state of Australia
Oceania > Australia > South Australia

South Australia is a state of Australia in the south of the country between Western Australia to the west and Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to the east, and south of the Northern Territory and is the only state to border all the mainland states.

Coriole vineyard. South Australia's wine industry is the largest in Australia.

South Australia isn't particularly known much – it is often overshadowed by its northern neighbour, the Northern Territory for desert/arid-like nature, its southeastern neighbour, Victoria, for culture, and its eastern neighbour, New South Wales, for urban oases. It does, however, have some world-famous wine, where most internationally-recognised Australian wine brand names comes from.

The state is somewhat a very varied state when it comes to perspective. Some people associate the state with the outback, some with culture, others with mining, and some with wine.

Regions edit

South Australia covers a vast amount of area, from coastal towns to arid desert. The more settled areas are in the southeast of the state, hence the smaller regions around that area.

Colour-coded map for South Australia's regions
  Adelaide Region
Adelaide, the state's capital home to around 80 per cent of the state's population, and its surrounds have plenty to offer for tourists and travellers. The Adelaide Hills surround Adelaide on the eastern side and have small villages with lots of history and lots of natural wonders.
  Fleurieu Peninsula
South of Adelaide, the gateway to Kangaroo Island and home to coastal villages where you can escape to.
  Barossa Valley
The home of some of Australia's best wines, the Barossa Valley is the reason why many travel to South Australia. Besides wines, there's lots of history to see here too.
  Yorke Peninsula and Mid-North
Where South Australians go for their holidays. Enjoy beaches, national parks, and more.
  Murray & Mallee
The area surrounding the winding Murray River; South Australia's fruit-growing areas.
  Kangaroo Island
17 km off the coast of the mainland, Australia's third-biggest island contains a vast amount of natural beauty unique to this part of Australia.
  Limestone Coast
The cooler southeastern part of the state, home to the state's second-largest city, Mount Gambier, in addition to Naracoorte Caves and many sinkholes and volcanic craters. For wine-lovers, this region is also home to the well-renowned wine region of Coonawarra.
  Eyre Peninsula
Where 2,000 kilometres of coastline and spectacular scenery meet treeless plains and desert. Home to the cities of Port Lincoln and Whyalla.
The Flinders Ranges are home to Wilpena Pound, a spectacular natural amphitheatre and a great base for walking and exploring. The Southern Flinders Ranges extend down toward the east of the city of Port Augusta and include the 6,000 hectare Mount Remarkable National Park. In the north the Simpson Desert also presents its own adventures and opportunities.

Cities edit

  • 1 Adelaide — the state capital
  • 2 Coober Pedy — opal mining and underground houses
  • 3 Mount Gambier — in the south-east of the state, home to the famous Blue Lake
  • 4 Murray Bridge — centre of South Australia's farming area
  • 5 Port Augusta — at the top of Spencer Gulf at the very east of the Eyre Peninsula, gateway to the Flinders Ranges
  • 6 Port Lincoln — at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula and a good base for seeing this part of the state
  • 7 Oodnadatta — desert frontier town, the old Ghan railway use to pass through here
  • 8 Victor Harbor — coastal playground to the south of Adelaide
  • 9 Whyalla — mining town halfway down the Eyre Peninsula

Other destinations edit

Understand edit

The city of Adelaide is home to around 80 per cent of the state's population.

History edit

South Australia's colonial history is a bit of a weird and unusual one, because unlike all other states of Australia, it was never a convict settlement, and all early European residents were free settlers, not convicts. Similarly, terra nullius was not claimed in South Australia, but it was recognised from the start that Aboriginal people had lived in South Australia for a long time. It was first split off from New South Wales and proclaimed a colony in 1834. Besides Great Britain, the white settlers in South Australia also hailed from many other parts of Europe, most notably Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, Serbia and Albania.

