Most people who come to South Australia will start their trip in the capital, Adelaide. While not as well known as the eastern cities, Adelaide is a bustling town with plenty of things to do and see. It’s perfect for a long weekend or as the first leg in a much longer trip around the state. This Adelaide 3 day itinerary will give you a great starting point as you get to know the city, including exploring the city centre, a day in the wine regions and a day in the suburbs.
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- 1 But first, a little about Adelaide
- 2 Where to Stay in Adelaide
- 3 How to get from Adelaide Airport to City Centre
- 4 The Adelaide 3 Day Itinerary
- 5 More than Three Days in Adelaide?
But first, a little about Adelaide
- Adelaide has a population of around 1.4million people. It makes up almost all of the 1.8million people that live in South Australia.
- Adelaide is a planned city with wide, grid-like streets. This makes it easy to get around.
- Adelaide was founded in 1836 when the first Europeans arrived here. They were all free settlers, and contrary to popular belief, there were never any convicts in this part of Australia.
- Adelaide is the traditional land of the Kaurna (pronounced Garna) people.
- Adelaide is often called the City of Churches. It’s not because there are a lot of churches (although it does have a lot!) it’s because right from the start there was freedom of religion and so there were many different places of worship including churches, mosques, synagogues and temples.
- Adelaide is one of the ten Great Wine Capitals of the World and is the hub for the 18 wine regions surrounding it.
- Adelaide is home to the second largest fringe festival in the world. For a month during February/March the city comes alive with hundreds of events.
- Adelaide was the second place in the world to give women the vote. It was before Australia officially became a country so it was only a South Australian law at the time. (The first place was our neighbours in New Zealand)
- Adelaide has a penchant for distinctive sculptures in Rundle Mall. First it was the Spheres – more commonly called the Mall’s Balls – then a group of four pigs. Most recently a giant pigeon has been added to the collection.
Where to Stay in Adelaide
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If you are spending only 3 days in Adelaide then my recommendation is to stay in the city centre. While there are some great suburban locations, with a short stay, the central location will make it easier to get around. There are some great options in the city centre for all types of accommodation. Here are just a few to get you started on your search.
My suggestion for a hostel is the Adelaide Central YHA. This hostel has a great range of different rooms, from classic dorm rooms to private rooms with en-suites and family rooms. The communal areas are large and has great facilities.
Try the Ibis Styles Adelaide Grosvenor, located on North Terrace, directly opposite the railway station, casino and Government House. The rooms are basic but clean. A great choice for couples on a budget and business travellers who just want a clean place to crash.
For an interesting mid-range option, The Franklin Boutique Hotel is a great choice. The rooms here are a little less like your “usual” mid-range hotel offering and some have stunning deep bathtubs for that ultimate relaxation after a long day. They are part of a well-renovated old pub, perfectly located for the Adelaide Central Markets. This one is absolutely worth a look before you spend more on a name brand luxury hotel.
If you are looking for a special place to stay, the Mayfair Hotel is one of the best Adelaide hotels and a good choice. Located in a prime location right at the end of Rundle Mall, this five star hotel pulls out all the stops. Beautiful rooms, great services, amazing restaurants, even a rooftop bar.
How to get from Adelaide Airport to City Centre
Now that you have chosen the perfect place to stay in Adelaide, let’s work out how to get there.
On arriving into Adelaide by plane, there is no long commute from the airport here.
- It’s a short 10-15 minute taxi or Uber ride into the city centre. Taxis can be found to the left of the domestic terminal. Ride shares are across the road and to the left of the multi-story carpark. Follow the signs.
- There is also the JetExpress bus that will take you straight into the city for only the price of a normal public transport ticket.
- If you prefer a shuttle straight to the door of your hotel they are available for $10AUD per person and run approximately every half an hour. You will find the desk straight in front of you as you come down the escalators from a domestic flight into the baggage hall. From international arrivals, turn left and walk a few metres towards the domestic baggage hall and the desk is on your right.
- If you would like to organise a private transfer in advance, click here to see the latest options and prices.
- There are plenty of hire car companies located inside Adelaide Airport. If you would like to compare them all at one to find the best deal, click here to do so on RentalCars.com
Getting Around Adelaide
The Adelaide City centre is very walkable. Most places you can get to easily by foot. Trams are free within the city square so you can easily use them to get around too – although I find with the traffic, it’s often just as quick by foot if you are not going far. There are also free buses that go to various parts of the city centre. Look out for 98A/98C/99A/99C buses. For all the information on the free services see the Adelaide Metro website here.
