Discovering bronze pigs, bluestone mansions and watching the most amazing sunsets are only some of the things to do in Adelaide. A city of festivals, museums and gardens, Australia’s fifth largest city doesn’t share the same convict roots as other Australian cities.
Adelaide has its own special charm and a relaxed pace. It’s a city of culture, churches and creative spaces showcasing exciting events.
Another good thing about visiting Adelaide is it’s a compact city that’s easy to get around.
Throw in the fact that Adelaide is right on the doorstep of some of the world’s best wine regions and other amazing places to visit in South Australia.
Bookmark our guide on what to do in Adelaide.
- Things to do in Adelaide
- 1- Stroll around Rundle Mall
- 2- Enjoy a sweet treat at Haigh’s Chocolates
- 3- Visit Adelaide’s Central Market
- 4- Admire the stately Hyde Park mansions
- 5- Stroll around Port Adelaide
- 6- Spend the day at Henley Beach
- 7- Take the tram to Glenelg
- 8- Visit the Art Gallery of South Australia
- 9- Step back in history at Ayers House Museum
- 10- Explore the South Australian Museum
- 11- Discover Adelaide’s churches
- 12 – Hang out in Adelaide’s trendy suburbs
- 13- Stroll along the River Torrens
- 14- Grab a quiet moment at the State Library
- 15- Drink wine at the National Wine Centre
- 16- Join an Adelaide walking tour
- 17- Visit the State Treasury Building
- Things to do in Adelaide with kids
- Day trips from Adelaide
- What’s on in Adelaide
Things to do in Adelaide
1- Stroll around Rundle Mall
When in Adelaide sightseeing and particularly if you’re travelling with the kids in Adelaide, a place to visit is the Rundle Mall.
Rundle Mall is in the heart of the city’s main shopping precinct.
While most shopping malls in Australia look much like the next, Rundle Mall stands out as an outdoor gallery with its set of life-sized bronze pigs.
In 1999, Adelaide City Council commissioned local artist Marguerite Derricourt to create the bronze pigs.
Most of Adelaide’s residents supported the idea and voted on naming them Truffles, Oliver, Horatio and Augusta.
Oliver rummages through one of the mall’s overflowing rubbish bins, while Augusta stares soulfully into the eyes of anyone who sits on the bench in front of it.
Horatio looks like it’s about to take off in a trot to join the activity along the mall.
The pigs are a contemporary contrast to the elegant colonial Adelaide architecture of Rundle Mall’s decorative 19th-century arcades.
A visit to Rundle Mall is definitely on the list of things to do in Adelaide, especially for everyone who loves to shop.
Look out for the Adelaide Arcade, which was completed in 1885 and was the first retail establishment in Australia to have electric light.
Today, it is a beautifully restored showpiece in the centre of Adelaide’s Rundle Mall and has been carefully renovated and restored to its original condition.
Even the tile designs are exact replicas of the tiles that were used in the original.
It’s a grand old building and a showpiece of wealth that reflects the boom of the 1880s.
The Arcade is a bustling shopping spot that has over 100 specialty shops and a resident ghost.
Francis Cluney, a caretaker who fell into the generator, is said to haunt the halls of Adelaide Arcade.
In 1928, it was a special outing to visit the majestic Hoyts Regent Theatre, which was then billed as “Australia’s most luxurious theatre”.
Theatre-goers during that time were treated to silent movies like Flesh and the Devil starring Greta Garbo.
The Regent Theatre served Adelaide until the 1960’s when it was redesigned to incorporate a shopping arcade and two small cinemas.
Today, the Regent Arcade has over 30 speciality shops – among them is a good selection of cafes, a speciality bottle store and fashion stores.
2- Enjoy a sweet treat at Haigh’s Chocolates
My favourite shop is Haigh’s Chocolates, where a mouth-watering variety of locally produced Adelaide chocolates is a temptation not to be resisted.