Geography edit

South Australia covers a large territory in the lower middle part of the country, with a small population of 1.7 million. Of that population, around 80% live in the state capital of Adelaide and its surrounding areas. Most of the state is arid, although the southern part hosts a great deal of agriculture. With nearly 1.6 million people, however, the state comprises less than 10% of the Australian population and ranks fifth in population among the states and territories. However, the state covers a vast amount of land area, including some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of 983,482 square kilometres (379,725 sq mi), it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories. The state also includes Kangaroo Island, Australia's third largest island which lies off the coast of the mainland in the southeast of the state.

South Australia is a state that has remained culturally vibrant throughout its history and is known for its festivals and fine produce. While South Australia is not the tourist magnet that its northern neighbour is, South Australia offers a different perspective on Australia from many of its different parts. With world-class wine and other produce, friendly people, unspoilt environment and a very relaxed pace of life, it offers the break in Australia that you may have been looking for.

Time zone edit

South Australia is half an hour behind the east coast cities. It is 9 hours and 30 minutes ahead of the Universal Time Coordinated (UTC). Daylight Savings time is 10 hr 30 minutes ahead and is observed from the first Sunday of October to the first Sunday of April the following year.

The only exception is the western most village of Border Village, in where it follows UTC+08:45 and UTC+09:45 in the summer.

Climate edit

South Australia is too big of a state to exactly explain the climate of, but it's generally characterised by being a hot, and dry climate all year around. It rarely rains in South Australia, and snow is only found on Mt Lofty in the Adelaide Hills – and that's not every winter. However, flooding can occur, often once every 10 or so years, and it's the only time when dry Lake Eyre fills up.

Get in edit

By plane edit

South Australia's main air gateway is Adelaide Airport, (ADL IATA), which has most domestic and all international flights direct into the state. International flights direct into Adelaide include those from Denpasar in Indonesia, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Auckland in New Zealand. There are regular domestic flights into Adelaide from all Australian capital cities and some interstate regional centres such as Mildura in Victoria, Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie-Boulder airport and Broome in Western Australia, Alice Springs and Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Mount Gambier Airport, (MGB IATA) in the far south-east of the state has services from Melbourne in Victoria, flown by Regional Express (REX).

By train edit

Adelaide is the main hub for Journey Beyond, the main operator of long-distance rail services in Australia. Note that Journey Beyond's services are aimed at luxury tourists and are a trip in themselves rather than a practical means of transportation. This means that they are more expensive than flying and slower than driving yourself. All of Journey Beyond's services pass through or depart from Adelaide. Train services include:

  • The Indian Pacific, (between Perth & Sydney, normally once a week in each direction)
  • The Ghan, (between Darwin & Adelaide, twice a week in each direction)
  • The Overland, (between Melbourne & Adelaide, three times a week in each direction)

From Adelaide, Brisbane can be accessed by the Indian Pacific to Sydney and changing for the XPT service to Brisbane. To get to Cairns, you will need to change trains a second time in Brisbane, this time onto the Spirit of Queensland.

V/Line have a daily coach service from Adelaide connecting to the NSW Trainlink XPT Service in Albury to Sydney.

By bus edit

Interstate bus services are provided by Greyhound Australia, Firefly and VLine, these services also serve multiple intrastate destinations on route.

Transfers are available to Adelaide airport and Adelaide Parklands interstate rail terminal from the Adelaide Central Bus Station.


You cannot bring fruit and vegetables into South Australia. There are disposal bins on roads and at airports, and checks are made - including dogs at airports and on trains and inspection stations on the roads. You will notice the signs and announcements. On-the-spot fines of around $400 are payable if you are caught with fruit or vegetables. The main routes from New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia into the state have checkpoints where you may be asked to stop and have your vehicle searched. Officers have the power to seize any prohibited item.

