Thinking of traveling South Australia in a Van? Here are 10 of the best van life destinations for a South Australia road trip.
This is a guest post written by Ken from the flycamper.com. Ken has a passion for camping, Van life and Van builds and loves to travel..
Ever thought of traveling South Australia in a van? What is there to do and see? What facilities are available for parking or camping?
GUEST POST – FlyCamper
There is no better way to travel our beautiful country than in a van or motorhome. Having the flexibility and freedom to go where you want, when you want. You can stop anywhere along the way for a quick coffee break or to take advantage of magnificent views while laying in comfort on your own bed. Read below for some incredible destinations South Australia has to offer.
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Streaky Bay – Eyre Peninsula
With endless sandy beaches, spectacular coastline, countless fishing spots, and pristine natural wonders, Streaky Bay is a must-visit on your trip, especially the Streaky Bay beaches. There are multiple areas to pull up and camp within the town or in nature areas, including Streaky Bay caravan parks. Some areas are subject to space and may not be suitable for large vans.
Places to check out include:
- Westall Way loop (32km), Cape Bauer loop (35km), or Point Labatt Sealion (128km) scenic drives.
- Walk Tractor Beach and take in the magnificent high cliffs
- Snorkel or explore the rock pools at the Smooth Pool Streaky Bay
- Streaky Bay fishing is amazing, check out surf fishing off Hallys Beach
- Check out one of almost a dozen Conservation parks
The township is a business hub and service center for all your Streaky Bay shops and essential needs.
Victor Harbor – Fleurieu Peninsula
View from Victor Harbor from The Bluff – Photo courtesy of Markus from the SA Road Trips FB Group
If you have a love of the outdoors, Victor Harbor (often misspelt as Victor Harbour) may just be for you, with islands, beaches, granite boulders, rocky cliffs, and rivers, it’s the place to experience what nature has to offer.
Check out some of the fantastic adventures on offer:
- There are dozens of walking trails on offer, be it a heritage discovery, flora reserve, Hindmarsh Falls, river trails, or Granite Island
- Catch a half-day or full-day fishing charter in the beautiful coastal waters
- Go quad biking on the rolling hills and open plains of nearby farms
- Head across to Granite Island Recreational Park
- Abseil off the Bluff Victor Harbor
- National Trust Museum – Encounter Coast Discovery Centre
Victor Harbor can take care of all your shopping needs including regular markets and niches like the wooden toy factory or All Sweets and Treats.
There are multiple Victor Harbor caravan parks, holiday parks, and camping locations around, so take your pick of being in the town centre or getting away a little further for ultimate peace and quiet.
Naracoorte – Limestone Coast
The Naracoorte Caves – Photo courtesy of Petra from the SA Road Trips FB Group
Ever thought about exploring the inside of a cave? Naracoorte has more than a few to choose from, although some are not open to the general public, so make sure you book a tour of the Naracoorte caves. Tours contain various elements, be it fossil deposits, bat withering sites, squeezing or crawling into smaller spaces, some even come with a little climbing. Tour companies provide helmets, headlights, overalls, and knee pads to protect yourself and your clothing.
If caves aren’t your thing, here are some other things to check out in Naracoorte:
- World Heritage-listed fossils at Naracoorte’s Australian Mammal Site
- Naracoorte Caves National Park, yes while there are caves you can also check out the Wonambi Fossil Center, Fossil Hunter’s Playground, World Heritage Walk, or the Caves Cafe
- Or go further afield to the Coonawarra wine region, Padthaway wine region, or Wrattonbully wine region
- If you are an avid bird watcher be sure to check out Bool Lagoon Conservation Park, one of the largest and most diverse freshwater lagoon systems in southern Australia
Camping is available at the caves, powered, and unpowered sites as well as in town at the Naracoorte Caravan Park. There is also free camping at Cockatoo Lake Recreation reserve 30km out of Naracoorte. The lake is seasonal lake levels dependent on rainfall. There are picnic areas and public toilets available.
