South Australia

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  • Post last modified:January 21, 2023
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Welcome to Slow Travel South Australia

South Australia is the fourth largest state in Australia and is divided into eight regions: Adelaide, Surrounding Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Limestone Coast, Yorke Peninsula, Murray River, Flinders Ranges & Outback, Eyre Peninsula, and the Nullarbor. The capital of South Australia is Adelaide, which is the fifth-largest city in Australia.

Sturt's Desert Pea
Sturt’s Desert Pea

Kangaroo Island is one of the most popular destinations for tourists, and it was high on our bucket list. However, when we arrived in Australia, we did not know that our trip to Kangaroo Island would be postponed for so long. As we landed in December of 2019, the terrible bushfires were raging all over Australia. And Kangaroo Island was highly affected, so we decided to postpone our trip there for later.

Our journey first led us along the east coast of Australia. Then thanks to COVID, we drove down the Explorer’s Way, from Darwin in the Northern Territory to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

While we were there, COVID struck again, and so we had to change our plans once again, and instead of continuing down to Adelaide, we went back to Victoria and then to Tasmania. 

But postponed does not mean canceled! After Tasmania, and a short stop in Melbourne to play more golf, we traveled along the Great Ocean Road and entered South Australia once more!

Outback South Australia

Coming down from the Northern Territory, we more or less were used to the scorching heat. So, the idea of staying in Coober Pedy for a day or two didn’t seem quite as daunting to me as it had in the beginning.

We filled out our border pass that was required due to COVID so that we would be allowed to cross the border from NT into SA. At the border checkpoint, everything went smoothly, and the police just waved us through.

However, we really wanted to take a photo of us in front of the Welcome to SA sign, so we parked Putu in South Australia, and walked back into the Northern Territory. We had a very nice small chat with the officer, and also got our photo!

Welcome to South Australia
Welcome to South Australia

Now we could continue!

Welcome to Coober Pedy
Welcome to Coober Pedy

Our Onward Journey in the Outback

Our first stop was to Coober Pedy the Opal Capital of the World. And what a fantastic time we had there! Our two-day planned stay quickly changed to four, and we really took our time exploring this quirky little town.

Afterward, we were looking forward to our next adventure, so we started our drive toward Flinders Ranges National Park. A very long journey was ahead of us. Over 700 km to be precise!

When we were about 3 hours south of Coober Pedy, still 14km from Glendambo, a town that really is in the middle of nowhere, James noticed the engine was overheating. So, we stopped on the side of the road. We called the mechanic that we had been to while in Alice Springs and asked for his advice. “Let the engine cool for 30 to 40 minutes and then drive on” was his reply. We waited and did not know what was happening with Putu. After 40 minutes we drove on, only to have to stop again after only 1.5 km. The engine was beginning to overheat again.

We figured out that the fan that cools the engine wasn’t working. And that the mechanic who should have replaced our old fan belt in Alice Springs hadn’t done the job. We could see that the belt was torn! So, we waited 40 minutes and tried it again.

We spent the rest of the day stopping every 1.5 km to let the engine cool. Finally, a friendly Australian drove by, and towed us to the next gas station, which was in Glendambo! We had lost all day, and worse yet, we were really in the middle of nowhere! Unfortunately, no one could help us in Glendambo, and as it was already late, we had to spend the night at the gas station and hope we could get help the following day.

Detour to Roxby Downs

Our first days in South Australia after Coober Pedy was not quite as we had imagined them. But what can you do? The next closest town with a mechanic was Roxby Downs. Roxby Downs is 197 km away from Glendambo- a 197 km that was not at all on our route! We wanted to go to Port Augusta, but that was 287 km away. And only anything within 200 km was covered by our insurance. We asked if we could pay the extra charge, but unfortunately, it was denied. We watched Putu get loaded onto the bed of the tow truck and drive down the highway.

Putu in Glendambo
Putu in Glendambo

Putu was on his way to Roxby Downs, and we weren’t allowed to ride along, due to the 1.5 meters of social distancing and all! So, we had to organize our own trip to Roxby Down, conveniently located at the end of the world! Glendambo has 2 million flies, 22,500 sheep, and 20 citizens! Where should we get an Uber here?!

A Streak of Bad Luck

We asked the gas station owner if there would be someone that might be able to help us get to Roxby Downs. He said that if we paid for his petrol, he would take us after his shift. What luck!!

