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13 unmissable top things to do in Adelaide, South Australia

Founded in 1836 on the River Torrens, Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia, the only freely settled British province in Australia. Adelaide is a thriving hub of culture, wine and food with a very small and walkable city centre completely surrounded by green parks.

Adelaide is a city with SO much personality and is an easy flight from other Australian cities like Cairns (3 hours 10), Melbourne (1 hour 25) and Sydney (2 hours 10), which makes it ideal for an Australian city break. Infact Adelaide's airport is only about 6km or a 10 minute drive from the city centre!

South Australia is known as the Festival State - be sure to check the SA tourism board's events calendar to see what's on while you're in town! From the fabulous Adelaide Fringe Festival to the winter lights at Illuminate Adelaide there's always something happening.

From outstanding free museums and galleries to one of Australia's most iconic sporting venues, sipping your way across the country at the National Wine Centre and swimming with wild dolphins, here are 13 top things to do that should definitely be on your Adelaide itinerary:

a tunnel of whimsical purple wisteria at Adelaide Botanic Garden
Whimsical wisteria at Adelaide Botanic Garden

1. Adelaide Botanic Garden - Escape the city into over 50 acres of lush greenery, huge trees and beautiful gardens. The International Rose Garden displays 2500 heady blooms, in September the famous wisteria arbour flowers, forming two long delicate tunnels of purple, and you can visit three impressive glasshouses: One housing a giant Amazonian waterlily that’s been in the collection since 1868, a gorgeous historic palm house and the huge Bicentennial Conservatory - the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere with ground level and canopy height paths through rainforest plants! Don't miss the curious steel cupola monument to Elvis Presley, installed by the Sound of Elvis Society in 1982, despite the fact that the King never visited Down Under...

Free entry

Open Monday - Friday 7:15am (all year),

Weekends and public holidays Dec to Mar 7:15am, Apr to Nov 9:00am.

Closing times: Dec to Mar 8:00pm,

Apr 6.00pm,

May to Aug 5.30pm

Sept 6.00pm

Oct/Nov 7.00pm

The tasting room at the National Wine Centre of Australia
Get tasting at the National Wine Centre of Australia

2. National Wine Centre of Australia -

Sip your way around Australia's world famous wine regions with over 120 different wines to try! Tucked in the corner of the Botanic Gardens, the National Wine Centre's tasting room has an ingenious system where you leave your ID behind the till in exchange for a plastic charge card that will keep track of the wine variety and tasting size you'd like to try. Once you've finished it stores the balance of what you've spent. You pay at the end when you collect your ID. You can sample wines from Adelaide's world reknowned Barossa Valley and explore other southern regions like Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Kangaroo Island as well as brands from right across the country's 65 wine regions like NSW's Hunter Valley and Melbourne's Yarra Valley.

Open Monday - Thursday: 8:30am-5pm,

Friday: 8:30am-8pm (Kitchen closes at 7pm),

Saturday: 9am-6pm (Kitchen closes at 5pm),

Sunday: 9am-5pm,

Public Holidays: 11am-5pm

Closed New Year's Day, Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

3. Adelaide Central Market - Open Tues - Sat with over 70 different stalls in a historic building dating from 1869, Adelaide's Central Market is a great place to grab breakfast from the bakeries, put together a picnic made from regional fresh produce or pop in for lunch at one of the many cafes and eateries. From fresh coffee to sumptuous cakes and other sweet treats, there is something for everyone in this foodie heaven.

Open Tuesday 7.00am – 5.30pm,

Wednesday 9.00am – 5.30pm

Thursday 9.00am – 5.30pm

Friday 7.00am – 9.00pm

Saturday 7.00am – 3.00pm

Closed Sunday/Monday

4. Art Gallery of South Australia - Founded in 1881, the Art Gallery of South Australia has an enormous collection including Aboriginal art, Colonial paintings and contemporary creations. Free entry and right next door to the South Australian Museum on North Terrace, the cafe is also an inexpensive option for lunch.

Free entry

Open 10am - 5pm, every day except Christmas Day.

