The South Australian road trip that has something for everyone

Hire a set of wheels and discover South Australia from the road

If there's one state that has an eclectic mix of things on offer, it’s South Australia. With rolling vineyards, pristine coastlines and adventurous activities, you're sure to be left with an over-flowing ‘to do’ list.

However, with so much to be discovered both on the coastline and inland, not to mention South Australia’s vast territory, chances are you may miss some of the highlights. The solution? A hire car. As well as providing you with the freedom to go exactly where you want, renting a car gives you full flexibility to design your route as you go.

To ensure you see the best of the best, we’ve done some research and put together the ultimate South Australian road trip. Wine tastings? Check. Stunning photo opportunities? Absolutely. Heart-racing caving and fishing? You bet. To make sure you also have somewhere to recuperate between all that driving, we’ve also recommended some of our favourite Beautiful Accommodation properties at each stop. 

Day 1: Arrive Adelaide

Forget what you think you know about the South Australian capital – its days as the little sister of Sydney and Melbourne are long gone. Along with a year-round calendar of festivals and cultural events, Adelaide also boasts a burgeoning bar and restaurant scene. And then there’s the wine. Few cities have as many world-famous wine regions right on their doorstep, with the Barossa Valley just over an hour away and the Clare Valley within two hours’ drive. Closer still is the Adelaide Hills region, known for its sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir and sparkling wine. Once you pick up your hire car from the airport, head to the historic town of Aldgate, which is less than 45 minutes’ drive and a great base for exploring this picturesque part of the state.

OVERNIGHT: Cladich Pavilions, Aldgate

 Please note: This property has a two-night minimum stay at weekends.

Day 2: Adelaide to Kangaroo Island (3 hours 45 minutes)

Once you’ve checked out of your Aldgate accommodation, make a quick pit stop for breakfast. We love FRED eatery, the perfect café to enjoy a revitalising cup of coffee and fresh produce in a vibrant outdoor courtyard setting. Mix up your morning drive by stopping at McLaren Vale, a popular wine region just 45 minutes south of the city. The region is famous for its shiraz, and with more than 70 cellar doors you'll be spoilt for choice. Once you’ve pulled yourself away from the earthy charm of McLaren Vale, it’s time to head to Cape Jervis. From here, catch the SeaLink Ferry across to Kangaroo Island. The ride is a short 45 minutes, but you should arrive 30 minutes in advance to check in. With around four services each day, you can choose whether you want to catch a ride in the afternoon or later in the evening. Pro tip: pre-book to avoid missing out on your preferred service. Once in Kangaroo Island, you have pristine beaches, local wines and beautiful sunsets all on your doorstep. When dinnertime rolls around, tuck into some fresh seafood at Beach Taverna, just metres from the ocean, or perhaps enjoy a barbecue at the rustic yet elegant Shearing Shed. End the night with a nighttime stroll on the sand, complete with star-covered skies.

OVERNIGHT: LifeTime Private Retreats, Kangaroo Island

Please note: This property has a two-night minimum stay.

Day 3: Kangaroo Island to Robe (7 hours)

After a morning walk along the beach, it’s time to hit the road and make your way back to Cape Jervis via the SeaLink Ferry. From here, you’ve got just under a five-hour drive to Robe. We recommend cranking out the driving so you can make the most of the historic fishing town. Boasting exquisite beaches and a charming coastline, your time at Robe can be as jam-packed or relaxing as you like. Go on a rugged bush trail or stunning cliff walk, or dip your feet in at Famous Long Beach (you can even bring your 4-wheel drive onto the sand). Renowned for its seafaring history, why not try your hand at boat fishing? Or, if you prefer to enjoy the catch of the day at a dining table, unwind at Sails, where you can try the Australian Southern Rock Lobster, one of the world's rarest and most sought after crustaceans.

OVERNIGHT: The Pelican Shed, Robe

Please note: This property has a two-night minimum stay.

Day 4: Robe to Mount Gambier (1 hour 30 minutes)

It’s only a short 90-minute drive to your next stop, so you have plenty of time to enjoy a relaxed morning in Robe. With Long Beach’s magnificent 12 kilometres of coastline, a barefoot walk along the sand is pretty hard to beat. If you’re after more wineries, today offers another chance to top up your wine collection. Coonawarra is one of the finest wine regions in Australia, and is just over an hour's drive out of Robe. After stopping for a glass (or two), head south to Mount Gambier. Nestled on a picturesque volcanic landscape, this city offers an abundance of scenic spots to explore and enjoy. Taking the prize for most eye-boggling attraction is the beautiful Blue Lake, where the lake water turns a dense blue in November. Other notable lakes that deserve a picture include the quaint Valley Lake and the impressive Little Blue Lake. In need of an afternoon break or perhaps a picnic lunch? Head to the Cave Gardens, a stunning aromatic rose garden with perfectly manicured lawn. Also notable are Mount Gambier’s long lists of caves, where you can take a guided tour or even go caving (not for the faint-hearted).

OVERNIGHT: Clarendon Chalets, Mount Gambier

Day 5: Mount Gambier to Adelaide (4 hours 40 minutes)

It’s your final day (sigh). If you’re not quite ready to get back in the car, make a quick pit stop at Umpherston Sinkhole, one of the most spectacular gardens in the Mount Gambier region. Fuel up for the drive ahead at Café Melzar and pack yourself some delicious pastries, cakes and sweet treats from Metro Bakery and Café (what’s a road trip without treats?). Don’t take too long, as you have close to a five-hour drive back to Adelaide, leaving time to drop your rental car off before the flight. The best part? All that driving means plenty of time to plan your next four-wheeled adventure.