No place in Australia offers such a diversity of natural landscapes than South Australia. From stunning beaches to the rugged and arid Outback, you’ll find some of Australia’s greatest natural treasures here.
And when it comes to wildlife, experience a wide variety of iconic Aussie animals in the wild by visiting places like Kangaroo Island, and come face to face with critically rare species from around the world at the Adelaide Zoo.
Adrenaline seekers can dive with great white sharks, go underground into caves filled with the remains of prehistoric beasts, explore sinkholes filled with lush gardens, and enjoy incredible underwater cave diving.
You can embark on the incredible Ghan railroad to Darwin or remain in the state to cross the Nullarbor Plain and see the Dingo Fence.
With outdoor adventure all around, the only trouble is finding enough time to experience it all. To make things easier, I give you some of South Australia’s greatest natural attractions and wildlife experiences.
The 7 Best Wildlife Experiences & Natural Attractions in South Australia
1. Flinders Ranges
See South Australia’s Outback at its finest by spending some time in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
At the heart of the park is the natural amphitheatre known as Wipena Pound. Here you’ll find some of the area’s best hikes including a portion of the 1,200 kilometre Heysen Trail. It is also the only spot within the park offering accommodation.
Wilpena Pound Resort offers a basic campground, hotel rooms, and unique glamping experiences. You can also book many tours such as Aboriginal cultural or nature bush walks from the resort.
Experience Aboriginal rock art sites, stunning landscapes, and wildlife such as wedge-tailed eagles and yellow-footed rock-wallabies. Whether you opt for a scenic flight or a 4WD adventure, this park is a must see and one that could keep you busy for a lifetime.
Things to do in the Flinders Ranges
Pichi Richi Railway
Step back in time by boarding the Afghan Express which takes you along the original Ghan route between Port Augusta and Quorn.
The Pichi Richi Railway actually offers several different train travel experience such as the half day trip from Quorn on the Pichi Richi Explorer as well as sunset trips aboard the Barwell Bull. Tours run from March through November.
Image credit: denisbin (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr
Mount Remarkable National Park
If short on time or you don’t wish to stray too far from Adelaide, check out Mount Remarkable N.P. in the Southern Flinders Ranges.
Here you’ll find dramatic gorges, and scenic cliff-top views as well as a varied mix of wildlife due to the meeting of the park’s arid north and wet south.
One of the best hikes is the Alligator Gorge circuit and you’ll find hotel accommodation in nearby Melrose and Wilmington.
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
If you have extra time to spare, check out South Australia’s First Legally Protected Wilderness Sanctuary.
Stargaze from 3 astronomical observatories fitted with professional telescopes. Be sure to do the Ridgetop 4WD tour.
2. Adelaide Zoo
Lions, tigers, and panda bears oh my. Ok, so technically pandas aren’t bears, but they are one of the many reasons to visit the Adelaide Zoo!
A must for anyone travelling through Adelaide, Australia’s second oldest zoo has been a hit with visitors for 135 years and counting. The Adelaide Zoo not only offers the chance to see some of Australia’s rarest animals, but it’s also home to international species that are often only seen in the pages of National Geographic.
Along with the 1,500 hectare open range Monarto Zoo, Adelaide Zoo is devoted to a wide range of conservation projects. Zoos have come a long way since the early days when they were merely designed for human pleasure. Now the focus is placed on the animals’ wellbeing.
Zoos SA prides itself with its important captive breeding programs to ensure the survival of critically endangered species worldwide, along with restoring vital natural habitats and promoting conservation education.
Australian Wildlife You’ll Find at the Zoo
No need to go to Tasmania to seek out devils as you can nearly shake hands with the devils right in Adelaide.
The zoo is contributing to the effort to reintroduce healthy devils back to Tasmania. Several devils that were once residents of the zoo here now call Maria Island (Tasmania) home.
See rare Australian birds such as red-tailed black cockatoos, palm cockatoos, and the adorable orange-bellied parrot. You’ll also get to meet the very happy quokkas, the main highlight of those visiting WA’s Rottnest Island.
See recognisable Aussie icons like the red kangaroo and emu as well as lesser known species such as the yellow-footed rock wallaby and long-nosed potoroo.
Of course it’s not all about the Australian wildlife at Adelaide Zoo. The zoo is famous for its giant pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni, Australasia’s only breeding pair.
For a truly unforgettable experience, look into the VIP panda experience for the extremely rare chance to hand feed a panda and assist zookeepers with their care. This is just one of the many special animal experiences the zoo offers.
