Keep reading to learn all about my recent weekend in Adelaide, including the top places to visit in Adelaide, the best things to do and where I stayed.
For those that follow me on Instagram and Facebook, you would have noticed I went on a little long weekend getaway to Adelaide a couple of weeks ago. I bought my flights way back in January when Jetstar was having a sale, as South Australia was the only Australian state and territory I hadn’t visited. I wanted to tick it off before my 30th birthday and I did it!
I didn’t go into my trip to Adelaide with expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised from the moment I stepped off the plane (it’s less than 1.5 hours from Melbourne). From the cheap public transport to the plethora of free attractions to the friendly locals, Adelaide impressed me. So here’s what I got up to during my weekend in Adelaide, to help you plan your own getaway.
Where I stayed in Adelaide
I stayed at Adelaide Central YHA in a four-bed female dorm room. Costing just $100 for three nights, I’d recommend the hostel to anyone looking for budget accommodation in Adelaide. There were events nearly every evening, free pancakes in the morning (which may be a seasonal thing?), as well as a large kitchen and common area. The only downsides were I had to walk a fair way to get to the communal bathroom, but it was large enough that I never had to wait. The bunk beds were also metal and SO noisy. Like quite possibly the noisest bunk I’ve slept in yet — and I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels. But overall, I’d stay in the hostel again.
Things to do in Adelaide
Guys, there are so many free and cheap things to do in Adelaide. Public transport is also crazy cheap. I caught the bus to the beach (twice), to and from the airport, and to and from Hahndorf. This cost me under $20. In Melbourne, it costs $18 just to get to the airport! Anyway, here’s what I got up to in Adelaide.
Visit Adelaide Central Market
This is basically the number one attraction in Adelaide. Established in 1869, I visited Adelaide Central Market for an early lunch as soon as I dropped my suitcase at the hostel. I headed to Big Table for one of their scrumptious sandwiches and picked up a sweet treat from Jamface to enjoy later. There’s stalls selling fruit and vegetables, health foods, meat products, giftware and so much more. You’re guaranteed not to leave hungry.
Next door to the market is also Adelaide’s Chinatown, which is home to some popular cheap eats. There’s actually a lot of eateries around this area, which was less than a 10-minute walk from my hostel.
Head to Rundle Mall
Rundle Mall is the main shopping precinct in Adelaide’s CBD. It’s home to the usual chain and department stores like Target, Kmart and Sportsgirl. But it also has some interesting landmarks, like the “Malls’ Balls”, the Rundle Mall Pigs and Adelaide Arcade. The latter resembles Melbourne’s Block Arcade.
Follow the River Torrens
The River Torrens flows through Adelaide and splits the CBD from North Adelaide. There’s a footpath that follows the river, as well as plenty of green space for relaxing. I found myself at the river a few times during my visit, so if you’re looking for a leisurely Adelaide walk, head here.
Be a beach bum
Adelaide’s stunning coastline has some beautiful beaches. I ended up visiting two different beaches for sunset: Glenelg and Henley. There’s a tram from the city directly to Glenelg, which is home to a few clothing stores, ice cream shops (I went to Andersen’s of Denmark) and restaurants (for a quick vegetarian bite, check out Lord of the Fries). It was pretty busy on the Friday night I visited, but it was also a beautiful day, so I think the locals were taking advantage of the summer-like weather. I walked along the jetty and then sat and read my book at one of the many beachfront benches.
I did the same thing at Henley, except the jetty was under construction. Henley doesn’t have as many boutiques as Glenelg, but it’s still home to quite a few eateries. I read good things about SeaSalt’s fish and chips, as well as the treats at Swedish Tarts. There’s also a lot of green space and seating. At both beaches, I got treated to stunning sunsets. There’s nothing quite like a beach sunset in my book. Glenelg and Henley also have beachfront walking paths, if you want to do some exercise on your weekend getaway.
For more beach recommendations, check out this guide by South Australia Tourism.
Do a free walking tour
Adelaide Central YHA does organise a free tour on Saturday mornings, but there weren’t enough people signed up during my visit. However, another option I found on Google is Tours Around Adelaide. Although the owner is not currently running the tours for family reasons, hopefully he’s back in action for your trip to Adelaide.
