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16 Exciting Things to Do in Adelaide

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Adelaide is a city bursting with excitement. Known for its culinary scene with bold flavors and prepared with fresh produce, myriad of festivals and events held year round, abundance of cultural experiences, blissful beaches, and access to the rolling hills of the wine region, you can be sure there are tons of things to do in Adelaide.

Although being a metropolitan city, it boasts a laid-back atmosphere and has a small community charm that you won’t find in many other cities in Australia.

Its central position also makes it ideal for exploring more of the South Australia region, from scenic drives along the Great Ocean Road to hopping over the ocean to Kangaroo Island.

It can be challenging working out what to do in Adelaide, simply because there are so many options available to you.

To help you out, we’ve prepared this complete guide on the best attractions, plus how to get around, when to visit and more.

Is Adelaide Worth Visiting?

But first, is Adelaide worth visiting? You might be on the fence about putting Adelaide on your Australia itinerary, simply because there’s so much to see and do around Adelaide, that the city itself might not appeal.

Allow me to persuade you otherwise for a moment. Adelaide is often referred to as the ‘forgotten’ city of Australia or considered ‘for the old fogies,’ because it used to be more about food and wine country than hip bars and entertainment.

That’s all changed though, and in recent years the events scene in Adelaide has really boomed and there’s now always something happening.

Adelaide is also one of the greenest cities in the world, the most affordable city in Australia, and the locals have a huge passion for sports and the arts.

It’s also sometimes called ‘The 20 minute city’ because everything is within 20-minutes or less of the city centre – who wouldn’t love that? Best of all, there’s minimal traffic problems in Adelaide.

Things to Do in Adelaide

1. Take in a game of cricket at Adelaide Oval

Adelaide Oval at night

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Australia, and the Adelaide Oval is widely considered the best pitch in the world by players.

It’s also one of the few places where you can still sit ‘on the hill’ and have a picnic, like you can at Wimbledon in the UK.

What’s more is that you can watch not just local Australian teams but global teams as well, in both the men’s and women’s leagues.

Adelaide Oval also hosts AFL, rugby and Australian football games.

2. Spend an evening at Henley Beach

seagul on pier at henley beach in adelaide

Henley Beach is a beautiful clean beach that not many tourists frequent (they seem to head to dirty Glenelg), which is why we always recommend people to check it out.

As well as the beach, the area is vibrant and alive with activity. It has a laid-back, mellow ambiance and is known for having some of the best upscale seafood restaurants in Adelaide.

It’s also becoming quite artsy, with many quirky shops and boutiques opening up in the area.

3. Take a wine tour

people holding drinks and smiling
Wine tasting in the Barossa

Adelaide locals are mad about their wine and know that theirs is the best in Australia – take that Victoria!

I recommend either arranging for a short-stay in one of the wine regions, such as the iconic Barossa Valley (but there are 18 regions to choose from whether you want to be near the water or close to the city), or you can take a wine tour as a day trip.

The wine tours are great if you’re short on time as they hit the best wineries and cellar doors, and there’s a knowledgeable guide to give you an overview of how wine is grown, what makes the region special for wine growing, and the history of wine making. And you get to taste the wines, of course.

Read more: Amazing food and Wine Experiences Barossa Valley

4. Meet the locals at Cleland National Park

a koala in a tree
See koala’s and other Australian wildlife at Cleland Wildlife Park

If you want to see some of Australia’s native wildlife, as well as plants, flora and fauna, head to the Adelaide Hills to the Cleland Conservation Park.

Here you can see kangaroos and koalas up close in their native habitat. The area of bushland has miles of hiking and cycling trails, with amazing views and taking you past majestic waterfalls such as Waterfall Gully.

It’s also where you can hike to the most famous mountain in the region, Mount Lofty.

If you don’t want to hike and you just want to see the animals, you can visit Cle­land Wildlife Park, which has many native animals, mostly without enclosures. You can see koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, and some lesser known creatures like bettongs and potoroos.