Having seen very little of Southeast Asia, we were excited and fortunate that the zoo offered the chance to see many species native to the region.
Sumatran orangutans and tigers, strange looking Malayan tapirs, and siamangs were all there. In addition, you’ll see incredible animals from South America and Africa.
If you would like to support Zoos SA and their mission to save species from extinction, check out the many ways you can get involved.
Things to do at the Zoo
Up Close and Personal Animal Encounters
Adelaide Zoo offers a number of unique behind the scenes animal experiences where you may get to even feed some of your favourites.
Get up close and personal with giraffes, koalas, hippos, lemurs, and more.
Become a Zookeeper for the Day
Who hasn’t dreamt of what it would be like to be a zookeeper?
See what drives the passion of people like the Irwins to devote their lives to caring for animals. By becoming a zookeeper for a day, you’ll get to see many of things that go into caring for creatures big and small and get your hands dirty as well.
This is much more than just taking your dog for a walk or cleaning out your cat’s litter box.
Be sure to check out what may be the world’s largest open range zoo.
Reinventing the definition of a zoo, Monarto Zoo offers the chance to take an African safari right here in Australia. Spot hyenas, zebras, rhinos, African wild dogs, giraffes, cheetahs, lions, meerkats, and more on your guided drive through the savannah.
Ask about the Lions 360 experience for something truly remarkable. All this just a hour from Adelaide.
3. Port Lincoln Shark Diving
Australia is known for its great white sharks, but only in Port Lincoln can you actually swim with them….safely that is.
Dive beneath the surface in a protected shark cage and come face to face with the ocean’s top predator. You don’t need any diver qualifications or previous experience to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
There is no set season to view the sharks as they are highly nomadic and unpredictable and sightings are never guaranteed. April to June offers a lot of prey in the area for the sharks to feed, while November-January is their breeding season.
Summer also obviously offers warmer waters, making dives more pleasant. Those not wanting to get wet can simply book on a tour as an observer for a reduced rate or opt for an underwater Aqua Sub glass submersible offering a completely dry 360 degree viewing experience.
Things to do in Port Lincoln
Diving with Australian Sea Lions
Swim and snorkel with this wild and playful creatures in their natural habitat.
You can either book this as a separate tour or add it onto a shark diving tour. Keep an eye out for dolphins and the odd whale as well.
Swim with Giant Australian Cuttlefish
Head about 3 hours northeast of Port Lincoln to swim with thousands of giant Australian cuttlefish that congregate each year in the Spencer Gulf Marine Park to mate.
Best time to see them is June and July, so a thick wetsuit is needed.
Coffin Bay National Park & Lincoln National Park
Both these parks offer incredible coastal scenery. Share the beach with emus in Coffin Bay where you can enjoy boating, fishing, sailing, scuba diving, and windsurfing.
Some areas are accessible by 2WD vehicles but more remote parts will require 4WD. Don’t miss the beautiful beaches of Memory Cove Wilderness Protection Area in Lincoln National Park.
4. Naracoorte Caves National Park
The only UNESCO World Heritage listed area in South Australia, Naracoorte Caves allows a peek of Australia’s prehistoric past.
Go underground to discover some of Australia’s most fascinating caves where you will see incredible formations as well as complete skeletons of Australian megafauna species. Some caves such as Wet Cave can be explored alone while others require booking a guided tour.
The park offers several different cave tours as well as the Wonambi Fossil Centre which recreates what the beats that once roamed here may have looked like.
In addition to the remains of extinct animals, the caves also offers the chance to see living southern bent-wing bats as well as other wildlife above ground on several hiking trails.
In addition to the standard tours, those looking for even more exploration of the caves can book an adventure caving tour or more in depth tours revolving around the fossil dig sites.
Things to do at Naracoorte Caves
Victoria Fossil Cave
The main attraction of Naracoorte Caves, Victoria Cave is Australia’s largest Pleistocene vertebrate fossil cave deposit discovered so far.
Here, an enormous mix of remains representing amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals were discovered in 1969. Species represented include the marsupial lion, giant short faced kangaroo, and a five metre long snake.
An easy to explore cave where you can experience three highly decorated chambers with all the features you have come to expect from an incredible show cave, such as stalactites and stalagmites.
5. Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is one of the best places in Australia where you can see such a large variety of iconic Aussie animals living in the wild.
Get up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, glossy black cockatoos, seals, and more. We managed to see most of the island’s iconic species in just a few short days including echidnas, tammar wallabies, western grey kangaroos, glossy black cockatoos, and many koalas.