Mount Gambier – Limestone Coast
The Blue Lake – Photo courtesy of Natalie from the SA Road Trips FB Group
In the heart of the Limestone Coast, Mount Gambier is the largest city outside of Adelaide in South Australia. Established on the slope of a volcano, it comes with spectacular caves, sinkholes, and lakes. Visit the sapphire waters of Mt Gambier’s Blue Lake or the underground garden of Eden at the Umpherston Sinkhole.
Jump in the van and check out some other incredible sights, including:
- Snorkel the crystal-clear waters of Piccaninnie Ponds
- Dive the Kilsby Sinkhole
- Drive along some of the Limestone Coast beaches (4WD required)
- See 360-degree views from Australia’s youngest volcano on top Mount Schank
- Approx 800 caves litter the Limestone Coast Region with numerous accessible to the public
Mount Gambier is a host to many caravan and camping sites to suit your needs. If you want a short stroll to the stunning Blue Lake there is a BIG4 Holiday Park right next to it as is the pick of Mount Gambier Caravan Parks.
Hahndorf & Gumeracha – Adelaide Hills
The Big Rocking Horse – Photo courtesy of Ana from the SA Road Trips FB Group
If you want a German theme to your holiday, the historic town of Hahndorf is a must-see. It’s Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. It has everything from cheesemakers to a leather smith, a chocolatier, and winery cellar doors. And don’t forget the German pubs.
To slow down and unwind, Gumeracha is the place to go. Climb the world’s largest rocking horse, visit the toy factory or check out the many vineyards, olive groves, apple, and cherry orchards.
Here are some more ideas for the Adelaide Hills:
- Take your pick of over 50 Cellar Doors (that is a lot of wine!)
- Head to Mount Lofty Summit for spectacular views of Adelaide and finish with a steep walk to the Waterfall Gully
- Pick your own strawberries at Beerenberg in Hahndorf
- Check out Australia’s largest motoring collection at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood (they even have a Bugatti Veyron).
- See the Sculpture Trail, featuring 26 contemporary stone sculptures
There is so much to do and check out in the Adelaide Hills with dozens of small towns to visit. Visit Adelaide Hills is a great place to view more.
There are a handful of caravan and camping accommodation, which you can check out here. You can also have a look on Hicamps as there are a dozen or so different camping spots to pull up at. Most look almost paddock-like, but that is one of the joys of owning a van, you don’t have to be surrounded by others.
Coober Pedy - Outback
The Breakaways – Photo courtesy of Laura from the SA Road Trips FB Group
It may not look like much from above, that’s because much of Coober Pedy is underground. Much of the town was built underground to maintain a stable temperature of 23-25 degrees throughout the year. It is also world famous for Opal Mining.
Coober Pedy is full of all things interesting:
- Renewable Hybrid Project, aiming to reduce diesel usage by 70%
- Visit the Breakaways just north of Coober Pedy
- Coober Pedy Historical Society
- See a movie at the Coober Pedy drive-in (perfect for opening up the van and watching from your bed!)
- Big Winch Lookout
- Centenary Mosaic Garden
- Noodling and Mining
- Underground Churches
- Underground living in “dugouts,” tours can be done on actual homes
There are two or three caravan/tourist parks but depending on the time of year that you are traveling, I would recommend having a unique accommodation experience to avoid the summer heat. Unless your van is well insulated or has an aircon. If you would still like the camping feel, there is Riba’s Underground Camping.
Vivonne Bay – Photo courtesy of Kelly from the SA Road Trips FB Group
Kangaroo Island may be small but it packs a punch with wildlife, outdoor activities, food, and of course, wine. Access to the island is via ferry, if you are traveling in a large van (5 meters plus), you may be restricted in movement on the island due to turning circles, low-hanging trees, and road conditions.
Some activities to check out on Kangaroo Island include:
- Flinders Chase National Park
- Swim with dolphins in the crystal clear waters
- Visit Vivonne Bay – one of the best beaches in Australia
- Seal Bay Conservation Park to walk among endangered Australian Sea Lions
- Walk the 500 steps to Prospect hill, the highest point on Kangaroo island
- Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail
- Check out the hidden beach of Stokes Bay, natural rock pools, and great surfing
- Kangaroo Island Spirits for their award-winning gins, spirits, and liqueurs
- Sandboard or toboggan down Little Sahara’s sand dunes
There is a large range of caravan parks and camping choices on Kangaroo Island. Camping is only permitted in designated areas.