5. Explore the River Torrens

River Torrens cruise in adelaide

The River Torrens runs through the heart of the city. It’s small, at only 85 kilometres (53 miles) from its source in the Adelaide Hills, all the way to West Beach, but there’s plenty going on.

Head over to Elder Park, an urban park with lawns and a fountain, where you can unpack a picnic or attend an open air festival.

You can also rent a paddle boat for some fun, or take the Popeye River Cruise.

6. Eat Haigh’s Chocolate

Haigh’s Factory on Greenhill Road is an artisan chocolate maker where you can see chocolates being made and taste samples.

This South Australian has been making chocolate since 1915, making them the oldest family-owned chocolate maker in Australia.

Now in its fourth generation, Haigh’s Chocolates are still as popular as ever, and you can even take free guided tours of their factory from Monday to Saturday.

If you just want to taste their products, there is a shop in Rundle Mall.

7. Kayak the Dolphin Sanctuary

dolphin in water

Another native animal that calls Adelaide home is the bottlenose dolphin. While you can take cruises out to see them from Victor Harbour, a unique way to see wild dolphins is to kayak through the protected waters of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.

As you glide through the ancient mangrove forests, you will learn all about these mammals and their home, and hopefully see a pod of dolphins come to say hello.

You don’t need to have kayaked before to do this tour, but you should be moderately fit.

8. Wander Around Victor Harbour

Victor Harbour in Adelaide

Victor Harbour is a small town to the East of Adelaide CBD, and is well known for its horse drawn carriage rides over to Granite Island, its colony of wild fairy penguins, and cute markets.

Just two hours drive out of Adelaide, it’s a great little town to explore when you want to escape the city.

Ride the Cockle Train, a steam locomotive, to nearby Goolwa, or take a whale watching cruise of Encounter Bay from the harbour

If you enjoy hiking, there’s a lovely hike from Fleurieu Peninsula to Cape Jervis.

Victor Harbor is a popular in summer, especially with locals who own beach-side properties.

9. Take a Day Trip (or longer) to Kangaroo Island

A seal on the beach

Kangaroo Island was made famous by Oprah, who visited the island back in 2010 and featured it on her chat show.

Known as “Australia’s Galapagos,” Kangaroo Island is a wildlife paradise. It’s home to wild sea-lions, koalas, little penguins and of course, a few kangaroos.

Kangaroo Island is the perfect place to visit all year round. You can see a lavender farm, watch a birds of prey display, or taste the local produce, there’s plenty to do on this island.

10. Explore the Neighborhoods in Adelaide

Hahndorf in Adelaide

One of my favorite ways to get to know a city is to walk around (or bike) the neighborhoods and suburbs and see what you discover. One of my favorite neighborhoods is Hahndorf, the oldest Germany community in Australia. Hahndorf hasn’t lost all of it’s old-style architecture or fun.

Wander along the main street and get a proper German stout at the Hahndorf Inn, shop for leather or wood-crafts in the boutique stores, eat some lebkuchen (that is, gingerbread) or other traditional German cakes at the bakery.

If you have time I highly recommend you walk or take the bus one stop out-of-town to the Beerenberg Farm. The jams and condiments made by Beerenberg can be found around Australia and internationally, and if it’s strawberry season you can pick your own berries to enjoy.

beach in adelaide

Glenelg is connected to the city by Adelaide’s free trams (and the historic carriages on the weekends), and is where you’ll find Adelaide’s busiest beach. Personally, I’d choose to visit Henley Beach if you want to escape the crowds and have clean sands, but you can’t go past the restaurants, bars, shopping and nightlife in Glenelg.

Henley Beach is Glenelg’s cleaner and quieter cousin. It has white sands, volleyball courts, and quality restaurants and cafes – alongside the local fish&chip and yiros/souvlaki stores. It’s quite an artsy places with plenty of galleries along Seaview Road popping up and a weekend organic market.

