Our guide to South Australia: Part 1

Five Australian photographers head to Adelaide, fanning out across the state to document different parts of this diverse, but dependably outright gorgeous, chunk of Australia. What could go wrong? Apparently nothing… From outrunning a tropical cyclone to a few kangaroos on your tail, from swimming in peaceful isolation or with dolphins, from arid desert to rolling hills and mountain ranges, Luke Byrne and Sarah Pannell show us how a trip to SA is done. Check out part 1…

Straight out of a 1970s dentists waiting room picture

Growing up in country South Australia, Adelaide was always an exciting place to visit. I have fond memories of leaving early in the morning to make the 3-hour drive to the big city, to spend my school holidays by the beach. As time went by and I travelled more, travelling to bigger and better cities, the shine of Adelaide began to wear off. Having now been living interstate for many years, I’m once again able see Adelaide with fresh eyes. 

The city has changed since I lived there, and definitely for the better. The streets are alive with small and abundant boutique bars and cafes now in and around the city. Adelaide feels like a place people should be adding to their list of cities to visit. The must-dos? Breakfast at The Loose Caboose, followed by a morning stroll through the botanical gardens and art gallery, lunch in the deservedly world famous central markets, followed by an afternoon drink at Pink Moon Saloon.

I’d been to Kangaroo Island briefly many years ago and was excited to return. It definitely didn’t disappoint! It’s like nowhere else. KI, as the locals commonly refer to it, is located 112km southwest of Adelaide, and although you’d be mistaken for thinking it’s an out of the way small place, it’s actually Australia’s third largest island, behind Tasmania and Melville Island. KI has plenty to offer locals and visitors alike – the island hosts an abundance of diverse wildlife, some of the best beaches I have ever seen along with amazing local produce. You can’t miss KI on a visit to South Australia.

Out of many experiences on the island, visiting the remote Western River Cove on the north side of the island has stayed with me more than anything. A truly incredible beach, with crystal clear water and pristine white sand, it looked like something straight out of a 1970s dentist’s waiting room picture. There is a campground right next to the beach, definitely the place to set up shop for the week and forget about all your troubles. 

I crossed a few off the bucket list in KI but the best one had to be swimming with dolphins. Which was nothing short of amazing. Being in such close proximity to these intelligent, majestic yet playful mammals in their natural environment won’t be something I’ll forget anytime soon. 

Take my advice

Following the road signs for the Fleurieu Peninsula, it didn’t take long after leaving central Adelaide to be driving through the rolling green hills of Mclaren Vale, into open coastline to my right as I headed directly south for the historic coastal town of Port Elliot. 

After waking up at sunrise, three days in, I did something I never thought I would do in my lifetime – swim with bottlenose dolphins in the wild. I had the afternoon set aside to drive to Port Elliot along the Fleurieu Way. Rather than take the fastest inland route that leads direct to Victor Harbor, I chose to drive as close along the coastline as possible, often pulling over on the side of the road when I found an interesting view over the sea and surrounding mountains.

Following a sign for the Myponga Reservoir, I took a local road and wound my way through lush countryside. Thereafter the landscape changed constantly as the road cut its way past farmland and forests, snatching glances of the sea coming in and out of view.

I found myself half an hour later in the remote coastal town of Carrickalinga, replete with idyllic beach houses and almost no shops, pretty much the ideal place to retire. Following a tip from a local friend, I followed the signs for Cape Jervis at the tip of the mainland, heading for Second Valley, a beach known for its unique cliff tops and rock formations. Heeding her advice, I exited the jetty and made my way around the edge of the rocky cliffs to find some beautiful swimming holes. The water was perfectly refreshing after several hours in the car. I wish I’d had more time to explore, but I know it’s a spot that would be fun to return to with friends on a hot summers day. 

By this point, the sky had become overcast, heavy and beautiful, as I approached Port Elliot in the late afternoon. The turquoise colour of Horseshoe Bay was a surprise, and the effortless beauty of my surrounds struck me all of a sudden, contemplating the cross-shaped jetty sitting over the bay. It was perfection, even on cloudy afternoon, with heavy rains on the way.

Image and stories by Luke Byrne and Sarah Pannell. The adventures made possible by our partners Tourism South Australia.