We jumped into his pickup, and we actually arrived in Roxby Downs before Putu did. We were just in time to see that Putu had been removed from the bed of the tow truck down and was now being pulled behind the tow truck.

Poor Putu
Poor Putu

I could not believe my eyes! My mind was buzzing with anger, but I swallowed my tongue. I really had to pull myself together when I saw that Putu’s front light had been broken. And, of course, there was no front light available in Roxby Downs. But at least our broken fan belt was replaced, and we left Roxby Downs quite annoyed.

The front light was going to be delivered to Port Augusta. But the delivery of the light itself took an exceptionally long time, and we were stuck in Port Augusta for a whole week.

Armed with a new fan belt and front light, we were excited to finally be able to continue our trip through South Australia!

Port Augusta
Port Augusta

Flinders Ranges National Park

On the drive from Roxby Downs to Port Augusta, we made a short stop in Woomera. There was a Rocket Park there that we looked at.

Rocket Park
Rocket Park

We continued through the small town of Quorn, where we would have a house sit that would begin in one week. Quorn is a cute town with such a sweet little tearoom, so we went had to stop to enjoy a coffee and cake.

Quandong Cake, a specialitiy in Quorn
Quandong Cake, a specialitiy in Quorn

Tip: in Quorn, there is a wonderful light show, which is also free! Don’t miss it when you’re in the area! Quorn Silo Light Show

From Quorn, it wasn’t too far to our destination, so we drove one and a half hours and finally arrived at the Flinders Ranges National Park!

Here we witnessed our first sandstorm, saw ancient Aboriginal rock art, and took many day trips to the surrounding areas.

Flinders Ranges
Flinders Ranges

Lockdown in South Australia

Because of Putu’s mechanical issues, we had already been relatively long in South Australia but had only been able to see Coober Pedy and the Flinders Ranges. This is why we were excited that we would explore Quorn next, and then drive down to Adelaide and its surrounding areas. While we were in Port Augusta, we met a very nice young man from Adelaide, who recommended many vegetarian restaurants and cheap food places. We were eager to try them all out. But sometimes the unexpected happens!

South Australia had been largely spared from the COVID lockdowns that were taking place in the other states. But it sounded like this was about to end. The day before our departure to Quorn, we received an email from our second house sit in Adelaide. Their holiday had been canceled because a case had occurred in Adelaide. Then, on the morning we were supposed to leave the Flinders, we received a call from Quorn! She also had to cancel! We couldn’t believe it and didn’t know what to do.

Our house sit that was supposed to start in just a few hours was canceled and continuing down to Adelaide was out of the question. So, we decided to leave SA and go to Victoria. We were driving for about an hour when we heard on the radio that South Australia was going to go into lockdown at midnight! Phew, we made the right decision. Our trip through SA wasn’t meant to be. Not this time anyway. But we would be back!

On the Road in South Australia
On the Road in South Australia

Back to Victoria

We came back to Victoria and stayed there for two weeks. After playing golf at St Andrews Beach, we took the ferry to Tasmania. We spent almost four months in Tassie before coming back to Melbourne. We wanted to work on our golf list: so, we played Royal Park, Kingston Heath Golf Club, and Sandy Golf Links. James also played The National. Only Royal Melbourne avoided us, so we made our way toward South Australia again, this time via the Great Ocean Road!

Crossing back into South Australia went smoothly, and this time without any border controls. But we had forgotten again that you are not allowed to bring fruit, vegetables, honey, etc. into SA. So, unfortunately, our honey ended up in the waste bin provided at the border.

Tip: if you still have vegetables, cook and pack them into containers and put them in your refrigerator, because cooked veggies are allowed.

Hello South Australia
Hello South Australia

South Australia, our Second Time

We crossed the border from Victoria to South Australia relatively late, so we decided to spend the night at a nearby free campsite. Directly on the sea and free of charge, what more could you ask for?! When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised. Clean toilets, and hardly any cars. Plus, we could hear the sound of the ocean!

Camping in South Australia
Camping in South Australia

Limestone Coast

Our first leg took us along the Southern Ocean Drive to the Limestone Coast. Our route took us from Mount Gambier via Beachport to Robe and on to Kingston SE. Interested in everything the Limestone Coast has to offer? Then be sure to check out our Limestone Coast blog.

