The Explorer’s Way is an iconic Australian road trip that weaves through some
of South Australia’s most spectacular landscapes. From Adelaide, you’ll journey through the temperate Mediterranean climate of the Clare Valley, and on to South Australia’s vast arid plains and salt lakes.
Your journey begins in South Australia’s picturesque capital city. Soak up the spring sunshine on a stroll along the River Torrens, and experience the city’s ‘purple carpet’ – the deep purple blossoms of Adelaide’s many jacaranda trees will leave you in awe as you explore the city. For a full- colour botanic experience, visit the leafy Adelaide Botanic Garden, where the diverse flowers burst into life this season.
Adelaide’s thriving arts and culture scene means that no matter the time of year, there’s always something on. If you’re a keen football follower, catch a game at Adelaide Oval. Before you leave the city, head up to the majestic summit of Mount Lofty in the Adelaide Hills, which offers panoramic views of the city skyline, all the way to the coast.
CLARE VALLEY AND BURRA
The Clare Valley is one of South Australia’s crowning jewels, and in spring, it is purely delightful. Head north and discover rolling green hills dotted with vineyards and bursts of yellow canola fields. The Clare Valley is renowned for its award- winning wines – particularly its riesling – so make sure you drop by a winery for a glass or two! The best way to do this is by cycling along the Riesling Trail, a picturesque 35-kilometre route that follows the former railway from Auburn to Clare, and passes various cellar doors, picturesque vineyards, farmland and natural bush land.
While in the region, be sure to visit the historic town of Burra, located 42 kilometres east of Clare. With the discovery of copper in 1845, Burra became a thriving mining town, and the remnants of this era are still visible today in the Cornish cottages and heritage-listed buildings. The best way to experience the town’s heritage is through a Burra Heritage Passport, which enables you to access 49 historic sites, including the Redruth Gaol and the cellars of the Unicorn Brewery.
A South Australian road trip would not be complete without a visit to the Flinders Ranges. Spring is one of the best times to explore the ranges; the mild temperatures are perfect for bushwalking, the landscape is nourished by winter rains, the creeks are flowing, there is abundant wildlife to spot, and the wild flowers are in full bloom. Explore the Flinders Ranges’ intriguing natural landscapes, including the natural amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound, from many different angles. Head out on a bushwalk, and explore the gorges and valleys of Flinders Ranges on foot. Or, for the adrenaline junkies, take one of the many four-wheel drive tracks and enjoy stunning vistas. If you’re feeling adventurous, view the Flinders Ranges from the air on a scenic flight.
FLINDERS RANGES TO PORT AUGUSTA
Travel through the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, and head north-west to the magnificent Parachilna Gorge. This dirt road is suitable for two-wheel drives; however, it can be prone to flooding, in which case it’s best to return the way you came via the Flinders Ranges Way. Nevertheless, if you can follow this dirt road, it’s well worth the drive; here, you’ll witness the stunning beauty of ragged rock faces, and will encounter shallow creeks lined with river red gums at the base of the gorge. Once you reach the town of Parachilna, travel south along the Outback Highway, stopping at the towns of Hawker and Quorn.
Port Augusta, situated at the head of the Spencer Gulf, is your last stop before the long journey north, and has plenty of facilities. While you’re there, check out the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden. Set on the coast and spread across 250 hectares, this botanic garden showcases a unique contrast of desert and marine environments. Wander the peaceful walking tracks, spot a variety of birds and wildlife, and learn about the fascinating biodiversity of arid landscapes.
PORT AUGUSTA TO COOBER PEDY
Once you’ve stocked up on supplies, turn onto the Stuart Highway and begin your journey north. Upon leaving Port Augusta, you’ll witness the immediate change to a desert landscape. Two-and-a-half hours into your drive north-west, you’ll reach the Lake Hart rest area, situated on the shore of the spectacular salt lake, where you’ll view a never-ending sea of white salt plains. This is a great place to stay overnight and break up the journey; the morning sunrise alone is worth the overnight stay.
As you approach Coober Pedy, you’ll notice the cone-shaped mounds of excavated white and brown earth from the opal fields that have been mined since 1915. There are plenty of ways to learn about the town’s opal mining history; head out on an opal mine tour, or explore underground homes, shops and galleries, perfect for staying cool in the hot desert temperatures.
Once you leave Coober Pedy, Marla is the last stop before you cross the border into the Northern Territory, where you can continue on the Explorer’s Way. With a population that hovers at just around 70, Marla is the first and last settlement on the Stuart Highway in South Australia – a fitting conclusion to the South Australian leg of the Explorer’s Way.