Visit the free galleries and museum
What did I tell you — the best things to do in Adelaide are all free. I visited the South Australian Museum on Saturday morning, which had a couple of interesting Pacific and Aboriginal exhibitions. After lunch, I also stopped briefly into MOD., which is an innovative museum with a very cool exhibition right now called Prosthetic Reality: “Using the latest (AR) technology, you download the Eyejack app and wave your phone over the artworks, and watch as they change, move, grow and morph before your eyes.” It was incredible. Another option is the Art Gallery of South Australia, if that’s more your style.
While you’re in the neighbourhood…
SA Museum and Art Gallery are both located on Adelaide’s North Terrace, which is a street lined with historical buildings. Take time to walk and photograph the aforementioned buildings, as well as the Parliament of South Australia and the University of Adelaide.
Venture to North Adelaide
A workmate mentioned North Adelaide to me. It’s where you’ll find many restaurants and a lot of pretty houses. I walked along O’Connell Street and made a mandatory stop at Bakery on O’Connell. This award-winning bakery and cafe has a huge variety of sweet and savoury options, and is open 24 hours a day. I picked up a caramel slice, because it’s one of my favourites. While in North Adelaide, I also recommend checking out the view from Light’s Vision.
Explore East End
Adelaide’s East End neighbourhood is like a slice of Melbourne, with its Victorian terrace houses, street art-covered laneways, independent cafes and high-end boutiques. If you prefer shopping at Sass and Bide over Target, head to East End. Although I didn’t stop for brunch, there was a crowd at East Terrace Continental. This guide from Adelady is also a good place to start when it comes to East End restaurant and bar recommendations.
Speaking of street art
You’ll find some amazing pieces of street art down the many laneways in Adelaide’s CBD. Here’s a Street Art Explosion guide compiled by the Adelaide Fringe Festival, which shows you some of the city’s artworks.
Another day, another walk
Adelaide is full of great walks along the coast, the river and through its Botanic Garden. I went for a quick venture inside, but this is just another one of the great free things to do in Adelaide. It’s also centrally located, so a morning wander could be a perfect way to start your morning in Radelaide.
Get the bus to Hahndorf
Hahndorf is one of the top places to visit in Adelaide. Located about a 40-minute bus ride from the CBD, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to reach this cute town in the Adelaide Hills. Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. I spent a couple of hours wandering along its Main Street, which is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops.
I stopped in Hahndorf Sweets to sample (and then buy) some delicious fudge, before having lunch at the popular German Arms Hotel. I thought I’d try their famous Giant Hot Dog, which was indeed absolutely humongous. I did my best.
I was contemplating doing an organised tour to Hahndorf before I decided to just hop on the bus. But here are some options: this full day option that includes the Adelaide Hills; a half day option; and then this alternative tour that takes in the city, Hahndorf and Mount Lofty.
Visit Mount Lofty
I didn’t get to see the view of Adelaide from Mount Lofty because I a) didn’t do an organised tour and b) didn’t have access to a car. But if you do one of these options, the views are meant to be amazing.
Explore Port Adelaide
The one other place that was on my list of things to do is Port Adelaide. Home to three extra museums and beautiful buildings (or so I’ve read), visit the Our Port website for self-guided walking tours and more information about this Adelaide suburb.
Drink some wine
If I had more time and, well, enjoyed drinking wine, I would have made visiting a winemaking region a priority. Adelaide is Australia’s wine capital. There’s Barossa Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula’s McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and so many more. Read this guide to South Australia’s best wine regions and wineries. If you want to do a day trip, check out the Barossa Valley and Hahndorf tour or this cool hop-on hop-off Barossa Valley alternative.
Do a very long day trip to Kangaroo Island
Another place I want to visit someday, Viator actually does day tours to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide. It’s a long day, but Kangaroo Island seems to be worth it.
The one thing I will take away from my visit to Adelaide (apart from how budget-friendly it is), is the friendliness of the locals. I know Australians are known for being a friendly bunch, but I felt like Adelaide took this to a whole other level.
I hope this guide helps you plan your weekend in Adelaide. I know I’ll be back to explore even more of South Australia… one day.
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