary along Australia’s greatest waterway. At least 70 houseboats are available for hire along the South Australian stretch of the mighty Murray, with departure points at Murray Bridge, Mannum, Blanchetown, Morgan, Waikerie and Renmark near the Victorian border. It’s possible to hire a houseboat without a boat licence –instructions and coaching are given upon pick-up. Before stepping aboard, get ready to slow down and enjoy an old-fashioned holiday where the world scrolls past slowly. Most houseboats cover about 7km an hour, with holidaymakers usually travelling for no more than five hours a day (houseboats also can’t travel after sunset). Sit back and enjoy the sight of magnificent river red gums sprouting from the riverbanks, towering ochre cliffs and the prolific bird life. Tie up and frolic in the refreshing waters, cast a line in the hope of catching dinner, stretch the legs with a lazy stroll or explore one of the historic townships lining the waterway. Houseboats are like a home away from home, with TV and entertainment systems, barbecues, outdoor furniture, fridge, microwave, stove and drinking water all considered standard inclusions.

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    Houseboat Hirer’s Association

     

  5. Walk among sea lions at Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island

    Kangaroo Island’s Australian sea lion colony is quite a sight to behold: about 1000 of the wild animals rest and sunbathe on the sands of Seal Bay along the island’s southern coastline. With their entire population estimated at just 14,700, these eared seals are among the world’s rarest creatures (the Seal Bay colony is Australia’s third-largest). Australian sea lions distinguish themselves from earless seals with their ability to use their back flippers to help them “walk” on land. It’s also possible for humans to walk among them on a guided tour. The Seal Bay experience, with at least 10 departures daily, is a 45-minute guided tour that starts on the boardwalk before travelling through the dunes to the beach. Guides will interpret the behaviour of sea lions during the tour while keeping everyone at least 10m from the nearest animal. When daylight savings are in operation during warmer months, there’s an additional tour on offer. After other tours finish for the day, the Twilight Beach Tour allows up to 12 participants to roam for up to two hours among the sea lions while they’re bathed in a photogenic golden light. During colder months when sea lions move further up the beach, they’re sometimes found lying next to the boardwalk – handy for those taking the self-guided boardwalk tour.

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    Kangaroo Island

     

  6. Make Your Own Blend at Wynns Coonawarra, Limestone Coast

    South Australia is home to an extraordinary number of fine wine-making regions, including the Coonawarra region 380km southeast of Adelaide near the Victorian border. What makes the region so perfect for grapes is a natural phenomenon known as terra rossa – a long, skinny ridge of red soil measuring 15km long and 1km wide. Thanks to a long, cool ripening period (the region is just 80km from cold Antarctic winds that buffet the South Australian coastline), the grapevines that sprout from this rich topsoil produce small, well-coloured, intensely flavoured fruit that’s perfect for transforming into expressive premium wines. At Wynns Coonawarra Estate (the region’s most famous cellar door), it’s possible to try your hand at being a winemaker for a day – the first experience of its kind in the Coonawarra. Step inside the heritage-listed, three-gabled winery building that features on the vineyard’s labels and, within the laboratory, blend a wine to suit your taste from cabernet, shiraz and merlot varieties. Once you’re happy with the results, take home a personalised bottle of the blend. The one-hour experience is available twice daily during the week and daily over the weekend.

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    Wynns Coonawarra

     

  7. RoofClimb the iconic Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

    Sydney and Brisbane both have bridge climbs but Adelaide now offers a very different structure to conquer – the iconic Adelaide Oval where many a mighty cricket match and AFL game have unfolded. The two-hour guided experience, which made its debut in 2016, offers panoramic views over the entire city. The CBD’s flatness means views stretch all the way to the Adelaide Hills on one side and to the ocean on the other. Just like those other two urban climbs, participants don a fully enclosed climb suit for safety reasons and listen to commentary through an audio system. Take your pick from three climb options. The day climb offers the best views at an affordable price. The twilight climb is for romantics who like to admire a good sunset and sparkling city lights. The most extravagant package is the one that allows climbers to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of a full quarter of a Port Adelaide AFL match from 50m above the southern goal square. Adelaide Oval authorities inspected similar roof climbs, such as London’s Up at the O2 and Dublin’s Etihad Skyline climb at Croke Park Stadium, when developing its RoofClimb, which includes crossing the Western Stand roofline and a link bridge.

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    RoofClimb

     

  8. Long lunch at Hentley Farm, Barossa Valley

    Is there anything more delightful than a long, languid lunch? Those who take their lunching seriously should point themselves towards the Barossa Valley’s Hentley Farm, an hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide (or even better, skip driving and organise transport there). Hentley Farm won’t tell you what’s on either of the two set menu options (the 1 ½-hour, four-course lunch or the three-hour, seven-course affair, both of which feature lots of little added treats and palate cleansers). Head chef Lachlan Colwill prefers to surprise with theatrical, textural flourishes that might include oysters arriving in a camp stove packed with dry ice, chef-poured sauces at the table, and sweet treats presented in eggshells nestled in a cardboard egg carton or chocolate-coated lollipops poking out of a weathered log. There’s an option for matched wines, which pairs the courses with drops from the Hentley Farm portfolio (smartly, the restaurant also offers half-pours). Colwill sources as much produce as he can from the 60ha farm’s gardens and orchards. The modern dining room, all texture itself with stone walls and rough-hewn ceiling beams, is fashioned from 19th-century stables built on the banks of Greenock Creek.

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    Hentley Farm

     

  9. Grange wine tasting at Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide

    To those who come from bigger cities than Adelaide, it’s astonishing to find an urban vineyard just 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre. Yet that’s how easy it is to reach Penfolds Magill Estate - the original home of Penfolds wines as well as Australia’s most famous drop, the legendary Grange. The winery, once on Adelaide’s outskirts, is now enveloped by suburban sprawl. Visitors are welcome to tour the historic bluestone cellars and wander through the underground tunnels (known as “drives”) where winemaker Max Schubert kept working in secret on Grange even though the Penfolds board universally disliked his initial efforts. Today, Penfolds winemakers continue to visit the barrels stashed in the tunnels to keep watch over the latest vintages. There’s an entry-level tour for those interested in the basics (which concludes with a wine-tasting at the bar) but aficionados will sign up for the Ultimate Penfolds Experience that includes extras such as visiting Grange Cottage (the original home of pioneering winemakers Mary and Christopher Penfold). Of course, the real drawcard is the tour’s finale: a structured tasting of some of Penfolds’ most sought-after drops, including the famed Grange, RWT Shiraz and rare tawny ports, in the new private tasting room.

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    Penfolds Magill Estate

     

  10. Drive your car straight onto Aldinga Beach, Fleurieu Peninsula

    Driving a regular car onto the sand is a long-held and much-loved tradition at Aldinga Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide. A few years back, when there was talk of banning the practice, it prompted widespread uproar – so the tradition was allowed to continue.  The protestors’ argument was that if people didn’t like it, they could head to another beach where vehicles are banned. Aldinga is a national rarity: few beaches within easy reach of a capital city allow vehicular access. So why was there such a fight to keep the tradition alive? Quite simply, it allows anyone (not just the four-wheel drive crowd) to load up their car for the day - with anything from surfboards to picnic baskets, pooches and the kids – and drive down onto the firm sand of Aldinga’s long straight beach (keeping to the 10km an hour speed limit and parking between the waterline and high-tide mark). Many beachgoers arrive this way in the morning and spend all day hanging out at the beach, which is renowned for its clear waters, safe swimming and picture-postcard views.

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    Fleurieu Peninsula

     

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