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South AustraliaSeptember 5, 2011 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
|A Winery tour is one of the highlights of a vacation in South Australia.|
Several representatives from South Australia’s tourism industry were in New York recently to talk about different activities, attractions and accommodations within the state. Here’s the gist of what we heard from them.
The Great Southern Rail offers a unique way of seeing the vast Australian countryside and wildlife. Trains travel scenic routes between major cities—not just in South Australia, but all across the country, north to south and east to west. The Ghan, the train’s north-south route from Darwin to Adelaide, takes two nights and three days and has a stop in Alice Springs. The Indian Pacific itinerary from Perth to Adelaide to Sydney, meanwhile, takes three days and four nights. The shortest itinerary takes 10 hours and connects Adelaide to Melbourne, while the longest covers four states (linking Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane) and can take up to six days.
Best of all, the trains have Whistle Stops in towns and cities, much like port calls of cruise ships, giving passengers several hours to walk around and explore. There are also several different service classes onboard, but for lengthy journeys, we recommend the Platinum Service (with a full-sized bed, full shower facilities and private butler service). For groups or large families, consider renting one of the three private carriages.
In the desert town of Coober Pedy, the Desert Cave Hotel is a partially underground property where guests can see how locals have traditionally kept cool in summer and warm in winter. The sandstone that makes up the surrounding terrain absorbs noise and temperature, and 60 percent of locals have found that life underground is much more comfortable than above. Nineteen of the hotel’s 50 rooms are subterranean, with no windows or air conditioning (although they do have fans). Above-ground units all have windows and are air conditioned.
While at the hotel, visitors can go searching for opals in the local mines or can ride on real mail planes for a bird’s-eye view of the desert landscape. Bonus for golfers: The local course has no grass, but people looking to play (traditionally at night, with glowing balls) can borrow a little tuft of grass for teeing off.
Mary Anne Kennedy has been managing Taste of South Australia for years, bringing small groups and organizing private tours to wineries in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale and to restaurants and cafés in Adelaide. Kennedy will now have Adelaide Hills in her portfolio for half- or full-day tours. Another popular new option is a food-focused day tour of Adelaide that includes the city’s iconic Central Market and an Aboriginal bush food trail. (Shopping and art excursions are also available.)
Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia, is one of the top five destinations in the whole country. Commonly called “Australia’s Galapagos,” it is about the size of New York’s Long Island, but with an average of about one person per square kilometer and with 260 distinct species of birds. Exceptional Kangaroo Island offers one- to four-day experiences on the island at properties rated four stars and up. For example, the Southern Ocean Lodge, which has been described as a six-star resort, is a top pick. Visitors can also sample vintages from some of the 30 vineyards on the island, visit farms or sample super-fresh seafood at local restaurants. The operator’s maximum group size is 12 and the average is six, guaranteeing a personal experience.
Sealink organizes trips from the mainland to the island, and can also arrange activities and excursions once guests are there. A new option (still in the works) is a five-day, four-night walking tour of the island through Flinders Chase National Park and Kelly Hill Conservation Park. By next June, the island will have a new ferry terminal to facilitate transportation to and from the mainland.