South Australia’s coastal capital city is a seductive mix of creativity, natural attractions, and laid-back spirit. Consequently, the best things to do in Adelaide are a crossover between the great outdoors and cultural hotspots.
Cocooned by numerous gardens, backed by the wildlife-teeming Adelaide Hills, and just moments from an extensive stretch of golden sand beaches, the city is easily bypassed in favor of the countryside or coast. This is even more true when you consider some of Australia’s finest wine regions are a short journey away.
However, as a city renowned for its forward-thinking nature and culturally rich festivals, Adelaide should not be overlooked. Here are 14 of the best things to do in and around the city.
Spot Kangaroos & Koalas at Cleland Wildlife Park
A vast natural habitat for animal conservation, Cleland Wildlife Park is home to many of Australia’s most famous and beloved native species. Just 20 minutes from the city, this glorious bushland space on the side of Adelaide Hills is one of South Australia’s top attractions for animal encounters.
Cleland’s residents include Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, wombats, and koalas, some of which have been rehoused here following recent devastating bushfires elsewhere.
Most animals roam free on the expansive grounds, allowing a natural environment to thrive, with more protected species in conservation enclosures.
As you explore the park, you’ll have the chance to spot the birds, reptiles, and marsupials that live here and even hand-feed some of them. Various talks, activities, and experiences, such as koala holds, are offered under the supervision of the expert staff, allowing for unforgettable memories.
Enjoy Exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia
Dive into the art scene of one of Australia’s most culturally significant cities at South Australia’s state art gallery, comprising one of the largest collections in the nation.
An eclectic array of temporary exhibitions compliments the expansive 47,000-strong permanent collection, making the gallery one of the top things to do in Adelaide. Prints, drawings, fashion, sculptures, and paintings make up most of the displays.
Local and national talent is well represented, including Indigenous art and an expansive Modernist and Impressionist array. The international collection also holds many treasures, from Japanese decorative arts to Islamic highlights, alongside European classics dating back to ancient Rome.
Browse the Boutiques of Adelaide Arcade
Opened to much fanfare in 1885, Adelaide Arcade is an ornate example of a heritage shopping mall. While the premium boutiques provide plenty of opportunities to buy quality goods, from specialist hats and pearls to Australian-inspired homeware, the real magic is the feeling of stepping back to a more regal time.
As you flit from cafés to crafts, the vast glass ceilings, patterned marble floors, and the arcade’s own coat of arms make for a perfect retail-therapy setting. The history of the arcade is both fascinating and elegant—at one time, it was even home to Turkish baths.
Set within the Rundle Mall pedestrian street area, something of a beating soul for fashion, food, and entertainment in Adelaide, you’ll find plenty of further high-end stores, both independent and international, moments from the arcade.
Sample Boutique Wines in The Barossa Valley
With so many prized wine regions in South Australia, it’s no surprise many of them have become some of Adelaide’s top attractions, given their proximity to the urban area.
The Barossa Valley, around one hour from the city, is one of Australia’s most famous wine provinces and, with seven generations of vintners, one of the oldest.
Many of Australia’s big-name producers are here, such as Jacob’s Creek, which offers bold pinot noirs and crisp sauvignon blancs at cellar door tastings.
For a more intimate experience, visit one of the smaller and more boutique producers, such as family-owned Rusden Wines or Charles Melton, for grenache-and-cheese pairings in a rustic setting.
To enjoy some beautiful views over the valley, pause at the Barossa Sculpture Park, and consider a detour to the Barossa Reservoir on your return to visit the “Whispering Wall”, where unique acoustics allow voices to travel across the dam, seemingly by magic.
Visit Historic Hahndorf Village
In the Adelaide Hills, around 30 minutes from the city center, the historic village-turned-town of Hahndorf is something rather special.
With German-style architecture due to settlement by Lutherans, the shady tree-lined streets and stonework buildings all add to the charm. While it might seem strange to enjoy a Bavarian-style lunch and a beer from a stein in the Hahndorf Inn, it’s all part of the experience.
The township has, however, evolved somewhat and is now a contemporary stretch of chic cafés, restaurants serving Aussie dishes, cellar door wine tastings, and artists’ studios.
Hahndorf is certainly an intriguing place to while away a few hours and see another side of South Australia’s heritage.
Appreciate Aboriginal Culture at the South Australian Museum
Founded in 1856 and spread across five floors and multiple buildings, the South Australian Museum offers an ever-changing program of temporary exhibitions alongside permanent collections.
Covering an array of subjects, from paleontology to polar exploration, the museum is one of the top cultural things to do in Adelaide. It also houses an extensive collection of Aboriginal cultural materials in the humanities area, allowing you to appreciate the rich tapestry of Aboriginal history through art, stories, and displays.
Tour the Adelaide Oval
During summer in Australia, crowds of fans flock to stadiums across the country in honor of the nation’s national sport, cricket.
Regarded as one of the best grounds in the country, Adelaide Oval has been home to many iconic moments in the country’s game, and a visit to the 50,000-person stadium is almost a rite of passage for lovers of the sport.
During the 90-minute tour, you’ll head behind the scenes to hear the defining stories of historical matches, get a closer look at the heritage-listed scoreboard, and gain access to areas usually closed to the public.
