South Australia, particularly the northwest portion of the state, is defined by extremes, like so much of this diverse continent. In the far west of the state the Nullarbor Plains span 77,000 square miles of flat, treeless land and continue to the sheer Bunda Cliffs in the far southeast corner. Directly opposite the Bunda Cliffs in the northwest corner of the state, the red dunes of the vast Simpson Desert unfurl. Traditionally, Aboriginals dug between dune impressions to survive the harsh climate. Just south of the Simpson Desert lies the Katie Thanda Lake Eyre, an expansive basin that alternately fills from seasonal monsoons or dries up to reveal stark desert salt pans. While this area is impressive, the southeastern portion of the state is more accessible.

Start in Adelaide, the cosmopolitan coastal capital of South Australia, also known as the “City of Churches”. True to its name, the city is chockfull of cathedrals and churches reminiscent of the city’s colonial past. Take a city tour to admire smaller intricacies like the stately columns on museums and the promenades and spacious green parklands. Seafaring folk: Be sure to check out Port Adelaide, the first area in South Australia to be declared an historic precinct, and the Austbuilt Maritime Museum.

While the city’s colonial elegance is undeniable, don’t think Adelaide is stuck in the past. Rather, the bustling Central Markets and art museums, which feature expansive collections, including notable aboriginal art, offer up contemporary Australian culture. The restaurant and bar scene is exceptional; and world-class events are hosted here. Nearby, the Barossa and Clare Valley contains world-class wineries best explored on bike. Personally, we prefer to slow down and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine enroute but serious bikers consider the Santos Tour Down Under – Australia’s premier cycling race – in January. Fill up on delectable dishes or take a cooking class with farm fresh ingredients (and a bottle of wine).

If it is more adventure you seek, just north of Adelaide are the rugged Flinders Ranges. This mountainous area is perfect for trekking and quad biking adventures. Aboriginal sites and abandoned homesteads lend an ethereal quality to this otherworldly place. For a more luxurious getaway, to the south and off the coast of Adelaide sits Kangaroo Island. This is the ultimate in luxury experience, not to mention the island features 300 miles of pristine coastline and, of course, plenty of kangaroos… Further west, the Neptune Islands offer shark cage diving for adrenaline seekers. There is something for everyone!

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Lara Ray