Get the car, hire a 4WD, grab yourself some bus tickets – and get moving. South Australia is a playground for eco adventures and offers a world of breathtaking scenery, amazing natural wildlife and pristine beauty.
Adelaide itself has a variety of national parks, all within just a few kilometres of the city. Cleland Conservation Park offers opportunities for tourists to get up close and personal with Australian native fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies, emus and waterfowl; as well as dingoes, reptiles, Tasmanian Devils, wombats, echidnas and koalas.
Belair National Park has some good bushwalking trails; while Morialta Conservation Park has a number of trails that will take you to waterfalls and panoramic views of the city itself. And if you want to see some rare Australian animals, the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to see rare native animals like Platypus, Quoll, Bettong, Potoroo, Bandicoot and Bilby.
North of Adelaide the Birdlife Australia Gluepot Reserve is a 50,000 ha large area of virgin mallee scrub, home to at least 6 nationally endangered bird species and a unique flora and fauna which has adapted to the harsh conditions. It is rapidly becoming a centre for scientific research and is one of the few areas in Australia where birdwatchers can observe otherwise hard-to-find species.
South of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is home to an abundance of breathtaking scenery and spectacular wildlife all year round. With untouched forests to a range of species, the island gives visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal in a natural setting. More than one third of the island is declared either a Conservation Park or National Park, and there are five significant wilderness areas to protect the region’s long-term inhabitants.
These areas conserve an array of natural environments, including mallee woodlands, low open forests and woodlands, fresh and saline lakes, coastal cliffs and sand dune systems – all of which are home to an abundance of wildlife. Take a marine tour, hikes, visit the Seal Bay Conservation Centre and stay in the wilderness retreat or light station on the island.
The Flinders Ranges region is a world of ancient artefacts, harsh landscape, magnificent mountains and an abundance of wildlife.
The first humans to inhabit the area were the Adnyamathanha people and you will find a wealth of cave paintings, rock engravings and other artefacts which show history dating back tens of thousands of years. You can see why this area needs to be protected and why eco tourism in the region is becoming increasingly popular. The land is thick with gum trees, pine, mallee and black oak, the forests are teaming with kangaroos, emu and wedge-tail eagles, and there are trails of long distance routes which provide the perfect holiday for passionate walkers, cyclists and horse-riders.
The natural beauty of Barossa Valley enhances its popularity to make it a fantastic eco holiday destination with its vineyards and lavender fields mixing against national parks and mountain ranges. The Barossa Ranges are part of a much larger range, the Mount Lofty Ranges which stretch over 300 kilometres and can be seen on the eastern side of the valley. The ranges are home to an array of flora and fauna, with forests of shrubs, herbs and endemic orchids, eucalyptus trees and Golden Wattle acacias. You will also find some of the county’s best wildlife, including koalas, Western Grey Kangaroos, Tammar Wallaby, echidnas and bandicoots and you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Southern Emu-wren and the endangered Adelaide Pigmy Blue-tongue skink.
Places like the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park provide the adventurer with some fantastic walking trails and if you’re looking for a truly amazing get-back-to-nature experience you will find it with the Heysen Trail – the longest walking trail in South Australia which runs from Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges, through the valley, to Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula – a total of around 1,200 kilometres.
The Fleurieu Peninsula is home to beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery and array of wildlife. Nature flourishes in this region and there are more than 250 kilometres of coastline condensed with hills and valleys, lakes and national parks. For something a little different, why not take a walk or horse drawn tram across to Granite Island, home to a large colony of Little Penguins which shelter on the island at night. In the colder months you will even have to the opportunity to spot some Southern Right Whales on their annual migration. There are a variety of tours available in the region taking you to some well known, and lesser known, destinations.
Further west and you will find yourself at the Eyre Peninsula. Here you will find a major New Zealand Fur Seal colony, as well as the more rare and endangered Australian Sea Lion! Both of these attract Great White Sharks and Bronze Whalers to the region so if you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of these fantastic animals. An option is to go shark cage diving off the coast or on a tour that will take you out to play with the sea lions. Back on shore, the Port Lincoln National Park covers an area over 17 thousand hectares and is thick with flora and fauna, while the Coffin Bay Peninsula is a haven for bird watching, including the sea eagles, ospreys, albatrosses and petrels, and from early September to November the landscape comes alive with the magnificent wildflowers.
For an adventure like no other, Naracoorte Caves National Park is South Australia’s only World Heritage site and is located on the Limestone Coast. The park is home to more than 100 known fossil deposits, preserving the bones of megafauna that became extinct around 60,000 years ago. The Caves themselves are part of the 800,000 year old Naracoorte East Range and there are 26 known caves in the park, many of them containing spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. The park itself has a camping ground and caravan park, as well as picnic areas and cave tours. Through the use of technology, you can even have a look inside a Bat Cave, where thousands of bats breed each year!
The Murray River and the Coorong region are another adventure haven. The river is around 130 million years old and both the river and the Coorong were home to the Ngarrindjeri and Nganguraku people for thousands of years prior to European settlement. There is some fantastic history here and you can discover Aboriginal culture and ancient fossilised limestone cliffs, as you take a cruise or walk around. You might find yourself in a canoe, relaxing on a houseboat or cruising on a paddle steamer as you admire the region’s 275 different plant species and keep an eye out for some of the 200 bird species that call the river home. There is almost 47,000 hectares of lagoons and saltpans. The Mallee marks the start of the region and offers the eco tourist a world of shimmering pink salt lakes, wildflowers and colourful sand dunes rising out of low lying scrub. The Mallee is comprised of more than 300,000 hectares of conservation park and is a great stop to go if you’re looking for the perfect place to camp or hike.
If you’re heading to South Australia and looking for some fantastic eco adventures, there are so many different places where you can experience something a little different, perhaps even unique, and enjoy nature at its very best; rainforests to the ocean, outback to the cities.