Discover bronze pigs, racing cars, bluestone mansions and brilliant sunsets 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. Here are top things to do in Adelaide.
Things to do in Adelaide
1 – Explore 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.
The 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 steals the show 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.
My favourite shop is Haigh’s chocolate shop, which has a mouth-watering variety of delicious chocolates.
A visit to Rundle Mall is definitely on the list of things to do in Adelaide with kids and for everyone who loves to shop.
2 – 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.
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 the one roof.
Adelaide is known for its extensive market gardens and therefore fresh fruit and vegetables are aplenty and all 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 many cafes.
Adelaide’s Central Market began in 1869, as a venue for growers to sell directly to the public. Of all the things to do in Adelaide for free, this is one not to be missed.
3 – Check out the Hyde Park mansions
If you have an interest in history and early architecture, then one of the places in Adelaide to go 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. 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.
4 – Visit the 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.
5 – Stroll around Port Adelaide
As far as Adelaide tourist attractions go, Port Adelaide doesn’t come immediately to mind. However, in recent times, the revitalisation of the area has put it on the map.
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. In 1851, it was Australia’s seventh largest city.
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 – Take a dip at Henley Beach
On a hot summer’s day, one of the cool things to do in Adelaide is to join the local residents at the beachside suburb of Henley Beach.
You can sit back, relax and watch the brilliant sunset over St Vincent Gulf. And If you are keen fisherperson you can also join the locals by fishing from Henley Beach’s jetty while the kids splash in the protected water.
Henley Beach is 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. One street back, you’ll find some of Adelaide’s best fish and chip shops and trendy cafes.
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. However, the significance of Glenelg is this is where Adelaide really 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 – Things to do in North Terrace
If you’re looking for cultural activities in Adelaide, there’s usually quite a lot happening on North Terrace.
Soak up art and culture 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.
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.
If you’re in the mood for more history and culture, a visit to the Adelaide Museum precinct will be of interest. Head to the South Australian Museum or the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery.
9 – Adelaide 500 V8 Supercar Race
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.
10 – Explore the Barossa Valley
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.
11 – Attend the Adelaide Cabaret Festival
What’s on in Adelaide? Have you been to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival? It’s 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.
12 – Take a tour of the beachside suburbs
Other Adelaide points of interest include the beachside suburbs of Largs Bay, Somerton, Largs Bay, Glenelg, Brighton and Seacliff. Each of these beaches is easily accessible and less than 12km from the Adelaide city centre.
13 – Enjoy the view from 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-min drive from the Adelaide city centre.
14 – 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, (to just relax or have a picnic).
Other places to go in Adelaide are the Adelaide Festival Center, Adelaide Oval and the Adelaide Zoo.
The Botanic Garden is a must-visit with its signature arbour of Moreton Bay Fig Trees. If you are a keen walker, then Adelaide is the place.
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.
15 – Other things to do in Adelaide for free
If you love nature and bushwalking and you are travelling on a tight budget, then a guided walking tour through Belair National Park is an experience not to miss.
You’ll see beautiful scenery and enjoy the flora and fauna. This guided walk falls under the category of free stuff Adelaide has to offer.
16 – Fun things to do in Adelaide for adults
If you are looking for a thrill then try flyboarding at Glenelg. Flyboarding is like skateboarding on steroids.
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.
The Jet Ski provides high-pressure water to the flyboard. However, the water jets on the flyboard platform are controlled by you and raise or lower the flyboard. Forward and sideways motion, like a regular skateboard, is achieved by tilting your feet.
Other fun things to do for adults in Adelaide include skydiving at Goolwa, gliding at Gawler and hot air ballooning over the Barossa Valley.
17 – Go shopping in Queen Street Croydon
Queen Street Croydon is an Adelaide suburb on the rise. I may not be as well-known as Rundle Mall or North Terrace but it sure is an upcoming trendy spot. The Queen Street shops are unique and this is the place to find individual, and even hand-made items.
18 – Romantic things to do in Adelaide at night
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 love one to a ballet, opera or orchestral performance at the Adelaide Festival Centre is another of the romantic attractions in Adelaide.
19 – 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.
20 – Things to do in Adelaide for teenagers
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.
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