South Australia may overflow with vineyards and topnotch restaurants but it’s a wonderland for children, too. In fact, its knack for pleasing all ages makes it arguably Australia’s premier family holiday destination, whether you’re after an outback adventure (see: Coober Pedy), a gourmet island escape with enough wildlife to keep the kids enthralled (see: Kangaroo Island) or something in between.
Why: Little ones will love the excitement of the ferry ride from Cape Jervis, the many animal encounters on land, in the air and under water, plus the seemingly endless stretch of white-sand beaches.
What to do: There is much to capture the attention of children of all ages, be it action-loving teens surfing the dynamic sand dunes of Little Sahara, tiny twitchers meeting a falcon at Raptor Domain or budding zoologists observing the sea lion colony at Seal Bay.
Stay at: Sea Dragon Lodge & Villas, in Willoughby, has rooms to suit all family sizes (though children must be 11 or older), from two-bedroom apartments to a four-bedroom luxury lodge. It’s set on a 100-hectare wildlife sanctuary, where you’ll find most species of wildlife on Kangaroo Island if you set out on a nature walk. Come nightfall, grab a torch and go searching for wallabies and possums.
Where to eat: In Penneshaw, stop at Dudley Wines (pictured above) on a cliff top overlooking the sea. Kids can scoff ham-and-pineapple pizza or – who knows? – perhaps they’ll surprise you and opt for the King Island whiting, zucchini and caper topping. After lunch, adults get to enjoy a glass of wine while the little ones explore the nature play area.
Why: Its outback location, movie fame (Mad Max and Pitch Black were filmed here) and rainbow-hued opals are interesting but it’s the remarkable underground lifestyle – residents live in dugouts to avoid the scorching desert heat – that will really fascinate kids.
What to do: A visit to an opal mine is a must; try Old Timers Mine. Need some daylight? Take in a sunrise at the Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park, where the arid landscape looks more like the surface of Mars.
Stay at: The Dug Out B&B, four kilometres out of town. A former mine, this B&B offers subterranean suites in multi-bedroom formats with full-sized kitchens and beds built into the rock wall.
Where to eat: Head to Waffles & Gems (92 Hutchison Street) for kid-pleasing Belgian waffles, ice-cream sundaes and plenty of local colour.
Why: Hundreds of kilometres of pristine coastline make up the Yorke Peninsula, a place for fishing, swimming, wildlife-spotting and all-round beach holiday perfection just over two hours from Adelaide.
What to do: Make your way down the peninsula, cooling off at Splash Town (pictured above) waterpark in Moonta Bay (check for seasonal opening updates), exploring shipwrecks and paddling in clear blue waters. There are national parks to traipse through (such as Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park), little penguin colonies to visit on Troubridge Island and excellent snorkelling to be had.
Stay at: Troubridge Island Conservation Park, off the coast of Edithburgh, where the 1856 lighthouse keeper’s cottage, now Troubridge Island Escape, makes for memorable accommodation for families. Keep an eye out for Sammy, a seal who spends his days sunning himself on the sand.
Where to eat: Moonta café Taste the Yorke does excellent coffee and classics such as pancakes and bacon-and-egg rolls. It also has a dedicated kids’ corner so grown-ups can sip their coffee in peace.
Why: Less than two hours north of Adelaide, the Clare Valley is best known as a wine region but offers plenty of family adventures amid the vines.
What to do: Hire bikes and set off along The Riesling Trail, stopping at Sevenhill Cellars (pictured above)for a wine-tasting while the kids play totem tennis on the lawn. Head into the Mintaro Maze’s (pictured below) green hedges and promptly get lost or jump aboard a cute model train and take a ride with Clare Valley Model Engineers.
Stay at: Self-contained vineyard accommodation Bed in a Shed or its larger counterpart, Bed in a Shed Too. An onsite lolly shop and friendly goats to feed will have the kids squealing.
Where to eat: The Sevenhill Hotel is a pub for kids. No, seriously – you’ll like the Clare Valley riesling and seasonal dishes but they’ll love the life-size Jenga, activity mats and board games in the wine cellar.
Why: The Eyre Peninsula, a vast expanse of rugged coastline bounded to the west by the Great Australian Bight – and a solid 6.5-hour road trip from Adelaide – is all national parks, shifting sand dunes, staggeringly beautiful beaches and some of the best aquatic animal spotting in Australia.
What to do: Shark-cage diving with great whites off the shores of Port Lincoln may only attract brave teens but snorkelling in Whyalla with giant cuttlefish that change colours before kids’ eyes will be a dream for all. Spotting migrating whales will seem similarly surreal, as will swimming with dolphins and sea lions at Baird Bay.
Stay at: Eco-friendly Camel Beach House (open September to April; pictured above), which is set on 100 hectares of private oceanfront – you can see frolicking dolphins and migrating whales from your own deck.
Where to eat: The pristine waters off the Eyre Peninsula is where much of Australia’s seafood hails from so get it hot and fresh at Streaky Bay Fish Fix, a fish ’n’ chips van that serves whiting, abalone and stingray straight off the boat.
Image credit: South Australian Tourism Commission