From rolling valleys and sweeping vineyard vistas to rugged coastline and pristine beaches, the region is breathtaking. Get out there, get active and explore.
The region is home to some spectacular scenery, none better than the Onkaparinga River National Park. With its meandering river and steep cliffed gorge, it is a great place to walk and find your inner happiness. Be sure to take your camera or trusted mobile phone and no need to add filters, as it doesn’t matter what you snap, it will be amazing.
One of the best vantage points in the Gorge is the new Punchbowl Lookout, with breathtaking views over the striking burnt orange cliffs and Punchbowl waterhole. The lookout can be reached by taking either the short Punchbowl Lookout Trail or the picturesque Punchbowl Link Trail starting from the Sundews Trails carpark. Keep an eye out for native wildlife such as birds, koalas, kangaroos and possums – you may even spot an echidna.
To take in all the parks natural beauty, you also have the option of sleeping under the stars, whether in a tent, swag or self-contained vehicle. The recently opened Pink Gum campground is set amongst the magnificent gum trees and is the closest campground to Adelaide operated by a National Park. The campground offers a toilet, rainwater tank and sink/wash-up station. Top tip – bring your own drinking water as the rainwater quality isn’t guaranteed and pack a hammer for your tent pegs.
Danny Blackman, owner of Adelaide’s Top Food and Wine Tours is constantly amazed at the beauty of the region. “On our tours, we pass amazing beaches and vineyards… the vistas are just breathtaking, with the lower Mount Lofty Ranges in the background. Each season continues to provide a different and beautiful natural landscape too. In autumn and winter, we have autumnal colours in the vineyard valleys, with the backdrop of the green hills, then in spring and summer, the vines burst to life with luscious green growth and the hills transition to a sand-colour. The seasons are distinctive and amazing.”
The coast offers some of the most scenic spots in the region. Whether you are an avid walker or Instagram extraordinaire, the coastline doesn’t disappoint. Two of the most iconic locations photographed include the lookout at South Port and Port Willunga clifftops. It’s like picking a favourite child – you can’t.
South Port offers uninterrupted views of the river and river mouth, long stretches of pristine beach and the picturesque township of Port Noarlunga. Whereas Port Willunga is known for its stunning cliffs, remnants of the historic Port Willunga Jetty and white sandy coastline. When you visit you can try and choose which one is your favourite.
From the hills and valleys of the region, right through to the coastal vistas, there’s something for everyone to explore. Whether you take a tour to a few top wineries, get out and discover the region by horseback or fixed-wing plane, there are so many ways to soak up the scenery.
Take a tour
Explore like a local. Adelaide’s Top Food and Wine Tours involve feasting, tasting and scenic routes in between. Chooks Winery Tours, a local favourite will tailor your trip. Chook’s quite a character – look out for the vests covered in chooks. Another great tour option is Integrity Tours, offering winery and Port Noarlunga tours.
Experience the great outdoors with a number of hiking trails, coastal walks, nature parks and playgrounds.
Discover one of the many recreational trails in the region, from the Heysen Trail that follows the coastline, to the Kidman Trail which travels through the region’s picturesque valleys.
The Coast to Vines trail stretches from Hallett Cove to Willunga, with the trail traversing through picturesque vineyards and towns. The most common stretch is from McLaren Vale to Willunga (the Shiraz Trail), a half-hour journey that’s great to walk or cycle. The trail provides access to nearby restaurants, eateries and wineries – a novel way to taste the region. Towns are very bike-friendly, with racks available to rest your peddles. There’s also bike hire in McLaren Vale like Oxygen Cycles, McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre and Serafino’s.
Ride on horseback along the Tom Roberts Horse Trail or the Kidman Trail offer a large network of trails meandering through the leafy hills and valleys of the region.
Kayak or canoe
Paddle the Onkaparinga River from Port Noarlunga through the picturesque gorge. Kayak hire available.
Hit a round of golf at the picturesque Willunga Golf Course. The beautiful tree-lined course offers a restaurant, bar and club.
Soar over vineyards and coastal clifftops, for a birds-eye-view of the magnificent natural landscape. Adelaide Biplanes operates scenic flights in the region, offering a unique vantage point of this spectacular stretch of South Australia’s coastline. There’s no experience quite like flying in an open cockpit biplane – great for that special memory. You can choose from a variety of aeroplanes and experiences, including the iconic Tiger Moth joy flight for history-lovers, or the aerobatic flight for those a little more adventurous.
A range of trails offer superb walking and riding opportunities across the region:
Aldinga to Sellicks Trail – 15km
Beach Road Trail – 3.5km
Christies Creek Linear Trail – 7km
Coast Park Trail – 15km
Coast to Vines Rail Trail – 32km
Field River Linear Trail – 5km
Golden Wattle Way Trail – 4km
Minkarra Park Trails – 2km (north section) and 1km (south section)
Pedler Creek Trail – 2km
Seaford Meadows Trail – 3.5km
Sturt River Linear Trail – 2km
Tangari Regional Park – 2.5km
Other picturesque trails include:
Heysen Trail is 7km, suitable for walking
Kidman Trail is 14km, suitable for walking, riding and dedicated horse riding
Southern Veloway is 19km, suitable for walking and riding
Tom Roberts Horse Trail Network is 80km, suitable for walking, riding and dedicated horse riding
The coastline is not only home to a host of beach activities, but also the protected Encounter Marine Park. The diverse underwater wonderland spans from Port Noarlunga and wraps around the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. The marine park is home to more species of fish than the Great Barrier Reef, spanning a staggering 3,000 square kilometres of preserved natural beauty.
There’s an abundance of sea life, from leafy sea dragons to sea lions and even whales (in the winter months). Take in this superb secret of the seas from above on a kayak or paddleboard, or scuba-dive or snorkel to get up close and personal. Access is available from Port Noarlunga and Aldinga.
For more information on the park, including maps and guides, click here.
Visit the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre for details on tour operators, scuba, snorkelling and kayak lessons or hire.