City cycle tours, unique spa experiences, outback stays and eco-adventures! Our favourite South Australian stays and unique travel experiences will challenge the body and relax the mind.
Travelers have always flocked to the Festival State for the epicurean delights of the Barossa’s big, bold reds and longtime foodie culture, but South Australia’s lunar wilderness and vine-crossed valleys are also a playground for wellness travelers. Here, laidback pace meets cultural sophistication for the perfect getaway, all the way to ‘the other Outback’.
City Cycle Tours
Adelaide’s beautifully planned colonial squares, winding Torrens River and honey coloured churches are an idyllic backdrop for picnics. But first, burn calories, raise your heart rate and activate those glutes while seeing the city and exploring its pleasure gardens by bicycle. The Picnic Bikes and City Sights Tour is curated by the same company that guides travelers through Adelaide’s renowned Central Market, the beating heart of the city, so you can enjoy a well-earned panini and ripe, sumptuous fruit in the fresh air afterwards.
Walks and Hikes in the Adelaide Hills
Not far out of town, The Adelaide Hills are also worth a visit for those who love a walk. The glorious Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens is a great workout witt trails that meander along tree-fringed lakes, fern gullies and (f you’re brave) steep hills. The manicured European prettiness of lily ponds, Japanese maples and manmade hedges is encircled by the Stringybark Eucalyptus and native wildflowers of the surrounding Piccadilly Valley. Hikers who want to conquer the Heysen Trail, one of the world’s great long-distance walks spanning 1,200km from Cape Jervis to the Flinders Ranges, can start training here, in one of the trail’s oldest scenic sections. If you want to explore one of Australia’s best gardens more slowly, lingering amongst the camellias, conifers, magnolias and heritage roses, take the free guided tours every Thursday at 10.30am.
Jurlique Spa, Rundle Mall
Get to know South Australia’s homegrown natural skincare brand, Jurlique in the flagship spa of its home city. Originally created by a horticulturist and chemist in the pastoral idyll of the Adelaide Hills, Jurlique has always been an industry maverick, producing luxe plant-based skincare using biodynamic farming practices long before botanicals hit the mainstream market. Decades later, the small family company has grown into a global powerhouse that is stocked in high end stores from Peter Jones in Sloane Square to Barney’s in New York.
But the city lights have not outshone the brand’s original commitment to stay as organically pure and as close to their South Australian roots as possible. The menu of natural ingredients grown on the original Adelaide working farm includes rosemary, orlavender, marshmallow, avocado oil, Black Elder and honey straight from the hives of the famous Ligurian bee.
The urban spa is a hushed marble temple in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD shopping district. Try the Nutri-Define Facial Contouring Treatment, a luxurious 90-minute facial that not only resurfaces skin and softens it with rose oil, but detoxifies with a cool jade and warm rose quartz crystal massage that kickstarts circulation and tones the neglected musculature of the face.
The newest product to take home is the Herbal Recovery line’s cooling eye gel, which depuffs as it hydrates.
Spa on Brougham
This local secret is tucked away in bijou enclave North Adelaide, an unspoilt oasis of heritage bluestone architecture and wide avenues, brilliantly located near the city centre yet less busy, so parking is easy. Feminine decor, trailing ivy and winking candlelight create a cocooning effect in keeping with the day spa’s gentle, vegan-friendly philosophy. Clients have floor access to the building’s lap pool, jacuzzi and sauna, perfect before a professionally applied Naked Tan spray colour that activates in only 2 hours.
The Brougham’s deeply relaxing signature Escape To Fiji treatment showcases Pure Fiji skincare, which harnesses the power of coconut, one of Mother Nature’s most nourishing ingredients. As you sip on the spa’s coconut and pineapple concoction, the treatment starts with a relaxing foot soak in coconut milk and magnesium, which helps regulate body function – followed by a 30-minute hot stone massage, a full body sugar scrub (the therapist creates a hypnotic waterfall effect by releasing drops of hot water that cool as they fall on your back) and facial massage, which is particularly good for jaw clenchers as it releases stored tension. If you don’t have time (or budget) for both a facial and body treatment, this treatment lets you have it both ways.
Those feeling inspired by the all-natural theme can try the natural mineral makeup line Jane Iredale – the day spa will be only too happy to convert you!
And if you can’t get enough of Pure Fiji’s coconut scent (a veritable minibreak in a bottle) the product line is available to try at home.
The Mayfair Hotel
The Mayfair Hotel is the perfect urban nest for an Adelaide stay, with the heritage hipster credentials of being a former Colonial Mutual Life insurance office block, reimagined as boutique luxury. Rooms on the highest floors have fantastic city views that stretch all the way to the Adelaide Hills (or you can try a mocktail on the rooftop bar Hennessey).
Work out at the gym, drizzle delicious, antioxidant-rich sustainable honey on your breakfast – the ultimate low footprint food, as it is harvested from the hotel’s own rooftop apiary. Then walk out into the heart of the city and head to the River Torrens Linear Trail City Loop for a stunning nature walk which ultimately ends at Henley Beach (try the city path at dusk to hear the catch cries and whoops of many exotic species in The Adelaide Zoo for an otherworldly urban nature experience).