Rundle Street East is another cool place to check out. Located in Adelaide’s city centre, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for boutique stores or a range of pubs and plenty of great places to eat. Be sure to check out the laneways as there are more art galleries, more restaurants and more shops than just on the main road!

Chinatown on Gouger Street is also a great place to go for street food and Asian cuisine.

11. Hit the Local Markets and Shops

woman eating chocolate strawberries Adelaide central market
Yum!

My personal favourite type of shopping is through little boutiques and King William Road, Hyde Park and Rundle Street East take the cake for choices. King William Road can be a little higher priced but check out Wild Child for a great range, though sizes do run small.

Rundle Street has big name bands like Australian designer Lisa Ho and Zimmerman to favourite miss gladys sym choon and alternative chain, Dangerfield. There are also some quirky boutiques in the backstreets including Mid-West Traders.

a shoe store
Go shopping at Miss Gladys Sym Choon on Rundle Street East

Adelaide love their markets, but the one closest to our heart has to be Adelaide Central Market. Open Monday to Saturday the restaurant is home to fresh produce from across the state, an array of boutique stalls, as well as a camera store and second-hand book seller. If you want a quick, cheap, fresh bite then this is the place to go.

Adelaide also has a Farmers Market at the Wayville Showgrounds. Farmers from across the state come every Sunday to sell their produce and cut out the middle man, meaning you get great tasting produce and get to support farmers from around the state. There’s everything from fruit & veg to baked goods, bottled cordials and small goods.

If fashion and design are more your style then the Gillies Street Market, which happens twice a month, will be a winner with you. Find your inner vintage goddess amongst live music and food stalls.

Taste cordials and lots more at the Adelaide Farmers Market at Wayville Showgrounds

12. Attend An Event or Festival in Adelaide

Adelaide has plenty of events and festivals throughout the year. January plays host to the Tour Down Under. Forgiving all the locals who will done lycra and think they are the next Cadel Williams, Adelaide puts on a good show.

Think outdoor parties by the Torrens River, a big parade welcoming the athletes, 7-days of intense racing through the best areas of South Australia, and of course – street parties, the chance for many of the neighborhoods that riders will start/finish in to host a party and celebrate what’s best in that area.

For four weeks during February and March is when Australia’s largest arts event, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, comes to town. Similar to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Adelaide opens its doors to artists from around the world to share their art forms – cabaret, comedy, circus, dance, film, theatre, puppetry, music, visual art and design.

people dancing
Adelaide Fringe Festival is a flurry of dance, cabaret, circus and comedy – favourite show has to go to ‘Hans’

The Clipsal 500 happens at the beginning of a busy March. V8 supercars turn the cities East into a race track. It’s not just the V8 Supercars that will take to the track as the GT championship is back in 2013, as well as playing host to the Dunlop racing series.

WOMADelaide, the dance, music and arts festival is held in mid-March. A unique music experience runs over four days in the cities Botanic Park and show cases performances and workshops by the best traditional and contemporary musicians, dancers and DJs.

WOMADelaide also has a very cool ‘Taste the World’ cooking program and environmental discussion forum, and supports a number of charitable causes. Best of for families, all kids 12 and under get free entry into the festival!

The Adelaide Festival, an arts festival which runs alongside the Fringe Festival in March, and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June.

13. Go To Light’s Vision at Montefiore Hill for Excellent Views

a statue
Enjoy the view over Adelaide from Light’s Vision

If you want a view of Adelaide city, a great place for a picnic or somewhere to go ice blocking (yes, you sit on a rug on a huge piece of ice and hurtle down a hill!) then I recommend visiting Light’s Vision.

Light’s Vision is a quiet lookout point on Montefiore Hill, that was built as a stage for the life-size bronze statue of Colonel William Light, Adelaide’s founding father.

The park also has amazing views of the city skyline.