Indeed, the oldest family-owned chocolate maker in Australia has become an Adelaide institution.
Most South Australians will tell you that Haigh’s Chocolates is the best in the world.
In 1915, the Beehive became home to Haigh’s Chocolates, the oldest family-owned chocolate manufacturer in Australia.
Founded by Alfred E. Haigh, who made sweets and chocolates above the shop at night, Haigh’s is an Adelaide icon.
During the 1950s and 60s, Haigh’s tray-boys and tray-girls lined up at the front of the screen during interval to sell their chocolates.
One of only a few specialist chocolate retailers whose chocolate making begins with the raw cocoa bean, Haigh’s makes over 200 different kinds of chocolates.
Their apricot creams are divine.
At Easter time, the bright displays of chocolate eggs, baskets and bunnies are eye-catching.
3- Visit Adelaide’s Central Market
If you love fresh food, one of the top things to do in Adelaide is to spend some time at the Central Markets.
Not only is it housed in a building that is considered a historic Australian landmark, when it comes to varieties of food and fresh produce, the Central Market is the place to be.
The Adelaide Central Market is also the place to find stacks of newly baked Turkish pide, freshly ground coffee beans and sushi.
Kabanas, spicy pepperoni and giant mettwurst are some of the other delights you will find in Adelaide’s melting pot pantry.
As Adelaide is a multicultural city, there is food available reflecting the cuisine from most countries of the world.
Italian, Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Chinese and German are some of the foods available under one roof.
The regions around Adelaide are known for market gardens and therefore fresh fruit and vegetables are aplenty at reasonable prices.
The fresh food section also provides fresh meat, poultry and seafood.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle and watch the colour and activity while you sip a cappuccino at one of the market’s cafes.
Adelaide’s Central Market began in 1869, as a venue for growers to sell directly to the public.
If you’re on a budget and looking for things to do in Adelaide for free, wander around the stalls tasting free samples.
A great way to learn more about the history of food and engage with local stallholders is to join a guided tour.
4- Admire the stately Hyde Park mansions
If you have an interest in history and early architecture, then one of the places to go in Adelaide is the suburb of Hyde Park.
Unlike other parts of Australia, Adelaide was settled by folks who chose to move there on their own accord which means Adelaide doesn’t have a convict history.
In 1834, the British Government formed the Colony of South Australia but gave the colony no financial backing.
Private individuals invested in the South Australia Company, which was formed to sell land and attract new settlers into the colony.
When the early colonists arrived and began building Adelaide, they wanted to build a solid, dignified city and used locally quarried stone.
From cottages to mansions, many of Adelaide’s houses still retain the charming stone look.
Drive along Victoria Avenue in Hyde Park and you will see some grand bluestone and sandstone mansions that reflect the wealth of a past era.
5- Stroll around Port Adelaide
As far as Adelaide tourist attractions go, Port Adelaide might not come immediately to mind but do check it out as the revitalisation of the area makes it a lovely spot to explore.
In 1840 the colony had attracted a population of 14,000 free settlers but was totally bankrupt.
To try and save the city, the South Australia Company developed the wharves and warehouses at Port Adelaide and linked the port and the emerging city by road.
Fortunately, South Australia was saved from bankruptcy by the discovery of copper at Kapunda and Burra.
Burra’s Monster Mine became well-known throughout the world and, in 1851, became Australia’s seventh largest city (you wouldn’t think so to visit it now!).
Today, Port Adelaide is a heritage area preserved by the National Trust.
Port Adelaide attractions include taking a walk along the docks and through the old heart of the port.
Here you will find art galleries, antique shops, heritage pubs, museums and haunted underground tunnels.
6- Spend the day at Henley Beach
If you only have time for one beach, Henley Beach is the beach to choose all year round.
A romantic thing to do in Adelaide is to watch the brilliant sunset over St Vincent Gulf from Henley Beach.
