South Australia spreads over 984,377 sq.km of dry and sparsely populated land with Adelaide as its capital. South Australia borders on Victoria and South Wales in the East, West Australia in the West and the Northern Territory in the North.
The state’s surface is made up of patches of breath-taking landscape: kilometers upon kilometers of sandy beaches, which contrast splendidly with the green peaks of the Mary mountains, and on to dry scenery spreading to the North and West. In the North, temperatures are especially high. This is a desert region with salt lakes, opal craters, and tiny settlements, among them Cooper Paddy, whose residents hide from the heat in subterranean dwellings.
South Australians are very proud of the fact that their state is the only one in Australia that never received convicts. What they usually forget to tell you is that it all started with the business idea of one man.
Early in 1830, Edward Gibbon Wickfield sat in a London prison, accused of having kidnapped a young girl. Out of greed for money, he devised the plan to establish a free colony in Australia. The idea was to sell parcels of land to smart industrialists, investors, and diligent farmers. With the profits, Wickfield thought, he could pay for shipping people who would work the land for their bosses. The workers would gain free employment; the investors would get a work force and a market. Everybody would be happy. The financial scheme never became a reality, but the idea took hold and the result was a new colony – South Australia, with a minutely planned capitol, Adelaide.
South Australia “opened shop” on December 28th, 1836, when the first settler landed on Holdfast Bay.
While on the East Coast, people had to deal with the problems of a society based on convicts’ colonies, South Australia, whose residents were free men, started out with a lofty ideology that was rooted in the 19th century idea of a planned society. The land was sold at a fixed price by the British government with the hope of supporting mainly young, married, professional couples. The intention was to build a religiously and politically free society, a sort of utopian world where everybody had the same rights.
The beginning was hard, and only Britain’s financial support prevented the idea from going bankrupt. In 1840, South Australia gained financial independence and in 1856 the first local governor was chosen.
A local geologist crossed the state and South Australia merited the honor of being the point of exit of the telegraph line from Augusta harbor to Darwin in the North (1873). This line later became a telephone line.
The social idea succeeded, and South Australia was the first British colony to establish a professional union in 1876. It was one of the first places in the world to allow women to vote and be elected to parliament (1894). It was also Australia’ s first state to make racism and sexual discrimination illegal, permit abortions and homosexuality, and even the first one to issue driving licenses.
As befits a location famous for its fine alcohol, the lovely grape-growing valley of Barossa is proud of itself. It is located less than 50 km northeast of Adelaide and offers everything you’d expect from a famous wine region in Australia. In 1850, English immigrants and European farmers came to the valley and began to turn it into one of the world’s most renowned, for its wine, good food, and European architecture. The valley offers unique food, many festivals, events all year long, historical architecture, art galleries, and antique shops.
You can take a tour of the wineries in a limousine or oldie, or even take a flight in a helium balloon over the valley. You may spend the night in an authentic settler’s cottage (fixed up with modern-day conveniences), or in a luxurious hotel suite. Don’t miss having a meal in one of the quaint restaurants in the area, and don’t forget to take in all the breath-taking beauty of the valley deep into your heart.
Kangaroo Island was separated from the Australian continent 9000 years ago and to this day, the island is considered to be one of the most enchanting places in the world which man was careful not to destroy. One third of the island is designated as a nature reserve, while the other part is untouched by man. And what is there to see? Seals sunbathing on the beach, Koalas snacking on eucalyptus leaves, kangaroos, wallabies, penguins, and special birds. You can hike along paths, see waterfalls, or walk on the 480 km long beach. The island is a 30-minute flight south of Adelaide, or two hours away if you choose the ferry ride. By the way, it is possible to take your car along on the ferry.
Kangaroo Island is the third-largest island in Australia. There are four towns on it where you can stay overnight. Recently, a road was built that encircles the island, but other roads are narrow and winding. Therefore locals ask tourists to drive carefully and be patient. As Yechiel from “Glorious Country” said: Whisper!
