Elegant and sophisticated, Adelaide is Australia’s fifth largest city and justifiably proud of its rich heritage. Like Melbourne, this bustling capital of South Australia remains untainted by a penal colony past. Instead, free immigrants, mostly from Britain, founded Adelaide between Australia’s rugged south coast and the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges. The layout was carefully crafted giving a welcome sense of order balanced with a relaxed atmosphere.
Today, Adelaide’s prosperity, built on mining and agriculture, is still proudly displayed. Beautiful private mansions and grand public buildings occupy an important place amidst modern high-rises. Museums, galleries and gardens are some of the city’s finest treasures, and art lovers will delight in opera, symphony and a thriving live music scene. But despite these tourist attractions in the big cities, we see parks in the city and wide boulevards seem refreshingly calm, while rural landscapes and day trips are only 20 minutes away from the hustle and bustle.
1 North Terrace
A beautiful tree-lined boulevard with historical and cultural treasures, North Terrace is a great place to start a city tour. Parliament Building , at the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace, is arguably the most imposing building in Adelaide with its Grade II listed colonnade. Just down the street, cheek to cheek, the State Library of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, and the Art Gallery of South Australia, offer a triple dose of art and culture and are three of the city’s top attractions. Adjacent to this , the main campus of the University of Adelaidehouses the Mitchell Building, one of the city’s finest examples of Gothic Revival style. Other North Terrace treasures include the Migration Museum, Ayer’s Historic House and Adelaide Botanic Garden, a green thumb’s dream.
2 Adelaide Botanic Garden
Wander through the wrought iron gates on the east side of North Terrace and enter a wonderland of botanical treasures. Established in 1855, Adelaide Botanic Garden features educational themed plantings such as medicinal plants, a Mediterranean garden, Australian native species, and a wetland designed to hold enough water to eventually irrigate the entire site.
The Santos Museum of Economic Botany provides insight into the important role plants play in everyday life through a series of permanent collections. Other garden enthusiasts include the palm house, the Bicentennial Conservatory with lowland rainforest plants, night-blooming Amazonica water lilies, and Australia’s oldest avenue of foe trees. After walking through the museum and gardens, visitors can enjoy lunch in the cafe or restaurant. Another of three public gardens, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden is also worth a visit with 100ha of cool climate plants and a heritage rose garden.
Hours: Weekdays Feb-March 7:15am-6:30am, April 7:15am-6pm, 7:15am-5:30pm, June-July 7:15am-5:00pm, 7:00am-5:00pm 3pm-5:30pm, Sep 7: 3-6pm, Oct 7-October 15-6:30pm. On weekends and public holidays, the gardens open at 9:00 am. Free guided walks, daily at 10.30am from the visitor center
Adres: North Terrace, Adelaide
3 Art Gallery of South Australia
In the heart of Adelaide’s cultural precinct, the Art Gallery of South Australia showcases one of Australia’s finest collections of art. Erected in 1881, the elegant Victorian building with its colonnade set the tone for the eminent works within. The collection cuts across all media, from sculpture, paintings, textiles, metalwork and photographs to ceramics, jewelery and furniture. The Australian collection spans colonial times to the present, including Indigenous art and Torres Strait Islander. European works highlight pieces from the Renaissance to the present day and Asian exhibitions include Australia’s only dedicated Islamic gallery. Important North American pieces are also on display, as well as some evocative avant-garde sculptures.
Hours: Open daily from 10am to 5pm, closed Christmas Day
Admission: Free, except special exhibitions
Adres: North Terrace, Adelaide
Official site: https://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/agsa/home
4 South Australian Museum
The South Australian Museum, adjacent to the State Library , is a top research facility renowned for its Aboriginal heritage collections. In addition to the outstanding Australian collection, visitors can view artifacts from the South Pacific islands at the permanent Pacific Cultures Gallery, admire Egyptian antiquities, and learn about local flora and fauna at the South Australian Biodiversity Gallery. Kids love natural history exhibits with stuffed specimens, fossils, and skeletons. Afterwards, visitors can stop at the café for a bite to eat or visit the gift shop for postcards, books and souvenirs.
Opening hours: Open daily 10am-5pm, closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Adres: North Terrace, Adelaide
Official site: https://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/
5 State Library of South Australia
The State Library of South Australia surprises first-time visitors with its dramatic juxtaposition of old and new. The modern Spence wing with its sharp lines and glass-fronted entrance offers modern facilities and free Wi-Fi. From here, visitors should ask about the original library, located in the adjoining 1884 French Renaissance building known as the Mortlock Wing. Entering this grand old space is like stepping back in time. Multiple tiered galleries beckon high above, lined by elaborate wrought-iron balustrades, and ladders reach to leather-bound books propped neatly into the wooden shelves. Highlighting this flashback to old libraries is a stream of natural light streaming through the glass dome in the roof. The Mortlock Wing is also worth a visit for its special collection of works on the history of South Australia.
