The Bucket List
Whether you like going underground in a remote desert town or standing on the country’s best beach, South Australia has it all, says News Corp’s nathan Davies
The desert opal-mining town of Coober Pedy has to be seen to be believed. Thanks to the scorching daytime temperatures – and because people were digging holes all over the place anyway – many of the buildings are underground. You can sleep underground, get a beer underground, even go to church underground. And, if you’re really lucky, you might even find a little piece of what made the town famous in the first place – opal.
SIP ’N’ SAVOUR
LIKE WINE? YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE
Australia’s not lacking when it comes to great wine regions – the Hunter Valley, Margaret River and the Yarra Valley all spring to mind. But if you’re after the really good stuff, you need to be in South Oz. The Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra are the big three, but the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Eden Valley are also of a world standard. Each region has its own feel – the Barossa with its rolling hills and German heritage, McLaren Vale with its wonderful beaches, the quaint country towns of the Coonawarra.
TAKE A HIKE
The Heysen Trail is long. No, seriously, it’s really long. Like, 1200km long. If you’re up for it, the trail will take you through the breathtaking Flinders Ranges, across rolling green farmland, past historic towns and along rugged coastal clifftops. Of course, if you don’t have a spare couple of months up your sleeve, you can always walk the sections of the track that most interest you.
TAKE A SPIN
If riding is more your style, you might want to take a quick spin along the Mawson Trail. It’s only 900km long, after all. Starting just outside of Adelaide and winding its way north all the way to the Flinders Ranges’ outpost of Blinman, the Mawson takes in some truly spectacular scenery. Thanks to the fact that it follows fire trails, farm tracks and rarely-used roads, traffic will be the least of your worries. It’s a mountain biker’s dream.
EXPERIENCE TRUE LUXURY ON A CLIFFTOP
The coastline is rugged, but the experience is anything but. The Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island is the epitome of understated luxury, offering an accommodation experience that’s hard to match in Australia. Sitting atop a rugged clifftop – there’s nothing between here and Antarctica – the views are unrivalled. It’s not cheap – rooms start at $1100 a night and three nights in the Osprey Suite will cost more than $10,000 – but, hey, you only live once.
WATCH GIANTS PLAY
At the Head of the Bight, near the edge of the mighty Nullarbor Plain, an incredible spectacle unfolds every year. Huge southern right whales, fat from a winter of feeding in the Antarctic, congregate at the bottom of the sheer cliffs to give birth and care for their calves. In a good year you can see more than 100 whales from the lookout, making it one of the world’s great whale-watching experiences. The season runs from mid-May until late October, and access to the boardwalk is $7 each.
WATCH THE FOOTY AT ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREAT STADIUMS
If Adelaide Oval still conjures up images of old-world charm, picket fences and cucumber sandwiches then you need an update – that was half a billion dollars ago. To say the Oval has had a revamp is something of an understatement, and it’s now up there with the best places to watch footy and cricket on the planet. The best bit is that it’s an easy stroll from the CBD, meaning you can grab lunch before the game and a drink at a small bar afterwards. AFL tickets start at $42.
GET CLOSE TO AUSTRALIA’S ONLY PANDAS
Funi and Wang Wang are household names in South Australia and, if you’re visiting, you really should call in to the Adelaide Zoo and say “hi”. The black and white cuties came over from China in 2009 and immediately settled into their new southern home. They do all the usual panda things, like eating bamboo and sleeping. And eating bamboo. Now, if they’d only make a baby…
STAND ON AUSTRALIA’S BEST BEACH
No, seriously, it’s the best beach in the country. It’s a scientific fact. Of course, everyone thinks they’ve got the best beach in Australia but it really is pretty hard to find fault with Vivonne Bay on the south coast of Kangaroo Island. The sand is whiter than white, the water is an almost iridescent blue – and the best bit? There’s a good chance that you’ll get a fair chunk of it all to yourself.
GO IN A TIGER MOTH
The quintessential British biplane made its first flight in 1931, and went on to play an important role in World War II, most notably as a training aircraft for the thousands of pilots needed for the war effort. Go for a spin with Adelaide Biplanes and you’ll feel the wind in your hair, hear the whistling of the wires and get an unparalleled view of Adelaide’s magnificent southern coastline. From $295 for a 30-minute flight.