The Best Parts of South Australia to See According To Hayden Quinn

From the Eyre Peninsula to Kangaroo Island, Hayden is on a mission to taste Australia.

Hayden Quinn in South Australia

Hayden Quinn is best known for his appearance on MasterChef season 3, but the fun, loving chef is also a surfer, TV host, writer, foodie, marine biologist, and traveller. Recently, Quinn’s been travelling around Australia, creating recipes crafted with local products found in each place he visits for his Taste Of Australia tour

We asked him to share his favourite things to do in South Australia and some of the recipes inspired by his trip to the great south. 

“South Australia has the most amazing produce and experiences from working beehives, to swimming with seals, visiting local markets, tasting beautiful oysters, beach fishing on the white sands of Eyre Peninsula and of course tasting beautiful wines in the Adelaide Hills.”

Laura Sharrad and Hayden Quinn

Adelaide Hills

Taste some of Australia’s best cool-climate wines food, pluck produce straight from nature’s top shelf, meander through lush garden sanctuaries and fertile farms, and encounter abundant wildlife. 

For Laura Sharrad’s braised kale and handmade cavatelli recipe click here.

Where To Eat

“We were lucky we had a chance to stop into Adelaide on the way through and stopped for lunch at Leigh St Wine Room. Such an awesome little spot with the best food and an incredible selection of wines, plus how could I not recommend my amazing friend Laura Sharrad and her amazing spot at Nido—so so good.

 LOT 100: Bringing together the cellar doors for Adelaide Hills Cider, Mismatch Brewing, Vinteloper wines, Adelaide Hills Distillery, Ashton Valley Fresh juices and underpinned by an incredible restaurant, Lot 100 showcases the breadth of the Adelaide Hills craft beverage offering and is the perfect destination to kick back with friends. Embracing a paddock to plate ethos and with an emphasis on local produce, on the menu, you’ll find pizza, pasta and more.

Where To Drink

Applewood Distillery: In the picturesque Gumeracha in the Northern Adelaide Hills, an old 1920’s Coldstores is the home of Applewood Distillery & Unico Zelo. Experience the inner workings of an operating distillery and winery to enjoy handcrafted cocktails and delicious wine in a cosy bar atmosphere.

Jauma Wines: High in the Adelaide Hills lies Jauma, a boutique winery committed to producing all-organic wines. Try the incredible natural wines made by owner and sommelier James Erskine who knows more about soil chemistry than you could have ever imagined. 

What To See

Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens: Explore 97 hectares of lush, green paradise at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. With meandering paths through some of South Australia’s most beautiful and diverse plant-life, flowing streams and camellias in full bloom, you’ll be walking in a winter wonderland bursting with the colours of autumn.

What To Do

Visit Cleland Wildlife Park: Just down the road from the Botanic Gardens, the lush bushland paradise of Cleland Wildlife Park is a haven for iconic Australian animals. Spanning 35 hectares and home to more than 130 native species including kangaroos, reptiles, wombats and birds, here you can take a selfie with a koala, hand-feed kangaroos, or pat a wombat.Visit Adelaide Hills Farmers’ Market: Visit the Adelaide Hills Farmers’ Market at Mount Barker on Saturday morning and take a stroll to find the best and freshest food South Australia has to offer. Speak to our farmers and producers as you shop and find out about how our food is grown and made.

Kangaroo Island
Photo Courtesy Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island

Just a stone’s throw from Adelaide, this isolated pocket of island wilderness offers up some of the most authentic nature experiences in Australia. Get back to nature on island time and roam along postcard-perfect beaches, traverse ancient landscapes shaped by time and get up close to iconic Australian animals.

“We had an amazing moment at Stokes Beach which may have been the best swim we have ever had! To get to stokes you have to walk through these amazing rock formations and little caves and tunnels which then just opens up into an amazing white sand beach with a little rock pool at one end and then just open beach at the other. The cool thing about South Australia is that you can go swimming but you are never alone. We swam with seals at Baird Bay and dolphins on Kangaroo Island and it was the most incredible experience.”

For his fig and honey frangipane recipe, click here.

Where to Eat

The Enchanted Fig Tree:Tucked off the picture-perfect shores of Kangaroo Island’s Snelling Beach, your table is set under the gnarled branches of the ancient Enchanted Fig Tree. Planted some 120 years ago to sustain the first settlers of the island, its bending boughs and shaded canopy now provide a magical setting for a feast worthy of a fairy tale.

