Adelaide is known for a few things, for being the city of churches, its excellent cultural heritage and thriving food and wine culture. Besides that, it is also the greenest city in Australia with its city centre surrounded by parklands. Although Adelaide is the gateway to many great trip adventures trip to Kangaroo Island or Ayers Rock, it is often underestimated by travellers who don't plan enough time to see all the beautiful places in and around Adelaide. Indeed, it has so many attractions, outdoor activities and natural beauty to offer, within a short distance from the city centre.
In 2014 Lonely Planet added the capital city of South Australia to the Top 10 Cities in the world to visit and later in 2017 South Australia made it to no. 5 as the best region to travel in the world.
On this article, you learn what to do in Adelaide from my solo traveller point of view. I'm showing you fun and best things to do in Adelaide, by day and night.
Top 20 Things to do in Adelaide
I have been on 4 different trips over 15 years and have fond memories of Adelaide, it is in fact in the Adelaide Hills, that I first got the inspiration to write about my solo adventures in Australia and this is where I decide to create Rocky Travel Blog.
Here are my favourite things to do in Adelaide city that are fun and free.
Walk the Rundle Mall for some serious shopping
This is the first thing do to when you arrive in the city. Take a relaxing walk in the city heart. Either window shopping or watching people the Rundle Mall is the place to hang out. This is the heart of Adelaide, where the city vibe takes place. Take a stroll through the iconic Adelaide Arcade and stop at Australia's most famous heritage Haigh's Chocolate Shop. Continue your walk further down the main street for quirky shops, trendy cafes, evening pubs with live music and good restaurants. Adelaide is known for shopping. If you are looking to buy jewellery and the beautiful Sout Sea Pearls, Adelaide Rundle Mall boasts the best shops in Australia.
Gon on a Cultural Trail of the North Terrace
The North Terrace is a pleasant walk not far from the city centre that encompasses a cultural precinct and many attractions within a short distance. Starting from the eastern side, close to the botanical gardens, walk past the Migration Museum and the South Australian Museum, the South Australian University, the State Library, which is a relaxing place with exhibitions and many reading rooms.
The South Australian Museum has the largest exhibition of Aboriginal Art Gallery that showcases natural science, a large historical collection as well as ancient Egyptian over 5 levels of displays. If you plan to choose one museum, I'd suggest going to the Art Gallery of South Australia, definitely one of the best places to spend your time in an afternoon. If you are interested in art, there are many interesting temporary exhibitions along with permanent ones. The AGSA showcases nearly 40 thousand artworks and the entrance is free.
Explore the Adelaide Parklands
There are 29 parks in Adelaide, and they are all different. From rose gardens to Japanese gardens to old olive groves and exotic trees. All gardens have a bitumen cycle and walk pathway. Take the Parklands Trail around the city to view the Botanic Gardens, Adelaide Gaol and Bonython Park, a great place along the river with playgrounds, BBQ facilities and adjacent to the Golf Course. The River Torrens Linear Park is the largest hills-to-coast park in Australia, that takes you from Tea Tree Plaza to the north of the city to Henley Beach.
Here are my favourite city walks and bike rides in Adelaide.
Bike Ride through Rymill Park
Biking is a great and free way to explore Adelaide city and see its beautiful parklands and sights. Hop on a free Adelaide city bike and set off exploring its CBD. There are 10 hire points around the city from where you can hire a bike for free. I did several bike rides and loved cycling through Rymill Park in Adelaide. Check out the website where to hire a free bike in Adelaide.
Here a photo of me cycling in Rymill Park.
The Adelaide Botanic Gardens
The Botanical Gardens are located on the eastern end of the North Terrace, a few minutes walk from the city centre. The entrance is free and there are also free walking tours at 10.30 am. The Adelaide Botanic gardens are worth seeing on a sunny day or for a break from the city buzz or combined with the cultural walk in North Terrace. Don't miss out on visiting the newly restored Palm Lake and the beautiful Aboriginal Artworks display, they are a unique attraction.
Dive into the Himeji Gardens
If you love gardens you must not miss out on a stroll through the charming and unique Himeji Gardens. This Japanese Garden is in the southern part of Adelaide and it was established in 1982 to seal the sister-partnership between Adelaide and the heritage city of Himeji. The garden blends features of profound significance in the Japanese culture: the “Senzui” with lake and water and the “Kare Senzui” with rocks and dry to celebrate the beauty of nature. It's a special experience to walk through the 13 spots of the Japanese Himeji Gardens. They are open every day and the entrance is free. However, you can also book a guided tour for a small fee. More info here.
