The South Australian capital often flies under the radar - locals like it that way, happy to keep their buzzing dining precincts, glorious gardens and on-your-doorstep wineries to themselves. But the secret is well and truly out, and over the course of the afternoon you'll discover just how diverse Adelaide really is. Touring the city you'll cover every interest base: sports (Adelaide Oval), horticulture (the Botanic Garden), culture (the Art Gallery of South Australia) and food (Adelaide Central Market). Make a note to book a table at the Meat & Wine Co tonight - a premium steak restaurant with a unique Afro-centric twist. The city offers plenty of other eateries in which to while away your evening. Stay: Adabco Boutique Hotel
You don't have to travel far from Adelaide to be surrounded by vines. In fact, just 1.5 hours north lies the Clare Valley, and therein one of Australia's most awarded wineries. Knappstein Enterprise Winery's roots reach back to 1878, which yields extremely tasty drops, as you'll discover at the cellar door before lunch in the Clare Valley's atmospheric central town. It's the best way to ease into the wide-open, otherworldly spaces of the Flinders Ranges - your commute is a short journey by coach, but it transports you to seemingly Martian landscapes, some 800 million years in the making and home to the Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years. The Indigenous community owns and manages your base for the night, Wilpena Pound Resort, and they'll welcome you to Country with spirit and soul. (B/D) Stay: Wilpena Pound Resort
The cliffs and craters and ravishing red rocks of the Flinders Ranges shine brightly in the morning sun, your outlook particularly pretty from Wangara Lookout. From this vantage, you'll enjoy expansive views over the natural amphitheatre that is Wilpena Pound. It's an awe-inspiring way to start the day, before your journey carves north through dramatic Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges. Keep your eyes peeled for endangered yellow-footed rock wallabies - only 2,250 remain in Australia, and most call this part of the country home.
You'll begin to understand why they favour the South Australian outback when you arrive in Arkaroola, characterised by ancient granite mountains and golden spinifex-covered hillsides and providing a vantage over Lake Frome and the desert beyond. But the real stars here are those overhead, as you'll discover on an astronomy tour that brings the dazzling night sky into full focus. Prepare to be humbled - in the best possible way. (B/D) Stay: Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
What was happening in Arkaroola 1.6 billion years ago? Your guide will help decode the region's mind-boggling geological history as you navigate the steep slopes and hair-raising ascents of the Ridgetop Track. Plants here are found nowhere else on the planet, and gorges are so vast that they seem to cleave off the edge of the earth. A patina follows your journey northwest to the Ochre Cliffs outside Lyndhurst, where an artist's smudge of fiery hues paints the countryside all the way to the horizon. It's as sacred as it is spectacular, with the Indigenous community having utilised the rich clay soil in ceremonies for centuries. You can see why this part of Australia was attractive to the 1800s settlers of nearby Farina - but you'll also learn why they departed, leaving an eerie ghost town on the outskirts of Marree, where you'll lay your swimming head for the night. (B/L/D) Stay: Marree Hotel
Much of the South Australian outback exists because of the old Ghan Railway, click-clacking from Adelaide to Darwin. Plenty of history will be revealed on your morning's journey down the line's westward bend, perhaps only outshone by the natural drama of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. Australia's largest inland lake is - most of the time - a shimmering saltpan covering hundreds of square kilometres, yet is occasionally transformed by desert downpours into a thriving oasis. You'll have the chance to glimpse it from the air, your bird's-eye view unfolding beneath you like a work of art.
Speaking of art - your included scenic flight will also pass over the Anna Creek Painted Hills, a rocky outcrop that literally pops out of the flat desert, creating silhouettes resembling cartoon characters. Touch down to explore the otherworldly countryside before jetting on to your destination for the next two nights, Coober Pedy, brimming with compelling quirks. How do you fancy sleeping underground? (B) Stay: Desert Cave Hotel (2 nights)
The self-proclaimed ‘opal capital of the world', Coober Pedy's many attractions lie primarily below the earth's surface. Due to the aboveground heat (temperatures can soar) many locals choose to take up a subterranean residence as well. Once you've explored this fascinating community - including fossicking for opals in surrounding mines - look further afield to Aboriginal owned Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park, where you'll travel along a stretch of the ancient Dog Fence: a barrier spanning 5,300 kilometres across three states. As mind-boggling as the construction is, it pales in comparison to the setting's moonscape of fossilised shells and cracked grey clay. It has provided the ideal setting for Hollywood blockbusters like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
The only thing more surreal than the natural landscape is the constructed one this afternoon at Coober Pedy Opal Fields Golf Club, where the fairways are dirt and sand. That's one for the record books. Pick up a club to thump balls around the oil-soaked putting green. (B/D)
It's hard to imagine landscapes more dramatic than those you'll have experienced so far. But the bar is officially raised by those at Lake Hart, another vast saltpan that sparked a community in the 1930s. Today, it's all but deserted, the isolation reminding you that Mother Nature always rules. The vastness of the South Australian outback here was no doubt one of the reasons why it - specifically Woomera - was chosen to become the world's largest military land base. Established by the British in 1947, the countryside here has been a testing base for atomic bombs, ballistic missiles and satellite boosters. It's a piece of Australian history few know of, but that you will leave appreciating, as you head toward your evening's repose in the natural harbour of Port Augusta. (B) Stay: Majestic Oasis Apartments
The Barossa needs no introduction - your journey today will take in one of Australia's oldest wine regions, and local makers know a thing or two about creating memorable vintages. The South Australian Company Store reveals some of the finest regional drops, your lunchtime tipples complemented by glorious views over the vines. Cheers to that! You'll arrive in plenty of time for your Adelaide flight, your heart, mind and spirit filled with the natural and human wonders of a region that exudes superlatives. (B/L)