By car edit

There are main road connections through to the other states and territories. The main routes are:

  • From New South Wales:
  • Crossings from Victoria but are mainly used by motorists from NSW:
  • via the Sturt Highway (A20), east of Yamba
  • via the Mallee Highway (B12), east of Pinnaroo
  • From Victoria:
  • via the Dukes Highway (A8), east of Bordertown
  • via the Princes Highway (A1), east of Mount Gambier (coastal road)
  • From the Northern Territory:
  • via the Stuart Highway (A87)
  • From Western Australia:
  • via the Eyre Highway (A1)

Note that South Australia has a very large land area with most settlements in the south-east of the state. Driving to the Northern Territory and Western Australia are very long drives. From Adelaide to Perth is 2,700 km and will take at least 2 days, probably 3. It is the sort of trip that even most locals only do once or twice in their lifetime. Driving from Adelaide to Darwin is just over 3,000 km and travels through some very remote parts of Australia. A minimum of 4 days is recommended. Sydney to Adelaide takes about 14-15 hours to drive, and Adelaide to Melbourne is around 8-11 hours depending on the route taken. Allow 2 days to admire the towns on the way.

By ship edit

Adelaide's Overseas Passenger Terminal is at Outer Harbor on the LeFevre Peninsula in the north of Adelaide. Visiting cruise ships often dock here.

Get around edit

By car edit

Map of South Australia's national highways (i.e. M- and A-routes)

The state has a well developed highway system; however, in the northern and western regions many roads are gravel or dirt roads and extra care must be taken, but very few actually drive these roads. The article on driving in Australia has some useful information and guidance. Road traffic laws and regulations, including speed limits, are vigorously policed in South Australia and visitors should familiarise themselves with the local conditions and requirements prior to planning a trip by road in South Australia.

Though the state has a good network of highways, the state's freeway network (or expressway network) is well under par compared to other states, both in the metropolitan areas of Adelaide, and in regional South Australia. It has the least kilometres of freeways of any state, including Tasmania. All up, it has less than 200 km of freeways, and all freeways are centred around Adelaide – for comparison, the length is comparable to tiny countries like Singapore or Cyprus. Due to the state's limited freeway network, there are only two major freeways that head well out of Adelaide: the M1 South Eastern Freeway towards the southeast of the state and towards Victoria but only for 70 km before it becomes a two-lane undivided highway (single carriageway) and the M2 Northern Expressway/A20 Sturt Highway northeast towards NSW and Mildura, and that too, only for around 65 km before it becomes a two-lane undivided highway. There is also a third road that is not exactly a freeway, but a four-lane undivided highway (dual carriageway): the A1 Port Wakefield Highway northwest from the outer north of Adelaide to Port Wakefield which is about 70 km. A third freeway, called the M2 Southern Expressway, runs for 18.5 km through the southern suburbs of Adelaide, and is useful for getting to Victor Harbor and Kangaroo Island but ends just before the Onkaparinga River.

While the state's freeway network is limited, it shouldn't significantly affect your travel times. Outside the Fleurieu Peninsula, nearly all rural roads have a speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph) (including roads on Kangaroo Island), which is the same that you would find on freeways, and most roads have barely any traffic on them, so not going on a freeway does not necessarily mean you're going slower. However, extra care needs to be taken as you will have to move into the lane with oncoming traffic to overtake slower traffic.

School zones are 25 km/h (16 mph), regardless of where you are. This is contrary to all other states and territories where most school zones are 40 km/h (25 mph) (and sometimes higher in rural areas). Speed limits are strictly enforced and speeding in a school zone can land you with a hefty fine.

By bus edit

Statewide regional and intrastate routes are provided by several bus companies and they serve the Adelaide Hills, Mid and Far North, Mid North, Barossa, Murray Bridge, Eyre Peninsula and Far West, Riverland, Fleurieu Peninsula, South East, Kangaroo Island and Yorke Peninsula.

