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Adelaide Itineraries South Australia
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Adelaide Itineraries

by Experience Oz staff

Planning to visit South Australia's capital, Adelaide, but not sure how to best spend your time there? We break down suggested itineraries day by day to get the most out of your trip here.

South Australia's temperate and laid-back capital city, Adelaide, is distinct amongst Aussie capitals with a strong hint of European influence and a location that puts it in a prime spot for travellers looking to experience both the best of verdant greenery and outstanding coastal adventures in a single trip.

While it may not receive as much of the international publicity that the likes of Sydney, Melbourne and even Brisbane receive, Adelaide has a distinct architectural character - reflected in its moniker the 'City of Churches' as well as a strong culinary culture that makes it home to some of the country's best restaurants.

The city boasts all the conveniences of a modern urban hub yet comes with development that has balanced greenery and parkland nicely throughout, making it an open and pleasant city to explore. Adelaide city itself offers enough to see and do to make it interesting for the first-time visitor despite not having an overwhelming number of attractions, however, it's the areas just outside the city that can be reached in short order that truly make the region worth visiting.

From its lifeblood of the mighty Murray River to the food and beverage delights on offer in the Barossa Valley and the wildlife and landscape wonders of Kangaroo Island, creating an Adelaide itinerary that includes all the must-do destinations can be as varied an exercise as you choose to make it.

In an attempt to make things easier for planning your Adelaide holiday, we've put together a series of recommended Adelaide itineraries for stays of lengths of 2, 3, 4 and 5 days. Here, we aim to provide the first-time visitor with the best overall combination of seeing and experiencing the essential things to do in Adelaide and its surrounds.


Day 1

The City Highlights

After checking into your hotel, an easy starting point to get your bearings in Adelaide is Victoria Square, which serves as the figurative "heart" of Adelaide city and is the site of many special events held throughout the year. With its iconic central fountain and having recently undergone significant refurbishment, including its own dedicated tram stop, various garden terraces and perimeter gardens. After having a look around and taking in the greenery and architecture, we recommend one of the following.

Adelaide Itineraries City Highlights South Australia

Heading west from Victoria Square towards Gouger Street where one of the most popular dining hubs in Adelaide is located. This part of the city is one of the most convenient places to grab a bite to eat from a wide variety of cuisines, particularly Asian food as it's home to a number of both budget and high-end places ideal for either a mid-morning sampling or proper lunch.

Heading north from Victoria Square towards Rundle Mall - Adelaide's main shopping hub - for a browse around/bite to eat, including a stop at Haigh's Chocolates (one of our Top 10 Things to do in Adelaide and a chocolate lover's dream come true; it's home to arguably the best chocolates in Australia). Rundle Mall is home to over 1000 individual stores both large and small, and the cliche of there being "something here for everyone" rings true here.

Suggested Post: Top 10 Things to do in Adelaide

Glenelg

After you've had your fill of dining or retail therapy, from either of these locations you can hop aboard public transport and travel to the seaside suburb of Glenelg - one of the jewels in the crown of Adelaide city that boasts a wonderful coastal aspect, lovely beach and plenty more boutique stores and cafes.

Glenelg is a lively suburb where there's always something happening, and should you be visiting in the warmer months is the ideal spot for a swim, taking in live entertainment or simply relaxing. Be sure to take a stroll along Jetty Road while you're here; it's the area's main thoroughfare and home to a wonderful jetty that offers some of the best sunsets in Australia. Spend a few hours in Glenelg, watch the sunset, have dinner, and you'll likely be ready to call it a day.

Suggested Post: Australia's Top 10 Sunsets

Getting to Glenelg from the city centre via public transport is reasonably easy and is doable by bus (take no. 265 to and from central Adelaide with a ride time of around 40 minutes depending on traffic) or via the more iconic tram ride that departs roughly every 20 minutes and takes just under half an hour to get there. Tram tickets can be purchased via the same ticketing system as the main Adelaide Metro scheme via either coins or card (no notes).

If you're wanting to take a guided option to go the Adelaide in one day route, city tours of the essential highlights are also available.