Adres: North Terrace en Kintore Avenue, Adelaide
Official site: https://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm
6 Adelaide Central Market
A few paces west of Victoria Square , on the south side of Grand Street, the Adelaide Central Market is a favorite shopping spot and one of the oldest covered markets in the world. Established in 1870, these colorful markets feature fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, pastries, cheeses and a mouthwatering array of multicultural culinary delights. After checking out the crowded stalls, customers can enjoy a meal at one of the many cafes in the area or Asian restaurants nearby. Chinatown . Visitors must bring their own shopping bags or baskets. Saturday afternoons are prime time for bargain hunters when some vendors lower prices to move their products.
Opening Hours: Open Tues-Sat 7am-3pm
Location: between Gouger and Grote Street, Adelaide
Official Site: https://www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au/
In the sheltered and surf-free Gulf St Vincent , the coastal village of Glenelg is a popular escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. To get here, most visitors opt for the 25-minute trip on Adelaide’s only remaining tram, which departs from Victoria Square in the city centre. In addition to its beach appeal and many tourist attractions, Glenelg has a fascinating history. The first group of free settlers disembarked here from HMS Buffalo in Holdfast Bay, making this the oldest mainland European settlement in South Australia. Sidewalk cafes, boutique hotels, and vibrant summertime entertainment provide a vacation feel, and tourists will find plenty of family-friendly attractions. Children can feel their excitement atThe Beachouse , an amusement park filled with rides including a giant waterslide, bumper boats, and Ferris wheel. Those looking for a quieter visit can sunbathe on the beach or cast a fishing line from the pier. Sailing and swimming with dolphins are other popular activities.
Official Site: https://glenelgsa.com.au/
Adjacent to the Adelaide Botanical Gardens to the northwest, the Adelaide Zoo was established in the late 19th century and is loved for its educational focus and charismatic collection of animals. The giant pandas are the stars here, both young and old. Other popular attractions include the aviaries, orangutans, and the EnviroDome , an interactive visitor center with a vertical garden and terrarium. Kids will love the petting zoo where they can cuddle, kiss and feed a cast of furry and feathered farmer friends, as well as kangaroos, quokkas and wallabies.
- Panda Exhibit 9:45am – 4:45pm
- Zoo Shop 9:30am – 4:45pm
- Reptile House 10am – 4:30pm
- Night House 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
- Continuous aviaries from 9.30am – 4.30pm
Admission: Adult $32.50, Child (4-14) $18, Concession $23, Family $85
Adres: Frome Road, Adelaide
Official Site: https://www.adelaidezoo.com.au/
9 Cleland Wildlife Park
Cleland Wildlife Park, less than 20 minutes’ drive from the city center on the northwestern slopes of Mount Lofty, makes for a cute and cuddly bunch of Aussie animals in a natural setting. Kangaroos, wallabies, potoroos and emus roam freely in the wide open spaces, and visitors can roam among them, feed them and enjoy close-up encounters. Photographers get a chance to take some excellent shots, and the interactive presentations provide interesting information about the animals and their habitats. For an additional fee, visitors can cuddle a koala and take home a souvenir photo.
Hours: Open daily 9:30am – 5pm, closed Christmas Day
Admission: Adult $20, Child (4-15) $10, Concession $16, Family $50
Adres: 365 Mount Lofty Summit Rd, Crafers
10 Adelaide Festival Centre
A 5-minute walk from North Terrace and Rundle Mall , the Adelaide Festival Center was Australia’s first multi-purpose arts venue and thrills locals and tourists alike with its vibrant cultural calendar. The white tent-like roof structure is a striking landmark along the River Torrens. In addition to the large 2,000-seat Festival Theater, the venue is home to several smaller theaters, a banquet hall, a light-filled gallery, and an amphitheater for concerts and recitals.
The center hosts the highly regarded Adelaide Arts Festival featuring theatre, opera, ballet, exhibitions, lectures and readings by writers. Those who don’t have time to attend an event can take part in a behind-the-scenes look at the locker rooms and performance areas. Ample parking and easy accessibility enhance the appeal of this versatile location.
Adres: King William St, Adelaide
Official site: https://www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/
11 Ayers Historic House Museum
Ayers House is one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in Australia. Originally a modest house built in 1846, it was owned from 1855 to 1878 by Henry Ayers, Prime Minister of South Australia for many years. Ayers transformed it into an elegant 40-room mansion with a grand new dining room and ballroom. It is now owned by the National Trust of South Australia and is a popular event venue, but visitors are welcome to view the house on a guided tour. During the tours, guests learn fascinating tidbits about the social history of the period, as well as the life and work of Sir Henry Ayers. The interior is famous for its beautiful decorative painted finishes on interior walls and ceilings. There is a wonderful collection of period decorative arts, furniture, silver and works of art, as well as changing exhibitions. Access to the house is only allowed during a guided tour.
