There used to be a very famous ad on Australian TV that sang ‘no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home!’. I often think of this ad whenever I catch a glance of my home town of Adelaide out of the plane window. It seems all those marketing executives were right – I always feel my heart leap a little as I hand my passport over and get welcomed back to Adelaide, Australia.
I was so excited when Adelaide was named one of Lonely Planet’s top cities to visit – actually, so was everyone in Adelaide. A lot of the cafes gave out free coffee for a day to celebrate! See, us Adelaideans love our home, and always get very excited to share it with visitors.
We’re so glad to see Adelaide being added to more and more itineraries. Take that, Sydney and Melbourne, we’re on the map too! Not convinced just yet? Let me tell you some more about Adelaide and some of the best things to do here!
A quick introduction to Adelaide.
Since we’re not quite as well-known as our neighbors Sydney and Melbourne, let me share some quick facts about Adelaide. It’s the capital of South Australia, the state at the bottom of mainland Australia. Melbourne is about 800 kilometers to the east, and Perth is about 2,000 kilometers to the west.
Our total population in 1.5 million, however, that’s for the whole “Adelaide outer metropolitan” suburbs (pretty much, 50 kilometers in every direction from the center of town). In terms of the population of the square mile that is Adelaide, we’re pretty small.
Adelaide is a very traveler-friendly city, as our prices are cheaper than the eastern seaboard, and there’s free public transport within the CBD. Having a car is great if you want to go to some of the further-out places, but there are some alternatives if you’re vehicle-less.
5 things to do in the Adelaide CBD
Even though it’s only a square mile, there are some great things to do in the city of Adelaide. Here are my favorites! Best of all, they’re all free!
- Central Market: Adelaide is home to the southern hemisphere’s largest undercover fresh produce market, and it’s a definite must-see! A lot of city residents (like me) do our weekly grocery shopping at the market, but there are also many other interesting stalls selling everything from Russian piroshkis to pates and preserves.
- Tandanya Aboriginal Arts: Adelaide is on Kaurna land, and I definitely recommend learning more about the rich and varied culture of Australia’s Aboriginal people. Tandanya is one of the best places to learn more, as it has a great gallery (and gift shop!) as well as theatre, dance and music performances throughout the year.
- Migration Museum: There are a lot of cultural institutions on North Terrace, but the Migration Museum is my favorite. This museum is very interactive, and it traces the history of different groups in South Australia to show how we became the proud multicultural city that we are today.
- Adelaide Botanic Gardens: Adelaide is surrounded by a “green belt”, and there are also lots of beautiful parks within the city. Perhaps the best is the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, which is a huge park with many indigenous plants and birds. You can even go on a free guided walk in the morning, which is really interesting.
- River Torrens Walk: Truth be told, I don’t really like walks, but I’ll make an exception for this gorgeous walk. Starting from the Torrens River near Adelaide Oval and leading down to Adelaide University, this is a short but beautiful walk. The setting is really pretty, and you can spot birds like kookaburras, pelicans, and galahs.
5 best restaurants in Adelaide
One of my favorite things about Adelaide is just how multicultural our restaurants are. There’s pretty much every type of cuisine imaginable, and it’s all delicious! Here are the five most unmissable.
- Africola (South African): One of the newer and most stylish restaurants in Adelaide, Africola is super popular. No wonder, because their South African-inspired cuisine is absolutely incredible, and the décor is awesome too.
- Parwana (Afghan): This has been one of my favorite restaurants for about ten years. Started by one of the first Afghan families in Adelaide, it has grown to be a well-loved icon. It’s a little out of the center of Adelaide, but it’s absolutely worth the trip.
- Star of Siam (Thai): This is another long-time favorite in Adelaide, and it’s especially great on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s located on Gouger Street, our popular outdoor dining strip. If Star of Siam is full, there are plenty of other great options on Gouger.
- Phonatic (Vietnamese): My favorite during university, Phonatic does amazing pho (and other Vietnamese dishes), in a beautiful setting, with the best service you could ask for. This family-run restaurant is so lovely – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
- Apothecary 1861 (Modern Australian): Looking for something a bit fancy for your time in Adelaide? If so, head for this beautiful restaurant on Hindley Street. The downstairs wine cellar is particularly gorgeous, and the food is delicious. It’s pricey, but not ridiculous.
5 best bars/nightclubs in Adelaide
Over the last ten years, Adelaide has become a hot spot for chic and stylish small bars which are the perfect place for a relaxed vino, while there are also some great places to get dancing, too.
- Hains & Co: My local also happens to be one of the most popular small bars in Adelaide, for good reason. It’s packed every day of the week and does great cocktails. Personally, I love getting a wine here – they always have two random bottles open, so just ask what’s on offer.
- Cantina Sociale: I love this charming and rustic small bar in the south-west of Adelaide. You can do a great wine tasting flute if you like, and there are also delicious tapas plates. They tend to do more unusual wine varieties, so it’s always a treat to try it out!
- 2KW: If you are looking for a fancy place to have a cocktail or a small meal, then definitely head for 2KW on the corner of King William Street and North Terrace. This rooftop bar has probably the best view in all of Adelaide!
- Jive: Wanting to dance the night away to some offbeat tunes? If so, you’ll love Jive. Think lots of indie and rock music, cheap beer, and good times. I also love the huge mural on the front of this great venue.
- Casablabla: With great multicultural beats and a casual and comfy outdoor patio area, Casablabla is definitely a favorite of mine. It attracts a slightly older crowd, but absolutely everyone is welcome at ‘blabla.
5 best day trips from Adelaide
While there are a lot of great things to do in the Adelaide city center, there is much more to do just a bit further afield. Here are my five favorite day trips.
- Barossa Valley: Even if you haven’t heard of the Barossa Valley, you might have heard of some of the wines produced here – labels like Jacob’s Creek, Wolf Blass, and Peter Lehmann are all popular around the world. Amazingly, you can taste all of these wines, usually for free, and the winemakers are really friendly and laidback. I’ve put together a list of the best Barossa Valley wineries if you’re wondering which to visit!
- Glenelg Beach: Adelaide’s answer to Bondi Beach is absolutely beautiful but also not quite as frenetically busy. You can just hop on the tram from the city, and be there in about half an hour. Just lazing by the beach is a great way to spend the day, but there is also a water park/amusement arcade known as “the Beach House” which has some great water slides!
- Hahndorf: It might be a bit odd to go to a German village in the middle of Australia, but that’s what Hahndorf is! It’s so beautiful, though, and there’s lots of great wine, shopping, and smallgoods. Hahndorf is in the Adelaide Hills, so if you have a car, you can also explore other nearby attractions such as the Gumeracha Big Rocking Horse.
- Kangaroo Island: This one is a little more difficult and expensive to get to, but you can do it in a day or overnight. Trust me, it will be totally worth it: travel to Kangaroo Island is sure to be one of the most amazing experiences of your time in South Australia. It’s an unspoiled paradise where you can see many Australian animals, including koalas and sea lions, in the wild!
- Victor Harbour: About an hour and a half from Adelaide is this pretty, sleepy seaside town that’s a popular holiday spot. It’s great for kids and kids-at-heart, with lots of attractions including Clydesdale Horses, mini-golf and even whale watching. Plus, the beaches are really beautiful and there are lots of breezy art galleries.
So, there you go, here’s a total of twenty of my absolute favorite things to do in Adelaide! I hope that all of these convince you to come and visit us soon!
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Georgie Mack is an Australian travel blogger currently living in England. She loves travel that’s good for your wallet and good for the earth. You can follow her adventures in traveling and wine drinking at Journey with Georgie or on Instagram.