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Day 2

Visit a Zoo

Adelaide benefits for those bringing kids along for the journey by being home to several quality wildlife attractions within reasonable reach of the city, including Adelaide Zoo, Monarto Zoo and Cleland Wildlife Park - that are sure to be hits with the kids. So which of the zoos makes for the best pick for you? This will largely depend on two major factors: which zoos in both Australia and abroad you've been to previously, and whether or not you've hired a car.

Each of the wildlife attractions offer something different, with each having their own pros and cons.

Adelaide Zoo is the most central of the three housing the largest number of animals and sits under 10 minutes away from the city centre just next to the River Torrens. The zoo is home to the southern hemisphere's only pair of Giant Pandas, which is a major selling point, and it's also the most typically commercial of the zoos and features smaller enclosures for the animals.

In saying this, the zoo has invested considerable time and money in recent years into upgrading the enclosures and ensuring the animals have a comfortable amount of space. This is the go to zoo for those wanting convenient access and a comprehensive all-round animal experience.

Adelaide Itineraries Adelaide Zoo South Australia

Adelaide Zoo

Cleland Wildlife Park, sits alongside Mount Lofty Summit and is a good spot to combine with a visit to the lookout point if you have not done so previously. This attraction allows for an up-close experience with the animals with many of the enclosures designed to allow visitors to walk straight in and mingle with the wildlife or even hand-feed them. Some of the animals you can get up close to include emus, kangaroos, swans and wallabies that will eat straight out of your hand.

If your main concern is seeing and interacting with mainly Australian wildlife, then the kids will love this attraction. Getting to Cleland Wildlife Park takes roughly 20 minutes from the centre of Adelaide, driving is recommended as public transport access isn't the best.

Adelaide Itineraries Monarto Zoo South Australia

Monarto Zoo

Lastly, Monarto Zoo is located just over an hour drive from the city and offers a full-blown simulation of the African savannah and other worldwide climates. With wide open woodlands and grasslands allowing the animals to roam freely, you'll get to see the likes of cheetahs, giraffes, rhinos, lions and more all in a relatively realistic environment.

The zoo has a shuttle bus that drives around the grounds allowing visitors with kids to give their feet a rest while being taken to all the best viewing platforms to see the animals. Alternatively, there's a large walking track covering the whole park for those who want to browse Monarto Zoo on foot.

Regardless of your choice of wildlife attractions, Adelaide's zoo's animal offerings are high quality across the board and sure to keep the kids entertained

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Explore the Barossa Valley

This destination full of rolling hills, quality produce and some 70-odd wineries and cellar doors will likely be one of the major drawcards for many mature travellers visiting Adelaide.

While many choose to overnight stay, its proximity to the city leads to the ideal destination for a day trip with a roughly 1.5 hour drive time by road. The region is Australia's largest wine-producing region and is responsible for the production of a range of wines with a lean towards its signature Shiraz. If you're looking to indulge your palate there are few better places in the country to do so.

Adelaide Itineraries Barossa Valley

Wine isn't the only focus of the Barossa Valley, with its variety of hand-crafted and expertly-produced food items and fresh produce major drawcards. Throughout the region, you'll find rich cheeses, dried fruits, meats, and pastries among other delights. Add to this the inherently scenic and comfortable environment of undulating hills, expansive vineyards, and a mild climate, and it's well worth a visit.

Suggested Post: Top 10 Things to do in the Barossa Valley

Given the sheer quantity of wineries that exist in the Barossa and the fact that self-driving means having to monitor your alcohol consumption, day tours of the Barossa Valley are exceedingly popular and offer a highly efficient way to sample a decent cross-section of foodstuffs and wines. See our Barossa Valley tours section for a listing of available tours, their prices and itineraries.

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Day 3

Visit the Art Gallery of SA, Mount Lofty Lookout & the Botanical Gardens

Spend the day exploring some other highlights of Adelaide city, including a trio of attractions that bridge a nice cross-section of the historic, natural and scenic.

Regardless of if you're a particular fan of art, the Art Gallery of South Australia is one of the country's best and most comprehensive displays of historical pieces and remains an underrated attraction in the heart of the city that can be experienced for FREE for general admission.

Rooms in the gallery are grouped by theme rather than time period, and the attraction offers an outstanding permanent collection as well as an eclectic mix of rotating exhibitions varying throughout the year. The gallery is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and lies to the north of the centre of Adelaide in front of the North Terrace bus stop.

