The lastminute lovelies in SA

Of all the things I love about South Australia – and rest assured, there are many – my favourite has to be the diversity.

In the space of a long weekend, the lastminute lovelies managed to visit not only cosmopolitan Adelaide and gourmet McLaren Vale, but also the vast wilderness of Kangaroo Island. Fabulous!

Our journey starts late Friday night, as we check in to the to sleek, chic lines and gorgeous neutral tones of the stunning new Crowne Plaza Adelaide in the heart of the CBD. Modern yet warm, this is my kind of hotel, and I’m sad not to be able to enjoy it for longer. Alas, we’re up bright and (very) early to meet our coach, because we’re off to Kangaroo Island, baby!

After picking up the rest of its passengers, the Sealink coach winds its way from Adelaide to the Fleurieu Peninsula, and our eyes light up as we pass row upon row of vines. It’s too early for a drink, but we’ll be back!

We soon pull up at Cape Jervis, where we hop off the bus and onto the ferry bound for Kangaroo Island. It’s a short, scenic ride, and we have just enough time for a coffee and a chat before we’re disembarking on Kangaroo Island. One of Australia’s great natural wonders, it’s a wildlife sanctuary without fences, and is home to some seriously sensational beaches. We can’t wait to explore.

We spot our Kangaroo Island Odysseys guide, Nikki, and she shepherds us into a giant Isuzu 4WD. A native Kangaroo Islander with a sincere passion for nature and its creatures, Nikki is an absolutely fantastic guide and a delight to listen to. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and time flies as she introduces the Island and its fascinating history. Before we know it we’ve reached our first stop, Seal Bay.

Seal Bay

Seal Bay

Seal Bay is home to a huge colony of Australian sea lions, and we’re astounded as we walk amongst them as they bask on the beach. It’s a truly magical experience, and one we’ll never forget.

It’s only the first of many unforgettable experiences that Nikki shares with us – even lunch is a marvel. We pull up in the middle of nowhere and a big white tent appears like a mirage. Inside is a table and a BBQ, and Nikki whips up a gourmet lunch for us to enjoy, along with a nice glass of red. Just lovely.

Over the next two days, the wonders just keep coming – spotting echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, koalas and New Zealand fur seals in their natural environment, discovering wild beaches and Remarkable Rocks, and learning about the intricacies of Kangaroo Island’s amazing ecosystem. It’s a wonderful introduction to this wonderful island, and easy to see why Kangaroo Island is one of Australia’s most iconic destinations.

Whilst on Kangaroo Island we stay at the Aurora Ozone Hotel, nestled on Kingscote’s beautiful foreshore. The view from our rooms is matched only by the vista from the hotel’s restaurant, where we sample local produce and wine over dinner. The Bay Of Shoals rose is out of this world, and we reluctantly put our glasses down and head to the wharf for a penguin tour.

In the wild - Kangaroo Island

In the wild – Kangaroo Island

Within minutes, we forget all about the wine, because we are literally surrounded by Fairy penguins. It’s phenomenal – we see one pair gettin’ jiggy wid it, so to speak, and dozens more pottering around their nests. It’s absolutely unreal.

The following afternoon, after two amazing days exploring Kangaroo Island, we head for the airport and make our way back to Adelaide.

Dinner tonight is at Eros, a stylish Greek restaurant on buzzing Rundle Street. Everything is sensational, from the incredible house made dips (taramasalata, yum!) and calamari to moussaka and souvlaki. Washed down with some Shaw And Smith sauv blanc from the neighbouring Adelaide Hills, we’re in heaven.

Dinner done, we make our way to the plush Sebel Playford hotel on North Terrace, and check in for the night. While Crowne Plaza is all about clean lines, Sebel Playford is sheer opulence, with an Art Nouveau decadence that makes staying there feel incredibly special. No surprise, then, that Sebel Playford recently won Best Deluxe Hotel in SA at the 2010 Australian Hotels Association Awards for the second year running.

Our favourite part of the Sebel Playford, however, was breakfast! This is hands down the best hotel buffet I’ve ever experienced, with an emphasis on quality, organic produce sourced locally. The only thing that can get us to leave the restaurant is the thought of those vines – we’re off to McLaren Vale!

Vinyard - Adelaide

Vinyard – Adelaide

Nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the beaches of Gulf St. Vincent, McLaren Vale is one of the most picturesque wine regions I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. It’s also home to truly exceptional wine and produce, which becomes more and more apparent at each stop. From the consistently incredible D’Arenberg wines to the gorgeous olives, olive oils and gourmet food products at The Olive Grove, the incredible setting at Hugh Hamilton and the rustic charm of Wirra Wirra, the boot is chockas in no time … and so are we!

Even after all those tastings, we still manage to squeeze in a spot of lunch at Vasarelli. It feels like we’ve walked into mama’s Italian kitchen, and everything is absolutely delicious – especially the squid!

We somehow refrain from having dessert, because our last stop for the day (sob!) is the Medlow Confectionery and FruChocs Showroom. An SA institution, this treasure trove of sweet treats has our eyes boggling, and we stock up on ‘souvenirs’ before heading for the airport, and home.

It’s been a sensational weekend, and we’ve loved every minute – from the cosmopolitan delights of Adelaide to the wilderness of Kangaroo Island and the gourmet heaven that is McLaren Vale. It’s true what they say – South Australia is a brilliant blend.

The lastminute lovelies xox

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