On a hot summer’s day, one of the cool things to do in Adelaide is to join the local residents for a swim.
If you are keen on fishing, this is the place to join the locals by fishing from Henley Beach’s jetty while the kids splash in the calm water.
Henley Beach is also one of the best places to visit in Adelaide for fish and chips (or a picnic on the beach).
In recent times, new seafood restaurants have sprung up along the waterfront and one street back is some of Adelaide’s best fish and chip shops and trendy cafes.
For more Adelaide beaches head to the beachside suburbs of Largs Bay, Somerton, Largs Bay, Glenelg, Brighton and Seacliff.
7- Take the tram to Glenelg
On my list of Adelaide things to do, one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon is to hop on board Adelaide’s only remaining tram.
From Victoria Square, the tram travels to the seaside resort of Glenelg.
Glenelg is one of many places to see in Adelaide and the significance of Glenelg is this is where Adelaide began, with the arrival of the first fleet in 1836.
The fleet of eight ships from England was captained by John Hindmarsh, who became Governor Hindmarsh.
The governor proclaimed South Australia a British province under an old gum tree (which still stands today).
Early Glenelg settlers lived in mud huts and tents for nearly six months while Colonel William Light, the colony’s first Surveyor-General, chose a suitable site for the future settlement.
Hindmarsh wanted the city to be built by the sea at Glenelg while Light designed a neat and geometrically planned city located between the coast and the hills.
8- Visit the Art Gallery of South Australia
If you’re looking for cultural activities in Adelaide, there’s a lot happening on North Terrace day and night.
For a dose of art and culture, soak it up at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
While the gallery’s traditional focus was on British painting and sculpture, it also has a strong collection of Aboriginal art from all over the country including Central Australian dot paintings.
9- Step back in history at Ayers House Museum
Ayers House Museum is a colonial mansion that illustrates Victorian domestic life.
Guided tours take you on a historical tour of the period and a look at historic costumes, silver, artwork and furniture.
The house itself is an important exhibit which contains ornamental painted finishes on its internal walls and ceilings.
10- Explore the South Australian Museum
If you’re in the mood for more history and culture, a visit to the South Australian Museum should satisfy that craving.
The museum has the largest collection in the world of Australian Aboriginal cultural artifacts (over 3000), including the Yuendumu Doors.
Then there’s the impressive South Australian Biodiversity Gallery focusing on South Australia’s marine life.
11- Discover Adelaide’s churches
For a long time (since 1867), Adelaide was known as the City of Churches because of the number of architecturally stunning churches representing a range of denominations.
Take a drive around Adelaide city and suburbs to see many lovely churches.
12 – Hang out in Adelaide’s trendy suburbs
Queen Street Croydon is an Adelaide suburb on the rise and a has a cool vibe.
It’s small and not as well-known as Rundle Mall or North Terrace but it’s a trendy spot to hang out.
The Queen Street shops are unique and this is the place to find individual and local hand-made items.
13- Stroll along the River Torrens
Sightseeing in Adelaide should include a stroll along the banks of the River Torrens, with stop-offs at the Torrens Lake, for a picnic.
The Botanic Garden is a must-visit with its signature arbour of Moreton Bay Fig Trees.
Adelaide is a walker’s paradise as it is surrounded by around 1,000 hectares of public parklands.
The best thing about it?
Walking is one of the free things to do in Adelaide.
14- Grab a quiet moment at the State Library
The State Library of South Australia is a cultural institution and a repository of South Australia’s rich history.
Treasures kept here include intriguing photographs and artwork of Adelaide’s growth throughout the centuries, old letters, diaries, maps and manuscripts.
Permanent exhibitions in the Mortlock Wing are a showcase of the rich tapestry of life in South Australia.
The displays cover a range of subjects including the European discovery and exploration of South Australia, arts, architecture, wine, sport, religion and emigration. Check out upcoming exhibitions here.