5. South Australian Museum - This free museum has five floors of exhibitions including a huge Aboriginal and Pacific Island collection, beautiful meteorites, minerals and fossils (including rare opalised fossils), an excellent section about Antarctic explorers Sir Douglas Mawson, Sir Hubert Wilkins and John Riddoch Rymill and even Egyptian mummies!

Free entry

Open every day from 10am - 5pm, including weekends and all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday. Open at 12 noon on ANZAC Day (25 April).

a magnificent wooden Victorian library with an arched glass roof
The magnificent Mortlock Wing at the state library

6. State Library of South Australia - Another North Terrace freebie, don't miss the magnificent Victorian Mortlock Wing reading room. This gorgeous space has an open 3 storey atrium with an arched glass roof, elaborate iron railings and thousands of books!

Free entry

Mortlock Wing open: Monday: 9am - 5pm

Tuesday: 9am - 7pm

Wednesday - Friday: 9am - 5pm

Saturday/Sunday: 12pm - 5pm

The research library is open from 10am Mon-Friday, 12pm - 5pm at weekends.

7. Migration Museum - founded in 1836 as the capital city of the only freely-settled British province in Australia (as opposed to the penal colonies of New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land/Tasmania), the idea was that Adelaide would be a progressive society, free from religious persecution and crime. To begin with the city didn't even have a prison! Adelaide's Migration Museum explores the history and diversity of South Australia's different communities.

Free entry.

Open daily 10am – 5pm

Closed Christmas Day

8. Adelaide Oval - This iconic venue has so much going on! You can take a stadium tour, catch a game of cricket or Aussie rules football, dance the night away at world class concerts, or even climb the roof! Cricket fans will love the Bradman Collection, a special museum celebrating Aussie legend Sir Donald Bradman one of cricket's greatest batsmen.

9. Popeye river boat cruise - take a river cruise down the Torrens on one of the Popeye boats that have operated since 1935 - cruises last 40-50 minutes with a running live commentary.

Sightseeing cruises are $26 for adults, $17 for children.

10. Adelaide Gaol - One of South Australia's oldest buildings, in the 147 years between 1841 - 1988 more than 300,000 prisoners passed through Adelaide Gaol. As well as the fascinating interactive museum, Adelaide Gaol is said to be one of the most haunted sites in South Australia. From the ghostly footsteps of the Gaol's former governor to sightings of prisoners and the gaol's hangman, you can book onto an evening ghost tour to see what you might encounter...

Open daily 10am - 4pm

Adult ticket $16.60

Child (aged 4 - 15) $10.00

Adelaide Gaol: Barred windows, a rusty bench against a brick wall.
The prison yard, Adelaide Gaol

11. Haigh's Chocolates Visitor Centre - Take a free 30 minute guided factory tour at the home of this beloved Australian chocolate brand - you might even get to try some samples! Founded in 1915, Haigh's is Australia's oldest family-owned chocolate maker. We spotted shops in Sydney and Melbourne (in the stunning Block Arcade), well worth popping into for a mid sightseeing pick me up!

Haigh's free guided tours operate during store trading hours, Monday to Saturday, except for public holidays. You can check times and book online here.

12. Penfolds winery

If you have more than one day in Adelaide, take a short trip out to wine country to visit this world famous winery dating from 1844. The Magill Estate is a great place to spend a relaxing half day. Daily tours of the vineyard and facilities run at 10am and include tasting - you need to book online more than 24 hours in advance, tours cost $35 per person. You could have lunch in the winery's restaurant, or the cellar door welcomes walk ins for tastings.

Open daily 10am - 5pm

The Magill Estate is under 15 minutes drive or taxi ride from Adelaide

13. Glenelg Beach

Another option for an easy Adelaide day trip is lovely Glenelg Beach. Only 30 mins by the tram leaving from Victoria Square, the suburb of Glenelg is famous for its wide sandy beach, the Beachouse amusement centre and Jetty Road's bustling shops and cafes. Enjoy a sunset cocktail with your toes in the sand at Moseley Beach Club or book a dolphin watching cruise hosted by a marine biologist on Temptation Sailing. They also offer opportunities to swim with the dolphins!

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