Port Augusta, South Australia
Located 310 km north of Adelaide at the head of the Spencer Gulf is the small coastal town of Port Augusta. Formerly a busy seaport, Port Augusta is now also known as the Crossroads because several highways intersect at the town, making it an unavoidable stop for anyone driving north, south, east, or west. Driving straight north from Port Augusta will take you to Alice Springs, Uluru and Darwin, heading west will take you to Perth past the Nullarbor Plain, heading east will take you to Sydney, and going a short distance south will take you to Adelaide. No matter why you’re passing through Port Augusta, there are plenty of reasons to spend a day in the town before continuing your journey. The Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta is a great resource for travellers heading into the outback and provides an introduction to Aboriginal language groups who have lived in the surrounding region for over 40,000 years. For all tours heading north from Adelaide, Port Augusta is an unavoidable yet intriguing little town with a rich history to explore.
Things to Know About Port Augusta
Before booking a tour through Port Augusta, here's some information on the town.
Sitting at the head of the Spencer Gulf, Port Augusta historically served as an essential export hub for all settlements in and around the Ikara-Flinders Ranges, allowing for wool and wheat to be transported via ship around the world. While its role as an active port had ended by the 1970s, the town quickly pivoted to become a tourist hub due to its unique location at the crossroads of several interstate highways. Since then, Port Augusta primarily serves as a starting off point for tourism of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges, Oondiri (Nullarbor Plain), and trips up into the Northern Territory.
The Spencer Gulf is the largest of two inlets on the coast of South Australia (the other is Wongajerla (Gulf St Vincent) and is where Port Augusta is located. The west side of Spencer Gulf is known as the Eyre Peninsula, while the east side is known as the Yorke Peninsula. The shores and waters of the Spencer Gulf are home to some of the most iconic marine species in South Australia, including the giant Australian cuttlefish, bottlenose dolphins, and Yellowtail Kingfish. Great white sharks are also commonly observed in this region, making it a popular area for cage diving.
Approximately 150 kilometres north-east of Port Augusta are the Ikara-Ikara-Flinders Ranges, arguably the most popular tourist destination linked to the town. The Ikara-Ikara-Flinders Ranges is a vast expanse of ancient mountain ranges, including the famous Wilpena Pound, which offers challenging hikes and breathtaking views.
Things to Do Around Port Augusta
Here are some of the most popular points of interest and attractions around Port Augusta.
Wadlata Outback Centre and Wadlata's Tunnel of Time
The Wadlata Visitor Information Centre (Wadlata Outback Centre) is an award-winning information centre and key stopping point for tourists travelling through Port Augusta. "Wadlata" is an Aboriginal word meaning "teach or communicate" and is an apt name for this information centre which has everything you need to know to plan a trip into the outback. Part of the Wadlata Outback Centre is Wadlata's Tunnel of Time, something everyone who visits Port Augusta needs to experience. The tunnel is an interactive journey through the history of the surrounding region extending from the creation of the Ikara-Ikara-Flinders Ranges and the time of the dinosaurs to the Aboriginal tribes who nomadically moved throughout the area, all the way to the early European settlers and their story working the land.
Water Tower Lookout
Just west of Port Augusta is an old iron water tower that, while out of commission, is maintained as a viewing platform. After climbing four flights of stairs, you'll get to enjoy views of the Spencer Gulf, Ikara-Ikara-Flinders Ranges, and the northern salt plains.
Port Augusta Cultural Centre - Yarta Purtli
Located in Port Augusta's old Magistrate's Court is Port Augusta Cultural Centre - Yarta Purtli which acts as the region's home for Aboriginal art. There are regular exhibitions to enjoy that highlight the art and culture of local Aboriginal language groups and is a must-see after visiting the Wadlata Outback Centre if you want a comprehensive understanding of the Indigenous history of this region.
The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden
Located on the Stuart Highway around two kilometres north of Port Augusta is the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden. This massive 200-hectare area is an amazing way to experience the diverse and beautiful range of flora found in the central Australian outback. The gardens feature three walking trails that showcase the vegetation that occurs naturally along the Gawler Ranges, Ikara-Flinders Ranges, the Great Victoria Desert, and the West Coast of the Eyre Peninsula. With two bird hides, the gardens are a delight for birdwatchers, and you can explore the area on your own or with a guided tour.
Matthew Ikara-Flinders Red Cliff Lookout
Not far to the east for the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden is the Matthew Ikara-Ikara-Flinders Red Cliff Lookout. The lookout lets you observe a series of impressive red cliffs that explorer Matthew Ikara-Ikara-Flinders observed in 1802, and there's plenty of informative signs to educate you on the history of the area.
Pichi Richi Railway
Enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the Pichi Richi Railway with this historic train journey that lets you experience what it was like to travel via steam engine. A full-day journey on the famous Afghan Express will take you from Port Augusta Railway Station to the historic town of Quorn, where along the route, you’ll witness fantastic views of the Ikara-Ikara-Flinders Ranges before heading through the rocky outcrops of the Pichi Richi Pass.
Mount Remarkable National Park
Around 25 kilometres east of Port Augusta is Wangyarra or Mount Remarkable National Park, a place that truly lives up to its name with deep gorges, high ochre ridges, and waterways dotted with beautiful river red gums. With campgrounds and facilities ideal for groups of all ages, Wangyarra or Mount Remarkable National Park makes it easy to immerse yourself in the diverse flora and fauna of South Australia, with the 960-metre-high summit rewarding you with incredible views across the Willochra Plain and the Spencer Gulf.
Reasons to visit Port Augusta, South Australia
While having a practical purpose as a crossroads town connecting various regions of outback Australia, Port Augusta manages to be so much more than that. The town has a rich history that's intimately linked to the modern development of South Australia and the documentation of the landscape's flora, fauna, and geological wonders. There are a variety of worthwhile attractions both in and around Port Augusta that make the town a must-see for anyone planning a comprehensive tour of South Australia. Even staying a single night and visiting the Wadlata Outback Centre is a gratifying experience that equips you with a wealth of knowledge that enriches the rest of your journey through South Australia and beyond.
AAT King's Tours of Port Augusta
Several of AAT King's guided tours will include a night spent at Port Augusta, inviting you to visit the iconic Wadlata Outback Centre and enjoy dinner in town before continuing the rest of your journey in the morning. See our related tours below.