15- Drink wine at the National Wine Centre
With over 200 cellar doors within a one-hour drive and the gateway to 18 wine regions, Adelaide is one of 10 cities known as the Great Wine Capitals of the world.
It’s also fitting that Australia’s wine capital is also home to the National Wine Centre, which is the best place to visit in Adelaide to find out everything you need to know about wine.
There’s a free interactive self-guided wine experience called the Wine Discovery Journey (Monday to Saturday 9 am to 6 pm), which covers winemaking, the history of Australian wine and where it sits in the world market.
The cellar has the capacity to hold 38,000 bottles and the Wined Bar has an impressive range of 120 Australian wines dispensed from Enomatic servers that keep the wine in optimum condition.
Interested in a wine tour? Check out more wine tours from Adelaide here.
16- Join an Adelaide walking tour
Joining a walking tour around Adelaide is a great way to get an overview of different aspects of the city while meeting some locals.
There’s a range of walking tours covering a variety of subjects, such as culture, history and architecture to hills, squares and parklands.
Not only is Adelaide a city made for walking, but it’s also a city for foodies. How about a dumpling feast walking tour or a food and street art walking tour?
17- Visit the State Treasury Building
Located in Victoria Square, one of Adelaide’s most important colonial sites – the original State Treasury building – was constructed in 1839 and designed by colonial architect George Strickland Kingston.
In 2002, this impressive colonial building was converted into a 21st-century luxury apartment hotel, the Medina Grand Adelaide Treasury.
Inside, there is a museum which displays maps and instruments from South Australia’s early settlers.
Underneath the building, there are secret tunnels that once housed gold pounds. South Australia’s first Cabinet room is also open for viewing.
Things to do in Adelaide with kids
18- Visit Adelaide Zoo
The Adelaide Zoo is home to a host of animals from around the world.
The star attractions is the Giant Pandas, Funi and Wang Wang who are impossibly cute.
The panda enclosure has been designed to mimic their natural habitat and seeing the pandas will delight the kids.
19- Climb a tree at TreeClimb Adelaide
TreeClimb Adelaide is a unique adventure park in the inner city with 70 obstacles and seven courses.
Three of them are designed for kids (minimum height 100cm) who will love the challenges of climbing and swinging among the trees. Parent supervision is required for children 14 years old and under.
It doesn’t matter what the Adelaide weather is doing, this is an all-weather activity rain, hail or shine.
20- Sign up for RoofClimb at Adelaide Oval
Walking across the roofline of Adelaide Oval is a fun way to get a bird’s-eye view of the city and is a fun adventure for the whole family.
Its highest point is 50m and where you’ll get the chance to take your hands off the handrail and lean back if you dare.
Adelaide Oval RoofClimb has three options: the day climb, the twilight climb (for a stunning sunset) and the night climb.
21- Attend WOMADelaide
Set in Adelaide’s beautiful Botanic Park, WOMADelaide is a four-day cultural festival with a programme lineup of music, art and dance.
Rock superstar Peter Gabriel and music journalist Thomas Brooman founded the festival in 1982.
WOMAD, which is short for World Of Music, Arts and Dance, has a lineup that is entertaining, educational and embraces Adelaide’s multicultural society.
As Adelaide is Australia’s only UNESCO City of Music, the city is attracting some of the best creative minds.
Did you know that in 1883, Adelaide was the first city in Australia to establish a tertiary music institution?
22- See a show at the Moonlight Cinema
What to do in Adelaide if you have teenagers?
How about catching a show at the Open Moonlight Cinema, an open-air cinema in the Botanic Garden.
Does your teen roller skate?
There are roller-skating rinks around Adelaide where teens can have a blast.
Arty teens will love the Festival Theatre Green Room pass, which is a youth arts membership that offers access to activities at the Festival Theatre such as workshops with artists, discounted tickets and special events.
23- Get active at MegaAdventure
Gone are the days where swings and slides in the park was a highlight for the kids, in Adelaide MegaAdventure is a playground on steroids, with activities high above the ground.