Adelaide Itineraries Art Gallery of South Australia

After visiting the art gallery in the morning, head to Adelaide's best lookout point with a visit to Mount Lofty. The peak, which lies in the Adelaide Hills around 20 minutes' drive from the CBD, offers a wonderful panorama of Adelaide and its green surrounds.

The summit can be reached via car with paid parking at the top or, for the more ambitious among us, you can hike up from Waterfall Gully with a tough yet rewarding track. The track features a well-constructed path and regular seating as well as cafes and bathrooms at each end along with regularly placed seats. The journey takes roughly 1.5 hours each way at a leisurely pace.

Adelaide Itineraries Botanical Gardens

While you'll likely only spend just enough time at the lookout to admire the view, grab a bite to eat and snap a few pictures, the Botanical Gardens offer a peaceful way to extend your Mt Lofty experience. The Botanical Gardens are a generally uncrowded place that is both beautiful (especially during autumn) and impeccably maintained. The gardens offer an ideal balance between imported exotic plant life and native Adelaide flora and it's hard to match in terms of spots for a peaceful afternoon picnic in the Adelaide region

Day 4

Tour Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is widely considered one of Australia's most unique, diverse and wildlife-rich destinations and should be an essential item on any Adelaide itinerary. However, due to its distance from the city centre, a visit to the island requires a fairly significant investment of time, effort and money to reach.

That effort is more than justified, as the blend of untouched wilderness, pristine waters, distinctive rock formations and rugged coastline make KI a true escapist destination. The sheer diversity that the island offers makes multi-day stays ideal, however, single day stays are ideal for visitors with a short amount of time in the region.

Adelaide Itineraries Kangaroo Island Day Tours

Experiencing Kangaroo Island in a single day involves an early start as it's a combined journey of driving and cruising to reach. The island is large, and some of its highlights are quite spread out (it's the 3rd largest island in Australia, after all). Compacted tour itineraries aim to take you from point A to B and cover the essentials such as Seal Bay (home to both beautiful sand beaches and a large population of Australian sea lions), the incredible Remarkable Rocks formations, the Flinders Chase National Park and various other must-see spots.

Suggested Post: The best time to visit Kangaroo Island

It can be a gruelling and tiring day of travel to cram into a day, but Kangaroo Island is still an unmissable spot for first-time visitors to the Adelaide region.

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Day 5

Explore Hahndorf

The European influence plays a large role in giving Adelaide and its surrounding areas character, and few locations exemplify this better than the German settlement, Hahndorf.

Located around a half hour drive to the south-east of the Adelaide CBD, Hahndorf is the ideal, laid-back and easily accessible spot. Hahndorf is a destination oriented around leisurely browsing and sampling of food, crafts and, of course, famous German beer.

While the town is slightly touristy, it's still definitely charming for first-time visitors.

Boasting a cavalcade of Euro-centric speciality craft shops, pubs and bakeries that truly do feel like a little slice of Europe in the hills of South Australia, the city is filled with Lutheran architecture that adds a dash more flair to the atmosphere.

Adelaide Itineraries Hahndorf

There are also additional, smaller attractions that offer some more diversity to a Hahndorf visit. The town boasts a small animal farm for the kids, there's the opportunity to pick your own strawberries, purchase fudge, and various other hands-on offerings that can help break things up a bit.

Hahndorf is easy to reach by both car and bus, which means it can even be done in a half day trip; some would even say this is optimal depending on how much you're interested in browsing the stores or sampling the food. The option also exists to take an organised day tour to the town to explore the best sights. In addition, if you run out of things to do at Hahndorf, its location makes exploring some more of the Adelaide Hills feasible to fill out the rest of the day, this is a lovely part of the Adelaide region that's worth devoting at least some time to seeing.

Perhaps the only downside to visiting Hahndorf is that its small size coupled with its popularity means the town can be exceedingly busy on weekends; as a result, it's best to align your Adelaide itinerary so that you visit on a weekday.

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In addition, if you're looking for a full list of all the top things to do in Adelaide, be sure to check out our main Adelaide region section for tours, attractions, activities and more.

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