Never will you have the chance to see so many wild koalas in one place. It is estimated that some 50,000 reside on the island giving you ample opportunities to spot them.
Keep a keen eye out too for hard to spot species like the elusive platypus, bandicoots, dunnarts, and whales. Species you won’t need to search hard for are sea lions and fur seals as well as possums and Rosenberg’s Sand Goanna.
But Kangaroo Island is also an outdoor recreation dream offering horseback riding, sandboarding, caving, kayaking, and quad biking.
How to Get to Kangaroo Island
SeaLink offers an enjoyable 45 minute ferry service from Cape Jervis on South Australia’s beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula to Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island where your adventure begins.
For those travelers prone to seasickness, an easy 30 minute flight is offered by Regional Express Airlines from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island’s Kingscote Airport.
QantasLink offers limited direct flights from both Adelaide and Melbourne during the peak summer tourist season around December and January.
Things to do on Kangaroo Island
Seal Bay Conservation Park
Unlike a visit to SeaWorld, the experience you will have at Seal Bay is a truly wild one and one where both you and the animals will thoroughly enjoy.
From a boardwalk you will enjoy looking out onto pristine dunes and beach sands that are home to one of Australia’s largest colonies of endangered Australian Sea Lions.
Visitors can even share the beach with these incredible creatures via an experienced guide who will make sure no harmful interference is inflicted on the animals.
Seal Bay has been given Advanced ECO Certification proving their dedication to putting the wildlife first.
Flinders Chase National Park
This national park is a highlight of any visit to Kangaroo Island as it offers some of its greatest landscapes and hiking.
From Cape du Couedic, we left the scenic lighthouse to walk down to Admiral’s Arch which looks like something you would see in Antarctica. It is a stunning arch that provides a window to the rugged coastline and offers a great chance to sea New Zealand fur seals.
Remarkable Rocks is breathtaking, made even more so by the rainbow over the rocks we were greeted by when we arrived. Millions of years in the making, the colorful strangely shaped rocks will have you contemplating what each resembles.
A visit to the visitor centre will give you insight into the history of the area and offers several hikes of varying lengths including one that offers the chance to see one of Australia’s craziest creatures, the platypus.
Kelly Hill Conservation Park
A great area for nature hikes in which you can spot all kinds of wildlife, the real highlight of this park are its limestone caves.
Discovered by a horse named Kelly in the 1800s, the caves now offer the chance to see incredible underground formations via standard tours.
Or, you can opt for an extreme caving experience which will have you crawling and twisting your way through the cave system.
Voted one of Australia’s top beaches, it is no wonder this area is a must see.
The private, pristine beach with stunning waters offers ultimate relaxation, which may be needed after experiencing the adrenaline fuelled excitement of sandboarding at nearby Little Sahara.
Aptly named, Little Sahara offers a large dune system with dunes measuring 70 meters above sea level that are just begging to be slid down.
It may be hard to take only photographs and leave only footprints as you are bound to take a bit of sand home in your shoes and leave some board tracks
6. Mount Gambier
South Australia’s second most populated city is home to some beautiful natural landmarks. It’s a land of volcanic craters, sinkholes, bright blue lakes, and water-filled caves that attract cave divers.
Things to do in Mount Gambier include:
One of the main drawcards for Mount Gambier is the 75m deep Blue Lake that turns a vibrant blue during the summer months.
Enjoy a 3.6 km walking circuit around the lake with several viewing platforms.
Discover a sunken garden in this once cave that became a sinkhole when the chamber’s roof collapsed.
See a beautiful green oasis that can be visited during the day or towards nightfall, when the gardens are lit up and the local possums come out to feed.
In the center of the city, you’ll find this 90ft cave that offers a lovely scenic walk and viewing platform. There is also an evening light show that focuses on the Aboriginal Dreamtime of the Cave Gardens.
7. Lake Eyre
See Australia’s largest lake that is ironically usually void of water. Only about once a decade does the lake fill with a noticeable amount of water.
This dry salty landscape becomes an oasis for waterbirds when the waters do return. As the salty as sea waters recede, the salinity only increases.
See this massive lake that stretches across three states from the air by taking a scenic flight or travel there on four wheels via the adventurous Oodnadatta Track.
Marree Man is one of the best things to do in Lake Eyre. Near the town of Marree you will find one of the world’s largest geoglyphs which depicts an Aboriginal hunter.
Twenty years since its discovery, and still we don’t not know who the creator of this massive 4km long artwork is. Note that the Marree Man can only be seen and appreciated by taking a scenic flight.
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