A few hour’s drive from Adelaide is the popular coast line of York Peninsula, with about 600 km of natural beach which are particularly attractive to South Australians, and, of course, to foreign tourists as well. We recommend two activities: lying lazily on the beach or sitting around a glowing barbecue with a cold beer. And if you really want to do something besides looking at the lovely view or at romantic sunsets, you can also take trips from the beach to the waterfront. Innes National Park is located in the area. You can take a look at historical mining towns or visit the vacation resort of Stansbury. You may also visit the Ardrosan and District Historical Museum located at York’s historical power station, where farm implements, original drawings, catalogues, photographs, and other exhibits associated with the power station are on show.
If you are interested in money, you should not miss the Banking and Currency Museum, the only of its kind privately operated in Australia. Here you will see what once was the Bank of South Australia in 1873, exhibits of old coins, gold coins, Australian and foreign currency, bank notes with mistakes, and other interesting monetary items.
Flinders Ranges and Outback
The Australian Outback covers 80% of South Australia’s surface. Although most tourists will pass over desert regions on their visit to Australia, many claim that Flinders Range and South Australia’s outback are places that provide inspiration, enjoyment, and unforgettable moments. These are places of contrasts: pink dunes in Simpson Desert, vineyards, and magnificent bays. In the middle of the desert you may find creeks with many birds in them, as well as original Aborigine areas. There are several places that are a “must” for the seasoned traveler.
Its central attraction is the Wadlata Outback Interpretive Center, which has won many prizes over the years. If you get there, an impressive adventure of mystery, fear, and excitement awaits you. The center helps visitors to discover the charm of the outback, discover the Aborigines’ history in the area, and listen to stories of pioneers, the first settlers, and discoverers who came many years ago. You will hear the story of Flinders Ranges and the Outback and of all of South Australia through interactive, enjoyable, yet educational entertainment. A visit to the center is actually like a visit in a time-tunnel which takes you back millions of years, to the time when dinosaurs strolled through the area. After an impressive visit, you can relax in the Center’s coffee shop and enjoy a popularly priced meal while looking at the beautiful and rare view.
Another recommended attraction is a ride on Pichi Richi Railway, which takes you from Port Augusta to Quarren, while you stretch out in one of the 115-year-old wooden compartments and the Flinders Ranges landscape flies by your window. After the railway was abandoned in 1973, a voluntary body refurbished it, and today you can participate in organized tours of it.
The last area we recommend is William Creek, which is popular with the young crowd and those young in spirit. Besides local stories and camping facilities, its central attraction is the local pub, made from wood and steel. The pub’s walls serve as a guest book, and over the years they have become an interesting collage of business cards, handwritten notes, jokes and even bras.
A few hours’ drive from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, lays Riverland, which can give you several days of rest on the way from South Australia to the other eastern states. Almost half of the grapes used in South Australia’s wine production grow in Riverland and so do 90% of its oranges, nuts, and other fruits. The main reason for this is the warm and sunny climate, which also does wonders for your mood.
One of the central attractions in the area is Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Center. The company that established the center made efforts to attract birds to the area. Therefore, you will find there several rare animals, such as white-eyed ducks and black peacocks, as well as many other birds. A 7-km long hiking path will bring you straight to the beautiful wetlands, while a glass of local wine and a visit in the coffee shop will keep you in good spirits.
Another unforgettable attraction in Ruston’s Rose Garden. Containing over 50,000 flowers, this enormous and beautiful rose garden is one of the largest in the world. It is open every day from September 15th through July 1st. In October, a unique rose festival is held.
Another interesting site you should not pass up is Cobdogla Steam Museum, which focuses on the history of local steam: how steam engines work, how they developed over the years and what it was used for by the local population. The heady historical flavor does not stop there; you can even take a ride on steam engine as part of your visit. Yet the main reason for the museum’s fame is the fact that it is the only one in the world that owns the only “Humphrey” pump still operating. This pump pumps water the way it used to be pumped to towns in the area in years past. In addition, the museum displays different exhibits on Riverland’s development.
Let’s close our virtual tour with a recommendation of a place that is free of charge, the Monash Adventure Playground, which offers original equipment as well as entertainment for all ages. In addition, it includes picnic areas and barbecue grills.