  • Premier Stateliner Operates to Adelaide Central Bus Station, Ceduna on the west coast, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Whyalla, in the Iron Triangle, Port Lincoln, Eyre Peninsula, Murray Bridge, Berri, Renmark, and Loxton in the Riverland, Keith, Bordertown, Kingston, Robe, Millicent, Naracoorte and Mount Gambier in the South East, Victor Harbor and Goolwa on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
  • Link SA. Operates to Adelaide Central Bus Station, Murray Bridge, Mid Murray and Barossa Valley
  • Mid North Passenger Services, (operated by Yorke Peninsular Coaches), [1]. Operates to Adelaide Central Bus Station and destinations in the Mid North of the state including Clare, Burra, Peterborough, Orroroo, Blyth, and Gladestone.
  • Yorke Peninsula Coach Services. Operates to Adelaide Central Bus Station, throughout Yorke Peninsula, Copper Coast, Balaklava, Mid North, Southern YP-Intertown, Upper North YP-Intertown, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Peterborough.
  • VLine, neighbouring Victoria's bus and rail system also connects some South Australian centres, including Adelaide Central Bus Station, Adelaide Hills Bordertown, Broken Hill (NSW), Geranium, Murray Bridge, Mount Barker, Mount Gambier, Pinnaroo and Tailem Bend.

By train edit

The state is served by a limited passenger rail network with services only provided to limited stops within South Australia that fall on the interstate routes. The Overland to Melbourne, operated by Journey Beyond, stops to set down and pick up passengers at some regional centres en route on request. The other interstate trains pass through but do not stop at other regional towns on their way to Adelaide, though the Indian Pacific makes a refuelling stop at the ghost town of Cook on its way to Perth, during which you can get off the train and walk around the town.

Adelaide Metro operate the suburban and local train and tram services in and around the capital city and details are available in the Adelaide article.

Several historic rail journeys are available. The SteamRanger preservation group in the Adelaide Hills has restored a number of steam and diesel locomotives for tourist services, and the Pichi Richi Railway based in Quorn operates on part of the former Central Australia Railway.

  • The Southern Encounter runs from Mount Barker to Victor Harbor during winter, utilising most of the remaining broad gauge branch from the main Adelaide to Melbourne line.
  • The Bugle Ranger runs from Mount Barker to Bugle Ranges using a Redhen railcar set. Services operate one Sunday each month from late April to October
  • The Highlander operates from Mount Barker to Strathalbyn using steam locomotives when possible. Operates on the second Sunday of each month from June until the end of November (excluding October).
  • StrathLink, from Goolwa to Strathalbyn using a restored heritage "Brill" railcar. Operates during school holiday periods.
  • Pichi Richi Railway Society, Railway Station, Railway Terrace Quorn, +61 8 8648-6598, toll-free: 1800 440 101. Historic railway and preservation society in the Mid North or South Australia. Phone the Quorn Railway Station.
  • Transcontinental, Quorn to Woolshed Flat. After a brief stop, on to Port Augusta, arriving in time for lunch. There is ample time for a stroll around the nearby area, including a range of food outlets, before the 2:30PM departure back to Quorn.
  • Pichi Richi Explorer, Quorn to Woolshed Flat (32 km) and return. Uses a historic Barwell Bull railcar 106, built in 1928 that spent most of its working life based at Peterborough working services between Terowie and Quorn., as well as steam services during school holidays and long weekends using historic South Australian Railways carriages, some dating from the 19th century.
  • Afghan Express turns the clock back to the 1930s when the famous old Ghan travelled through the Pichi Richi Pass. Wherever possible, the Afghan Express uses distinctive timber-bodied carriages built in the late 1920s for the narrow gauge old Ghan train service, and restored old Ghan steam locomotive NM25. The Afghan Express is the name railwaymen gave to the passenger train that ran from Terowie to Oodnadatta, through Quorn, in 1923.

Note: The National Railway Museum is the largest undercover railway museum in Australia and is situated in Port Adelaide.

By plane edit

Scheduled air services go to several major regional centres in South Australia. The main destinations are Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Ceduna, Mount Gambier, Coober Pedy and Broken Hill (NSW). (note: many support services for Broken Hill in western New South Wales are supplied from South Australia)

The two main regional operators in South Australia are Rex Regional express and QantasLink.

