I found South Australia’s best-kept secret

Having grown up in New Zealand, I knew next to nothing about Adelaide when we arrived in January 2021 for a two-week trip. At the time, I was madly researching for my book Wylah: The Koorie Warrior, so I was interested in the local libraries and museums while my wife and kids were all about the beaches. I realized we had to find a compromise so I said, “Let’s do Daddy’s thing first, and then we can do all the things you want to do.” Like most parenting, everything comes down to quality bribery – I realized quickly that if I gave them $20 they’d happily help me with my research days with minimal complaints.

We started the research element of our trip with a visit to the State Library of South Australia where I was enthralled with the South Australia Illustrated exhibition, which featured the artwork of George French Angas. The way he captured the landscape – and the wildlife – of that time was mind-blowing and this exhibition ultimately informed how I ended up drawing the landscapes and animals for Wylah and showcasing how the Indigenous people were interacting with both. Equally fascinating here was the early-settler timeline, which again helped me get a sense of people’s motivations at the time. Wylah is a historical fantasy with real-world elements so I work hard to get it right.

Rose, Sierra, Richard and Max Pritchard at Port Noarlunga beach
Rose, Sierra, Richard and Max Pritchard at Port Noarlunga beach

Visits to the South Australian Museum yielded plenty more fruit. It has the largest, most comprehensive collection of Aboriginal cultural material in the world so anything you need to know can be found here, but be warned: you can visit for five hours and you’ll have only just scratched the surface. I guess I could have felt bad for my kids but, let’s be honest, there’s no better place to give your kids a solid education and when I left South Australia, I left with the feeling this museum is the state’s true highlight.

After a few days of indoor research it was time to see what else Adelaide offered and fortunately the answer is “quite a lot”. We’re a family who loves to go paddle-boarding together so we stationed ourselves by Port Noarlunga Beach, which has that lovely jetty and laid-back seaside vibe, and made the most of the beaches around the city. When we weren’t in the water (and we were most of the time since it was a hot summer), we walked through the city’s parks, went to Adelaide Zoo where we got stalked by possums for food, and visited The d’Arenberg Cube in McLaren Vale as we checked out some of the wineries close by.

The d'Arenberg Cube
The d’Arenberg Cube. Picture: SATC/Ian Routledge

Adelaide was probably what you call a slow burn for us. We arrived thinking that maybe it would be too quiet and we would regret our holiday destination decision but left completely won over by everything it has to offer. It’s small enough that you can get to places relatively quickly but large enough for every member of the family to get exactly what they need or desire.

On the way back home, we decided to pop into Naracoorte Caves – a place we’d driven past on our way to Adelaide, but never thought to actually go in. Well, I’m so pleased we did. After we had a swim at the pool we went into the caves, which are South Australia’s only World Heritage site. There are a number of caves where you can go exploring, but we fell in love with the Victoria Caves Megafauna Experience in particular, an exhibition which was created in conjunction with some of the world’s leading paleontologists. The fossil beds here are extraordinary. Animals back in the day would come and fall into these holes and die so there’s an amazing collection of bones – everything from dinosaurs to Tasmanian tigers. Kids love anything macabre so they too were fascinated and, of course, much of what we saw underground made its way into my book.

Max and Sierra at Naracoorte Caves
Max and Sierra at Naracoorte Caves

What was meant to be a two-week holiday in South Australia became a celebration of Australian history with a prehistoric angle and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know I certainly wouldn’t drive past the caves ever again without stopping in. Great stories are everywhere, just waiting to be found.

This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com

About the author


Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.


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