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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Heading Northwest to Adelaide | Mt. Gambier, Murray River & Around Adelaide

After finishing up the coastal region of our road trip, we headed towards Adelaide. There are actually several different ways you can get here with a wide variety of things to do along the way. However, we wanted to leave a large portion of our trip for the Red Center, so we took one of the more direct routes to Adelaide. However, some other options include that you can head up along the coast visiting the beaches of Coorong National Park or even heading up a bit north to the Grampians mountain range. However, if you’re looking for a more direct route with a few pit stops along the way, these were a few stops we enjoyed stopping at to break up the road trip along the way. Our path took us through Mt. Gambier, Murray River area & the area around Adelaide.


MT. GAMBIER

This town is along the main highway to Adelaide so an easy stop, which offered a couple of unique things to see. We spent a night at the campground here in town. While there we visited the following spots:


Umpherston Sinkhole:

This is a sinkhole was converted into a sunken garden in 1896, which is FREE to visit. While the garden is beautiful, one of the best surprises for the kids was meeting the resident opossum. He was a cuter version than the opossums we have back in North America – I think partly because he didn’t have the hairless tail. However, there are signs all around the park just asking that you don’t feed them meat & bread, but you are able to feed them certain plants/flowers/leaves and even fresh fruits & vegetables. While we were there some locals were feeding him some apple pieces and when they left they offered the kids the leftovers, which was fun for them to feed the him.


Crater Lakes:

The Blue & Valley Lakes are crater lakes & there is lots to do in the area surrounding them, including camping. A couple of the family-friendly highlights were the Adventure Playground located within the Crater Lakes Regional park and then just down the road -- the Crater Lakes Conservation Park. This conservation area is maintained by the city, but it has a walking path through the park where you can spot animals within their natural habitat. As we walked around, we came across a snake, a wallaby, kangaroos and a variety of birdlife. However, as with a lot of things in Australia, it was FREE to access!


MURRAY RIVER:

This outdoor recreation area offers a large selection of outdoor activities to do, including several 4WD opportunities including the Ngarkat Conservation Park & along the Murray River. However, even though we had a 4WD vehicle, we more so used it as an another stopping point on the route north. We stayed at a Community Campground that was donation based in Palmer, South Australia.


Not far from it was Mannum Waterfall. We had planned to hike to the waterfall, which was supposed to be a 2-hr. there & back hike. However, as we started to walk down to the falls there was hardly any water flowing. After a quick search, we found out that the waterfalls run dry during the summer & fall, and typically only flow after a large rainfall or in the winter/early spring.

However, the landscape & rock formations were still amazing to take in, even though we didn’t complete the hike. We started from the Upper Mannum Falls Parking Lot to get these views, but it is recommended to start from the Lower Mannum Falls Parking Lot usually.


GORGE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

Between the Murray River Region & Adelaide there is the scenic gorge road that takes you through a gorge & some of the fruit farming regions on the way to Adelaide. Along this route is also the Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary.


In Australia there are only 3 states where you are allowed to hold koalas – South Australia, Western Australia & Queensland. Originally, we had planned to do it while in Queensland, but while in Adelaide we stumbled across the Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary. We decided to go for it & we’re so glad we decided to do it HERE! The experience at Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary was so great, affordable and more personal than some of the others.


A family admission for 2 adults and 2 children was $54 AUS and it was only $10 AUS for the additional option to hold a koala. (Admission to the Adelaide Zoo was twice that much.) Plus, EVERYONE has the opportunity to pet a koala as part of admission. There is a height requirement of 137 cm to hold the koalas – Clara was a centimeter short & they were great about letting her still give it a try! She held the koala for a short bit, before Kiya the koala got a bit heavy. However, it was so great to see her face light up & make her dream come to true! Afterwards she declared it “The Best Day EVER!” Afterwards, we ALL had the opportunity to pet, and even feed some eucalyptus leaves, to the different koalas that were brought out. Most days they have koala holding twice during the day – one at 11:30 and one at 2:30. When they were there they brought out three different koalas, so the wait wasn’t too long either hold or pet one.


In addition to the koalas, the wildlife reserve has kangaroos, camels, quokkas, wombats, penguins & a wide variety of birds! For an additional $2.50 at the admission desk you can purchase a bag of food to feed most of the animals – there are signs up if you can’t feed that particular animal.


ADELAIDE:

Although we only spent one night in the city, we really were impressed with Adelaide. It was one of those cities that didn’t feel like a huge city. Partly I think because of the large amounts of green space in its core. While our visit was short, we did visit these couple of spots:


Adelaide Central Market & Chinatown

This is a local food market that provides a wide selection of meat, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and other food options. We actually found the price of fruit here to be quite comparable or cheaper than fruit and vegetables at the grocery stores. It definitely had a Farmer’s Market vibe to it, but centrally located within the city.


Right next to it, is Chinatown. While it has the iconic Chinese arch at its entrance, the highlight for us was enjoying some authentic Chinese food here!


Wild Dolphin Sanctuary
Two children with the Wild Dolphin Sanctuary area of the mangrooves behind them. Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
Wild Dolphin Sanctaury - Adelaide, South Australia

This sanctuary area is in southern Adelaide near Port Noarlunga. It is a bay area that is located in some mangroves, which is home to sea life, including some resident bottlenose dolphins. There are supposedly about 30 dolphins that call the area home throughout the year, but there are another 400 transient dolphins at various times of the year. While we had no such luck spotting dolphins here, there is a large boardwalk you can look for them from, as well as Kayak tours are also available. Other sea life that can occasionally spotted are fur seals, Australian sea lions and sting rays.


Barossa Valley

Just outside Adelaide, this wine region is famous for its Shiraz wine and home to large wineries like Jacob’s Creek. If you love wine then it is definitely worth the stop. There are plenty of wineries you can visit, the option to bike ride on trails through the vineyards and tastings galore! The scenery is beautiful too! We came through at the end of April and the leaves on the vines were changing to the golden autumn colors. There is also the historical town of Tanunda. We stopped for a tasting at One Drop. They offered tastings for $5, $15 or $25 and it was a good opportunity to try some wines from the region.


Although we were mainly transiting the area and didn’t have a lot of time to stop & explore there were so many places we could have stopped & spent more time. However, hopefully this will give you a taste of what there is to do in the area. Check out the previous part of our road trip on the Great Ocean Road or the next portion of our road trip through the Red Centre up to Darwin.

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