15 Things to do in Adelaide

downtown adelaide  

According to Lonely Planet, Adelaide, South Australia is one of top ten cities to visit in 2014 and wow, we're already here! The Huffington Post refers to Adelaide as “much to offer; too seldom visited”. It's kind of out of the way, I guess, and people usually think of Sydney or Melbourne when they think of Australian cities to visit, but there's plenty to do here and much of it is free.

We found the city and its suburbs delightful and though we never get to “see it all”, we can recommend the following.

1. Take a walking tour

Adelaide is a good walking city. There's street art, beautiful historic buildings interspersed with new high rises and lots of parks and statuary to take in. We use Lonely Planet Australia for ideas of what to see, where to go, and what not to miss. Once downtown, however, it's easy to stop at the friendly Visitor Info Centers for loads of free brochures, maps, train and bus scheds, etc. There's a free circulator bus that runs around the downtown CBD on the half hour … pick up a schedule and rest your dogs if you get tired of walking.

2. Mount Lofty

Mount Lofty is the highest point in the southern mountain range and offers great views of the city below. There's a restaurant, a gift shop and several walking trails which lead to or from Cleland Wildlife Park and the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens. Admission is free. There is access by city bus, but it's not convenient, nor is it frequent. It's probably easier to get a lift, hire a car or take a tour.


mt lofty


3. Cleland Wildlife Park

We really enjoyed this wildlife park dedicated to native Australian animals. There are minimal enclosures and close up encounters with the animals is the norm, not the exception. Pet a kangaroo or a wallaby, get personal with an emu, hug a koala and let potoroos scamper between your feet. Birds, reptiles, Tasmanian devils, dingoes … all those critters you've heard about, but rarely see … and a few you've never even heard of. Admission is $20/pp. There's lots of room for picnicking and wandering.


cleland bird


4. South Australian Museum

The museum's collection of Aboriginal and South Pacific Islander artifacts is outstanding. Though there's much more, we thought this was the highlight. Admission is free.


south australian museum


5.  Enjoy a festival

South Australia is the Festival State and there always seems to be something going on. While we visited, we enjoyed Australia Day celebrations, the finish of the Santos Tour Down Under Bike Race and Chinese New Year. The big fests start in February and March and stretch out throughout the year … The Fringe, WOMAdelaide, Cabaret, Film Fest, International Guitar Fest.

6. Gallery of South Australia

A wonderful collection of Australian, Aboriginal and Asian art and so much more ... all in one beautiful building. Wander through gallery after spacious gallery. Cool off and get some culture at the same time. Admission is free.

7. Central Market

Just off Victoria Square in downtown Adelaide, this is the place where the locals go to buy fresh produce, cheese, meat, fish. You name it … they got it at the Central Market. It's fun just walking around, but there are plenty of opportunities for coffee, lunch and samples. All free … except what you buy, of course. Check hours … they're closed Sundays and Mondays.

8. Chinatown

Right next door to the Central Market on Moonta Street, walk through the paifang (entry gate) and you're in another world. Chinese groceries, lots of restaurants and shops. All free for the wandering.


paifang gate


9. Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Right downtown in Adelaide's parklands lie these historic botanic gardens. We especially enjoyed the lotus pond, the three glass houses and the Santos Museum of Economic Botany, but there's much, much more to see and appreciate depending on the time of year. Lots of native birds hang out here for obvious reasons. Listen for the iconic kookaburra's distinctive song. Free guided tours at the Visitor's Center. There's a snack bar for coffee and light meals, restrooms and a gift shop. Admission is free.




10. Tandanya

A small gallery of Aboriginal art, well-displayed and well worth the visit. Docents on hand to answer questions. Cultural shows on some days for a small fee. Gift shop has lots of Aboriginal art, designs and information. Admission is free.

11. Rundle Mall

Rundle Mall is just plain fun. Lined with every imaginable shop and restaurant, it's fun to stroll along this pedestrian mall, peek into the Arcades and shops, appreciate the mall artwork like the Rundle Pigs and the Mall's Balls, have a coffee or a pint, visit an opal mine and seek out discovery art along the way. Get the Discovery Tour download here or a free brochure at the Visitor's Center.

Link: http://rundlemall.com.au/about/rundle-mall-discovery-trail.shtml


rundle mall pigs


12. Port Adelaide Self-Guided Walking Tour and Maritime Museum

Don't forget the “burbs”, there's lots to see there, too. We especially enjoyed walking around historic Port Adelaide admiring old bluestone buildings and visiting the South Australian Maritime Museum. $10 admission includes a trip to the top of the lighthouse. There are boat tours up the Port River to see the famous dolphins and on Sundays, a flea market and buskers add to the fun. Get the walking tour map at the Port Adelaide Visitor's Center.

13. Go to the beach

There are white sand beaches everywhere and trains and buses to take you. Try Semaphore or Glenelg for easy access to the beach and beachside resort activities. If you have a car, drive down to the Fleurieu Peninsula and try out Horseshoe Bay at Port Elliott.

14. Pub search

Granted, you can do this in any Australian city, but Adelaide has lots of historic pubs and old hotels for a pint or a jar and maybe even a floater. We found pub food to be pretty good and usually pretty reasonably priced. We tried The Austral, but there's a pub on nearly every street corner, so take your pick.

15. Taste some wine

South Australia is known for its wines. You can visit McLaren Vale or the Barossa Valley on a wine-tasting tour or take a trip there yourself where “Cellar Doors” usually offer free wine-tastings. Or stop by the National Wine Centre of Australia, right next door to the Botanic Garden downtown, for wine tastings ($2-3+per tasting) and lunch.