Port Lincoln – Eyre Peninsula
Port Lincoln is the only place in Australia to cage dive with great white sharks and is arguably one of the most popular attractions. Port Lincoln marine areas also have southern right whales, bottlenose dolphins, leafy sea dragons, pelicans, little penguins, sea lions, and giant cuttlefish.
Some activities to consider include:
- Cage Dive with sharks
- Travel the 14km of Whaler’s Way (permit needed as it is private property) to take in the ocean views and hope of spotting some whales
- Choose from four museums; Axel Stenross Maritime Museum, Railway Museum, Mill Cottage Museum, Port Lincoln RSL Museum, or Koppio Smithy Museum (40km North of Port Lincoln)
- Have a picnic or BBQ at Mikkira Station (privately owned and requires a permit) and watch the Koalas
- Winter’s Hill Lookout for panoramic views of the bay
- Swimming with Sea Lions
- Explore Lincoln National Park, ideal for fishing or hiking
Camp at remote Memory Cove inside the wilderness protection area. There are toilets but you need to bring everything else with you and take everything when you leave. Make sure you book at the Visitor Center as entry is restricted to only 15 vehicles per day to preserve the area.
Coorong National Park - Murraylands
The Coorong at sunrise – Photo courtesy of Daniel from the SA Road Trips FB Group
Coorong National Park boasts an amazing saline lagoon spanning 140km, the Younghusband Sand Dune separated it from the Southern Ocean. The park is ideal for photography and bird watching, being a breeding area for the Australian pelican and a refuge for over 230 migratory birds.
What else is there to do in Coorong National Park?
- If your van is 4WD there are designated tracks and beaches, if you don’t have 4WD, for 2WD vehicles you need to walk from 42 Mile crossing to access the beach. A 20min walk and you will have the sight and sound of the southern ocean.
- Explore the wetland ecosystem containing ocean beaches, freshwater lakes, saline lagoons, estuaries, and the Murray River mouth
- Mountain bike around Salt Creek
- Boating, note there are two separate bodies of water, the northern lagoon and southern lagoon. Go for a cruise, a sail, kayak or canoe.
- Birdwatch from Jack Pint Observatory
- Meningie Hill lookout for 360-degree views of the area
- Pink Lake, which gets pinker as the lake dries out in summer
Camping is permitted on marked campsites, a permit must be purchased prior to setting up camp. There are 9 campsites within the park to choose from to suit your needs.
Razorback Ridge – Flinders Ranges – Photo courtesy of Tamara from the SA Road Trips FB Group
Outback South Australia plays host to the weathered peaks and rocky gorges that are the Flinders Ranges. Rich in Aboriginal history, the landscape is rugged, with roads and walking tracks that play a host to a vast array of wildlife.
What else is there?
- Taste a feral mixed grill at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, think kangaroo, emu, and camel
- Ride the Pichi Richi Railway on a steam train nicknamed the Coffee Pot
- Get a birds-eye view on a scenic flight
- Watch the sunset from the top of the ranges on Rawnsley Park, 4WD is required, camping is also available
- Visit one of the dozens of National or Conservation Parks available
- Explore the tranquility of outback waterways
- Attend a culture tour like Wadlata’s Tunnel of time, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National park, or Iga Warta
- View the night sky at the Andamooka Observatory
There are campsites aplenty throughout the Flinders Ranges, be it at a caravan park or in a national park. Some sites are more remote than others so make sure you take plenty of food, water, and fuel.
The “town of windmills” took its name seriously and has created the Windmill Museum. Stop to take a look at this free open air museum which is home to the biggest windmill in Australia, and dozens of others. Call into the last shop for 1000km and stock up on road trip snacks. The coffee is pretty good too.
South Australia has an incredible range of things to do and see, there are so many activities to choose from depending on what you like. Travelling around in a van makes it that much easier. From caves to geology, cliff faces to cage diving, hikes to underground living, South Australia really has something for everyone. There are caravan parks, tourist parks, or national park camping for every destination to meet your needs and what your van can handle. Always check the roads and ensure you have enough water and fuel to get to your next destination.