Most travellers en route between Adelaide and Melbourne pass through southeast South Australia as quickly as possible, which is a shame, as the coastal route offers wild, pristine beaches and tranquil fishing villages, while inland there are a couple of brilliant wine regions.

From Tailem Bend, just beyond Murray Bridge some 85km out of Adelaide, three highways branch out. The northernmost, the Mallee Highway, is the quintessential road to nowhere, leading through the sleepy settlements of Lameroo and Pinnaroo to the insignificant town of Ouyen in Victoria’s mallee country. The second, the Dukes Highway, offers a fast but boring route to Melbourne via the South Australian mallee scrub and farming towns of Keith and Bordertown, before continuing in Victoria as the Western Highway across the monotonous Wimmera. It is, however, well worth breaking your journey to visit the Coonawarra and Naracoorte, in between the Dukes Highway and the coastal route: the former is a tiny wine-producing area that makes some of the country’s finest red wine; the latter is a fair-sized town with a freshwater lagoon system that attracts prolific birdlife, and a conservation park with impressive World Heritage-listed caves.

The third option, the Princes Highway (Highway 1), is much less direct but far more interesting. It follows the extensive coastal lagoon system of the Coorong to Kingston SE, and then runs a short way inland to the lake craters of Mount Gambier before crossing into Victoria. There’s another possible route on this last stretch, the Southern Ports Highway, which sticks closer to the coast, plus a potential detour along the Riddoch Highway into the scenic Coonawarra wine region.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Australia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Solo travel in Australia: everything you need to know

Solo travel in Australia: everything you need to know

Australia remains a classic travel destination. A steady stream of gap-year backpackers, career breakers and round-the-world-trippers head down under to sample …

22 Nov 2016 • Shafik Meghji insert_drive_file Article
Road trip Australia: 6 of the best routes

Road trip Australia: 6 of the best routes

Pack your stuff, throw it in a camper van along with a surfboard and don’t look back… This might be an old cliché but it’s one for good reason: Australia…

18 Oct 2016 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
Sydney or Melbourne: the great Aussie debate

Sydney or Melbourne: the great Aussie debate

Sydney and Melbourne have been battling it out for supremacy as long as Europeans have been setting sail for Australia. Both are capitals of their respective st…

03 Oct 2016 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month