Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia. It was once considered a sleepy city but has since undergone a major transformation. There are now lots of amazing places to visit in Adelaide and South Australia.
South Australia (SA) covers some of the most arid parts of Australia. It is the fourth-largest of state by area, and fifth largest by population.
Adelaide is known for its premium wine region, fresh local produce, and world-class festivals.
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Location and How to get to Adelaide
Adelaide is 654km from the nearest capital city, Melbourne. It will take around 8 hours to drive direct or longer if you take the scenic Great Ocean Road. The drive time from Sydney is about 14 hours.
There are 3 rail options for interstate travel to Adelaide. The Indian Pacific runs between Perth, Adelaide & Sydney, The Ghan between Adelaide, Alice Springs & Darwin, and The Overland from Melbourne.
The FireFly Express Bus has two services from Melbourne to Sydney (one’s overnight).
Alternatively, you could make Airlie Beach part of a Brisbane to Cairns road trip.
Travel from Proserpine to Airlie Beach by car, bus, or taxi. Whitsunday Transit runs a shuttle service that meets every arrival and departure, costing A$22 one way. A taxi is the most expensive option; expect to pay about A$100 to Airlie Beach.
Car Hire – There are a few car hire companies available at the airport. To compare rental car company prices, we use Discover Cars, an award winning car rental comparison website. They offer competitive pricing in over 10,000 locations worldwide and are highly-rated.
TIP: The earlier car hire is booked, the more options there are, and the lowest prices. Click on the above car rental link to find a great deal today.
Weather in Adelaide
I like autumn and spring when it’s not too hot or cold.
Winter (Jun-Aug) is mild with temperatures dropping to between 8 – 16°C. June sees the most rain but is the driest of all Australian Capital Cities.
Summer (Dec-Feb) temps range from 16.7 – 28.6°C but can reach 40°C.
We visited Adelaide in May and had a couple of days of rain but most days were bright and sunny.
See the detailed 7-day forecast at the Bureau of Meteorology.
A brief history of Adelaide
I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live and recognise their continuing connection to land, water, and community. I pay respect to Elders past, present, and emerging.
The indigenous Kaurna people inhabited the area now known as Adelaide before the British settlement in 1836. It was then called Tarntanya and the River Torrens was Karrawirra Pari (red gum forest river).
Upon settlement, the city was named after Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV.
The settlers were English and Irish to start with but in the mid-19th century, many Germans arrived.
The best places to visit in Adelaide City
There’s plenty to see and do in Adelaide, including free activities.
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
The stunning landscaped botanic gardens can be entered from entrances on North Terrace, Plane Tree Drive, Hackney Road, and Frome Road in the city.
Gates open at 7.15 am Monday to Friday and 9 am weekends and public holidays. Closing times vary as below:
December – January 7:00 pm
February – March 6.30 pm
April 6:00 pm
May 5:30 pm
June – July 5:00 pm
August 5:30 pm
September 6:00 pm
October – November 6:30 pm
The historical (opened in 1857) 130-acre gardens are divided into 11 separate areas and feature some of Australia’s best plant collections.
A Must-See here is Palm House, a restored Victorian glasshouse. It was imported from Bremen, Germany in 1875 and thought to be the only one of its kind still in existence.
Also worth a look is the First Creek Wetland, the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion, and the Bicentennial Conservatory.
Adelaide Botanic Gardens are one if the best free places to visit in Adelaide.
There are lots of beaches to choose from close to the city. Here are a few of my favourites.
Glenelg is the most popular metro beach and great for families. There’s a direct tram from Adelaide city to Glenelg so you don’t require a car to get there. It’s a hive of activity with shops, restaurants, and hotels. While there, maybe take a Dolphin Cruise with Optional Dolphin Swim. Thousands of dolphins call Holdfast Bay home, so you are extremely likely to see them. If you choose the swimming upgrade when booking, you’ll spend up to one hour in the water with different dolphin pods.
Henley is another popular Adelaide beach. It has beautiful sand and a long pier which is great to fish off. It’s a brilliant place for lunch or dinner with many seafood restaurants close by.
Port Noarlunga is further out of the city. We stopped on our way down to Victor Habour. The Port Noarlunga Reef Sanctuary Zone is a fantastic snorkeling and diving spot as it has been protected since 1971. You could spot large schools of reef fish, spotted wobbegongs, blue groper, blue devilish, and dolphins.
Semaphore Beach is perfect for families with young children. The water is quite shallow and the sandy beach backs onto sand dunes. When they’ve had enough of the beach, head to the foreshore for lots of fun activities. Choose from mini-golf, waterslides, the vintage carousel or Ferris wheel or take a ride on the train during the summer months.
In summer, the average sea temperature is 19.7 to 21.2°C.
