Your Ultimate Guide to Adelaide
5th March 2021
Adelaide in a nutshell
Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is compact, cultured and offers a little of everything. Originally the home of the Kaurna people, European settlement in the 1830s resulted in the establishment of the city as we know it today. Adelaide was a planned city, and unlike other Australian cities, it was to be home of ‘free people’ as opposed to convicts. With British and Irish people settling at the beginning of the 1800s, Germans also added greatly to the population half way through the century.
Today, Adelaide is encapsulated by a luscious green park belt, the city centre boasts multicultural restaurants, chic cafes and a lively bar culture. Multiple boutique shops and plenty of heritage are laced throughout the city. A concentrated 5km2 centre makes Adelaide CBD neat and approachable.
Museums and art galleries add a sprinkle of culture to the mix and interlaced leafy parks make for a peaceful cityscape. What’s more, there are plenty of hotels in Adelaide catering for a diverse range of visitors. There’s something for everyone in the South Australian capital, and we haven’t even mentioned the beaches and hills yet!
It’s not all about the city in Adelaide. Only 20 minutes away, visitors to Adelaide can reach the heavenly hills, thick with greenery and thriving with wildlife. Adelaide Hills, comprised of multiple charming towns and brimming with food, wine and culture is a destination in itself. Abundant viewpoints reachable by winding hillside roads, or endless hiking trails provide unbelievable views over Adelaide. Stand upon the Adelaide Hills to catch a panoramic view of the city centre, with a backdrop of the sea.
Which leads nicely on to the next best part of Adelaide; the seaside. Also within 30 minutes of Adelaide CBD, bustling seaside suburbs packed with cafes and restaurants line the stunning South Australian coastline. Gorgeous sandy beaches and clear waters running along the length of Adelaide make for spectacular scenery and blissful beachfront afternoons.
A weekend escape to Adelaide
At the end of this article, we recommend three options for Adelaide accommodation, based on different budgets. Whether you’re living an hour, or five hours away from this beautiful city, a trip to Adelaide could be the refreshing break you’re after. Scroll down to the end to find our top three suggestions!
Things to do in Adelaide
Visit Adelaide Central Market
Hip and teeming with locals, Adelaide Central Market is a key component to a great Adelaide getaway to-do list. Stalls selling fresh local produce including mounds of fruits and vegetables, sweets, chocolates, eggs, cheeses and olive oils overflow here. Walk around and nibble on some testers. What’s more patisseries, cafes and multicultural food stalls tempt the senses as you stroll the numerous isles. Make sure you stop by the packaging-free stalls and take a look at venders selling native Australian produce. Grab a coffee and sip as you watch people go about their daily lives.
Admire the Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Adelaide Botanic Gardens was designed and influenced by the Royal Gardens at Kew in London. Glass structures dating back to the 19th century are dotted throughout the gardens. In these conservatories, live an Australian rain forest, a giant Amazonian waterlily thriving since 1868 and a collection of Madagascan palms. Gorgeous flora and lofty trees, beautifully orange in autumn, set across the 51-hectare landscape will keep you captivated for a whole morning. Make sure you find the vibrant rose garden, established with the purpose of researching suitability for their growth in Australia.
Browse Rundle mall
The central icon of Adelaide, Rundle Mall, is the main shopping street in Adelaide and the spot where you’ll find your favourite high street stores as well as boutique shops. Whether you enjoy shopping or not, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Adelaide. Wander down the street and admire the buildings above shops to grasp the sense of history which pervades. Of note is Haigh’s Chocolates, selling the most exquisite of treats as well as the Adelaide Arcade which opened in 1885. You can also do your shopping in less of a ‘mall’ environment in Adelaide. Extending east from the main shopping street, Rundle Street continues with an emphasis on smaller independent establishments. Along this street you’ll find a great deal more restaurants, pubs and numerous vintage and boutique shops.
Head to the beach by tram
Glenelg is a seaside suburb west of the city centre and is accessible by tram from the CBD. Tourists as well as locals gather at Glenelg for beachfront walks and jogs, boating, swimming and breathtaking sea views (particularly at sunset). A jetty, jutting into the sea is perfect for an evening stroll. Bustling and full of shops and cafes, Glenelg has something to offer to everyone. In this beachfront part of Adelaide, you’ll also discover numerous heritage buildings; Glenelg is the oldest European settlement in South Australia. However, don’t be fooled.
Whilst Glenelg offers a superb coastal experience, endless seaside neighbourhoods both north and south of Glenelg are equally as inviting. White sandy beaches with nearby sweet cafes and chic restaurants are scattered along Adelaide’s coastline, so take your pick. Try Henley Beach or Brighton Beach as alternatives nearby, or perhaps Semaphore slightly further north. Having said that, anywhere you head to on the coast offers sweeping sandy beaches, so take your pick!