Hours: Open Tues-Fri 10am-4pm, weekends and holidays 4pm-4pm
Admission: Adult $10, concession $8, child (13-16) $5, child 12 and under and National Trust members free
Adres: 288 North Terrace, Adelaide
Official site: https://www.ayershousemuseum.org.au/
12 Victoria Square
In the center of town, at the intersection of Grote Street and Wakefield Street, King William Street opens onto the revamped Victoria Square, an event venue with beautifully landscaped gardens. The square is also known as Abarnigin, Tarndanyangga. In the shadow of the modern high-rise blocks (including the Hilton Hotel), some handsome 19th-century buildings have been preserved. On the south side is the imposing Magistrates’ Court House (1851) with a Doric colonnade and the neoclassical High Council (1868). On the east side of Victoria Square lies the Treasury Building adjacent to the Town Hall , and Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier (1856-1926).
Other features of the square include a statue of Queen Victoria and a charming fountain by John Dowie, with figures representing South Australia’s three main rivers, the Murray, the Torrens and the Onkaparinga. Victoria Square also hosts the popular Adelaide Central Market and the city’s only remaining tram departs from the square to the seaside suburb of Glenelg . north of Victoria Square , the bustling pedestrian Rundle Mall runs east of King William Street, lined by large department stores, boutiques and arcades.
13 Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide, about 14 km northwest of the city centre, is a popular tourist destination with museums, restaurants and well-preserved historic buildings. Much of the city is an area rich in heritage. A number of imposing 19th-century buildings such as the Customs Office 1879 and the Courthouse testify to the early prosperity of this city as a thriving port. Major tourist diversions include dolphin watching cruises and a combination of intriguing transport-themed museums including a National Railway Museum, the South Australian Aviation Museum and the South Australian Maritime Museum, where visitors can view interesting exhibits on the region’s seafaring history. Seafood lovers head to the Fisherman’s Wharf Marketson Sundays to buy freshly caught fish straight from the boats.
14 Migration Museum
Housed in the beautifully restored former Adelaide Destitute Asylum, the Migration Museum traces three centuries of South Australian immigration history. From Indigenous history before colonization to the impact of immigration on their culture and local communities, visitors will gain an insight into the pioneering spirit and diverse cultures that have changed the face of South Australia. Personal stories from some of the immigrants bring a poignant note to this valuable museum, and the interactive displays will keep the kids entertained.
Hours: Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Weekends and Bank Holidays 1pm-9pm, Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Admission: Free with an optional donation, guided tours are available for a fee
Address: 82 Kintore Ave, Adelaide
Official site: https://migration.historysa.com.au/
Where to Stay in Adelaide for Sightseeing
We recommend these excellent city center hotels near Rundle Mall and the city’s top attractions:
- Mayfair Hotel: luxury boutique hotel, listed building, modern decor, comfortable beds, high tea at weekends.
- Majestic Roof Garden Hotel: mid-range pricing, great location, spacious rooms, rooftop terrace.
- Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury: 4.5-star hotel, historic building, pretty courtyard, studios and apartments with kitchens.
- Ibis Adelaide: great value, great location, free Wi-Fi, floor-to-ceiling windows.
Day trips from Adelaide
Barossa Valley & Clare Valley
Ruled by Prussian and English immigrants, the Barossa Valley is about an hour’s drive from Adelaide Airport and one of Australia’s oldest wine-growing regions. Foodies will be in heaven here with the abundance of fresh produce and fantastic restaurants. In addition to all the gastronomic delights, visitors will find a number of cultural treasures in the region, such as heritage trails, cookery schools, artisan shops, galleries and museums. A little further afield, the rolling green hills of the Clare Valley also nurture a rich grape growing history and a thriving gastronomic food scene.
Less than an hour’s drive south of central Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula is one of Adelaide’s most popular day trip destinations. Rolling hills, farms, fantastic surfing beaches and chic culinary delights and city slickers looking for a slower pace. Victor Harbor is the largest and one of the most popular towns along this rugged peninsula. From here, visitors can board a seasonal whale-watching cruise or fishing charter, surf one of the south shores, pull a line from one of the windswept beaches, or take a horse-drawn tram to Granite Islandwith its dwindling colony of Little Penguins. Goolwa, by the Murray River, is another popular peninsula, as are the inner cities of Strathalbyn and Mount Compass.
In the pretty Adelaide Hills , about 20 minutes from the city centre, Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, having been established in 1839 by German Protestants from East Prussia. Tree-lined streets, half-timbered houses and spire-adorned Lutheran churches infuse the town with European village charm, and the many farmhouses and German restaurants will delight gourmets.
A great place to start a tour is the 1857 former school building that houses the visitor center and the Hahndorf Academy , an art gallery that showcases local artists. Hahndorf is famous for one of its talented residents, Sir Hans Heysen (1877-1968), a German-born landscape artist who came to Australia in 1883 and later built an alpine style house on the outskirts of Hahndorf. Today, visitors can take a tour of his home and studio, known as The Cedars, stroll through the colorful gardens and see some of his paintings. Tourists can easily spend a leisurely day in this charming village, picking fruit from nearby farms, browsing the craft shops and galleries, and dining in the excellent restaurants.
Official site: https://hahndorfsa.org.au/