Spend Time in Glenelg
Glenelg is a must-see when in Adelaide. It is, in fact, one of the most relaxing places to see throughout the year. From the heart of the city hop-on on the Glenelg Tram and head down to the beach. I suggest getting off the tram a few stops before Moseley Square to browse through the interesting shops and trendy cafes on the main road. Once in the town centre, check out the visitor centre for the latest news and to grab some brochures. If you are an art lover, don't miss out on the Glenelg Art Gallery, and a stroll on the pier jetty at sunset before heading back to Adelaide. If you have a little bit more time to spend, you can plan a sailing tour to swim and play with dolphins, the tour starts from the Holdfast promenade. And if you travel with family and kids you'll find a stunning entertainment park at the Beach House a complex packed with waterslides and more fun games. For sure, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Glenelg.
Go for a Morning Walk to Henley beach
I love Henley Beach. While first-time travellers tend to prefer Glenelg Beach, which is good for shopping, its cafes and its playgrounds, I find Glenelg touristy, whereas Henley beach is a place where locals hang out on a weekend, for a morning walk or a bike ride along the beach promenade. You can also take the tram to Henley beach or hire a bike from the Adelaide city centre and cycle down, about 20 km on cycling paths, to the beach. Enjoy the sunset and chill out at the many beach-front bars, cafes and trendy dining venues. This is a relaxing thing to do in Adelaide after dark.
Cherish the Adelaide Central Market
The Adelaide Market is an institution and probably no. 1 among all Adelaide attractions. A colourful place filled with a great atmosphere. An authentic celebration of local produce and cuisine: from home-grown fruits, vegetables, native meats, cheese, bread, to an array of local seasonal delicacies. This is also a classic thing to do. You will love browsing through the stalls, enjoying coffee, breakfast and lunch. On Saturdays, there are food tastings, with stalls and shops offering free tastings of local produce. Get there early.
A great way to enjoy the Adelaide Central Market is to join a Market Walking Tour. I went on a 3-hour morning walking tour and loved it. Don't miss out on Lucia's Place and have a lovely cappuccino with zeppole (bakery's specialities).
Bonus Tip: Get there early morning to have a relaxed breakfast, as the place gets packed with visitors and locals alike. The Adelaide Central Market is open from Tuesday to Saturday. Check the opening times here.
Take a Walking Food Tour of the Central Market
If you are interested in food and finding out the best restaurants where to eat in Adelaide you may want to go on a food tour. Either coffee and chocolate, food and bar tours, in Adelaide there is a good offering of walking food tours with a specific angle. Check out this page with all Food Tours in Adelaide
Explore The Market Shed – Adelaide's Sunday Market
On Sundays morning there are an array of markets in Adelaide that you can check out and the choice is hard. From Farmers Markets to Vintage Fashion and Antiques and more. My pick is the Market Shed on Holland Street. I don't think there is anything like this in Australia, exclusively dedicated to organic produce.
There are a few stalls selling fruits and vegetables, but mainly they are shops and cafes preparing food on the spot. If you (like me) love organic, wholefood, vegetarian and vegan food, that's the place to be! Try the vegan paella or the vegan pizza, they are sensational. Definitely another a must if you are visiting Adelaide on a weekend.
Enjoy Adelaide at Night on a Pub Crawl
Adelaide has got some great pubs with excellent atmosphere. A pub crawl is one of the things to do at night in Adelaide. The best street for pubs is Rundle Street, King William close to the South Terrace, Flinders Street, Hutt Street. In most pubs, you can eat. Some have live music on certain days, usually Thursday, Friday and weekends. Try the Colonist Pub, in Norwood, a great place with beautiful artworks and paintings hanging on the walls. The highlight is the quirky chandelier made of ice (yes it's a real piece of solid ice) hanging in the main room. If you are looking for a great vibe with a quirky place, the Colonist Pub is the right one!
Day Trips and Things to do Around Adelaide
One good thing about Adelaide is that there are many valleys near the city and many sights nearby that you can easily access, without having to drive long distances. In less than one hour you can go to McLaren Vale and to Barossa Valley. In one and half hour you can drive further south of Adelaide to Victor Harbour and Port Elliot.
Take the Bus to Stirling and Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills
One great thing to do on a weekend in Adelaide is to take the bus 864 from the CBD and head to Stirling. It's about 30 minutes drive. Stirling is a beautiful village nestled at the base of the Adelaide Hills with excellent places to eat, the Organic Market Cafe where you can spend hours. There is also a great market in Stirling on the fourth Sunday of every month.