Head to Holey Moley for golf with a difference
Visit the 80s and 90s whilst playing a round of mini-golf if the weather is letting you down this winter. Head over in the day or opt for a session in the evening paired with a drink and snack. Choose from cocktails, wine, beer or anything you fancy, and get stuck into a competitive round of golf with your friends. Music is blasting at this trendy spot in the CBD and holes are inspired by your childhood favourites. This is certainly one of the best things to do for a visitor to the city – especially if you’re coming from regional SA. Holey Moley is certainly an indoor mini-golf course with a fantastic twist!
Visit the National Wine Centre
If you’re interested in wine, but not looking to make the trip out of the city during your stay, drop into the National Wine Centre. Located just next to Adelaide Botanic Garden, the wine centre offers a range of tours and experiences. The establishment is actually partially a wine research centre as part of the University of Adelaide. However, visitors are able to tour the building and visit the wine tasting room (which offers a whopping 120 wines). Also noteworthy is the National Wine Centre’s architecture. Set within a very modern, grand building comprised of glass and wood, the exterior itself is worth a look!
Discover Adelaide’s arts and cultural scene
During a self-guided tour or wander of the city, you might like to head inside some of the museums and art galleries on offer. The Art Gallery of South Australia – founded in 1881 – contains a massive 42,000 pieces in its collection. Paintings, photography, sculptures, aboriginal art pieces, and ceramics describe just some of the displays at the gallery. Also in the same precinct as The Art Gallery of South Australia is the South Australia Museum. Notable displays include the world’s largest Aboriginal Australian collection. Additionally, you’ll find a Megafauna gallery revealing extinct animals of Australia and finally an impressive fossil collection. The Jam Factory is also a great place to soak up some arts and culture. Housing art from talented locals, the arts and crafts centre has a variety of studios displaying pottery, glassmaking, metal design and much more.
For more ideas regarding things to do indoors in Adelaide (or when it’s raining), check out our article on the very topic!
Visit the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute
Learn about the original owners of the land at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. Featuring Aboriginal art, a museum, cultural exhibitions and numerous performances and events all throughout the year, it’s the best place in Adelaide to learn a little about Aboriginal Australia. Add this stop to your itinerary without hesitation. It’s only a ten minute walk from Rundle Mall.
Go to the Adelaide Hills
One of the best things to do in Adelaide, is actually to drive away from the city towards the hills. It’s likely you’ll be staying at one of the hotels in Adelaide, however Adelaide Hills is a stunning region, not far away from the CBD. The South Australian capital is framed by gorgeous undulating hills to its west, within which numerous little towns are found. The Adelaide Hills region is a tourist’s dream. German heritage, wine districts, botanic gardens, great shops, restaurants, country pubs and bars are all found in this beautiful part of South Australia. Adelaide Hills actually spreads across around 100 kilometres. You’ll easily be able to spend one whole day exploring, and perhaps even two or three (especially if you enjoy hiking). Set off in the morning and explore the hills, you’re bound to find something for everyone here.
Take the kids to Cleland Wildlife Park
Also at the edge of Adelaide Hills, is Cleland Wildlife Park. The kids will love this part of your trip. Spend a few hours walking around the park, feeding the native Australian animals and listening to talks by keepers. Cleland Wildfire Park plays a really important role in helping visitors to connect with the nature round them and teaching guests about the importance of conservation. Snakes, reptiles, kangaroos and koalas are amongst the many species you can find here.
Choose from endless SA hiking spots
From your accommodation in Adelaide, you won’t be far from multiple conservation parks and national parks for hiking. Cleland Conservation Park situated within Adelaide Hills has an extensive network of walking and cycling trails. The park also offers striking views of the city from up high. Meanwhile, Morialta with its rugged ridges, gullies and waterfalls is another natural gem in the Adelaide landscape. Countless, well-signposted trails of different lengths can be followed here.
Click here for more walks and hiking ideas in and around Adelaide.
Situate yourself up high for sunset views of Adelaide
Adelaide is known for its gorgeous city views. At sunset, the best place to be is up within the hills to capture a glimpse of the entire city alight with orange, framed by the calm sea in the distance. The panoramic view from Mt Lofty, the highest point in the Adelaide Hills, is sensational and involves an hour walk each way (you can also drive here!). Skye lookout offers a slightly lower down but equally beautiful alternative. Alternatively, you can also head just about anywhere towards the hills and find multiple viewpoints from which to sit and soak up the views. If you’re going to spend a weekend in the city, don’t forget to add this to your list. Bring a picnic and soak up the views. This is one of the best things to do in Adelaide!