Kingston SE
Kingston SE

Fleurieu Peninsula

If you think that the Limestone Coast is all South Australia has to offer in terms of beaches and great beach towns, then you’re completely wrong. The Fleurieu Peninsula region boasts so many beautiful beaches that we were honestly a bit overwhelmed.  We explored as much as possible in the time that we had, and absolutely loved the peninsula! From wine regions to breweries to dream beaches; we have summarized our best tips and recommendations for the Fleurieu Peninsula here.

Fleurieu Peninsula
Fleurieu Peninsula

We also had the pleasure to chat with Taryn from Lets Get Lost to learn more about her and her beautifully designed rugs.

The Dreamer - Lets Get Lost
The Dreamer – Lets Get Lost

A Golfer’s Dream

From the Fleurieu Peninsula, we then explored Adelaide and were even able to play golf at Royal Adelaide. We don’t have to tell the golfers how fantastic that was! But something else happened during this time. A golfer’s dream was about to come true because we finally got an invitation to play at Royal Melbourne Golf Club!

We played Royal Melbourne!
We played Royal Melbourne!

So, back we went to Victoria again! After all, Royal Melbourne was the number one course on our Australia golf bucket list. And just as we just finished our round, we heard that Victoria was going into another lockdown. Again! Only this time we didn’t have enough time to do a “COVID-Run” and got stuck in Victoria. Unfortunately for five long months.

Checking off the SA Bucket List

We were not allowed to cross back into SA because the state had closed its borders to Victoria. After months and months of not knowing what to do, we decided that it was time to fly back home. And we put Putu up for sale. This was the hardest time for us. First, to make the decision to leave Australia. And second, to sell our beloved home and friend Putu. But we got lucky because a wonderful lady had found our ad for Putu online and was extremely interested in him. After our video chat, we knew that Putu would go into good hands, which would make the farewell that was about to come, much easier.

And the cherry on top: the new owner of Putu lived in SA and had agreed that we could keep him until we departed! We thought that was very generous, and as soon as SA’s border opened up, we immediately crossed and re-started our SA road trip! We wanted to see what we hadn’t been able to see yet- namely, Kangaroo Island, the Yorke and Eyre Peninsula, and also the Nullarbor!

Amazing colors of the Fleurieu Peninsula
Amazing colors of the Fleurieu Peninsula

Our first stop was Kangaroo Island, and it exceeded our every expectation! The water shined in the most wonderful turquoise that we have ever seen! The island vibes made it feel like time stood still. And the unique Australian wildlife was around every corner. We enjoyed every second and wished our time there would never end!

Penneshaw Arriving on Ferry
Kangaroo Island, Penneshaw Arriving on Ferry

The Yorke as well as the Eyre Peninsula were holding some unexpected highlights for us. What highlights you’re asking? Well, other than the mind-blowing nature, we saw a pod of dolphins that were frolicking in the water and jumping out of the waves. Dolphins surfing was definitely something that we will never forget! When we think of the best moments we had in Australia, we realize that they always had to do with wildlife, the sunsets, and the colors of the ocean.

Finishing our Australia lap

The drive to the Nullarbor was our last attempt to see if the border into Western Australia would open. But it didn’t happen.

Western Australia remained closed
Western Australia remained closed

We made it as far as the Nullabor Roadhouse. WA was supposedly going to open in April. We heard so many times now that the borders would open, but they never did. It was enough, and time for us to go.

Nullarbor Roadhouse - Last stop for us
The Nullarbor Roadhouse – our last stop!

We decided to drive back to Adelaide and spend our last couple of weeks there. We wanted to get Putu ready for his new owner, and to try and get us ready for the flight back to Germany.

Our last weeks in Australia were like a roller coaster. We had many moments where we were not sure if we were doing the right thing. But we made so many wonderful memories. We saw so much more than we had ever dreamt of! We saw parts of Australia that we would have never seen in the 6 to 8 months that we had given ourselves at the beginning. And even though we traveled through Australia for over 2-years, we still didn’t get enough of this country. One day we will be back to finish our big lap in Australia!

Goodbye SA! Goodbye Australia! We’ll see you someday again, mate.

Koala walking over to another tree
Goodbye mate!

Summary of Links

Coober Pedy Opal Capitol of the World

Flinders Ranges National Park

Highlights of the Limestone Coast

Travel Guide for the Fleurieu Peninsula

Explore Adelaide

Kangaroo Island

The Best of the Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas

* Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you make a purchase through the links provided, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Puttering around the World!

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