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Discover South Australia's Coastline

Mark Chipperfield discovers the spectacular scenery and captivating stories of coastal and outback South Australia

With its stunning coastline, big skies, rolling farmland, well-tended vineyards, historic settlements and iconic outback destinations, South Australia is the obvious choice for anyone in search of a classic Aussie road trip. 

But while most travellers head north of Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, south to Kangaroo Island and east to the Coorong National Park, Coonawarra and Mount Gambier, only the hardiest types venture the 1000 kilometres westwards to Maralinga, a tiny outpost in the Western Desert.

Sheer cliff face meeting the sea, Great Australian Bight

Long associated with the British nuclear tests that took place there in the 1950s and ’60s, Maralinga is fast emerging as one of the outback’s newest and quirkiest tourist attractions. After more than 50 years under government lock and key, the site has been handed back to the traditional owners, the Maralinga Tjarutja people, and is now open to the public. There are guided tours of the bomb sites, abandoned township, burial pits and Ground Zero.

Despite its remote location, Maralinga is relatively close to some of Australia’s most impressive landscapes, such as the Great Australian Bight with the spectacular Bunda Cliffs, the Nullarbor Plain and the food haven of the Eyre Peninsula. Why not combine your outback adventure with some wine tasting in the Clare Valley or try oysters in one of the country’s greatest oyster- producing areas, Coffin Bay.

Freshly shucked oysters

It’s easy to construct a circular route stretching from Adelaide westwards to Port Augusta, Ceduna and Maralinga and returning via Streaky Bay, Coffin Bay and Port Lincoln. Along the way you’ll see untamed wilderness, pristine coves, ancient mountain ranges and an abundance of native animals.

View of a long jetty in Ceduna, South Australia

First stop is the Clare Valley, directly north of Adelaide, and gateway to the Flinders Ranges. This compact wine region is now producing some of Australia’s most sought-after riesling, along with shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. There are plenty of wineries, craft breweries, country pubs and historic houses to visit – plus the 35-kilometre Riesling Trail. From the Clare Valley, the route tracks further north to Port Augusta, a 19th-century seaport overlooking the Spencer Gulf, and then west to the frontier township of Ceduna. If you have time, make a detour into the Gawler Ranges National Park, a paradise for bird-watchers. 

The route from Ceduna to Maralinga is extremely challenging. The best advice? Avoid the road altogether and hop aboard a scenic flight to take in the region’s spectacular landscapes from the air – in climate controlled comfort. From Maralinga, a journey further south includes some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery in the whole of Australia. Highlights include Head of the Bight, Fowlers Bay and the Bunda Cliffs … from the stunning lookouts, you can spot rocky caverns and, if you’re lucky, whales or dolphins. 

Coastline showing the Bunda Cliffs

Streaky Bay, a laid-back fishing village on the western side of the Eyre Peninsula, is a pleasant spot to break your return journey to Adelaide. At nearby Baird Bay, visitors can view a colony of inquisitive Australian sea lions. Soon you’ll arrive at the thriving fishing and underwater adventure centre of Port Lincoln. Make sure you stop in at Boston Bay Wines on the Lincoln Highway for great ocean views and great reds.

Just make sure you save some energy for the final leg of your journey to Adelaide – or better still, fly. Travel in a group of no more than 20 guests with the services of an expert APT driver-guide on our 8 Day Uncover Maralinga and The Eyre Peninsula Small Group Journey.