Adelaide is a buzzing city and capital of the state of South Australia, of which it’s the authentic cultural and geographical hub.
Some 1,5 million people live here, more than 75% of the whole state. Large areas of South Australia are indeed desert, particularly in the north and west.
Brushed by the hills to the east and by the sea to the west, Adelaide enjoys a mediterranean climate. Besides, thanks to its wide boulevards, city parks and the overall high quality of life, Adelaide has constantly ranked in the top liveable cities in the world. In 2021 it was even elected best Australian city in this special classification, beating both Melbourne and Sydney.
ALSO READ: The 10 most liveable cities in the world in 2021
The citizens of Adelaide are historically proud of being part of the only free colony in Australia, meaning it was established by free men rather than convicts, in contrast to the rest of the continent. As a matter of fact free settlers from England, Scotland, Germany, Ireland and Italy arrived here first and voluntarily in the 1800s to start a new life.
Let’s see the most interesting places to visit in Adelaide:
- Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga
- Adelaide Central Market
- South Australian Museum
- Adelaide Botanical Garden
- Gorge Wildlife Park
- d’Arenberg Cube
- Onkaparinga River, Port Noarlunga
WHAT TO SEE IN ADELAIDE CITY
1. VICTORIA SQUARE / TARNTANYANGGA
Victoria Square is the main of 5 squares in the CBD, the ideal spot to start and visit the town. Thanks to the original design by Colonel Light, one of the founding members of the planned city of Adelaide, you’ll quickly learn how to find your bearings within the city grid. Its perimeter is almost a perfect square and is made entirely of parks and green areas.
You’ll notice how historical and aboriginal meeting places as rivers, valleys or mountains, carry the double English / Aboriginal language nomenclature. The city council adopted this measure in order to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. In this case the aboriginal clan of Karna named the area Tarntanyangga, meaning red kangaroo rock in aboriginal language.
Today Victoria Square is a city hub offering different services to the citizen such as fountains, gardens and lawns, info points, public toilets, bike sharing and tram stations. The Australian and Aboriginal flags rise next to each other above the square.
2. ADELAIDE CENTRAL MARKET
Few steps away from Victoria Square the Adelaide Central Market is the pulsing heart of commercial activities in town. Over 70 shops and stands call this market home, a true icon of Adelaide thanks to its 150 years of history.
At the Central Market you can find really good fruits and veggies, meat and fish, and we recommend to come here in the morning to try one of the many breakfast options.
The market itself represents the living proof of how settlers have integrated into Adelaide’s life over the different migration waves, from the first Scottish, Germans and Italians, to the recent Chinese and Vietnamese. Personally we were delighted to find our own Italian corner full of treats at Lucia’s Fine Foods!
3. SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM
If you are fond of history and museums Adelaide certainly won’t disappoint you. The city boasts a dozen museums within the town centre, ranging from art gallery to state museums and aboriginal art exhibits.
We literally lost ourselves in time in the beautiful South Australian Museum of natural history and research featuring exhibits dedicated to the “discovery” and colonisation of South Australia’s coastline by the Europeans. The authentic maps of the English captained by Matthew Flinders and of the French under the directive of Napoleon show the colonisation rush to the new lands in the Pacific Ocean between 18th and 19th centuries.
We’d also like to mention the nearby Art Gallery of SA and the Tandanya National Aboriginal Culture, as well as the interesting Migration Museum which tells the story of the first settlers in South Australia.
TIP: we suggest to visit these museum in case of rain or during the hottest hours of the day. Entry is free for all Adelaide museums.
After the museums you’ve earned a deserved rest in the trendiest neighbourhood of Adelaide, Glenelg.
The vibe here is completely relaxed and laid back, the long sandy beach calls for strolls and sunbathing.
Glenelg is perfect to spend a couple of nights too. Hotels and apartment buildings are plentiful around here, so are shops, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants for all budgets.
TIP: If you are not driving, the tram is the easiest way to reach this area directly from the city centre in about 25 minutes.
5. ADELAIDE BOTANICAL GARDEN
As we mentioned before Adelaide offers a miriad of green areas all around the city grid. One of the most loved parks is the Botanical Garden, a guaranteed gem when visiting the most important cities in Australia.
Adelaide Botanical Garden isn’t far from the museums area, on the northwestern side of the city square, and expands for over 50 hectares.
Besides the endemic species of plants and trees, many themed gardens, greenhouses and conservatories are up for a visit. The Rainforest Experience gives the opportunity to walk through a typical Australian rainforest setting, which includes an artificial drizzle to keep the area wet every few minutes.
And once again the entry is free for this amazing attraction too!
WHAT TO SEE AROUND ADELAIDE CITY
Adelaide is bordered by the Gulf of St. Vincent to the west and by the hills to the east. Right in the hills lies the village of Hahndorf, 28 km southeast to the capital of South Australia.