Discover Adelaide’s Chinatown
Not far from the Central Market, Chinatown also makes up a significant proportion of the CBD. Despite its name, this zone of the city centre offers an excellent selection of Japanese, korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Thai cuisine and shops. Impressive red gates at its entrance and red lanterns dotted throughout give Chinatown a vibrant feel. Chinatown boasts some of the most diverse dining options in the city. A wonderful blend of five star restaurants, food courts, wine bars and pubs are around every corner.
Opt for a heritage walking tour
Dubbing itself the ‘city of great buildings’, or the ‘city of churches’, Adelaide is teeming with culture and fascinating history. Self-guided tours provided by Adelaide city council are an ideal way to explore the heritage of the city. Adelaide is comprised of a unique combination of old colonial buildings and newer sleek glass buildings, making for an interesting cityscape. If you’re not interested in a tour, just a stroll through the city will be enough to give you an impression of the place. After all, the city’s centre is relatively small and ideal for walking.
Cafes and Restaurants in Adelaide
Cafes in Adelaide are world-class (granted, we might be a bit biased). Dotted throughout the city, you’ll find great coffee and tasty snacks, as well as eateries selling awesome brunches and delicious lunches. You might like to try La Moka for something cosy, friendly and with great coffee. Whilst La Moka is also open at night for evening drinks and tasty cheese boards, the daytime scene is casual and inviting. Alternatively, on Ebenezer Place, find Hey Jupiter, an authentic French cafe and restaurant with a European feel and Australian twist. Across the road, Laneway, with its spacious interiors, great drinks menu and outdoor seating offers a great al-fresco option. For more information regarding cafes in Adelaide, check out our recent article.
Scattered with restaurants, bars and cafes with cuisine from all parts of the globe, Adelaide has an exceptional food and drink scene. Africola is a great example of a hip restaurant with excellent food and a casual vibe. A diner-style restaurant, Africola offers South African BBQ dishes in a colourful setting. Meanwhile, Golden Boy, a Thai Restaurant set within a bright space and with comfy booths and communal tables is a great choice. The restaurant delivers delicious and authentic Thai food with punchy flavours. For something special, head to The Mayflower at The Mayfair Hotel for a classic and elegant evening meal.
If you’re celebrating, or simply in need of a treat, The Mayflower also offers a spectacular High Tea experience. Finger sandwiches, scones and exquisite cakes and tartlets, paired with sparkling wine or a tea make for the perfect combination. Once you’ve finished indulging, take the celebration and head to the chic and trendy Hennessy rooftop bar. An impressive cocktail menu and friendly, highly skilled bar staff will be ready to greet you.
Winter Wine Offer
This winter the below hotels will be offering a free bottle of Penfolds wine for those who book direct on the hotel website. For more information about this Winter Wine Offer and to find out which other hotels in South Australia will be taking part in this deal, click here.
SA Weekend Escape’s top hotel picks!
Wondering where to stay in Adelaide? Whether you live just outside of the South Australian capital or five hours away, a city escape might be just what you’re after as we roll into 2021: another year of no international travel. Looking for hotels in Adelaide? Take a look at our three recommendations and get your choice of accommodation in Adelaide just right.
Quality Apartments Adelaide Central
Found in the very heart of Adelaide CBD, walking distance from everything you’d want to explore in the city, Quality Apartments Adelaide Central is an unbeatable Adelaide accommodation option. Found within a beautiful, historic building, the apartments here offer a dose of luxury living. One or two-bedroom apartments are complemented by open-plan living spaces and luxury amenities.
Adelaide Royal Coach
Alternatively, the Adelaide Royal Coach, located just outside of the CBD is perfect for those who prefer to rest their heads in a slower part of town. Situated park-side, yet with only a short 10 minute walk to the bustling east end of Adelaide, the Royal Coach is convenient and highly comfortable. An indoor pool and onsite Angus & Co restaurant make your stay that little bit more enjoyable.
Finally, taking one small step further away from the CBD, Adelaide Meridien is the answer for those who like the affordable option in a quirkier part of town. Snug North Adelaide is a leafy grid of gorgeous streets, many lined with cosy cafes and boutique shops. Adelaide Meridien, found in the heart of North Adelaide, is a comfortable hotel with a beautiful location. Spacious rooms and an onsite Angus & Co restaurant mean that you’re truly set up for the weekend here.
KT Apartments is a newly opened luxury apartment accommodation located in the heart of Kent Town Adelaide. This East Adelaide location boasts a vast array of shops, galleries, bars, cafes and restaurants. Stylishly appointed self contained apartments, each with two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms, also feature spacious living and dining and a large balcony overlooking Adelaide. This is your sleek home from home in the city.
Book a room at Quality Apartments Adelaide Central.
Book a room at Adelaide Royal Coach.
Book a room at Adelaide Meridien Hotel & Apartments
Book a room at KT Apartments