To experience a different side of the stadium, and some elevated panoramic views over the city, book the roof climb experience. As you head high above the grounds, across the Western Stand and riverbank platform at heights of 164 feet, you’ll perch on the rooftop seats before taking in the vistas in all directions.
Lounge on the Beach at Port Noarlunga
Being a coastal city, one of the best things to do in Adelaide is to slip away to the shore, and you’re spoilt for choice with more than 18 miles of beach.
While Glenelg Beach is the most popular for city dwellers and trendy Henley, with its well-heeled restaurants another great pick, venture a little further along the coast towards Port Noarlunga, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of quieter spots to lay out your towel.
From Port Noarlunga Jetty, you can access a lively reef for a spot of snorkeling at the end of the boardwalk. Head to Onkaparinga River Mouth View Point for some fantastic photos of the river meeting the ocean and swirling around the sands.
With cafés, bars, and grills dotted along the village’s streets, Port Noarlunga makes for a wonderful afternoon beach outing.
Find Silence at the State Library of South Australia
Bibliophiles should make a beeline for South Australia’s State Library, where they’ll find solace and silence in abundance. The Mortlock Wing, a mid-Victorian masterpiece of masonry columns, wrought-iron balconies, and a glass-domed roof, houses a vast collection of leather-bound books.
One of the most beautiful libraries in the country, if not the world, there are also permanent exhibitions to enjoy, both on the written word but also of sculptures, artworks, and Indigenous craft rugs.
Soak Up the Atmosphere of Adelaide Central Market
Since 1869, local traders have been serving fresh produce from this central location, long before the stones were laid for the current market in 1900.
Nowadays, the market has grown and evolved to some 70 strong traders. While much has changed internally, the essence of the market’s spirit remains, making it one of the best places in Adelaide to experience fresh produce and innovative gastronomy.
Colorful murals decorate the heritage building, while delis, artisanal stalls, and farmers’ markets dish out regional specialties, from figs and cherries to olive oil and quality cheeses.
If a picnic isn’t on your agenda, enjoy some time soaking up the atmosphere before settling in for a coffee or lunch in one of the cafés or restaurants around the market.
Wine & Dine in McLaren Vale
To the south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is a verdant playground of world-class winemakers and cellar door tastings, ideal for visiting wine enthusiasts.
Renowned for high-quality shiraz, cabernet, and grenache, European varieties are found in abundance here. Of the more than 150 wineries, around 70 offer cellar door tastings, with a bountiful selection of premium restaurants and more relaxed establishments offering pairing plates.
Between the rows of perfectly manicured vines, hospitable vintners, and farm-to-fork dining options, the McLaren Vale makes for the perfect lunch outing from Adelaide.
Maxwell Restaurant, with sublime views and seasonal local dishes, or the more casual menu at Harry’s Deli inside the historic Wirra Wirra winery, are flawless spots to pause and appreciate the surroundings.
Set Sail for Kangaroo Island
One of the largest islands off Australia’s mainland coast, the name gives a not-so-subtle clue as to the isle’s primary residents. As the ferry journey takes just 45 minutes, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up the more than 300 miles of dazzling coastline on a day trip from Adelaide.
Kangaroo Island is home to its own species of kangaroo, smaller and of a more mellow disposition than its mainland cousins. The chances of spotting one are high, with joeys (baby kangaroos) arrivals most prominent in the summer months.
A further wealth of wildlife lives here, thanks to a lack of predators, whether it’s fur seals lounging on the beach, or koalas, wallabies, and exotic birds in the conservation area. Beyond the relaxing, wave-lapped sands, boat tours offer the chance to look for dolphins frolicking in the clear turquoise waters.
Far from being just a remote natural outpost, Kangaroo Island offers a fine collection of South Australia’s culture. From the cluster of art galleries around Kingscote to maritime museums and heritage buildings, there’s plenty to draw you away from the coast—and, of course, a handful of wineries to round off the day with a cellar door tasting.
Relax in the City’s Parks & Gardens
One of the most pleasant things to do in Adelaide is to enjoy a walk through one of the 29 leafy parks. The Adelaide Botanic Garden has been a central part of this green city since 1857 and has expanded into a fascinating collection of spaces.
Venture inside the grand glass-fronted Palm House for the Madagascan collection, learn the history of plants in the Greek-inspired building house the Santos Museum of Economic Botany, and be astonished at the enchanting displays in the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion.
For something a little different, head to Park 18, where the Japanese Himeji Garden is a tranquil getaway from the city’s streets. Dedicated to Adelaide’s sister city, this is a place where you can soothe your senses to the trickling of water alongside the koi lake and relax among traditional architecture and flora.
Enjoy Panoramas From Mount Lofty
For the best panoramas over the city and coast, head to the Adelaide Hills section of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Around a 20-minute drive from the city center, the Mount Lofty Summit peaks at 2,385 feet above sea level, offering blissful views as you climb the tracks to the lookout point.
Awash with native fauna and flora that Australia is known for, this is a great spot in which to explore the bushland trails. Witness the impressive tumbling cascade of Waterfall Gully, one of many in the park, before finding serenity at Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens.
As you roam the gardens, breathe in the sweet scent of the Heritage Rose Garden, ramble among the high-climbing foliage in Fern Gully, and admire contemporary sculptures by award-winning Greg Johns. The waterside trail is particularly tranquil to stroll, spotting artworks along the tree-lined lake.
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