14. Visit State Library of South Australia and Adelaide Botanic Gardens

The Mortlock Wing Library of South Australia

The State Library of South Australia is not just a library, but a museum containing many important documents and artefacts of the State’s history. Composed of three buildings, the library is not only full of treasures but an architectural gem too.

The Spence Wing is the main hub and has the reference library, information desk, and cafe. It’s a more modern section of the library and is characterized by its glass paneled walls.

The Mortlock Wing is the more historic part of the library and is where you’ll find most of the exhibitions. The Sir Josiah Symon Library on level 3 is well worth checking out.

They have many events and temporary exhibitions throughout the year, from book talks to workshops and educational programmes.

Behind the Library is the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, which spans for 51-hectares. This public garden has more than 1 million species of plants and receives more than 2 million visitors a year.

You can take free guided walks through the gardens or explore at your own pace.

15. Visit the Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of South Australia

This is the most important art museum in South Australia, dating back to 1881. It contains a collection of more than 47,000 pieces of artwork dating back more than 2,000 years.

It has many pieces of British antiquities, as well as some Renaissance artwork and European artefacts.

It was the first state gallery to acquire work by an Aboriginal artist.

16. Tour the Parliament House

Parliament House Adelaide

Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia, and if you’re interested in history and heritage buildings, you can tour the Parliament building between 10am and 2pm on weekdays when parliament is not in session.

You can only visit on a guided tour and are free of charge.

Where to Eat & Drink in Adelaide

Adelaide is well known for its culinary delights, so if you’re wanting to taste the best local produce and best flavors of Adelaide, then here are some restaurants we can recommend:

  • Lenzerheide – celebrating Adelaide’s abundant fresh food and Swiss/Austrian cuisine, the Lenzerheide has taken home a slew of awards, including ‘Best European Restaurant’. Located 10 minutes out of the city the restaurant is easy to get to by public transport or car. I highly recommend the potato & leek soup and the chateaubriant (roasted beef tenderloin) at this somewhat pricey, but worth it, restaurant.
  • Estia – If you took my advice and headed to Henley Beach then Estia is the restaurant I’d recommend you dine at. Greek cuisine in Henley Square, tapas or single servings, a laid-back family atmosphere, and the sounds of the beach in the background – do I need to say more? I recommend the Tis Skaras Arnaki (marinated grilled chicken) and loukoumathes (honey puffs) for dessert.
  • Dumpling King – A student favourite in China town. Cheap, cheerful, and tasty Chinese food on a budget. The dumplings aren’t standout but when you’re paying AU$6 for a plate of 15, I’m not complaining. Top picks are the pork dumplings and the silver thread loaf.
  • Cibo Espresso – Alright, I’m not much for chains but in Adelaide Cibo does coffee best. Located through the city and metropolitan area and expanding rapidly into Queensland and other Australian states, their coffee knocks all of the competition out of the water.
  • Vilis Pies & Bakery – Vili’s is an Australian icon and it started business in Adelaide. Forget fast food if your hungry at night, Vili’s Café’ which is just outside the city on Manchester St, Mile End is the place to go for a meat pie and frog cake. It’s not just the pies and cakes we love, the owner – Vili Milisits – is an icon around Adelaide who doesn’t let it get to his head by participating in on air pranks (he has his own rap!) and most days you’ll find him manning the fryer in the café.
  • Zambreros – gourmet Mexican food. I’m talking close to foot-long burritos burritos made in front of you. There are two great things about Zambreros: 1. they’re open late. 2. They can serve beer and tequila!
a building
The Austral – a great pub on Rundle Street East

For the best places to drink, here are some of the local’s favorite hangouts…

  • Cooper’s Brewery – Located in Mile End, the brewery offers tours of the enormous factory that makes SA’s favourite beer.
  • The Duke (of York) – Cheap pizzas throughout the week, a beer garden out the back and DJ + dance floor upstairs Thursday til Sunday makes it the perfect place to hang and have a good time.
  • Zhivago – One of Adelaide’s most edgy nightclubs, Zhivago is one of the hottest places to be and perfect for the inner hipster.
  • The Austral – if you want a pub, a real pub, with a pub atmosphere, the Austral on Rundle Street East is the place that you need to go. Three areas, a few video games, seating out the front and a bar – what more do you need?

