South Australia's cosmopolitan coastal capital is bursting with creativity and charm. Here, you can stroll down streets full of mesmerizing art, indulge in exceptional food options, frolic on the beach, or partake in fabulous festivals. If you're a digital nomad seeking adventure, culture and nature rolled into one, you'll find that Adelaide ticks off all the boxes.
Adelaide is the fifth most populated city in Australia and is one of the world's most livable cities. It is also the first in the country to acknowledge indigenous land rights, allow women to vote, and penalize racial discrimination. Today, it is known for its food and wine culture, superb art scene, thriving small bars, sporting events, and lovely landscape.
Want to spend time in Adelaide? Check out this Adelaide travel guide to discover things to see and do in this vibrant city.
1. Admire Art Collections at the Art Gallery of South Australia
Established in 1881, the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) is home to some of the country's best art collections. This visual arts museum contains more than 45,000 pieces, making it the second-largest exhibition after the National Gallery of Victoria.
As you wander around the gallery, you will find pieces by artists from Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America. AGSA also has a huge collection of indigenous art and a space dedicated solely to Islamic works.
Some of the most notable works in the museum include Circe Invidiosa by John William Waterhouse, The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt, and A breakaway! by Tom Robert. It also has Lindy Lee's The Life of Stars, a 20-foot sculpture perforated with holes that look like a map of the Milky Way when lit from the inside. Each year the AGSA hosts the Tarnanthi Festival, which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
2. Discover Cultural and Historic Treasures at the North Terrace
Adelaide's cultural boulevard, North Terrace, is a mile-long avenue in the city's business center lined with Victorian houses, picnic areas, memorials, and historical buildings, including the colonial-era Ayers House, the restored Adelaide Casino, and the 19-century Holy Trinity Church. It is also home to the Parliament House, the State Library, the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia, the Adelaide Railway Station, and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
Many of North Terrace's heritage buildings house art galleries, museums, restaurants and shops. There are also modern structures, such as the Adelaide Convention Center and the Adelaide Festival Center.
As you stroll down the boulevard, you'll see numerous statues and monuments of famous South Australians, including Nobel prize winners. Plagues on the sidewalk will tell you about these individuals' contributions or the history of a building. If you want to take a break from walking, you can rest in one of the tree-shaded spaces, take in the view and watch people pass by.
3. Explore the South Australian Museum
Want to delve deep into Australia's rich culture and natural history? The South Australian Museum features fantastic exhibits ranging from whales to Aboriginal cultures to the exploits of Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.
You will find the world's most extensive collection of Australian indigenous cultural artifacts in the museum. Of its 3,000 Aboriginal objects on display, some of the most intriguing are the Yuendumu Doors, painted by the Warlpiri people to record their Dreaming (creation) stories and way of life.
Another impressive exhibit is the South Australian Biodiversity Gallery which uses interactive technology to introduce the region's rich land and marine wildlife. Other notable galleries include Opal Fossils, Pacific Cultures, Minerals and Meteorites, and Australian Polar Collection.
4. Relax at the Adelaide Botanic Garden
An oasis in the heart of the highly urbanized city, the Adelaide Botanic Garden features carefully landscaped lawns, striking architecture, and one of Australia's most impressive plant collections. It's the perfect place to meander, read a book under a shaded corner, explore historic buildings, or sip coffee at a café.
The botanic garden opened in 1857 and spans over 50 hectares. It has a Garden of Health with over 2,500 healing plants for those interested in well-being, a Threatened Plant Seed Orchard, which houses endangered plant species, and its own wetlands to hold stormwater that it can use.
Be sure to drop by the Bicentennial Conservatory, a steel-and-glass house replicating a tropical rainforest. Other highlights include the 1877 palm house and the Waterlily Pavilion, home to a massive Victoria amazonica waterlily.
5. Stroll Around the Adelaide Oval
Although predominantly used for cricket and footy, the Adelaide Oval is a fascinating destination, even if you're not a sports fan. After all, this 50,000-seater stadium is one of the world's most scenic sporting grounds. Have a drink at the world-renowned Northern Mound, a grassy outdoor space shaded by 100-year-old Moreton Bay fig trees, or admire the iconic scoreboard, still in its original Edwardian design.
If you're not jittery with heights, go on an exhilarating walk across the oval's roofline. The tour will take you to the Riverbank platform, perched 50 meters above ground, where you can bask in spectacular 360-degree city views.
For cricket lovers, the Adelaide Oval is a must-see. It is home to the Bradman Collection, dedicated to legendary cricketer Donald Bradman, the greatest batsman of all time.
6. Visit the State Library of South Australia
Considered the biggest public reference center in the region, the State Library of South Australia boasts a wide-ranging collection that provides research and information services. The complex consists of three buildings. These are the heritage-listed 1861 Institute Building, the modern Catherine Helen Spence Wing, famous for its glass foyer, and the 19th-century Mortlock Wing.
The library does not only have references on South Australia but also keeps rare books, children's literature, and documents on pre-European settlement. You can also check out films, photographs, and microfiche or browse journals, newspapers, magazines, and travel guides.
7. Feed Kangaroos at Cleland Wildlife Park
Located about 14 miles southeast of the Adelaide city center, Cleland Wildlife Park allows visitors to meet native animals up close in their natural habitat. Get photographed while holding a koala, interact with a goanna, pet swamp wallabies, and feed goofy kangaroos.
Other animals in the conservation park include short-beaked echidnas, Tasmanian devils, bilbies, dingoes, pygmy possums, and hairy-nosed wombats. There are also snakes and several native and forest birds. If you want to avoid the worst of the day's heat, consider joining a guided night walk.