Skychallenge is an obstacle course with 70 obstacles and activities, including playing tennis, rowing and negotiating an obstacle course with some cool challenges.
Who would have thought of a floating esky or a BMX bike or picnic table in the sky?
The newest is the Giant Swing, which reaches 70km an hour swinging 18m off the ground.
24- Flyboarding in Glenelg
If you are looking for a thrill then try flyboarding (skateboarding on steroids) in Glenelg.
A flyboard is a platform around the size of a skateboard on which you stand.
The board is powered by water jets and connected to a jet ski by a hose providing high-pressure water to the flyboard.
The water jets on the flyboard platform are controlled by you and you can raise or lower the flyboard while forward and sideways motion, like a regular skateboard, is achieved by tilting your feet.
Day trips from Adelaide
Less than an hour away from the centre of Adelaide are the wineries and vineyards of the Barossa Valley.
One of the best things to do in Adelaide is to take a drive around the picturesque Barossa Valley or go on a Barossa Valley wine tour.
Visiting the many wineries, wine tasting, browsing through shops and tucking into fine food is a lovely way to spend the day.
Bluestone cottages set in charming towns dot the picturesque countryside.
The Barossa is known worldwide for its award-winning wines such as the Peter Lehmann Reserve Semillon 1999, which won awards in the 2005 Sydney International Wine Competition.
There are 60 wineries with some of Australia’s top names like Jacob’s Creek, Wyndham’s, Yalumba and Penfolds.
26- Adelaide Hills
There are plenty of Adelaide Hills attractions that should be on your must-see list.
First of all, experience a touch of Germany in the charming village of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German settlement.
Hahndorf still has an honorary Burgermeister, or mayor, and was founded in 1839 by a group of Lutherans from Prussia.
Many Germans and other Europeans made their way to the Adelaide Hills to escape religious persecution in their homeland.
In 1840, there were 6557 Europeans living in Adelaide; by 1851 the European population was 14,577. Stop at the 1839 German Arms Hotel for a stein of Lowenbrau.
There’s also the Hahndorf Academy which has an art gallery, craft shop and museum.
Spending a weekend at one of the many cosy B&B’s is one of the romantic things to do in Adelaide.
Then munch your way through Vienna schnitzel, sauerkraut and strudel at the gourmet restaurants or pastry shops.
The Adelaide Hills is also the birthplace of Beerenberg jams, which from humble beginnings, can now be found in luxury hotels and airlines throughout the world.
Some other things to do in the Adelaide Hills include visiting Cleland Wildlife Park, which is located at Mount Lofty Summit Road, Crafers, and the National Motor Museum at Birwood.
Visiting the Morialta Conservation Park at Woodforde and Gorge Wildlife Park Cudlee Creek are two more Adelaide activities for nature lovers.
There are a lot of interesting places and things to do around Adelaide and fortunately, the Adelaide Hills is only a short drive away.
At the Mount Lofty Lookout, there’s a fantastic view of the city, surrounding suburbs and St Vincent Gulf from the lookout at Mt Lofty, which is a 20-minute drive from the Adelaide city centre.
27- Monarto Zoo
Australia’s largest open-range zoo, Monarto Zoo, is home to over 50 species of mammals, birds and reptiles.
It’s great for kids and wildlife lovers will most certainly appreciate seeing the animals in natural environments.
Monarto Zoo is 70 km from Adelaide (about a one-hour drive) and can easily be done as a day trip from Adelaide.
28- Belair National Park
If you love nature and bushwalking and you are travelling on a tight budget, then a guided walking tour through Belair National Park is one of the things to do near Adelaide.
You’ll see beautiful scenery and enjoy the flora and fauna.
29- McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale is the wine region less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide and the wine region to go for a quick wine-tasting day trip from Adelaide.
McLaren Vale produces excellent Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Chardonnay. And there are some lovely restaurants and cafes.