Getting around:

Train/bus travel is convenient and cheap and gets you most everywhere. If you're around for awhile, consider buying an Adelaide Metro Card which offers convenient and reduced rates on all local buses and trains.

Free bikes are available for the day on a first come/first serve basis at City Bikes and even include a helmet.


free bikes


If you're heading north to Alice Springs or Darwin, the Ghan originates from Adelaide. You can also take the train to Perth across the Nullabor on the Indian Pacific or to Melbourne or Sydney on the Overland. Non-Australians can purchase an Explorer Pass that allows unlimited travel over specified periods of time at significantly discounted prices.

What to look for:

Try on a swagman hat or look for opals or eat a pie floater or a frog cake. Check out Uniquely South Australia for more ideas.


swagmans hat


A little trivia:

the following movies were filmed all or in part in South Australia.

  • Jaws (1975) - Southern Ocean off South Australia
  •  The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) - Coober Pedy, Moon Plain
  •  Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) - Breakaways Reserve, Lunar Plains, Moon Plain, Coober Pedy
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence aka Long Walk Home (2002) - Adelaide, Flinders Ranges, Lake Torrens, McLaren Vale, Nilpena Station, Onkaparinga River National Park & Recreation Park, Parachilna
  •  Shine (1996) - Adelaide, North Adelaide,Springfield, Glenside, Henley Beach
  • Stealth (2005) – Flinders Ranges

By the way, the locals prefer we keep their city a secret. They love visitors … but not too many.

So after reading this, mum's the word.

90 Day Rule Kicks In

pauline and denys in fiji  

Remember when I talked about our 90-Day Rule? Something unexpectedly wonderful happens to us about every 90 days when we're aboard Nine of Cups. Consider this, if you will. In July 2011, when we were visiting Fiji, we sailed to Palmlea Eco-Farms and Resort to visit with SSCA friends who own it. By chance, while there, we met Pauline and Denys, an Aussie couple who were visiting with their son and his family and enjoying time at the Palmlea Resort. We chatted, became friendly and exchanged contact information.

Fast forward to austral Spring 2012 when Nine of Cups and crew were in Kettering, Tasmania. We received an e-mail from Pauline and Denys. They were visiting another son and his family in Tasmania and happened to be only one town away. We had a great lunch together on Nine of Cups and caught up on each others' lives. They're a busy couple with extensive travel, family visits and major house renovations, as well as biking and competitive swimming, on their usual agenda.

Fast forward once again to Port Adelaide, South Australia … here and NOW. Pauline and Denys, we found out, don't live far away and they've been keeping track of us on our blog. Pauline called and offered use of her washer, a beach with no jellyfish, a local vineyard visit, a ride around the area and dinner at their home. How could we resist? Talk about fortuitous … and me just complaining about the laundry situation and jellyfish. Somebody reads … somebody listens! Wow!

We met at Saily's Pub at 0930 (no drinks, just a meeting place) and headed off for parts unknown to us with Pauline and Denys as our local guides. There's nothing like touring an area with folks who were born and bred here. They know all sorts of things you can't find in a guide book. We headed down along the coast through quaint beachside towns like Semaphore and Glenelg. It's still summer holiday for the kids here and lots of families are on vacation. At Glenelg North, we took a circuitous detour up sidestreets to visit the Old Gum Tree, the site at which South Australia was officially proclaimed a colony in 1836. It's a red gum tree that probably had large spreading limbs at one time, but now it's more of a memorial arch. The tree, long since decayed and dead., has been been encased in concrete.


old gum tree


We continued south along the coast, then turned inland to wine country. South Australia is noted for its wines and the McLaren Vale area has dozens of wineries with Cellar Doors (tasting rooms). We chose Haselgrove Vineyards for no particular reason other than it tickled our fancy. It turned out to be a fortuitous stop. The temperature outside hovered around 105F/40C and it hit us like a hot brick as we left the air-conditioned car. We were met by a gracious and knowledgeable host, Ryan. He offered a tour and, despite the heat as we traipsed up and down steel ladder-ways through a field of stainless steel vats, we learned more about wine-making in our 30 minutes with Ryan than we ever had before.


wine vats


The barrel room was deliciously cool after the heat of the outside. Returning to the tasting room, we sampled a Pink Lady cider, then whites and reds and finally a lovely port decanted directly from the tasting room cask. We bought wine for dinner (and then some) and headed, on Ryan's suggestion, to a light lunch at Blessed Cheese in the town of McLaren Vale.


cool barrel room


Rejuvenated and rehydrated, we headed down the Fleurieu Peninsula in hopes of finding cooler temps. The temperatures weren't much better, but the views were great.


encounter bay


We stopped at beautiful Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot Beach and forced ourselves to have an ice cream cone at the Flying Fish Cafe in an effort to keep our bodies cool. We licked and lapped and marveled at the energy of young kids jumping off the pier … over and over again.


kids at horseshoe bay


We drove to Land's End at the tip of the peninsula where the Port Jervis Lighthouse stands sentry. We watched the SeaLink Ferry depart to Kangaroo Island, but the island, usually quite clear, could only be seen faintly in the distance. We attributed the haziness to the heat and the residual smoke from recent bush fires.


ferry with kangaroo island hazy in the distance


On the way home, we had our first view of kangaroos grazing in a field. What better way to say welcome back to Australia?


grey kangaroos grazing


Back in Adelaide at our hosts' home, I did a load of laundry and hung it out on the line while Pauline prepared dinner, Denys barbecued and David supervised. All in all, an outstanding 90 Day Rule kind of day.