8. See Cute Pandas Up-close at the Adelaide Zoo
First opened in 1883, Adelaide Zoo is Australia's second oldest zoo. It covers eight hectares and shelters 2,500 animals and 250 species. Most of the zoo's animals come from regions in South America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
Wang Wang and Fu Ni, Australia's only giant pandas, are the main crowd-pleasers, but this pair is not the only iconic attraction in the zoo. You can meet a giraffe face-to-face, feed a pygmy hippo, encounter a lion, look a Sumatran tiger in the eye, or adopt an endangered animal to save it from extinction.
Bird lovers wouldn't be disappointed with the zoo's large number of resident birds living in habitat and walkthrough aviaries.
9. Shop at Adelaide Central Market
Where would you go to experience Adelaide's multicultural cuisine? While you have hundreds of options, nothing beats the choices at the Central Market. Opened in 1869, it boasts over 80 vendors and 250 stalls selling everything from premium meats and organic produce to baked goods and health foods to seasonal cheeses and fresh seafood.
Browse through the stalls piled high with fresh fruits and vegetables, explore the shops offering delectable delicacies, or drop by one of the eateries in the complex for a hearty meal.
Be sure to check out Con's Fine Foods for its deli meats and Italian antipasto, Dough for its cheesecake and sourdough, the Smelly Cheese Shop for its vintage cheeses, and Kangaroo Island for its unique wines.
10. Watch a Performance at Adelaide Festival Centre
The heart of South Australia's art scene, the Adelaide Festival Centre first opened in 1973 and has since hosted thousands of plays, musicals, concerts, festivals and exhibitions. The centre seeks to educate, inspire, and spread cultural awareness through entertainment.
Within the complex are several theaters and galleries. These include the 2000-seater Festival Theater, the restored Her Majesty's Theater, the intimate Dunstan Playhouse, the versatile Space Theater, and the Terrace, an outdoor arena overlooking River Torrens.
The Festival Center is home to the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Dance Theater, and the State Opera. It also hosts major Adelaide festivals such as the Cabaret Festival, Guitar Festival, OzAsia Festival, and Our Mob.
11. Wander Around the Victoria Square
In 1971, the historical Victoria Square became the very first place in the country to fly the Australian Aboriginal flag, a permanent sight in the Reconciliation Plaza since 2002. Today the square remains a location for social, political and cultural gatherings, hosting events such as Tasting Australia and Tour Down Under Village.
Named after Queen Victoria, the square boasts a cast bronze statue of the monarch as its centerpiece. On the southern edge of the square is the intricate Three Rivers Fountain, built in 1963 to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the city.
12. Check out Port Adelaide
About 8 miles northwest of the city center lies the vibrant and colorful harbor town of Port Adelaide. Full of maritime history, the port is known for its cobbled laneways lined with beautifully-preserved 19th-century pubs, inns, and warehouses.
Spend time in Hart's Mill, a waterfront former flour mill turned into a cultural hub, where you can enjoy music and art events and a food market every Sunday. Discover fascinating exhibits at the South Australian Maritime Museum, the South Australian Museum, and the National Railway Museum. Wander around McLaren Wharf, with its cafés, shops, galleries, and markets.
Every year, Port Adelaide hosts the Wonderwalls Festival, a three-day art fest of art exhibitions and mural painting. You will find outstanding street art across the town, but most are around the Port Adelaide lighthouse and the Pirate Life Brewery.
13. Learn History at the Migration Museum
Built in 1986 amidst a complex of 19th-century buildings, the Migration Museum stands on the site of the city's former destitute asylum. With over 100 nationalities logged in its database, it tells the stories of thousands of people who moved to Australia within the last 200 years. Here you can learn about the diverse cultures and many identities of the inhabitants of South Australia.
The Migration Museum has nine galleries, one of which traces the history of indigenous peoples in Australia pre-colonization. You can find photos, memorabilia, and personal stories of immigrants. The museum also discusses how immigration has impacted the country from the 19th century onwards.
14. Hike at Cleland Conservation Park
Escape the urban bustle and commune with nature at Cleland Conservation Park, a protected area spread across Adelaide Hills, roughly 14 miles southeast of the city center. The park consists mainly of bushland, with a number of walking trails that showcase the area's diverse wildlife, cultural heritage, and scenic views.
One of the most popular routes in the park is the climb up to the majestic Mount Lofty summit, followed by a trek down to the jaw-dropping 30-meter-tall Waterfall Gully.
If you prefer the less trodden path, go for the 4-hour Wine Shanty Hike trail. Keep your eyes open for Keir's Ruins, an old farmstead abandoned in the 1900s. You might spot some koalas, bandicoots, or kangaroos as you weave through the forest.
15. Go On a Day Trip to the Barossa Valley
Adelaide is known as the gateway to South Australia's wine country. Naturally, exploring the city is incomplete without venturing into the lush vineyards and world-class wineries on a day trip.
Less than an hour northeast of Adelaide is Barossa Valley, one of the country's oldest wine regions, featuring over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors. Shiraz is its most sought-after red variety, while Riesling takes center stage for the whites. Go on a tour or cellar-door tasting in one of the region's many high-profile wineries and sample great wine and exceptional light meals.
Fine wine is not the only reason you should visit Barossa Valley. The region is also known for its stunning vistas, which you can explore on foot, on a bike, or even in a hot air balloon. Then, there are the national parks, home to local flora and fauna, a bustling farmers market with the freshest produce, and loads of distilleries where you can craft your own gin.