Swim only at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags, and read the safety warnings on the beach signs.
Australia’s sun is very strong so make sure to apply sunscreen and wear sun-smart clothing, hat, and sunglasses.
North Terrace has some of Adelaide’s most beautiful and historical architecture. It’s a lovely street to wander along, just have your camera ready to snap some photos. It is also home to many of Adelaide’s top cultural attractions.
The Art Gallery of South Australia holds one of the largest art museum collections in Australia, with approximately 47,000 works of art from Australia, and around the world. Entrance is free although you may need to pay for some exhibitions. The Elder Wing of Australian Art was built in 1900.
Another free museum worth visiting is the South Australian Museum. Learn more about Australia’s fascinating natural and cultural heritage at one of the most visited museums in Australia. Our children enjoyed the natural history exhibits with stuffed animals and skeletons.
If you like books and beautiful buildings, make sure to check out the State Library. The Mortlock Wing is stunning.
The terrace is lined with statues and war memorials and also home to the University of Adelaide. The Mitchell Building is one of Adelaide’s best examples of Gothic Revival architecture.
The residence of the Governor of South Australia is on the corner of King William Street. This is the oldest Government House in Australia.
Parliament House is across the road along with the Adelaide Festival Centre.
The River Torrens runs through Adelaide city from the hills and empties into Gulf St Vincent.
The walk trails beside the river make a beautiful walk or hire a bike and cycle. A great way to experience and the river and see the sights is on a Torrens River Cruise. You can enjoy a 40-50 minute cruise with a running live commentary from the friendly skipper and learn about the historical importance of the River Torrens.
Other Things To Do in Adelaide City
Rundle Mall in the heart of Adelaide city is where to go shopping. Filled with retailers, boutique stores, arcades, and eateries.
It also has art sculptures like The Spheres by Bert Flugelman (opposite) and life-sized bronze pigs.
Adelaide Zoo is one of the most popular places to visit in Adelaide. With over 3,000 animals, including Giant Pandas, it’s a big hit with the kids.
The 150-year old Adelaide Central Market is a foodie’s delight. It is one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest undercover fresh produce markets, with over 70 traders. Sample some of the best food including fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious seafood, and artisan cheese. The Adelaide Central Market Tour is a great way to experience this market as you get to talk to the stall holders. Hear about the food supply chain and where their food comes from as well as the migration history of South Australia.
Adelaide Oval is Adelaide’s main sports ground. You can watch the national sport, Australian Football, here as well as cricket and soccer. You might even want to take in the 360-degree views from a 2-hour rooftop climb experience and, if that doesn’t appeal, maybe a stadium tour. On this 90-minute tour you get to go behind the scenes, accessing restricted areas.
Places to visit in South Australia
Adelaide Hills can be visited on a day trip from the city or stay overnight to see more of the area. In one hour you’ll be in the peaceful countryside with its variety of landscapes.
Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement and here you will find German architecture and influences. It’s a picturesque village with historic buildings dotted along the main street. If you want something to eat, the Hahndorf Inn specialises in German dishes.
Mount Barker is the largest town in the hills and not as quaint as other places. However, the views at the top of Mount Barker are stunning and it’s only a 250-metre trail easy walk. There are also plenty of historic buildings to see on the Mount Barker Heritage Walk.
Mount Lofty Summit provides panoramic views of Adelaide’s city skyline to the coast. The peak is 710m above sea level and is a great place to watch the sunset. Or you can walk down to Waterfall Gully and join the Heysen Trail.
If you’re looking for a tour, this Adelaide Hills and Hahndorf Small-Group Tour from Adelaide combines a food-tasting tour with views from Mount Lofty on a culinary tour. This multi-stop tour includes all transportation, so you don’t need to rent a car, and stops at some of the region’s top food producers picked by your foodie guide. Enjoy the scenery on your journey through the countryside, stopping to taste cheese, chocolate, and wine. A delightful German- style lunch with a glass of beer/wine is included in the price.
If you’d prefer to explore the Adelaide Hills at your own pace, but require transportation, this Full-Day Hahndorf and Adelaide Hills Hop-On Hop-Off Tour from Adelaide is excellent. You get to ride in a comfortable climate-controlled bus into the scenic hills on a looping circuit that stops at 8-10 wineries and takes about one hour to complete. Explore the historic township of Hahndorf and have ample time to sample wine and food at any of the selected stops. You return to the city in the late afternoon with arrival in Adelaide CBD at approximately 5pm.
Victor Harbour is 82km south of Adelaide. We visited as part of a road trip from Adelaide, down to Victor Harbour and then up to the Barossa Valley. The town has the largest population on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Another good option is the Seal Island cruise which departs from Victor Harbour. Look for seals, sea lions, whales and dolphins around Granite Island with views of the island and the coastline of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
If you like wine, I’m sure you have heard of the Barossa Valley. It is one of the best wine regions in the world and also renowned for its food.