All other Adelaide public transport information is on the Adelaide Metro website too, including routes, timetables and all the information you need. If you are only using public transport a couple of times, simply pay as you go with single trip or day trip tickets. If you are planning to use it a lot, pick up a Metro Card and preload it. Fares are slightly cheaper using a Metro Card, but it does have a $5 card fee when you purchase so you would want to be using it a lot to make that worthwhile. You can also now travel on trams only by tapping on and off with your credit card.
For rideshare in Adelaide, you can find Uber, Ola, GoShare, Shebah (women only) and MyCar (Eco friendly). Of course there are plenty of traditional taxis too.
The Adelaide 3 Day Itinerary
Now that you all settled in at your accommodation, it’s time for a good rest before getting started on this Adelaide 3 day itinerary bright and early in the morning.
Adelaide Itinerary Day One
It’s an early start today, but it will be worth it! Head straight to the Adelaide Central Markets and explore the largest undercover fresh produce markets in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a great place to grab breakfast and pick up some of the amazing local produce, from fruit & vegetables, to smallgoods, to organic foods to local gin, beer and wines, there is so much to choose from. While you are here, try some of South Australia’s unique foods, such as fritz (a type of luncheon meat), fruchocs, Haighs chocolates, or for a real sugar hit, a Kitchener bun! Make sure you check the trading hours before you visit, as they vary wildly across the week, and are mostly closed on Mondays with just a few select stalls opening.
Once you have fueled up for the day, walk back to Victoria Square, then either jump on the tram (it’s free within the city centre) or walk the short distance to Rundle Mall to meet up near the Malls Balls and take the Adelaide free walking tour at 10am. You will spend two hours learning about Adelaide and its history, getting your bearings and learning about some of the attractions you might like to visit in the afternoon. Tip the guide at the end the amount you think the tour is worth.
EDIT: Unfortunately due to Covid-19 the free walking tour is not running at the moment, but you can still do a private small group tour giving the same great introduction to Adelaide. The details are here, but if the times don’t suit, contact Katina and she will see what she can arrange. She also offers The F Factor Food Tour, street art tours and queer history tours if you are looking for something more than just the usual walking tour.
For lunch choose one of the cafes along Rundle Street, or the adjoining Ebenezer Place. Hey Jupiter is a very popular option, or you can try Grill’d for burgers, Mekong for Vietnamese, San Giorgio for pizza and pasta or (during the week) and Vego’s for, well, vegetarian! There are plenty of other options too.
After lunch, head to North Terrace and check out some of the museums, art galleries and other cultural attractions. I recommend the South Australian Museum if you are interested in Aboriginal culture as they have the largest collection in Australia. The rest of the afternoon depends on your interests, but here are some suggestions. Many of the museums and galleries are free, but some are not and I have included some links to book your tickets in advance – very important during the Covid-19 times as often entry is limited or timed.
- National Wine Centre
- Adelaide Botanic Garden (including the Museum of Economic Botany)
- South Australia Museum
- Ayers House
- Art Gallery of South Australia
- Migration Museum
- MOD (Museum of Discovery)
- State Library of South Australia (for the beautiful Mortlock Wing)
- Adelaide Zoo
If you are instead looking for something a little more adventurous to do, spend the afternoon doing one of these
- Holey Moley Golf
- Adelaide TreeClimb
- Adventure Room
- Adelaide Oval Stadium Tour
- Adelaide Oval Roof Climb
- Adelaide Scavenger Hunt
- Torrens River Cruise on Popeye
- High Tea Cruise on Popeye
After all that learning and activity, you will need a little bit of downtime. Make your way to 2KW, a rooftop bar on the corner of North Terrace and King Willian Street for a pre-dinner drink while enjoying the views. The drinks list here is extensive, so you will be sure to find your favourite. Even those who do not drink alcohol are catered for with a range of non-alcoholic cocktails too.
For dinner I recommend looking to the restaurants near North Terrace. Some of the popular ones are Madame Hanoi, La Boca Bar and Grill or Parlamento – I would recommend booking these ones in advance. You could also check out the nearby Leigh or Peel Streets, both laneways with only foot traffic that have some trendy food and drink options.
Since you are in the area, finish the evening off with a visit to the SkyCity Casino. If you don’t want to try your hand at blackjack or roulette, just enjoy the live music, atmosphere and a drink or two.
Adelaide Itinerary Day Two
Today you are going to choose one of the wine regions to explore. Each of them have something different to enjoy along with the wine tasting. If you don’t want to go wine tasting, there is still enough to do in each region without that.
Here is a little about each of the regions I recommend. They are all about one hour from the Adelaide city centre, and each one is easily accessible by car. If you prefer, each region also has a hop on/hop off bus that leaves from the city – I will include the links as well as other options for each region below.
