Drive South Australia
Taking in some of the best driving roads South Australia has to offer.
From day trips to major expeditions, South Australia is not short on variety for those looking to spend some time behind the wheel – and we have the perfect suggestions to see you on your way.
South Australian Tourism
29 July, 2022
From the wild coastline to the vast interior, South Australia has it all for those 'chasing the horizon'
South Australia is a state of extremes, with the wild southern ocean at its base and the vast deserts of the country’s interior to the north. Many a memorable Audi lifestyle drive and new vehicle launch event has taken place in this remarkable state which offers extraordinary diversity – from vineyards in lush surrounds, to the vast expanses of the outback and everything in between.
From short sharp outings when a day is all you have spare, to major expeditions that require significant planning and provisions, you can certainly indulge your passion for time behind the wheel in south Australia, and here are three drives to get you started.
One of the great things about South Australia, especially if you’re a wine lover, is the number of iconic wine regions clustered close together. Take a day. Or take a week. You’ll never run out of things to see and do and you’ll enjoy the bonus of driving on great, uncrowded roads.
A perfect example is the run from Willunga to Hahndorf, which starts by turning left into Seaview Road off the Victor Harbor Road, less than an hour south of Adelaide. Then it’s right into Olivers Road and left into d’Arenberg Winery, where the first glimpse of the astonishing d’Arenberg Cube never fails to impress. One of the few upsides of the Covid pandemic is that the Salvador Dali exhibition at the Cube has hugely extended its run. If you’re there around lunchtime, walk over to d’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, and enjoy the superb degustation menu.
Return to McLaren Vale along Olivers Road, and turn left towards Willunga, a pretty little village overlooked by Willunga Hill. Park the car and take a few minutes to wander the Willunga Farmers Markets (if you’re there on a Saturday), sampling superb seasonal fruits, vegetables, olive oils and pastries. The opportunity to stock a picnic basket is too good to miss.
From here it’s on up the Willunga Hill, which is the kind of road that makes a driver’s heart leap for joy. Tight switchbacks, and, if you have the time to look, magnificent views. Of course, for cyclists on the Tour Down Under, it’s a very different story – three kilometres of screaming calf muscles and bursting lungs as they struggle to the top.
Turning left onto Brookman Road presents you with sweeping bends and yet more wineries before you cruise through Kuitpo Forest. A quick left and then right turn out of Echunga and you’re heading for the German-themed town of Hahndorf and the Adelaide Hills wine region, the location of famous wineries such as The Lane, Shaw + Smith and Hahndorf Hill. Equally as tempting are the cheeses at Woodside Cheese Wrights in the main street of the quaint German-themed village of Hahndorf.
Of course if you want to take full advantage of this 50 kilometre drive, you’ll need a designated driver and to set aside a full day for the run. Otherwise, this is a drive that rewards even without the lure of a little wine tasting along the way.
Many people believe that a road trip to the Outback requires weeks of roughing it and fully-provisioned four-wheel drive vehicle. The reality is you can get a real taste of the Outback in less than a week and within five hours of Adelaide and do comfortably in your Audi. The roads are generally well sealed, open and fast.
Head north to the Clare Valley and turn left onto the B82 to Melrose, the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges. The further north you travel, the more rugged the terrain becomes and the many abandoned stone cottages are testament to the tough conditions faced by early settlers.
The Australian Outback doesn't have to mean weeks spent crossing sand dunes and carrying masses of provisions
Wilpena Pound Resort is the perfect place to lay up and relax after a day behind the wheel
On the southern edge of the Flinders Ranges is Alligator Gorge. It’s well worth a stop to explore the ancient landscape and the Terraces, a long series of cascading waterfalls. Despite the name, one thing you won’t encounter is alligators! Turn left onto Alligator Gorge Road at Wilmington and follow it for 13km (sealed road all the way).
Carry on along the B82 to Quorn, home of the Pichi Richi Railway. A worthwhile stop is at the Quandong Café (yes, you’re in bush tucker land!) for a quandong pie. If you have time, you should take a detour to Devil’s Peak (turn right off the B83 about 10km south-west of Quorn – the last few kilometres are unsealed but easy to negotiate) and also head out to Dutchmans Stern (about 5km north-west of Quorn) for some spectacular views.
Drive on to Quorn (or back to Quorn if you’ve detoured to Dutchmans Stern), turn north onto the B83 and continue to Hawker (you’re now about 365km north of Adelaide, but you could be in a different world), and then turn right again onto the Flinders Ranges Way. Stop and admire the rugged, unforgiving terrain from the Arkaba Hill Lookout and the Elder Range Lookout before turning left onto the Hawker-Wilpena Road which takes you into the Wilpena Pound Resort, and a welcome beer at the Poddy Dodgers Bar.
All up this trip is a solid 300 kilometres, and if you’re in a position to do it over several days, you will give yourself the chance to explore any number of side loops.
Anyone who has driven in he Adelaide Rally knows that the driving roads in the Adelaide Hills are right up there in terms of pure enjoyment and they’re literally only minutes from the Adelaide CBD!
They’re technically challenging, often steep and always great fun and there’s something for everyone, even at the legal speed limit and coping with other motorists (Adelaide traffic is light, especially compared to eastern state cities).
One of our favourites is the route that runs through the Adelaide Hills to the south of the city. A short drive from the CBD takes you to the Mount Lofty stage. You’ll need to keep your wits about you (exceed the posted speed limits at your peril!) Start on Greenhill Road, Burnside and follow the road alongside Cleland Conservation Park. The next stage is Mylor, running from the corner of Stock Road and Aldgate Valley Road in Aldgate, via a sharp right hand turn into Nation Ridge Road to the end of the stage. From there, make your way to Ashbourne for the fast, uphill run along Bull Creek Road towards Meadows. This used to be signposted at 100km/h but has been downgraded to 80km/h – but even at that speed, it will focus your attention. Stage 38 is the great stretch of road from Strathalbyn to Macclesfield, through Doctors Creek. Now might be a good time to take a break for a (non-alcoholic, of course) drink at the Three Brothers Arms. You may decide to skip the Aldgate Valley stage (often overpopulated with tourist traffic) and move on to the final Day 4 stage. It starts on Sturt Valley Road, Upper Sturt, and takes in the ridge along the top of the hills and all the way to Mount Lofty in Stirling.
You’ll gain a new appreciation of just how challenging and exhausting a day on the Adelaide Rally can be (and for competitors, this is just one of four!) There can be few more enjoyable places to appreciate the many attributes of your Audi and the sheer joy of getting out and driving for the sake of it – something that became all the more precious when it was off the table during the lockdowns.
Enjoy some of the more rewarding roads Australia’s other states and territories have to offer.
The Adelaide Hills boasts roads so good, they feature in the Adelaide Rally each year
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