It’s a 50-minute drive north east of Adelaide but I think you need at least a weekend here. There are over 80 cellar doors, showcasing some of the most awarded wines.
Start the day with an early morning Hot Air Balloon Flight and admire the stunning scenery around you. Then maybe a walk before some lunch and wine tasting.
This popular Barossa Valley Wineries Tour with Tastings and Lunch departs from Adelaide and includes tastings at four wineries and lunch at one of the Barossa’ most famous wineries, Peter Lehmann. The tour is limited to twenty people providing a personalized touch that enhances your wine experience. Read more about this tour here.
If you don’t have a car, but want to explore the region in your own time, this Hop-On Hop-Off Barossa Valley Wine Region Tour from Adelaide is well priced. Discover the highlights of the Barossa Valley wine region on a full-day hop-on hop-off winery tour from Adelaide. You can explore at your own pace when you hop off at your choice of 10–12 wineries and eateries on the route. The full circuit takes about one hour to complete, and you’ll have time to get on and off at the selected stops.
Although driving through the Barossa Valley offers the chance to see some of Australia’s finest scenery, the best view is from the air. Take in the totality of the Barossa region during this short scenic helicopter flight, departing from Hoffnungsthal Valley. This tour offers you a perspective to see the scale of the plantings in the valley, as well as the Jacob’s Creek winery’s extensive tank farm.
McLaren Vale is another world-renowned wine region and only 38km from Adelaide though so easily done on a day trip.
The area is best known for its dry reds like Shiraz, Grenache, and Cabernet. However, it also produces excellent Mediterranean varieties such as Fiano, Vermentino, Tempranillo and Sangiovese.
A lot of the cellar doors also sell local produce for a variety of budgets, from fine dining to casual platters.
Taste local wine at the best wineries in McLaren Vale on this small-group tour from Adelaide, with all transport provided. You will visit iconic and boutique cellar doors and wineries, meet the winemaker and see the winery. The tour is tailored to suit your tastes and is owned and operated by McLaren Vale locals.
Alternatively, explore the McLaren Vale wine region at your own pace with a full-day hop-on hop-off winery tour from Adelaide. After departing from the Adelaide CBD or McLaren Vale, ride on a comfortable bus to your choice of more than 15 winery stops. See traveller photos here.
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s 3rd largest island and lies 112 km southwest of Adelaide. It is one of the most popular places to visit in South Australia, with over 140,000 tourists each year.
There are 23 hikes to do here, with a level to suit anyone, or head to Seal Bay. Here you can witness seal-lions in their natural environment. Do note, though, that beach access is only available through a guided tour.
Another great attraction is the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park which is home to over 600 animals.
A great way to experience this stunning island is on this Kangaroo Island Day Tour from Adelaide. You travel from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island on this activity-filled day trip by ferry and coach. On the island, you’ll discover its natural attractions and local animals, from Vivonne Bay and Seal Bay Conservation Park to the Remarkable Rocks, Flinders Chase National Park, Admirals Arch and more. Spot wallabies, echidnas, fur seals, koalas and, of course, kangaroos.
Full-Day Tour in South Australia Highlights
Head out of Adelaide on a full-day tour that travels to the McLaren Vale wine region, and the towns of Hahndorf, Goolwa, and Victor Harbor. You can enjoy wine and food tastings (at your own expense) in McLaren Vale and stop at The Almond Train. The tour includes hotel pickup and drop-off. You’ll learn about the towns of Hahndorf, Goolwa, and Victor Harbor from your guide’s commentary. Read more here.
Accommodation in South Australia
McCracken Country Club, Victor Harbour
In Victor Harbour, we stayed booked through Booking.com and stayed at McCracken Country Club. We had a 2 bedroom apartment with a Queen bed and two singles. It also had a full kitchen, lounge area, laundry facilities, and a balcony overlooking the golf course. The serviced apartment was clean and we would stay there again.
Tanunda Cottages Barossa Valley
Our accommodation choice in the Barossa Valley was Tanunda Cottages. These cottages are so cute with everything you could possibly want. The gas fire and electric blankets make it cosy in winter and there’s air-con for those hot summer nights. Breakfast items are also included and it’s centrally located in Tanunda High Street. I highly recommend it.
The Pullman Adelaide was perfect for our city stay. It’s located in Hindmarsh Square right in the city centre so a great location. Parking is available but we returned our hire car and walked or used public transport here. It was modern and clean with comfortable beds. Our balcony overlooked Hindmarsh Square and we often sat out on the table & chairs. This is another property that I would highly recommend.
Adelaide and South Australia Tours
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