Getting To and Around Adelaide

Adelaide is a big city and serviced by all Australian airlines (Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar), including many regional ones.

Getting from the airport to the city is easy. While there isn’t a metro to the city, there is a metro bus, which is like a shuttle bus service.

There are several bus routes that run from the airport to the city. Depending on where you are staying in the city, you may want the J1 bus or the J1A – typically, the “J” buses all connect Adelaide Airport to the city. You can view timetables here.

If you prefer the scenic route, Adelaide is the heart of many of the overland train journeys offered by Great Southern Rail. Take the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide via Alice Springs, The Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth via Adelaide, the Overland from Melbourne to Adelaide, or the Southern Spirit from Brisbane to Adelaide via Melbourne.

Trains get into the station at Mile End, and though only minutes from the city, I recommend you take a taxi or catch a public bus from Richmond Road. The best regional bus operators in Australia are Greyhound Australia and Firefly.

When it comes to getting around Adelaide, it’s pretty easy to walk around the city center between the main sites, or you can take the free connector bus. There is also a free tram that connects the main attractions in the CBD.

If you’re heading to Glenelg, from one side of the city to the other, King William Road, or the Entertainment Centre, I recommend you take the tram. It’s one route so easy to get on or off, and if you’re travelling through the city its free!

If you plan to explore more of South Australia, or want to visit the Barossa Valley or head over to Kangaroo Island, I recommend you hire a car. It will be much quicker and more convenient than trying to navigate the regional buses.

Best Time of Year to Visit Adelaide

people sitting on grass
Henley Beach is stunning in the summer time!

Little tip from a local, the best time of year to visit Adelaide is between January and March (Autumn). Not only will you get the best weather, with temperatures on average between 10°C at night to 26°C in the day, but it’s when Adelaide comes alive with festivals and events.

It’s also the harvest season, which given that Adelaide is famous for its surrounding farmland and countryside, providing the city with the freshest produce, is the perfect time for foodies to visit the city.

Where to Stay in Adelaide

If you’re looking for a central location that’s budget friendly my top choice would be Adelaide Central YHA. Located in Light Square it’s a two blocks to Rundle Mall – Adelaide’s main shopping strip and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby.

If you’re after luxury in Adelaide then you can’t go past the Intercontinental Adelaide. On North Terrace, you are a stone throw away from Adelaide’s main sights – the Torrens River, Rundle Mall, the museums, and even Adelaide Zoo!

If you are wanting a beachside getaway be sure to enquire about Oaks Glenelg Liberty Suites and Oaks Glenelg Plaza Pier Suites at Glenelg. One is on the water and Marina whilst the other is one street back. Offering larger apartment-style rooms it is a great choice for families looking to stretch out and relax.

If boutique is more your style then check out the The Soho Hotel. Slick, sexy and modern, the Soho Hotel is perfect boutique hotel for a couple’s getaway.

Final Thoughts

woman feeding kangaroos

Adelaide has the beaches people travel to Sydney for, the arts and culture of Melbourne, plenty of great food, and a laid back attitude of a small town within a city.

It’s within a stone’s throw of the wine growing region, it’s a ferry ride to Kangaroo Island for wildlife adventures, and it easily connects to one of the greatest scenic drive in Australia – The Great Ocean Road.

Adelaide is essentially a brilliant blend of everything you need and want in a city, and by now I hope you’ve realized just how much there is to see and do here, and have been inspired to add a few of these things to your to-do list.

Tours in Adelaide

More South Australia Travel Tips

Need more inspiration for traveling across South Australia? Here are some other helpful posts!

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What are you most excited to do in Adelaide? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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