The Barossa Valley is located to the north of Adelaide. It has a strong German heritage and is now the home to some of the best wines anywhere in the world. The Barossa is renowned for its Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon reds, and the best known white wine is Riesling. It is also home to fortified wines, gin distilleries and craft beer breweries.
I would recommend visiting the cellar doors of Jacob’s Creek (possibly the biggest wine brand in Australia), Penfold’s (home of the famous Penfold’s Grange), Langmeil’s (home to the 1843 Freedom Shiraz, produced from the oldest shiraz vines in the world) and Rockfords (home to a beautiful basket press shiraz, made in the traditional way). There are over 100 wineries in the region though, so there is no shortage of choice. Along with the big names above, why not call into a winery you have never heard of before too – some of the small boutique wineries are doing some really fun, interesting things with their wines.
There’s not just good wine in the Barossa, but great food and markets too. If you are here on a Saturday, make sure you call into the Barossa Farmers Market at Angaston. It runs from 7:30 – 11:30am, and you will find a great selection of the local produce all in one location. Otherwise you will have to visit some of the locations separately to taste the flavours of the Barossa. I suggest taking look at some of the below
- Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop
- Steiny’s Traditional Mettwurst Tasting Rooms, Nuriootpa
- Barossa Valley Cheese Co, Angaston
- Steins Taphouse, Nuriootpa (for a variety of local craft beers in one place)
- Vasse Virgin Olive oil, Seppeltsfield
- Seppeltsfield Road Distillers, Marananga
- Barossa Valley Chocolate Company, Tanunda
If you want to do some sightseeing while in the Barossa, head up to Mengler’s Hill Lookout for sweeping views over the valley. You can also visit The Whispering Wall to experience the phenomenon of a whisper passing along the curve to be clearly heard on the other side of the dam. Visit the Lyndoch Lavender Farm for great instagram photos and even better lavender food and skin care products (I recommend the lavender ice cream or lavender scones, both available from the cafe).
For lunch, grab something to eat at one of the wineries, many of them have their own restaurants, or make your way to Tanunda and eat at Char Barossa. They have a variety of meals, many of which use local Barossa produce. After lunch take a short stroll through Tanunda browsing the shops.
If you are still enjoying the Barossa at dinner time, I suggest eating at 1918 Bistro & Grill, or for something really special, take a look at Appellation restaurant at The Louise. Otherwise there are plenty of options in all the towns for a more casual meal or takeaway.
If you don’t have your own car, or prefer not to drive while wine tasting, then there are three types of options for visiting the Barossa Valley – the hop on/hop off bus, a bus tour or a private tour. Here are some suggestions for each
- Hop On/Hop Off Bus – this bus picks you up and returns you to the Adelaide City centre, doing a loop through the Barossa during the day. You can get on and off at any of the locations along the loop to enjoy the wineries and attractions
- Barossa Valley Wineries Tour with Tastings and Lunch from Adelaide – this tour takes you to four wineries and some of the other attractions in the Barossa Valley. Pick up is from Adelaide and lunch is included.
- Barossa Valley Private Tour – this private tour visits some of the attractions as well as a good selection of wineries. Pick up is from Adelaide and lunch is included
The McLaren Vale wine region is to the south of Adelaide. This area is almost entirely focused around food and wine production. Grapes were planted here for the first time in 1838, so just a couple of years after South Australia was settled. With a Mediterranean climate, the McLaren Vale vineyards mostly produce Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, although there are now many other varieties available in smaller amounts. The most common white wine to find is Chardonnay.
One winery that absolutely should be on the list to visit is D’Arenberg. While the wines here are nice, it’s their iconic cellar door that needs to be seen to be believed. The building looks like a version of Rubik’s Cube and sits on a rise overlooking the vineyards. It houses not only the cellar door, but the quirky Alternate Realities Museum which is full of all sorts of weird and wonderful items. The next floor is an exhibition space with changing purposes. During my last visit there was a Salvador Dali exhibition – which perfectly matched the museum below. The higher floors include a restaurant and the tasting rooms, with seperate areas for those undertaking specialist tastings or learning to make their own wine.
You could spend all day at D’Arenberg, but there are plenty of other great wineries in the McLaren Vale area that deserve a visit. I suggest Hardys Tintara (one of the oldest wineries in the area), Primo Estate (for Italian-inspired wines), Wirra Wirra (in the hope they are flinging watermelons around with their trebuchet during your visit), Hugh Hamilton Wines (for great views to go with the great wine) and Alpha Box & Dice (a trendy “new” winery).