From there you can continue your day tour to the German town of Hahndorf and take a walk along the beautiful tree-lined main road. Check out the art galleries, and the quirky shops like the Menz Fruchoc's shop. Finally end your day with the best local food at the German Arms, an iconic pub hotel in South Australia where you can have a schnitzel, wurst and lots of German beer. If you love farmers markets, check the calendar, there is a community market on the fourth Saturday every month. If you are an art lover, a must-see is the Hahndorf Academy Gallery.
Head up to Mount Lofty
If you plan to spend some time in the Adelaide Hills you must head up to Mount Lofty as is on the way to Stirling and it's the perfect way to end your day trip. You will need to hire a car in Adelaide because there is no public transportation that serves this area. Mount Lofty is a great vantage point with a spectacular view of South Adelaide. And if you are visiting on Thursdays take advantage of the free Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens guided walks. If you are a keen walker, then this is the place for beautiful walking trails through the Adelaide hills to Cleland and its surroundings.
Get up close with wildlife in Cleland Conservation Park and Monarto Zoo
Another thing you can do on your day trip to the Adelaide Hills is to tie in a visit to the Cleland Conservation Park and the Monarto Zoo. If you like to get up close to animals in a natural habitat don't miss out on them. They are conservation parks just outside the city, that offers visitors an authentic experience with close encounters to wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, emus, the Tasmanian devils and more Australian native animals. They are both open space and natural areas, but there is an entry fee. Monarto Zoo is one hour drive in the eastern valley of Adelaide. Cleland Conservation Park is 30 minutes drive from the city and is served by public transportation too.
Visit McLaren Vale and the Fleurieu Peninsula
I believe the Fleurieu Peninsula is one of the most beautiful and overlooked regions of South Australia. Only 45 minutes south of Adelaide Mc Lare Vale offers a wealth of places worth seeing. From the Onkaparinga National Park to the rugged beaches of Maslin and Aldinga, to the inland local producers and wineries. I'd recommend spending an entire day touring the region, either on a self-drive or on a guided trip. I have done this trip alone, by car, and also on a day tour.
Gon on a Barossa Valley Wine Tour
If you like wine, then you must plan one day out North East of Adelaide to the Barossa Valley and indulge with some of the finest wines of the region. I went on one day Barossa Wine Tour, visited 5 wineries, drove through picturesque villages and characteristic places. This is the oldest and historic area for growing wine and local produce in Adelaide and also a top region for premium wines in Australia. According to wine connoisseurs, it's estimated to a top region for wine in Australia. You can travel by yourself by hiring a car or if you want to take a day of rest, join one of the many Food & Wine Tours of Barossa Valley. I went on a day tour and can recommend this Barossa Food & Wine Tour.
Here you can read about my tour review experience.
Drive to Victor Harbour and Port Elliot
This is another great place to see around Adelaide, or maybe can be included in your Kangaroo Island trip. It is located south-east, about 45 km from Cape Jervis (ferry to K.I.). You will need to hire a car and plan a whole day to visit Victor Harbour and Port Elliot. They are beautiful coastal villages offering excellent places to surf, swimming beaches, fishing and also the opportunity to go on a whale watching tour (in season). Port Elliot is smaller than Victor Harbour but in my opinion more interesting and less touristy, with an array of quirky shops selling anything from arts and crafts to antiques and local hand made things.
If you don't fancy self-driving check this page with all day-Tours from Adelaide.
Visit Adelaide during a Festival
I am sure there more things to do and places to see in Adelaide. As you may know, the city is known as the city of festivals, so if you can try to visit one of the world-known Adelaide Festivals. While it gets very busy, you will need to plan and book well ahead. The Adelaide Festival and the WOMAdelaide Festival, are held in March every year and are two among the most known festivals in the city.
There are over 20 festivals from cultural, sports to food & wine events throughout the year. The best way to check the site for all festivals in Adelaide.
Where to eat in Adelaide
Adelaide is known for its great local food and excellent wines. Its mild climate makes it to the right place for dining out throughout the year. In the city, there is a good mix of bars, pubs along with fine restaurants and cafés. The best streets for fine dining in Adelaide are Rundle Street, O’Connell Sreet, Gouger Street and Grote Sreet for Asian eateries. Hutt Street further in the Eastern part of the city is great for brunch and breakfast.
Adelaide is famous for having the freshest oysters and prawns of Australia. I did not like oysters until I tried the oysters from the Eyre Peninsula. They are delicious! I can highly recommend eating fish in Adelaide and tasting some of the exquisite food of Australia.
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This post was last updated in April 2020