Aboriginal People Dream on a Timeless Continent
Australia’s Aboriginal people were thought to have arrived there by boat from South East Asia during the last Ice Age, at least 50,000 years ago. At the time of European discovery and settlement, up to one million Aboriginal people lived across the continent as hunters and gatherers. They were scattered in 300 clans and spoke 250 languages and 700 dialects. Each clan had a spiritual connection with a specific piece of land. However, they also traveled widely to trade, find water and seasonal produce and for ritual and totemic gatherings. Evidence for human activity in South Australia dates back more than 65,000 years ago with ceremonial sites and rock art in the Flinders Ranges. Kangaroo Island was inhabited long before the island was cut off by rising sea levels.
European Exploration and Colonization
In 1801-02 Matthew Flinders led the first circumnavigation of Australia aboard the HMS Investigator, a Royal Navy survey ship. French Captain Nicolas Baudin was also on a survey mission in 1802, independently charting the southern coast of the Australian continent with the French naval ships the Géographe and the Naturaliste. The British and French expeditions sighted each other, and despite France and Britain being at war at the time, they met peacefully at Encounter Bay, on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
A group in Britain led by Edward Gibbon Wakefield was looking to start a colony based on free settlement rather than convict labor. Wakefield suggested that instead of granting free land to settlers as had happened in other colonies, the land should be sold. The money from land purchases would be used solely to transport laborers to the colony free of charge, who were responsible and skilled workers rather than paupers and convicts.
The first settlers and officials set sail in early 1836. A total of nine ships consisting of 636 people set sail from London for South Australia. Most took supplies and settlers to Kangaroo Island on the present site of Kingscote to await official decisions on the location and administration of the new colony.
Surveyor Colonel William Light, who was given two months to locate and survey the colony of Adelaide, rejected locations for the new settlement such as Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln and Encounter Bay. He was required to find a site with a harbor, arable land, fresh water, ready internal and external communications, building materials and drainage. Most of the settlers were moved from Kangaroo Island to Holdfast Bay with Governor Hindmarsh arriving in December 1836 to proclaim the province of South Australia.
On 1 January 1901, following a proclamation by Queen Victoria, South Australia ceased to be a self-governing colony and became a state of the Commonwealth of Australia.
After the war ended in 1945, hundreds of thousands of migrants from across Europe and the Middle East arrived in Australia, many finding jobs in the booming manufacturing sector. Many of the women who took factory jobs while the men were at war continued to work during peacetime.
Australia’s economy grew throughout the 1950s with major nation-building projects such as the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme in the mountains near Canberra. International demand grew for Australia’s major exports of metals, wools, meat and wheat and suburban Australia also prospered. The rate of home ownership rose dramatically from barely 40 per cent in 1947 to more than 70 per cent by the 1960s.
The 1960s and 1970s saw the introduction of a series of landmark Australian legislative "firsts" in South Australia, including: the 1966 Prohibition of Discrimination Act, which prohibited discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or country of origin; and 1975 The Sex Discrimination Act, which made discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, or sexuality unlawful. In 1975 Parliament "decriminalized" homosexual acts; and in 1976 rape in marriage was made a criminal offense.
Construction of the Adelaide Festival Centre began in 1970 and South Australia's Sir Robert Helpmann became director of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. The South Australian Film Corporation was established by the Don Dunstan government in 1972 and played a significant role in the revival of Australian cinema, with such works as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant.
Kangaroo Island – Australia’s Galapagos
A vacation to Australia is not complete unless you have visited Kangaroo Island, otherwise known as ‘Australia’s Galapagos’. Teeming with kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, seals, sea lions, penguins and goannas to name a few, this is the best place in Australia to see the widest range of free roaming native animals in their natural habitat. Kangaroo Island is the third largest island off Australia and is similar in size to Long Island, NY, with almost a third of its area covered in pristine wilderness and conservation parks, 21 in total.
Kangaroo Island's most famous attraction is Seal Bay Conservation Park on the south coast and is the permanent home to a colony of approximately 500 rare Australian Sea-lions. They loll about on the sands and in the dunes, nurture their young and recover from days at sea. Visitors are able to join a tour with a park guide and walk among them, gaze at the young from the boardwalks and have a close encounter with these extraordinary giants of the sea.
In Flinders Chase National Park the rugged coastline is spectacular, and acacias, banksias and tea-trees grow right down to secluded beaches. The coast provides a haven for many fur seals, sea lions, sea eagles, osprey and numerous other species of wildlife. The undisturbed forest and grassland is home to kangaroos, wallabies, brush tailed possums, echidnas, goannas and the elusive platypus. Koalas are also very abundant on the Island, and it is one of the few places in Australia that visitors can see them in the wild.
