Things to Do in Adelaide
With its unmistakably Aussie name, it’s little surprise that Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to spot native Australian wildlife. Australia's third-largest island, this unspoiled haven is a trove of natural wonders, from red rock cliffs to sandy beaches, sweeping dunes, and wild bushlands.
One of the world’s most scenic arenas, the Adelaide Oval dates back to 1871. Best known for cricket, the defining sport of British colonies, it also hosts concerts, rugby, Australian rules football, and more. Besides a cafe, fine dining restaurant, and corporate events spaces, it offers a museum devoted to cricket legend Donald Bradman.
Adelaide Zoo is home to almost 2,500 animals, with around 250 different species from all around the world. Along with Aussie favorites like kangaroos, koalas, and Tasmanian devils, the zoo is famous for its pair of Giant Pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, the only animals of their kind in Australia.
Despite its name, Mt. Lofty is far from lofty, standing just 2,385 feet (727 meters) high in the Mt. Lofty Ranges, part of the Adelaide Hills. The summit offers views across Adelaide and the ocean, with a café, an information center and shop, and hiking trail access. Mt. Lofty Botanic Garden and Cleland Wildlife Park are on its slopes.
McLaren Vale is second only to Barossa Valley as South Australia’s top wine region. The region's wineries are spread out around the town of McLaren Vale, about 25 miles (41 kilometers) south of Adelaide. Soft, luscious Shiraz is the signature style, and more than 70 wineries offer tastings. Don't miss the vibrant local food scene.
Tucked away in the Adelaide Hills, the tree-lined lanes and historic taverns of Hahndorf have a distinctly Bavarian feel; so much so that the village has dubbed itself “Australia’s oldest German town.” Founded by German settlers in the early 19th century, Hahndorf displays its heritage in its culture, architecture, and cuisine.
One of the oldest buildings in South Australia, Adelaide Gaol is remarkable for its architecture, its history, and—allegedly—its ghosts. During its years of operation, 1841–1988, the jail housed over 300,000 prisoners, 45 of whom were executed on-site. Today it offers an interactive exhibition, a range of food options, and a shop.
With a history dating back more than 150 years, Adelaide Central Market has long been at the center of Adelaide’s foodie scene. It remains one of Australia’s largest covered food markets, with about 80 stalls stacked with fresh, seasonal produce.
For a taste of new-world Adelaide, travelers make a stop at Rundle Mall. But for a look at the city’s historic past and contemporary culture there is no place better than North Terrace. The mile-long avenue passes by the art center, parliament house, national library, university and Botanical Gardens, as well as an iconic church from 1838 and a restored 1920s railway station. Large grassy fields and tall shade trees provide the perfect resting place for an afternoon picnic, while a number of pubs mean travelers are always within reach of a cold, refreshing drink.
When most people think of chocolate they think European. Belgium, Switzerland—these are nations known for creating smooth and creamy pure cocoa treats. But Aussies know some of the most decadent chocolate pleasures are made at their very own Haigh’s Chocolates. Since 1915 this fourth generation, family owned company has been churning out candies that are worth the trip. From classic dark chocolates to new salted caramels, travelers can find a taste of Australia at one of the company’s retail stores—or watch production in action at the Haigh's Chocolates Visitor Centre.
More Things to Do in Adelaide
Central Adelaide’s most important square, Victoria Square is known to the Kaurna people as “tarntanyangga” (red kangaroo dreaming). A special-events space and popular lunch spot for local workers, it’s home to statues, lawns, gum trees, and the 1960s Three Rivers Fountain. Nearby landmarks include St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
Covering more than 124 acres (50 hectares) between the North Terrace and Botanic Park, the Adelaide Botanic Garden are among the city’s most stunning green spaces. With tree-lined walkways, water lily and lotus ponds, and flower gardens blooming with roses and dahlias, this is an idyllic place for a walking tour.
Occasionally overshadowed by neighboring Adelaide Oval, the Gothic Revival spires of St. Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide are an architectural landmark. The leading place of worship for the city’s Anglican community, it was built between 1869 and 1911 from local sandstone. English craftsmen contributed much of the stained glass.
