Phenomenal food, wine, sport, scenery and 46C in the shade... no wonder Australia is weather presenter Sian Lloyd's hot favourite.
By Sian Lloyd for the Mail on Sunday
The February afternoon we arrived in Adelaide, the mercury was whizzing up to a sizzling 46C and the South Australian city was the hottest place on the planet. The temperature had climbed above 40C for a whole week and even the Aussies were struggling.
Appropriately, friends took us out that evening to dine in one of the city's hottest restaurants - Celsius! Luckily, it was air-conditioned and served phenomenal food. We especially appreciated the peanut butter and popcorn ice cream.
But Adelaide that week was also hot for other reasons. It was the cycling mecca of the world, with 20 teams of Lycra-clad pros and their supporters tearing up the roads and hanging out in coffee bars.
Sian Lloyd enjoys a glass of Clare Valley riesling at Skillogalee Winery north of Adelaide in South Australia
Sian meets Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas (centre) and Sir Chris Hoy (right) at the start of the Tour Down Under
Sian takes a ride ahead of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide (left) and meets a bouncy local kangaroo
The Tour Down Under is a big part of the international cycling season and contributes more to the South Australian economy than the F1 Grand Prix (formerly Adelaide-based, now in Melbourne) ever did.
Not only was the launch night atmosphere electric, but it was great to catch up with our pals Sir Chris Hoy and Team Sky's Geraint Thomas. We also rubbed shoulders with the Indian cricket team. Howzat!
We were staying at the Adina Apartment Hotel, the former Treasury building, where the old tunnels and cabinet rooms can still be seen. The Beatles hid here to evade fans back in 1964. Breakfast was served in the lovely oasis of the serene central courtyard, a delightful start to the day. The hotel is conveniently just round the corner from the splendid Central Market. A trip here is enough to convince anyone that Adelaide is the true food capital of Australia. And bearing in mind that some of the best wine is made within an hour's drive of the city, from the Barossa Valley to McLaren Vale, you feel very indulged.
Adelaide is a much softer city than Sydney. It has charm, colonial history, sophistication and space to breathe. It's not called the City of Roses for nothing - there are lots of perfumed parks as well as wide boulevards.
Most beaches are half an hour away, but being creatures of habit, we always head for the Adelaide Hills and the foodie haven of Hahndorf. Here we lunch on superb venison pasta and salted caramel crepes at a quaint old cottage called The White House.
We then do a bit of wine-tasting in the scenic Hills and lovely McLaren Vale, arriving at the classy Currant Shed in time for supper. Set in a lime grove and bordered by vineyards, this is my husband's favourite restaurant in the world.
I've had a thing about cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail for some time. Indeed, part of the reason for coming to sunny South Australia was to tick it off my bucket list. So early one morning we drove 90 minutes north of Adelaide, picked up our bikes from Riesling Trail Bike Hire and cycled along a 15-mile-long disused railway, snaking past vineyards and cellar doors. The gradients were gentle, the information boards fascinating and the tongue-tingling rieslings superb.
We then treated ourselves to lunch at Skillogalee Winery, sat under a beautiful old olive tree and overlooking valleys lined with vines.
North of Clare is where the Outback truly begins. And that's where we were heading - to the rugged Flinders Ranges mountains. It took three hours to drive to the majestic range, the largest in South Australia.
The Flinders have a stark beauty - the light on the rocks, the vegetation, the bouncing kangaroos, all make you feel as if you're a million miles from civilisation.
We stayed at Arkaba Station, a 60,000-acre sheep ranch, from where we did incredible guided walks, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this astounding wild terrain.
If you want to do the Flinders in understated luxury, this is the way to do it. Think cream and wood with cashmere blankets, scenic vistas, 4x4 wildlife trips, wonderful meals and languid cocktails at sunset.
Sian found the scale of the machinery mind-blowing in Kalgoorlie's gold mine 'Super Pit'
And so to my husband's bucket list.
Having travelled on the glorious Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide last year, and enjoyed every magical minute, he was determined to travel on its sister train, the Indian Pacific, from Adelaide to Perth. Frankly, I can't think of any better way of seeing Australia. You are treated like royalty, the food is outstanding and the huge views of this beautiful, baked continent are breathtaking. Two nights of cruising overland in air-conditioned splendour - it worked for me!
As did the stop-offs, first at the Outback ghost town of Cook and finally at floodlit Kalgoorlie, the biggest open-cast gold mine in the country. The size and scale of the Super Pit and machinery were mindblowing. The same goes for the Nullarbor Plain which has hardly changed in millions of years. We crossed it on the longest stretch of straight rail track on earth - 297 miles without a hint of a curve.
We arrived at the Indian Pacific terminal in Perth as fresh as daisies, and drove the three hours to Margaret River without stopping. But this is where we realised we'd made a big mistake. This was our first visit to Western Australia and to tag it on to the end of our holiday just did not do the region justice.
From the first step we took on the Cape to Cape Explorer walk with our guide we knew we'd found exactly what we wanted. The landscape spelt out AUSTRALIA. The views of turquoise bays and stretches of white sand, dotted with surfers, were postcard-perfect.
Behind the beautiful Margaret River coastline, there are mysterious forests and caves. There's even a lighthouse where two mighty oceans meet. And then there are vineyards...
In less than 50 years, Margaret River has become one of the world's greatest wine regions, gaining accolades galore for its cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays. Not only are you spoilt for choice for wines, but the food is up there with the best.
Stand-out meals were the amazing breakfast at the luxury boutique hotel Cape Lodge, the special lunch hosted by the owners of Leeuwin Estate and the dreamy duck curry in the beautiful setting of Aravina Estate.
And how about sipping world famous Cullen red wine at the cellar door in the evening sunshine? This is the stuff memories are made of.
We fell in love with Margaret River. Our last two nights were spent in a gorgeous villa at Injidup Spa Retreat, a peaceful paradise overlooking the Indian Ocean. It was such a stunning spot, and we were so relaxed after our massages, that we did not want to go out for dinner.
Instead, we ordered hampers of local food from Lamonts Deli, along with bars of the local Bahen & Co Almond & Sea Salt chocolate, and ate splendidly at sunset on our terrace.
We toasted the sun, sand and surf and vowed to come back.