By Julietta Jameson
You don’t need much more than your own two feet to take advantage of one of South Australia’s most spectacular assets – its huge array of walking trails. And they’re as diverse as the state itself. From sparkling coast to ancient outback sites, the landscapes and vistas are ever changing, as are the challenge levels. A Sunday walk with the kids in the Adelaide Hills, a quiet birdwatching stroll in the bush, an extreme ascent or trip-of-a-lifetime hike of several days – whatever your style on foot, South Australia has it.
Murray River Walk
See Australia’s greatest river in all its natural glory over four incredible days. The Murray River Walk is a small group organised walk that covers 40 kilometres of private property encompassing red gum forest and black box woodlands, a historic homestead and woolshed, and even a brewery along the way. Each night, head back to base – a houseboat that’s following you down the river – where you sleep in comfort and enjoy dinners of local produce and fine wines to fuel you for the next day ahead. Spectacular sunsets, sunrises, animal viewing aplenty and of course, magnificent river vistas make this a bucket-list experience.
Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail
Encounter all that wild, unspoiled Kangaroo Island has to offer on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. Head out independently or go in a group organised through a commercial operator, camping along the way after challenging daily walks of 12 to 14 kilometres. Whether walking with old friends or new, it’s certain you’re in for something truly memorable. Taking off in the Flinders Chase National Park, the five-day hike begins with platypus sighting before a night among old growth gums. By day two you’re on the edge of the continent, with nothing but the Southern Ocean between you and Antarctica. Pause on a clifftop to take in the view of famous Cape du Couedic Lighthouse in the distance. For those who are fit and up for it, this is a classic walk rich in drama and delight at every turn.
Photo: Jonathan Van Der Knapp
Walk The Yorke
The Yorke Peninsula, northwest of Adelaide, breaks into the ocean between the Spencer Gulf and the Gulf St Vincent with a shape like a long arm pointing towards Antarctica. Those long coastlines and a mild maritime climate mean it’s a place where agriculture, fishing and port life has thrived, while maintaining seemingly endless kilometres of unspoiled beach, clifftop wilderness and rocky outcrops. It’s also home to Walk the Yorke, a massive 500 kilometres of connected walking trails. Hardy hikers can go from town to town for as many days as they like, or choose a piece to do in a day, an afternoon, or an hour. Walk the Yorke encompasses heritage sites, unique communities, pristine beaches and the Innes National Park on the peninsula’s tip. It’s well signposted with maps and indications of time needed. Trails suit everyone from avid hikers to post-lunch strollers and there are accommodation options as varied as the walk itself, from remote camping grounds to beautiful B&Bs.
Photo: Earth Art Photography
From Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula to Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges, the 1200-kilometre Heysen Trail is fittingly named. Taking its moniker from acclaimed watercolour artist Sir Hans Heysen who celebrated the beauty of South Australia, it is like a treasure hunt for the very best of the state and the longest dedicated walking trail in Australia. At it’s southernmost end, the point of the Fleurieu Peninsula, immerse yourself in Deep Creek Conservation Park, where the walking is challenging and you are rewarded with awe-inspiring vistas of the Southern Ocean and perhaps a swim at Deep Creek Waterfall. This epic trail also touches the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa. Explore rich wine-growing soil and stroll through the historic German village of Hahndorf as you amble by cellar doors. In amazing contrast, the trail hits the ancient Flinders Ranges, where you pass fossils, Aboriginal rock art and Mount Remarkable to the rim of the astounding Wilpena Pound. With myriad accommodation options along the way, you can take the trail at your own pace.
Photo: Peter Fisher
Combining luxury with intimate access to one of the most ancient and dramatic landscapes on earth, the experience at this 24,000-odd hectare conservancy is unique. Inhabiting a former working sheep station dating back to 1851, in 2009, Wild Bush Luxury took on the Flinders Ranges property, eradicating feral animals and regenerating the land. Now, red and western grey kangaroos flourish and the landscape is one of glowing red rocks and carpets of wild flowers roamed by native animals. Take it all in from dramatic rises before you reach permanent camps proffering gourmet dinners with local wines around the campfire and a comfortable sleep under the stars. The three and four day small group walks operate from mid-March till mid-October.
Photo: Ian Routledge
Belair National Park
Belair National Park is South Australia’s oldest park, and quite possibly its favourite. Locals head to this gorgeous spread – that houses Old Government House – for Sunday picnics, barbecues and what the Italians call passeggiata, the gentle art of walking and socialising. But it’s also home to more strenuous hiking, with good rises and challenges. The amazing thing is, it’s only 13 kilometres from Adelaide CBD. Not many other cities can offer such an incredible asset to leisure time in such proximity. Woodland, lakes, preserved stretches of native bush and trails to suit all levels of fitness wind through this beautiful piece of the Adelaide Hills and range from 30 minutes to more than six hours. And handily, they are very well signposted to help you choose what’s right for you.
Photo: Cath Leo
Morialta Falls Plateau Hike
Only ten kilometres away from the city, the Morialta Conservation Park is a jewel box of natural delights. With hike options ranging from 45 minutes to nearly four hours, clamber over rocky ridges, descend into lush green gullies where rock pools are home to frogs and birds and be mesmerised by the waterfalls along Fourth Creek, which at their peak in winter, cascade plentifully over quartzite cliffs. The Heysen Trail passes through here, while the Yurrebilla Trail extends through to Black Hill Park and the River Torrens.
Photo: Jason Tyndall
Anstey Hill Recreation Park
Another great one located close to the CBD, Anstey Hill affords amazing views across the city as you walk under canopies dotted with koalas and abundant birdlife. Local families and serious walkers take to the extensive network of walking trails that conserves rare vegetation endemic to the Adelaide Plains and Mount Lofty Ranges. Take the Yellowtail Loop, a walk of 7.5 kilometres, with its steep rises and historic remnants such as silver mine tunnels and the old Newman’s Nursery, the ruins of what was once the largest plant nursery in the southern hemisphere.
Photo: Fiona Lewis
Marion Coastal Walking Trail
This 7.2 kilometre boardwalk traverses a fragile coastal environment and affords sweeping ocean views. But it’s the incredible geology and archaeology of Hallett Cove that is world famous. See the striking remnants of an ice age 280 million years ago, including the awesome Sugarloaf Hill and more than 1700 Aboriginal artefacts against the beautiful backdrop of the Gulf St Vincent.
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are located at Adelaide Airport.