Where to Drink

False Cape Wines: False Cape Wines is a new cellar door where you can sample and buy minimal intervention wines that honour sustainable and time-honoured wine practices. With a deck perched on the Dudley Peninsula overlooking the banks of the Willson River flat, False Cape Wines’ cellar door has an idyllic Australian setting.

Kangaroo Island Spirits: At Kangaroo Island Spirits, native botanicals sourced from around the island are distilled to create some of Australia’s most awarded gins. Trial a selection of gin at the cellar door or sit out in the tranquil gin garden for a cocktail and bite to eat.

What To See

Flinders Chase National Park: Flinders Chase National Park is a rugged island wilderness home to abundant wildlife and iconic landmarks including Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rocks. Nestled on the north-west corner of Kangaroo Island, this national park is a mecca for wildlife lovers and avid bushwalkers. Jump on a guided Fire Recovery Experience tour and follow the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail to witness nature’s remarkable post-bushfire regeneration powers.

What To Do

Swim with dolphins: For an unforgettable close encounter with the locals, swim with wild dolphins and seals in crystal clear waters on tour with Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari. On tour, you’ll also encounter Osprey, Sea Eagles and Wedge Tail Eagles. If you’d rather stay dry, then book the 75 minute coastal cruise and soak it all in from the comfort of the boat.

Visit Stokes Bay: After pulling up in the carpark, weave through a labyrinth of caves before emerging onto some of the whitest sand and clearest water in Australia. On Kangaroo Island, it’s easy to jump from one picture-perfect cove to the next without running into anyone. If you’re lucky, you might even get the entire beach to yourself!

Eyre Peninsula Hayden Quinn

The Eyre Peninsula

The Eyre Peninsula is a land rich with succulent seafood, boasting abundant wildlife and blessed with natural beauty. Swim with sea lions and sharks, devour world-famous seafood and take-in jaw-dropping views.

“Coffin Bay Oysters! Simple, delicious and naturally captures the flavour of the Eyre Peninsula—should be on every foodies list.”

For his grilled sardines and peperonata recipe, click here.

Where To Eat

Fresh Fish Place: For seriously good fish and chips (and every other seafood you could dream of) pop into Port Lincoln’s Fresh Fish Place. Pick-up some famously fresh seafood and cook-up a feast at home or settle in by the water at the cafe and feast on local oysters, scallops, crayfish, crab and fish.

Where To Drink

Peter Teakle Wines and Line & Label: Set amongst sprawling vineyards and overlooking the pristine waters of Boston Bay, the brand new Peter Teakle Wines cellar door is one of the most idyllic spots in South Australia to sip a glass or two of wine. Designed by local architect Kym Clarke, more than 3km of woodwork was used to create the breathtaking curves of the cellar door, reminiscent of a wine barrel. The building is worth a visit in itself, but paired with wine grown and made right on site and a menu showcasing local Eyre Peninsula produce at the on-site restaurant, Line & Label (reopening January 8 2021), it is one of Port Lincoln’s premier dining destinations.

What To See

Beaches: The Eyre Peninsula’s seemingly endless coast boasts crystal clear waters, snow-white sands and dense bush. From epic surfing swells to secluded coves, there are literally hundreds of spots to set-up beach tent and towel. Known for its #instafamous rock pools, Greenly Beach is a stunning swimming and surfing spot, just an hour’s drive away from Port Lincoln. Other top spots include Almonta Beach, Fishery Bay, Memory Cove, Farm Beach and Coffin Bay National Park.

Lake MacDonnell: Mother Nature’s full palette is on show at the Eyre Peninsula’s Lake MacDonnell with a super-high salt concentration resulting in some seriously intense pink colours. Afterwards, head down the road to Cactus Beach: an oceanic wonderland, drawing surfers from across the world to its powerful breaks and Southern Ocean swells.

What To Do

Take an Oyster Farm Tour at Coffin Bay: Spend the day learning about the harvesting of world-famous Coffin Bay Oysters or take an Oyster Farm Tour in Coffin Bay. See how oysters are grown, board the oyster boat, then taste the legends themselves plucked straight from the sea with Experience Coffin Bay.

Swim with sea lions and dolphins: Some of South Australia’s most amazing marine life can be found off the shores of beautiful Port Lincoln and right along the Eyre Peninsula coastline. Head to Baird Bay for an epic Dolphin and Sea Lion Swimming Tour. Squeeze into a wetsuit, slap on a snorkel, spend the morning meeting and greeting playful sea lions and lightning-fast dolphins in crystal-clear waters.

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Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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