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The best things to do in Adelaide

Adelaide is known for its world-famous wine regions, diverse line-up of festivals, amazing natural landscapes and rich history. Whatever your budget or location around the city and surrounds, there’s always something to do in Adelaide. From whale watching on Kangaroo Island, to eating your way through the Adelaide Central Market, let’s run through some of Adelaide’s highlights.

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Arts and culture

South Australia is often called the ‘Festival State’, and Adelaide itself is a UNESCO City of Music, so you’re guaranteed to encounter some of the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene during your time here.

The best time to experience this is during ‘Mad March’, when a number of festivals run concurrently. The biggest and most well-known is the Adelaide Fringe, the world’s second-largest annual arts festival. The Fringe takes Adelaide by storm, with pop-up theatres, street performers, live music, circus, comedy and magic shows spread across the city. At the same time, you can head to the Adelaide Festival, which celebrates opera, cabaret, classical music and theatre. For racing fans, there’s the Superloop Adelaide 500, while the WOMADelaide festival brings the world of music, arts and dance to Adelaide’s Botanic Park.

At other points during the year, you’ll also find OzAsia Festival, which showcases the best theatre, dance, music and cultural events from across Asia, complete with a food market and Moon Lantern Parade; Tasting Australia, a festival for all things food; and AVCon Anime & Video Games Festival, with its incredible cosplay competition.

For a dose of history and culture, walk down tree-lined North Terrace. Here, you’ll find the beautiful State Library of South Australia, South Australian Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, all lined up in a row. Each of these offers free entry, although you may have to pay for some exhibitions (you might be eligible for a discounted student/concession ticket – make sure you bring your student card!).

Nature and wildlife

Adelaide is surrounded on all sides by incredible natural landscapes: the blue ocean and sandy beaches, lush green woodlands, and the iconic Australian Outback.

To get a taste of nature, you don’t have to head far from the CBD. Waterfall Gully, Mount Lofty and Morialta Conservation Park in the Adelaide Hills are all only a 20-minute drive from the city and feature leisurely walks or more intense hikes through beautiful forests. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a wild kangaroo or koala!

To guarantee a meeting with a koala, visit Cleland Wildlife Park (which is one of the only places in Australia where you can take a photo with one), Adelaide Zoo (home to the only pair of giant pandas in Australia), or Monarto Safari Park (the world’s largest open-range zoo).  At Gorge Wildlife Park you can also cuddle a koala.

If you want to try your luck by the water, head to Port Adelaide to try and spot dolphins, or drive down to Victor Harbor during winter and see if you can find a whale.

Feeling adventurous? Plan a trip to Kangaroo Island. Here, you’ll be able to experience the best of South Australia’s natural environment and wildlife. Go penguin-spotting in Penneshaw, check out the sea lions in Seal Bay, explore the Remarkable Rocks in Flinders Chase National Park, or take a quad-bike tour through the heart of the island, stopping off to meet some sleepy koalas along the way.

If you’re keen to stick to the city, head to the sprawling Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Make time to visit the beautiful Palm House, the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion, and the enormous Bicentennial Conservatory, which houses a recreation of a tropical rainforest.

Food and wine

Anyone who is a fan of MasterChef Australia will be familiar with the number of talented chefs that come from Adelaide including Rose Adam, Poh Ling Yeow, Laura Sharrad, Callum Hann and current judge Jock Zonfrillo.  One of the reason's is because of South Australia's amazing food and wine producing regions.

Home to Maggie Beer and former MasterChef Australia contestant Tracy Collins, the Barossa Valley is the perfect place for a weekend wine tour with friends.  Located about an hour North of Adelaide, the Barossa features rolling hills and quirky historical towns. Every local in Adelaide has their own favourite winery, so make sure to ask for some recommendations. But, definitely schedule a visit to Seppeltsfield to travel through the Avenue of Palms, and to Jacob’s Creek – Australia’s largest wine brand.

Travel south and you’ll be in the seaside McLaren Vale wine region. Must-visits include The d’Arenberg Cube and its wacky museum, Pizzateca for a delicious Italian lunch, and The FruChocs Shop, where you can sample South Australia’s iconic chocolate treat. McLaren Vale is also interlaced with bike paths, so you can pack a picnic and cycle through the vineyards and to the beach.

Adelaide is home to a very multicultural community, so there’s a huge range of restaurants serving international cuisines all over the city. Parwana Afghan Restaurant is located on the busy Henley Beach Road and offers authentic dishes, Taco Quetzalcoatl has featured in the New York Timesand Lucia’s Pizza and Spaghetti Bar in the Adelaide Central Market has been serving Adelaideans since 1957. Speaking of the Adelaide Central Market, it’s an absolute must-do. Take your time exploring the stalls, taste test some free samples, stock up on local produce, and enjoy a hearty lunch surrounded by busy shoppers.

Sports

The unmissable Adelaide Oval is just a short walk over the River Torrens from the CBD. The Oval plays host to Australian Rules Football (AFL), soccer and cricket, just to name a few. Pick your favourite sport (or watch something new!), grab a ticket, and join the passionate fans in the stands.  You can also do a RoofClimb as well which is a very unique experience.

If you get the chance, make sure you try and catch a game of AFL. Adelaide has two teams: Adelaide Football Club (also known as the Adelaide Crows) and Port Adelaide Football Club (also known as Port Power). Pick a team to support, dress in club colours, and grab some hot chips to enjoy while you watch.

Just outside, the Memorial Drive Tennis Club is home to the Adelaide International Tennis Tournament, which brings together world-class players from across the globe and is a prelude to the Australian Open.

For something a little out of the ordinary...

There are lots of unique things to do in Adelaide that you might not find in a guidebook. If you’re feeling brave, learn more about Adelaide’s history – and its supernatural side – on a ghost tour. The Adelaide Gaol, located in the city’s Park Lands, is a particularly interesting (and spooky) spot to visit.

For photo opportunities to send home to family and friends, look no further than Rundle Mall. This pedestrian-only shopping, dining and entertainment district is packed with grand, historical buildings, cool art pieces (you won’t miss the iconic ‘Malls Balls’, or the Rundle Mall pigs), and great eateries.

If you’re a chocolate-lover, visit Haigh’s Chocolates on the edge of the Park Lands.  Haigh’s offers free guided tours where you can watch skilled confectioners bring chocolates to life and even sample some of the famous chocolate. Afterwards, stock up on chocolate frogs and any other sweet treats you’d like at the centre’s retail store.


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