Related: Audley Travel
Audley’s Australia specialists are pleased to report that the sometimes overlooked region of South Australia is on the rise. It’s here you can find some of the country’s most exclusive experiences: barely touched areas of Outback, secluded properties offering private tours and luxury amenities, and also world-class guiding from locally born-and-bred tour operators. Here’s our pick of what to do, and where to stay.
Fancy a taste of the Outback homesteader experience without compromising on creature comforts? Arkaba is a restored 1850s sheep station with just five rooms that’s set on a rambling private estate in the heart of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. It boasts back-door views onto the Ranges themselves, great folds of quartzite, shale and sandstone. The arid-seeming, baked ochre-brown earth throbs with life throughout the year: trees laden with shiny, pomegranate-pink quandong fruits, raucous galah birds, and emu tripping across creekbeds.
The property offers a range of guided bush safaris, bushwalks, and even a custom-made, multi-day hike to help you probe your surroundings. You can take trips out to nearby salt pans and rock formations (notably the crater-like Wilpena Pound – Arkaba can arrange scenic flights over this geological curiosity), or search for local wildlife. The endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby is known to be making a comeback in these parts.
After a day’s exploring, you can return to cool off in Arkaba’s small pool, browse its library, or snooze on your shady private veranda.
Exceptional Kangaroo Island
A short flight from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is time-warped Australia – a land of virtually footprint-free beaches, Outback-esque dirt roads bisecting pristine gum forest, and weathered granite rock formations. The island’s isolation and lack of predators has given rise to a thriving (and often fearless) wildlife population, while on the human side of things, it’s becoming known for its exceptional local produce, including artisan honey and gin.
One of the best ways of getting to know the island’s riches is through a tour with Exceptional Kangaroo Island. The guides are adept naturalists, and they’ll lead you on small-group tours through the island’s highlights. We like their tour to Flinders Chase National Park, where you can visit seal colonies, try and spot Cape Barren geese, and enjoy a clifftop picnic. Other tours take you down the backroads of the island’s forested interior to search for kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and echidnas on guided bushwalks.
Southern Ocean Lodge
There’s something space-age about this glossy linear property. A series of low-rise compartments strung out along a clifftop on the blustery southwest coast of Kangaroo Island, it melds discretely into the surrounding mallee scrub. It sleek rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows which give guests a panorama of the churning Southern Ocean. You can stand in your room and look out, and know that there’s nothing between you and Antarctica.
Aside from its gastronomic farm-to-plate restaurant and glass-fronted spa, the property’s real pièce de résistance is its menu of guided experiences and tours, many of which are included in your stay. You could choose to visit nearby Seal Bay privately at dawn to walk among its colony of Australian sea lions, or take a nocturnal tour to catch some of Kangaroo Island’s inhabitants (including koalas, possums and wallabies) at their most active. Then there’s the ‘Kangaroos & Kanapés’ experience, in which you’re served pre-dinner drinks while you watch the island’s eponymous marsupials grazing in the waning afternoon light.
Taste of South Australia
Specifically interested in exploring South Australia’s food and wine scene? Consider taking a tour with Mary Anne Kennedy from Taste of South Australia. A veteran of the region’s hospitality and wine trade, Mary Anne is a charismatic proponent of her homeland’s produce and vintages. She offers small-group tours of no more than six people in and around Adelaide.
Oenophiles could head out to the manicured vineyards of the Barossa Valley, South Australia’s premier winemaking region, for a private tasting tour with Mary Anne. Days here could see you lunching on gourmet picnics, visiting boutique winemakers as well as some big-name vintners, and exploring how the region’s Germanic heritage lives on in its architecture and food.
If you’re looking for real seclusion, the little-visited Gawler Ranges National Park (reached via a 45-minute flight from Adelaide to Port Lincoln), delivers in spades. Though its geology doesn’t have quite the scale of Flinders Ranges (see above), its scrubby volcanic landscapes have a stark beauty. They’re punctuated by rusty-red fingers of rhyolite pillars and granite domes. Species such as southern hairy-nosed wombats – rare in other parts of the country – thrive here.
Farther inland, the saline Lake Gairdner makes it look like a vast portion of this parched landscape has been crusted in sugar. Toward the coast, on the Eyre Peninsula, you can observe bottlenose dolphins and sea lions.
Small-group tours set out to explore this almost untouched area of Outback and its coastline over three or four days. You’ll stay in spacious tents (think luxury African safari experience rather than bonafide Australian swag camp), and you’ll explore the terrain via guided 4×4 drives. In the evenings, gather around the central dining tent for canapés while curious kangaroos emerge from the bush.
Disclosure: Our property, service and product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own and are in no way influenced by the sponsor.