Adelaide is the beating heart of South Australia
With its vibrant arts scene, eclectic festivals and dedicated food and wine culture, this adventurous southern city might just surprise you. If you’re searching for things to do in Adelaide, let us point you in the right direction.
Museums and galleries
Adelaide earned its reputation as Australia’s ‘City of Churches’ from its beginnings as a Christian settlement for free colonists – no convicts were sent here. Instead, the city was founded upon principles of religious tolerance. The city attracted settlers from a variety of faiths. As a result, Adelaide is still brimful of differing places of worship. A walk through North Adelaide is one of the best ways to explore the city’s religious heritage.
North Terrace is this cultural capital’s thriving hub, home to a plethora of insightful museums and sometimes unconventional art spaces. The South Australian Museum displays a rare and phenomenal collection of Aboriginal artefacts. Alternatively, the grand State Library houses a wealth of research and history.
Leading the Adelaide art scene is the Art Gallery of South Australia. It’s home to a collection of almost 45,000 works spanning 2000 years, including impressive Australian and European collections. The not-for-profit JamFactory studio trains emerging artists and designers while showcasing some Australia’s best contemporary craft and design. If you’ve got kids with a keen interest in art, this is one of the coolest things to do in Adelaide.
Here’s a round up of our favourite galleries around country – read it here.
Food & wine in Adelaide – Mother Vine and Hey Jupiter
With cultural cravings satisfied, head south of Rundle Street where swanky bars and cool cafés mimic Melbourne CBD’s café scene. Looking for a chic hangout? You’ll feel right at home at Mother Vine’s with modern sharing plates and comprehensive wine list. Around the block, the block French-inspired brasserie Hey Jupiter serves up classic French favourites. Crowd favourites are the hearty croque monsieur and delicate escargots.
Want to continue the feast? Try a guided tour of Adelaide Central Market.
Places to stay in Adelaide
Right at the heart of Adelaide’s cultural precinct, continue the theme with a stay at the artistic Playford Hotel. Part of a boutique collection by Sofitel, Playford has its own distinct character. The property tastefully blends the line between classical cool and art nouveau, as walls adorned with works by modern South Australian artists appear alongside elegant French furnishings. The five-star hotel is a beautiful wedding venue boasting an award-winning restaurant and spacious, elegant suites. For something quirky and grand, opt for one of the elevated loft suites.
Timelessly elegant and yet beautifully modern, the Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury (pictured below) is conveniently located in the heart of Adelaide’s vibrant CBD. Overlooking Victoria Square, the beautifully restored UNESCO recognised renovation is reflective of Adelaide’s architectural beauty. Opposite the Town hall and GPO, the former treasury building is minutes away from Adelaide’s Central Market and Rundle Mall. There is a choice of studio, one and two-bedroom apartments, all generously sized and stylishly fitted out.
Botanic Gardens around Adelaide
For a change of pace, there’s no shortage of green spaces to explore. Central Adelaide is encircled by parks and playgrounds, each full of interesting pavilions and glasshouses. You’ll find an astounding diversity of gardens – from exotic Mediterranean displays to Australian forest and an Economic Garden hosting oils, herbs and spices. For this, Adelaide Botanic Garden makes a terrific first port of call.
Those interested in botany and horticulture will appreciate a free guided tour around the comprehensive gardens. Stop for lunch at the award-winning Botanic Garden Restaurant and enjoy modern Aussie fare and a selection of fine wines.
A little further afield in the rolling Adelaide Hills, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden truly steals the show. Its beautiful walkways, winding through woodland, rhododendron gardens and fern gullies, include a section of the famous Heysen Trail. The path extends 1,200 mesmerising kilometres all the way from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula right out to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges.
Wine, glorious wine
Just a 40-minute drive from Adelaide, McLaren Vale has over 80 cellar doors and is right in the heart of the stunning Fleurieu Peninsula, which is renowned for its seafood offerings. Sandwiched between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the Gulf St Vincent beaches, the local vineyards slope down to meet the beautifully rugged coastline.
Wine lovers flock to McLaren Vale for its Shiraz and its Grenache and Cabernet varieties, but if you want to explore more of its established varietals, then dip into Fiano, Montepulciano and Vermentino. The region is also firmly on the map for its world-class craft gins, and craft breweries are popping up like mushrooms. The McLaren Vale tour with Adelaide Sightseeing is a perfect day trip that will have you falling in love with this special region, and no doubt also falling head over heels for its wines.
Looking to start a larger adventure from Adelaide? Check out our epic road trip story – Driving Adelaide to Darwin: The classic Outback road trip route