30- Victor Harbor
A popular vacation spot for residents of Adelaide, Victor Harbor is a relaxed seaside town 84km from Adelaide.
Kids will enjoy riding the horse-drawn tram to Granite Island or travelling on a heritage SteamRanger train along the coastline.
The South Australian Whale Centre is packed with displays and information about whales.
Another day trip from Adelaide to the mouth of the Murray River is the historic town of Goolwa.
Attractions include river cruises (check out the 1908 paddle steamer Oscar W) and four-wheel driving on the beach.
What’s on in Adelaide
Adelaide is no longer a sleepy city. It doesn’t matter when you’re visiting, you’ll find a decent programme of events to attend, such as the World Cinema Festival.
The festival is held annually at the Events Cinemas Marion in Westfields Shopping Centre. Here’s an up-to-date listing what’s on Adelaide.
Here are some events to plan your Adelaide trip around.
32- Superloop Adelaide 500
There are many events in Adelaide throughout the year, but for “revheads’ this is one not to miss.
In March each year, the streets of Adelaide turn into a noisy, raucous and vibrant environment when Australia’s largest national street motorsport carnival – Adelaide 500 – comes to town.
The Adelaide event is a four-day racing carnival with categories such as V8 Utes, GT Performance, and Historic Touring Cars. But you don’t have to be a motorsport enthusiast to have a great time at the carnival.
Attending the event is one of the fun things to in Adelaide overall as there are free on-circuit rock concerts and extravagant fireworks displays.
The Australian Defence Force participates with spectacular formation flying of Blackhawk helicopters, F/A-18 and F-111 fighter-bombers.
The circuit was created in 1985 for the FIA Formula One World Championships.
Each year the 3.22km race circuit and supporting infrastructure for the Clipsal 500 is constructed within Adelaide City’s east parklands and neighbouring streets.
The 2017 race attracted drivers and their teams from around Australia and New Zealand.
33- Adelaide Cabaret Festival
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is an annual festival that runs in June each year, commencing on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
It’s the biggest festival of its kind and is held at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Compared to many other events in Adelaide today, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is a standout.
It’s considered a major event in the international and Australian arts calendar.
The Festival has garnered a reputation of highlighting the best local, national and international artists through an eclectic program of classic and contemporary cabaret performances.
34- Adelaide Fashion Festival
What’s on in Adelaide for fashionistas?
In October each year, the Adelaide Fashion Festival is a showcase of innovative fashions, accessories and hair and makeup styles.
The event features both established and new designers from Adelaide, as well as food and wine from South Australia.
35- Tour Down Under
Tour Down Under kicks off the year in January when the world’s best cycling teams arrive in Adelaide for the 11-day event.
The largest cycling festival in the Southern Hemisphere is a world-class event that is part of the UCI WorldTour.
36- Garden of Unearthly Delights
The Garden of Unearthly Delights is an outdoor festival with multiple performance areas, Spiegeltents, bars, carnival rides and food stalls.
It’s a carnival with an emphasis on Adelaide’s artistic side, with a range of unique (and sometimes downright unusual), quirky, creative and entertaining performances.
Attending the festival events is one of the top things to do in Adelaide if you can visit in February or March.
Featured Adelaide hotel
If you live or are on holidays in Adelaide and a special occasion arises, one of the most romantic things to do in Adelaide at night is to treat that special person in your life to dinner at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant.
The beautiful and romantic gardens setting and restaurant will set the scene for that special occasion.
Thorngrove Manor in the Adelaide Hills is a fabulous place for a romantic treat.
Affectionately known and apply called the castle in the hills, the manor has individually designed rooms.
It’s just like staying in a castle.
Taking your loved one to a ballet, opera or orchestral performance at the Adelaide Festival Centre is another of the romantic attractions in Adelaide.
When planning a trip or holiday, finding the best place to stay is usually at the top of mind.