Hahndorf is known for its German architecture and origins, as the name suggests. It was founded by the Lutheran Prussians who migrated here during the 19th century, carrying along every aspect of their own culture.
Today Hahndorf is a proper tourist attraction, a slice of Europe within Australia. Here you’ll find traditional German food as bratwurst and sausages, and obviously some great craft beer. The village highlight is the main street where a few original buildings and a church are still standing in their original shape, together with some peculiar musuem-houses.
TIP: if you are reaching Hahndorf by car, you can take advantage of the free 3-hour parking area next to the main street (see map on top of this post).
7. GORGE WILDLIFE PARK
Around Adelaide there are several parks and reserves, including the all Australian Wildlife Parks. If you are not familiar with the term yet, a Wildlife Park is a sort of sanctuary for the common Australian animals, aiming both to give them protection and to inform and entertain visitors. Differently from a classic zoo, a Wildlife Park usually extends for a few hectares of land, allowing the animals to roam more freely outside feeding and caring hours.
Among the most popular in Adelaide we list Gorge Wildlife Park. More than 5 hectares of forests and trails to follow while getting close to Australian native species as wombats, kangaroos and dingoes. Some animals who may be more at risk are kept in closer fenced areas, such as the brush-tailed wallaby and the koala (which is possible to pet for few minutes at Gorge Wildlife Park).
The sanctuary is about 30 km north-west to Adelaide and open daily from 9am to 5pm, tickets start from 20$. More info here.
8. D’ARENBERG CUBE
Moving towards the south the McLaren Vale is well worth a mention, the closest wine region to Adelaide at a short 45 minute drive away.
Here lies the d’Arenberg Cube, a quirky 5 story building in a Rubik cube shape, featuring huge glass windows. The building sits within the estate of the d’Arenberg family, popular wine producers in the area. The Cube is an attraction under many points of view. Not only it’s fascinating from the outside, but it also offers an indoor restaurant, a wine tasting room, a panoramic terrace, and various artistic and videographic expo rooms.
The place is gorgeous, so as the 360° views over the valley. As if that wasn’t enough, some original art pieces by Salvador Dalì have recently been added.
Open everyday from 10:30am to 4:30pm, prices from 15$. More info here.
9. ONKAPARINGA RIVER, PORT NOARLUNGA
To conclude our trip around Adelaide, we couldn’t omit to list on of the many wild sandy beaches which distinguish the seaside to the south and west of the city. One is truly spoilt for choice, we decided to dedicate this paragraph to the great show created by mother nature at the mouth of River Onkaparinga by the small town of Noarlunga, some 28 km south of Adelaide.
After digging a lush windin valley for over 100 km crossing through the homonymous l’Onkaparinga River National Park, the river swerves just before joining the sea, creating a perfect spot to hang out at. Day visitors here can opt for various hobbies, like kayaking, fishing, stand up paddling, swimming.
Just a few meters away they can relax along Southport Beach in Noarlunga and try surfing, snorkeling or diving.
A beautiful combination of natural attractions and a true paradise for water sports lovers!
Our post about what to do and see in Adelaide ends here.
You can check out our related South Australia articles below!
South Australia on-the-road itinerary
The best 6 beaches in South Australia
Coober Pedy: life underground in the outback
Have a great stay in Adelaide!
BEST STAYS IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
- You can book all accommodation in South Australia with free cancellation here.
- Adelaide Caravan Park: conveniently located just 4 km away from the CBD. Villas and cabins other than camping spots and caravan powered sites. Services include swimming pool and barbecue areas.
- Oaks Glenelg Plaza Pier Suites: lovely location in Glenelg, offering superior seaview suites.
- Blue Seas Motel: excellent value for money option in the heart of the Eyre Peninsula.
- Glamping at Semptember Bay Beach: for the less used to bush camping. A fancy alternative in Lincoln National Park, kids will absolutely love it!
HOW TO GET AROUND?
- Drive here or fly and rent a private car to be free to reach any place in South Australia. The cheapest options start from 39€/day, and fuel in Australia is less than 1€ per litre! (1.50AUD).
Check your best rental car options in Australia here.
- Airplane: daily flights to Adelaide, from anywhere in Australia. Local flights connect the capital with Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln, Coober Pedy.
- Ferry: Kangaroo Island ferry; Lucky Bay to Wallaroo.
WEATHER&SEASONS – WHEN TO GO TO SOUTH AUSTRALIA?
South Australia’s climate is generally warm and dry all year round. Mild winters distinguish the southern edges of the state. During summer months from November to February it can get torrid all around SA, with temperatures easily going over 40°C. However, keep in mind that the outback areas are subject to an extremely variable daily temperature range, with cold nights as low as 10°C.
Don’t forget your sunscreen when travelling in South Australia.
DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes you do. Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.
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