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.

Hunting, Gathering and Foraging in Port Adelaide

port canal shopping center  

Whenever we arrive in a new port, there's a few days of wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what's available and what's where. David was here long before me, but he really spent his time working on the boat, not exploring. He went to the local Foodland for whatever he needed and called it good. It's time to start thinking about provisioning for our next passage, so I was interested in checking out more shops to see what they had to offer and how prices compared.

The Port Canal Shopping Centre is just across the way from the train station in Port Adelaide, so it's pretty convenient. There's a Cole's Supermarket and a K-Mart (yup, K-Mart) right there. The Centre continues for a couple of blocks or so with little shops inside mall areas till finally you reach the promised land … Farmer Joe's Fresh Food Barn.


farmer joes


Here I found fresh produce, eggs, fresh chicken and so much more ... for so much less. Green grapes are in season here ... on sale at Coles for $3.20/kg; Farmer Joe's had the same grapes and same quality for $2.49/kg. The best deal was the boneless chicken breasts, my favorite for canning/preserving. I saw the sign $8.99/kg and I was all over it. (another blog, another day)


inside farmer joes


Not having a car to tote everything entails a challenge of its own. You have to be able to carry everything you buy and it's amazing how fast your backpack and grocery sacks fill up when you're shopping and you still haven't purchased everything on your list. If you want 5kg (10lbs) of potatoes, you need to forgo purchasing something else on this trip or you're overwhelmed. You can only carry so much. Remember, once we get off the train, we still have a 15 minute walk back to the boat … toting everything we bought. Our old tote cart had given up the ghost to rust and abuse long ago, so I broke down and found another trolley (tote cart) in the local discount shop … that would be either The Reject Shop (think Big Lots) or Cheap as Chips. I like Cheap as Chips simply because of their name. These type stores carry everything from breadboards and bottle brushes, to totes and cellophane tape (all of which we needed) and lots of stuff we don't need.


cheap as chips


I'm glad I bought the drag-along trolley. It's saved lots of sore shoulders and backs toting heavy groceries back to the boat, not to mention I can buy more at one time. The fact that I look like an old granny walking down the street … well, that's another topic of discussion. The point is not everything is available at the same store. I get what I need at Cheap as Chips, I load up at Farmer Joe's, keep my receipts handy, and head into Coles and/or Foodland for whatever else is on the list. I've gotten to know where yogurt powder is cheaper or where dishwashing soap is on sale. Usually, there's not much room left in the tote and there's always an issue if I'm alone trying to pull the tote and push the cart at the same time. It's doable, but rather comical to watch.

Folks ask how we spend our time on a boat and isn't it easy to get bored? How can you get bored when it takes an entire day to hunt, gather and forage for food? And that's just a week's worth, if we're lucky. We haven't even made it into Adelaide's Central Market yet, but that would be an even longer distance to cart everything. And this is just for food … it's a whole other adventure looking for boat parts and brew supplies.

Next comes an inventory of everything aboard to see what we need to stock up on for the upcoming passage. We may need more than a trolley … we may need to rent/borrow a car.

Port Adelaide Walking Tour

port adelaide train station  

There might be an arm's length (maybe even a leg's length) of chores to do on Nine of Cups, but exploring the local area trumps boat chores sometimes. We haven't made it all the way into Adelaide yet. Port Adelaide, the Port, is a small suburb and has a draw of its own. On a sunny Sunday morning, we took the train into Port Adelaide with the intent of taking a self-guided walking tour and seeing what we could see.

Established in 1837 as the primary port for the city of Adelaide which lay down river some 8 miles (14km), Port Adelaide was initially an area of mangrove swamps and tidal mud flats that lay next to a narrow creek. It was dubbed Port Misery at one point because of the mosquitoes and wretched conditions migrants found here upon arrival. The Port has retained much of its 19th century architectural heritage and we wandered through the historic district admiring “colonial bond brickwork” warehouses and buildings. A brochure from the Tourist Info folks provided insight and descriptions into the various locations and buildings.


colonial brickwork port adelaide


Friends (thanks, David V.) suggested we visit the South Australian Maritime Museum, the oldest maritime museum in Australia (1872). It's housed in an 1850's vintage warehouse and uses the open space as well as the nooks and crannies to advantage. There's a full size replica ketch, the Active II, for viewing and boarding inside the museum ... the same type ketch used for transport in the early days of the port.


maritime museum ketch


I especially enjoyed the collection of figureheads that adorned the walls.




A computer program allowed us to check our surname to see if any “Lynns” had migrated to Adelaide during the great European migration. Sure enough, we found that both a Henry and a Matthew Lynn had come to Australia aboard the “Asia” in 1839.


migrant records


Entrance to the museum also allowed us free entry to climb the narrow, steep, spiral steps of the iconic port lighthouse which provided great views of the city below.


port adelaide lighthouse


Along the waterfront, there are several vessels for viewing as well as harbor tours. The Dolphin Explorer was full to capacity with folks hoping to spot the resident river dolphins during their two-hour river tour. A training tallship, the One & All, offered short trips into the harbor. Living on a boat, however, diminishes our interest in paying for boat rides.


tallship one & all


During our travels, we managed to check out all the pubs along our route. Being a port town, there was no dearth of pubs to be found. There's even a separate tourist brochure for the Heritage Pub Trail. On Sundays, most pubs open for lunch at Noon and we scheduled our tour to end in time for a late lunch and a pint at the Dockside Tavern (1850), a favorite haunt in years past of seafarers and waterfront workers. Speaking of haunts, local folklore has it that there are several harmless ghosts residing at the pub, but they didn't join us while we sipped our pints.


dockside tavern


The sunny day turned oppressively hot and we headed back to the cool breezes at the marina. Next time, we'll stay on the train and do some exploring in South Australia's state capital, Adelaide. Stay tuned.