THE BAROSSA VALLEY
The Barossa Valley is prized for its world famous vineyards and sprinkling of heritage settler towns like Nurioopta and Tanunda, echoed by world famous wine labels. But this quintessentially SA terrain of vines and straw coloured hills – stark as a sheared sheep and dotted by rust coloured gums – is also a great nature break.
The Barossa Goldfields Walking Trail
History buffs will love covering the same terrain where colourful 19th century dreamers once trawled for buried treasure in these pioneer gold fields, which produced 778kg of gold. Once a gold boom hotspot that swelled to 4000 people, the fields are now a rural idyll in Para Wirra Park. Ghostly old mine shafts and cottages remain, amongst easy trails that meander through pink gums, golden wattles and native pines. Various circuits, that range from a breezy 1.2 kilometre loop to a further exploration that takes 5 hours, will sharpen your appetite and help you ‘earn’ the gourmet treats that await in the Barossa’s surrounding small towns and independent shops.
The Barossa Shiraz Estate
This boutique accommodation allows travelers to perch amongst the valley vines and willows in their own historic stone cottage, ‘The Barn’, a former Royal Mail Coach House transformed into a chic self-contained duplex. Set in a private vineyard, situated only 10 minutes drive from the Barossa Goldfields and surrounded by valleys and towns to explore, The Barn is the perfect apres-hiking nest. An open design lets sweeping views of the valley flood in; feast on fresh produce al fresco on the balcony or soak in a magnesium spa bath to relax muscles as the sun sets, bathing the surrounding vines in its golden glow.
THE FLINDERS RANGES AND OUTBACK
Rawnsley Park Station
The mythic power of dusty red roads has long been a siren call to Aussie adventure. The Flinders Ranges region north of Adelaide is a geological wonder of cliffs, craters and gorges where time is measured in millions of years, bordering the vastness of the lesser known SA Outback.
Rawnsley Park has evolved from a sheep station to a unique eco attraction that allows visitors to spend time overlooking the southern side of Wilpena Pound, a remarkable natural amphitheater and spectacular bushwalking destination. Instead of the almost insurmountable challenges experienced by the early pioneers in this challenging, extraordinary wilderness space, contemporary guests can drink in the Martian like scenery from their own air-conditioned villa, or cooling off in the pool.
The bush tucker has also had a serious upgrade, with hearty fine dining at The Woolshed restaurant, right on the property. Chef-driven dishes let the locavore ingredients sing (in these parts ‘local’ stretches to a 2-hour radius) – pickled radish and cucumber amuse bouches, freshly baked mini loaves with garlic and paprika butter, a platter that showcases lamb raised on the property with a variety of sauces, relishes, cuts and textures from cutlets to balls sprinkled with rosemary salt, like a roast in a bite. Dukkah-encrusted kangaroo and dessert tempered with savouries like beetroot would be delicious anywhere, but overlooking a 500 million year-old bluff, awash in the legendary pinkish glow of The Flinders Ranges, it is true luxury.
The airy limestone eco villas integrate with the surrounding wilderness: they are painted in the distinctive salmon-peach hue of The Ranges, with oversized windows that let the dusk in and skylights for star-gazing from bed. They are the perfect base for exploring the region.
Bush Walks and Trails
Short walks on the Rawnsley Park Station include the Alison Saddle and Clem’s Corner trails, amongst your neighbours the emus, kangaroos and parrots and galahs. The neighbouring Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park encompasses South Australia’s Outback mountain chain, a wonderland for hikers. Trails, campsites and sacred canyons are encircled within the glorious bluffs of Wilpena Pound.
The Geology Trail Rawnsley Park Station provide a tailored half-day 4WD tour to walk Brachina Gorge, a 630-million-year-old seabed fabled amongst geologists for its fossils, revealing the oldest examples of life forms yet discovered on earth. Walks, with a good vehicle and informed guide, are the best way to experience such a wonder – and exercise while looking out for rare, yellow footed rock wallabies in their cave home as wedge tailed eagles wheel overhead
Wangara Lookout Hike This 7km walk through the Pound Gap, following the river red gums and pines of Wilpena Creek, takes moderately fit walkers 3hrs to complete. The trail climbs The Pound edge to a lower then upper lookout platform 450 metres up the trail. This natural structure dominates the horizon for miles around – this is your chance to see the view from the inside looking out.
If you want to take on the biggest challenge and premier climb of the region, the St Mary Peak Hike is a challenging circuit hike tackling the St Mary Peak/Ngarri Mudlanha 1,171m peak, the highest mountain in the Flinders Ranges. The 6 hour, 14.6km journey to the escarpment edge (including a rock scramble) is rewarded with all-encompassing views of the Ranges, Aroona Valley, and salt plains to the west. Many hikers want to deepen their experience of the panoramic vista and its ancient, soul-affirming wonder by staying under the stars overnight. The Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre provides excellent support for newbies, especially as ‘The Pound’ is an iconic destination for local SA campers and day-trippers.
Review by Kris Abbey