During the annual Festival of Arts and Fringe, Adelaide fills with people and pop-ups.
However, don’t let that fool you into thinking the South Australian capital is only fun during festival season. There’s a huge amount to see and do here throughout the year. A vibrant street art scene has breathed new life into the urban landscape in recent years, while a small-bar revolution is enlivening the city’s nightlife. Add to that the sensational beaches, vineyards and wildlife viewing opportunities that are within easy reach, and you have all the makings of a top holiday.
This Adelaide city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.
Watch our video of ten top things to do in Adelaide:
Take a stroll along leafy North Terrace, where you’ll discover magnificent museums, theatres and galleries.
One of the highlights is the Art Gallery of South Australia. Admire the mid-nineteenth century architecture from the street, then head inside to view the extensive collection of works that spans cultures and time periods.
Just next door, the Migration Museum shares how immigration has shaped Adelaide’s cultural identity. There are hundreds of artefacts on display and every one of them has an interesting story to tell.
Keep an eye out for the amazing street art around town — particularly in the East End. Some of the murals are massive, so they’re hard to miss! While you’re out and about, call into arts incubators like The Mill and Jam Factory, where you’ll get to view the work of up-and-coming creatives.
Soak up some culture after dark in the parallel laneways of Peel Street and Leigh Street. Bar hopping between them will have you listening to the blues over cocktails at Clever Little Tailor, eating Nutri-Grain bar snacks at Maybe Mae, and sharing pintxos and espresso martinis at Udaberri.
Adelaide for history lovers
Heritage buildings sit side-by-side with new developments across Adelaide, making it impossible to ignore the city’s past.
Adelaide may well have started out as a convict-free zone, but the infamous Adelaide Gaol certainly hosted its fair share of miscreants over the years. The gaol opened in 1841 and is one of the oldest remaining colonial buildings in South Australia. Get scared silly on a ghost tour.
Iconic Adelaide Oval is an intriguing blend of the old and new, with state-of-the-art design and heritage features like the classic scoreboard. The Oval has been part of Adelaide life since the 1870s and is well worth a visit. Take the standard guided tour or book a Roof Climb — an exhilarating stroll across the top of the stadium’s soaring stands! A 75-metre pedestrian footbridge now links Adelaide Oval with the Adelaide Festival Centre and riverbank redevelopment.
Adelaide is home to the second oldest zoo in Australia, and it’s the only place in the country — in fact, in the Southern Hemisphere — where you’ll have the opportunity to see giant pandas. Say hi to big fur balls Wang Wang and Funi, along with around 3,000 other furry, feathered and scaly critters. The zoo is an easy walk from the city centre.
Great places to eat in Adelaide
Over the past couple of years, Adelaide’s East End has been transformed from a hub of same-same Asian and Italian restaurants to one of the city’s most exciting culinary destinations.
Wander down Rundle Street and see what you can discover. From gastro pubs to Middle Eastern eateries, there is something to suit every taste. Our top recommendation is Africola — where food, wine and fun are all given equal attention. Snacks of biltong and boerewors are followed by fire cooked meats and local produce that has likely been fermented or foraged.
To style it up a notch, head over to Waymouth Street — between King William Road and Light Square. Super trendy Press Food and Wine serves a diverse menu of modern Australian shared plates in industrial chic surroundings. There’s a section reserved for walk-ins.
Also in the ‘hood is Georges on Waymouth — which offers classic European-style dining, complete with crisp white linen tablecloths and smartly dressed waitstaff. Nearby Delicatessen Kitchen and Bar wouldn’t look out of place if it suddenly turned up in the heart of le Marais in Paris. The stylish décor and menu of French classics are très bon! The restaurant’s recently discovered cellar has been converted into a speakeasy-style bar.
Other nearby options for a pre or post dinner drink include Proof on Anster Street, which has a stylish but intimate downstairs bar and a quirky rooftop space. Across the laneway, take the lift or the stairs up to The Gallery rooftop bar. The decor effortlessly melds the old and the new. Mix with a relaxed crowd well into the night.
Where to shop in Adelaide
Shopping in Adelaide is all about the eclectic boutiques and brands.
Rundle Mall’s Fashion BNKR stocks the newest looks from South Aussie brands like Finders Keepers, Cameo, and Keepsake. Keep walking down Rundle Street to Miss Gladys Sym Choon. It’s a must-visit for fashionistas.
A trip to Adelaide wouldn’t be complete without braving the crowds at the Adelaide Central Market. Shopping for fruits and vegetables might not be high on your holiday agenda, but you can also pick up wonderful cheeses, freshly-baked bread and gourmet smallgoods for a picnic. Foodies can do a guided tour of the market to meet a cross-section of vendors and sample their wares.
If you’re worried that you won’t fit into your new Finders Keepers jumpsuit after all that cheese, hit the suburban shopping strips on The Parade in Norwood or King William Road. You can walk off the extra calories and give your credit card a workout at the same time.
Ways to relax in Adelaide
There’s no end of things to do in Adelaide that will leave you feeling refreshed.
Hire a bike and go for a relaxed pedal along the River Torrens Linear Park Trail. It actually runs all the way from Adelaide’s northern suburbs to the beach, but you can do just the city section. Soak up the beauty of the riverside parklands, and listen out for lions and gibbons as you cycle past the zoo.
This is also a good opportunity to stop and smell the flowers at the Adelaide Botanic Garden. There are 50 hectares of themed grounds and gardens to admire, including the International Rose Garden. If you’re visiting in spring or autumn, you’ll see the array of rose bushes at their glorious best.
There’s another good reason to head for the Adelaide Hills; it’s home to Hahndorf — one of South Australia’s most popular tourist destinations. Established by German Lutheran settlers in the 1830s, the village’s heritage main street hosts artisanal workshops, art galleries, gift shops, and cafes. While you’re in this neck of the woods, drop by pretty-as-a-picture Hahndorf Hill Winery. Their popular ‘ChocoVino’ experience pairs fine wines with chocolates from around the world and is not to be missed!
Where to stay in Adelaide
Peppers Waymouth Hotel
Peppers Waymouth Hotel is the perfect base for exploring everything that Adelaide has to offer. Located within easy walking distance of the Adelaide Central Market and many other top attractions, the hotel offers an Art Deco-inspired elegance and sophisticated charm, characterised by rich chocolate tones.
Accommodation options include standard guest rooms, deluxe rooms, deluxe suites, and penthouse suites. Rooms feature luxurious king or twin beds, large well-appointed marble bathrooms and all the mod cons the discerning traveller could ask for. A buffet breakfast is served daily in Essay Kitchen, which also offers dinner from Monday to Saturday.
If you’re looking to venture out for dinner, the aforementioned Press Food and Wine, Georges on Waymouth, and Delicatessen are all within easy reach.
The writer travelled as a guest of Peppers Waymouth Hotel.
Browse our range of Adelaide tours and experiences here.
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Cover image: Press Food and Wine/Food and Wine Collective. Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Natasha Stewart worried her middle school teachers by submitting an English assignment that was essentially copied from Nick Cave’s Where the Wild Roses Grow. These days the Adelaide-based freelance writer is more likely to be penning restaurant reviews for street magazine Rip it Up than plagiarising musical ballads. Natasha lives by the travel ethos that you should always be a tourist in your own town.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.