The state also has a General Aviation sector including charter operators and wet lease operators such as National Jet Systems Cobham[dead link] and other smaller operators that service the airline industry, private individuals, tourism and the fly-in, fly-out services for the mining, oil and gas production industries active in the state.

Parafield Airport is the state's principal general aviation airport. General aviation services including charter operations are operated from both Adelaide Airport (ADL IATA) in West Beach and Parafield Airport in the suburb of Parafield, 18 km north of the Adelaide Central business district (CBD) and adjacent to the Mawson Lakes campus of the University of South Australia. Parafield Airport is Adelaide's second airport and the fifth busiest airport in Australia by aircraft movements.

By ship edit

Fleurieu Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Yorke Peninsula and Eyre Peninsula have, or have planned ferry operations.

  • Sealink to Kangaroo Island connects Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. Ferries carry cars and passengers. Bus links are provided to Adelaide on the mainland and to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island.
  • SeaSA, (Sea SA Car & Passenger Ferries), [2], ferry service between Wallaroo on Yorke Peninsula and Lucky Bay on Eyre Peninsula is again suspended. Check local guides.

By bicycle edit

South Australia has a vibrant bicycle culture and the capital city of Adelaide has many established cycle paths and bicycle travel networks and regional trails. Adelaide and regional cities have well stocked bicycle shops and many clubs and associations. In Adelaide the City Council provide at several locations.

By taxi edit

South Australia has a number of taxi companies that serve both the main city of Adelaide, regional cities and regional areas. [3]

See edit

Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island

South Australia is home to Kangaroo Island, an internationally renowned wildlife haven.

It is also known for its wine. The Barossa Valley is Australia’s richest and best-known wine region. Premium wines, five-star restaurants and cellar doors abound among the hills and vineyards. Local winemakers include household names such as Seppelts, Penfolds and Peter Lehmann. South Australia also offers other world-class wine regions, including the Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra.

Visit the world-heritage listed Naracoorte Caves, or awesome Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges – one of Australia's first official national landscapes.

Swim with wild sea lions at Baird Bay on Eyre Peninsula and with dolphins at Glenelg, and cage dive with Great White Sharks at the Neptune Islands near Port Lincoln.

South Australia is also known for its exciting events, like the international cycling race Tour Down Under. Lance Armstrong made it his comeback race in 2009. Adelaide hosts the Clipsal 500 [4], a thrilling V8 race through a city circuit. The Adelaide Fringe is an annual feast of comedy, music, theatre and fun. And the fabulous and captivating Adelaide Festival of Arts takes place every year.

In Adelaide, South Australia's capital city, you will find stylish architecture, boutique shopping, sandy swimming beaches, fabulous arts events, nightlife, fine dining, and some of Australia's best café strips.

It is easy to navigate your way around South Australia, with most of the regions just an hour or two drive from Adelaide.

There are about 28 South Australian national parks in the state. Each protect something unique in their own right.

Itineraries edit

  • Highways and tracks:

Do edit

Diving edit

Main article: Diving in South Australia

While tropical dives sites like the Great Barrier Reef or those in Southeast Asia are more popular, those who are more adventurous should consider diving in South Australia, which offers some very good temperate dive sites. Those of particular interest include Rapid Bay, which is home to leafy sea dragons, a type of seahorse which is only found in the temperate waters of Australia.

Wine tasting edit

South Australia is the largest wine producer among Australia's states, and it is known for some of the best wines in Australia. Wine regions in the state which are well known among wine connoisseurs include the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Coonawarra.

Eat edit

South Australia has a good reputation for high quality fresh food and produce.

The Adelaide Central Market has an enduring reputation for fresh market produce as well as cheeses, smallgoods, fresh seafood, fresh butchered as well as processed meats and a huge range of culinary specialty items bearing an Australian, European and Asian food heritage. The Central Market precinct is the location of Adelaide's small Chinatown and has many Asian food outlets and restaurants. Many cafes, restaurants and retail food outlets line the streets around the Market complex.

The state produces citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, stone fruits such a nectarines, peaches and plums, apples, pears, and table grapes such as sultana and muscatel.