Some 400,000 customers flock to this shopping Mecca every week—including 85% of Adelaide’s international travelers. With 700 retailers it’s no surprise. Make a stop at the Adelaide Visitors Information Center, where friendly staff and a library of brochures offer up advice on what to do, where to go and what not to miss in the area. Next walk through Adelaide and Gays Arcade, where beautiful skylights line the ceiling. Retailers here were the first in the country to have electric lights, and locals believe six ghosts live in the arcade, including a caretaker who fell to his death repairing the generator that powered the lights.
Browse the shelves at one of the mall’s dozens of books stores before heading to Haighs for a famous chocolate frog. The fourth generation family owned business is an Australian staple, and has been whipping up its famous cocoa treats since 1915.
Enjoy local shopping at Raw Space and It’s a Gift (two of the mall’s most-visited stores) before heading taking some final photo ops with the Silver Balls (also known as the Malls Balls) and the bronze pigs. These two quirky works of public art have become Rundle Mall institutions.
One of the principal attractions of Adelaide’s Cultural Precinct, the South Australian Museum is devoted to the region’s natural and cultural history. The museum is best known for its impressive collection of Australian Aboriginal cultural items: the largest collection of its kind in the world.
The Art Gallery of South Australia showcases around 45,000 works of art spanning 2,000 years. Expect to see works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and a diverse array of art from around the world, including Rodin bronzes and contemporary pieces. The museum occupies a landmark neoclassical building in the heart of Adelaide.
Established in 1844, Penfolds is perhaps Australia’s defining wine brand, and these Adelaide Hills vineyards are where it all began. Besides cellars, wine-making operations, and tasting rooms, the site is home to the original Grange cottage where the founders lived, an award-winning fine-dining restaurant, and an informal eatery.
Set in the Cleland Conservation Park, just 20 minutes outside Adelaide, Cleland Wildlife Park is home to a wealth of Australian animals, most of them roaming free. It’s possible to hand-feed native fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies, and emus, while the park offers up-close experiences with koalas, wombats, and more.
Home to the Parliament of the state of South Australia, Parliament House is a landmark of downtown Adelaide. Behind grand columns it houses the state’s two legislative chambers: the House of Assembly (lower house) and the Legislative Council (upper house). Designed as early as 1872, it wasn’t completed until 1939.
Set on North Terrace, the grand boulevard that forms Adelaide’s cultural heart, the State Library of South Australia (SLSA) occupies three spectacular buildings from different eras. Besides the architectural splendor of the Mortlock Wing, the library offers the full range of reference library resources, as well as exhibitions, free Wi-Fi, and a café.
Urban areas aren’t usually known for their close proximity to waterfalls, but Adelaide offers a pleasant surprise with popular Waterfall Gully. Just 25 minutes outside the city, Waterfall Gully has hiking trails that lead to multiple waterfalls, the first of which, First Falls, is a very short walk from the parking lot. Continue up toward the second falls, and take in the scenery where koalas lazily hang in the canopy of gum trees.
The most popular hike in Waterfall Gully is following the trail for 2.5 miles up to the top of Mt. Lofty, where the mountaintop lookout has sweeping views of Adelaide and the coast. By joining a self-guided hiking tour, transport is provided from the center of Adelaide to the Waterfall Gully trailhead, where you’re free to make the climb to Mt. Lofty and enjoy the walk at your pace.
The National Wine Centre of Australia introduces visitors to Australian wine, with a focus on South Australia. The outer shell of the building resembles wine barrels. Inside, visitors can take a wine discovery journey or an educational class, or indulge in food, a wealth of tastings, and one of the southern hemisphere’s best cellars.
This pleasant trail can be reached from city center, but its waterfront views, open fields and quiet surroundings lend a country feel that’s hard to find in most urban settings. Linear Park offers visitors an ideal setting for afternoon sunbathing, relaxing picnics, or even a dip in the River Torrens. The trail, which wraps past the Adelaide Festival Center, Convention Center and the local zoo, is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a recreational bike ride.
Telling the stories of the migrants who came from all over the world to make South Australia their home, the Migration Museum provides fascinating insight into Adelaide’s rich history and cultural heritage. With respect for the indigenous people of this region, the museum also illustrates the impact of immigration on native Australians.
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