The impressive Remarkable Rocks form what appears to be a cluster of precariously balanced granite boulders high above the crashing waves of the Southern Ocean. Their curious, tortured shapes have been carved over thousands of years by wind, rain and sea spray. Their apparent color changes during the day, so not surprisingly, these are one of the Island's most photographed natural features. Admirals Arch is naturally sculptured too, and under its suspended cliff face, New Zealand fur seals frolic in the waters or rest on the rocks.
Flinders Ranges - Wilpena Pound
The Flinders Ranges is known as the ‘gateway to the outback’ and the ideal place to start any client’s epic journey through the center of the continent. The base of the Flinders Ranges is within a four and a half hour drive north of Adelaide, making it one of the most accessible and timely outback experiences within Australia.
This is one of the oldest landscapes on earth, and it’s here that the very essence of the Outback begins. The Flinders Ranges is dominated by sharply rising ridges and peaks, tree-lined gorges, creeks and red soil and Aboriginal legend says these landscapes were shaped by the ancient serpents and giants of the Dreamtime. This is the home of brilliantly colored parrots, Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies, kangaroos and emus, and Australia’s largest bird of prey, the Wedge Tailed Eagle.
The focal point of this extraordinary national park and certainly South Australia’s best-known natural landmark is Wilpena Pound, an amphitheatre of mammoth proportions. Well-signed bushwalking tracks inside Wilpena Pound and around the ridges of its massive rim make exploration easier. And there are thrilling scenic flights over the Pound and surrounding ranges, as well as fully escorted four wheel drive safaris into hidden gorges adorned with rare and sacred Aboriginal rock art and lined with stunning River Red Gums.
Swimming is believing at stunning Baird Bay, one of few places in the world where you can swim with two very remarkable species of mammals - dolphins and Australian sea lions. Vacationers cruise aboard the 12-metre vessel Investigator or the six-meter vessel Jaguar for a fully supervised tour conducted in safe sheltered waters. Port Lincoln (at the bottom of Eyre Peninsula) also gives visitors the opportunity to go cage diving with Great White Sharks and diving with tuna and cuttlefish.
The Gawler Ranges at the top of the Eyre Peninsula are a spectacular wilderness area of unspoiled beauty. Vast domes of volcanic rock display a vivid array of color against the pure white of the many salt lakes in the area, including Lake Gairdner. The Ranges are renowned for their display of wildflowers in the spring, and some 140 species of birds have been recorded including the Emu, Wedge-Tailed Eagle, Major Mitchell Cockatoo and the Singing Honey Eater. Also found in the Ranges are the Red and Western Grey Kangaroo, Euro, Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat, Pygmy Possum and Hopping Mouse. Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris combine a tour of this region with the Baird Bay swimming experience.
South Australia is the fourth largest state in Australia and approximately one and a half times the size of Texas. It covers an area of 380,000 square miles or 12% of the Australian continent. The population of South Australia is approximately 1.5 million, of which 73% live in Adelaide, the State's capital and Australia's fifth largest city.
The northern and western parts of the state are extremely arid, in central Australia, dominated by Lake Eyre and Lake Torrens, mostly dry salt lakes. This arid area is sparsely populated, with many large cattle stations, and significant areas protected as national parks, or as Aboriginal lands. The arid north is delineated from the more fertile southeast by Goyder's Line, first surveyed in the 1860s, and which has proven to be a remarkably accurate northern boundary marking where sustainable agriculture can be carried out. Three deserts are contained within South Australia's borders: Great Victoria Desert, Strzelecki Desert and Sturt Stony Desert.
The South Australian coastline is over 3,800 kilometres (2361 miles) long and is punctuated by towns, beaches, cliffs and jetties. The coastline includes cliffs against the Great Australian Bight and the western side of Eyre Peninsula. The coast is less rugged on Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent (separated by Yorke Peninsula), Fleurieu Peninsula, Encounter Bay and The Coorong.
The highest point in the state is Mount Woodroffe at 1,435 metres (4,708 ft) in the Musgrave Ranges in the northwest corner of the state. The main range is the Mount Lofty Ranges and Flinders Ranges extending approximately 800 kilometres (497 mi) from Fleurieu Peninsula along the eastern side of Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf. About half the state is less than 150 m above sea level. East of the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Murray River flows west from New South Wales and Victoria, then south adjacent to the ranges. The Murray River is the only large, permanent river in the state.