Wheat, barley and oats are staple grain crops, legumes such as peas and many bean varieties are also produced. The state has an extensive market garden industry growing a wide range of vegetables in all seasons. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are grown near Adelaide and the state has a vibrant high quality olive oil industry.

Seafood is both farmed in sea-water pens, grown in onshore tanks and caught in the wild by line fishing, trolling and trawling. South Australia has a well developed tuna, scale fish, oyster, crayfish (lobster) and abalone industry. The cold fresh waters of the Southern Ocean and the two gulfs has historically been bountiful but due to overfishing stringent controls have been brought to bear upon both commercial and recreational fishing. Historically, inland waterways such as the Murray river and the Coorong were also highly productive but have declined drastically due to environmental impacts and degradation.

The state also has a highly developed viticulture and wine making tradition. The industry produces many wine varieties for local, national and international markets.

South Australia also has a good reputation for rearing beef cattle for veal and beef meats, dairy production including milks, yoghurts, fresh and matured cheeses. The state has a strong history of sheep meat production including mutton and lamb. Local game meats include kangaroo and rabbits, which are wild harvested, normally in the mid-north and far north of the state. The poultry industry is well developed and provides both battery farm, free range and 'organic' eggs, chicken, ducks and turkeys.

Adelaide especially has an excellent reputation for restaurant and cafe dining. Other areas, including the Clare Valley, Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island have strong regional cafe and restaurant industries that exploit the high quality fresh produce available in those areas.

The ethnic culinary influences and production skills borne by many generations of immigration has helped the development of the food and produce industry in South Australia. Italian, Greek, Polish, German, Malaysian, Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants to the state have had particularly strong influence on the state's food culture.

Drink edit

A Cabernet Sauvignon from the Limestone Coast region.

The legal drinking age is 18 years. It is illegal either to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The only legally acceptable proof-of-age is an Australian drivers licence, state-issued proof-of-age card, Keypass card or a passport, and it would be wise to carry one if you want to purchase alcohol or tobacco and look under 25 - vendors will frequently ask for ID for anybody who looks to be 25 or younger. In South Australia, foreign drivers licences and foreign ID cards are NOT legally acceptable as proof of age documentation, and people who are unable to produce a passport or valid Australian ID will be refused service. Only actual ID documents will be accepted - photographs or photocopies will NOT be accepted.

Beer edit

  • Coopers Beer is an icon of South Australia. It is often described as the biggest small brewery in Australia. It is still family-owned. All Coopers products claim to be made by "natural" methods. There is a range of products from crisp lager styles to dark stout. South Australian pubs will often have Coopers Pale Ale on tap, which while not as distinctive as a craft beer, certainly gives the beer aficionado a tasty beer option not widely available in other states.
  • West End is the local mass-produced lager, on tap just about everywhere.
  • Southwark Premium was produced by mass-produced Lion Nathan, at a smaller brewery in Thebarton. However Lion Nathan closed this brewery in mid 2021 due to falling sales.

Beer measures in South Australia are the schooner and the pint. A schooner is a smaller measure, known variously as a middy or a pot elsewhere in Australia. A pint isn't a pint at all, and is a larger size known as a schooner everywhere else in Australia. In most pubs in SA a pint of pale will return you a reasonable measure of Coopers Pale Ale.

Wine edit

South Australia is particularly known for its world-class wines. Some wineries provide free tastings of their wines in expectation of a sale. Many also have restaurants on their properties where you can have lunch overlooking the vineyard. There is still one winery within the Adelaide metropolitan area, operated by Penfolds, which produces an expensive premium red wine, and is home to a posh fine dining restaurant. The following wine regions are of particular note:

Stay safe edit

While South Australia is relatively safe, make sure you stay hydrated. It can get hot in the outback sometimes, and water is crucial.

Go next edit

Highways that connect to other Australian destinations.
This region travel guide to South Australia has guide status. It has well developed information throughout the entire article, and throughout all of the articles on destinations within the region. Please contribute and help us make it a star!