Once you have tasted enough wine, then here are some of the other things to do in Mclaren Vale for the rest of your day
- Willunga Farmer’s Markets (open on Saturday mornings only)
- Cycle or walk some of the Shiraz Trail
- Visit the local beaches
- Kayak on the Onkaparinga River
- Red Poles Art Gallery
- The Blessed Cheese
- The Almond Train
- The maze @ Maxwell Wines
- Swell Brewing Co Taphouse and Brewery
- Never Never Distilling Co
When you are looking for somewhere to eat, many of the wineries will have restaurants or at least they offer tasting platters to be shared while wine tasting. If you are looking for somewhere other than a winery, try Pizzateca for a great casual meal, or for something truely special, book in advance for The Salopian Inn.
Like the Barossa, there are three different ways to visit McLaren Vale if you do not have a car
- Hop On/Hop Off Bus – this bus picks you up and returns you to the Adelaide City centre, doing a loop through the Mclaren Vale region during the day. You can get on and off at any of the locations along the loop to enjoy the wineries and attractions
- McLaren Vale Winery Small Group Tour with Wine Tasting and Lunch – this tour takes you to four wineries and some of the other attractions in McLaren Vale. Pick up is from Adelaide and lunch is included.
- Luxury Private Mclaren Vale Wine Tour – this private tour visits some of the attractions as well as a good selection of wineries. There is also flexibility to create an itinerary to suit your interests. Pick up is from Adelaide and lunch is included.
The Adelaide Hills wine region is to the east of Adelaide. The higher altitude of the vineyards means the wines that are produced here tend to be cooler climate wines such as chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc wines. While there are plenty of wine tasting opportunities, there are also some other great activities and attractions in the area.
As you are making your way up into the Adelaide Hills, take a short detour to the top of Mount Lofty to see the views over the Adelaide City centre to the coast beyond. You can also take a stroll in the nearby Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, which, while beautiful year round, are particularly spectacular in Autumn with the reds, oranges and yellows scattered throughout. Cleland Wildlife Park is also in the Mount Lofty area if you are keen to see some of the Australian wildlife up close
The town of Hahndorf should be on your list for your day in the Adelaide Hills. This town has a German heritage, and even today much of that shines through. There are plenty of amazing places to eat, but if you are after traditional German fare, eat at The German Arms or Haus. Walk along the main street while stocking up on some of the great local produce. You can find cheese, candles, sweets, fudge, honey, crafts and many more. Make sure you duck into the German Village Shop for genuine cuckoo clocks, beer steins and other German novelty items.
For wine tasting, I have a real soft spot for Hahndorf Hill Winery (I really like their Gruner Veltliner) after I did a wine and chocolate tasting here and discovered they really do go together. Book in for a ChocoVino tasting before you go. Other popular wineries are Shaw + Smith, Bird in Hand and Nepenthe.
With dozens of other things to do in the Adelaide Hills destinations during your visit, here are some suggestions
- Strawberry picking at Beerenberg
- Hike from Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty
- National Motor Museum in Birdwood
- Lobethal Christmas lights (in December)
- The Big Rocking Horse at Gumeracha
- Prancing Pony Brewery
- The Hills Cider Co
- Ambleside Distillery
- Melba’s Chocolates
- The Cedars (home to SA artist Hans Heysen)
- Hills Sculpture Trail
- Sticky Rice Cooking School
Again, I recommend having your own car to get around in the Adelaide Hill, but if you don’t have one, here are the options to get there.
- Hop On/Hop Off Bus – this bus picks you up and returns you to the Adelaide City centre, doing a loop through the Adelaide Hills during the day. You can get on and off at any of the locations along the loop to enjoy the wineries and attractions
- Adelaide Hills Wine Tour – this tour makes you to some wineries and many of the small towns throughout the Adelaide Hills. Pick up is from Adelaide.
- Adelaide Hills Gourmet Tasting Private Tour – this private tour visits a good selection of food, beverage and other attractions. Pick up is from Adelaide.
- Public Transport – It is possible to get to Hahndorf by public bus, but this is really only an option if you want to spend the whole day exploring the town. There are taxis available for short trips around the area. Catch bus 864 from bus stop D1 on the north side of Currie Street. For more details see the Adelaide Metro website.
Adelaide Itinerary Day Three
Today you will be exploring the suburbs of Adelaide and I have two suggestions, Glenelg or Port Adelaide. Both are easy to access by public transport and both have enough to do to keep you busy for the whole day if you wish.
If you choose, it is possible to visit both Glenelg and Port Adelaide in the same day. This works best if you have your own car, or get a taxi/Uber between them, which will take around 25 minutes. It is possible to get from one to the other by public transport, but it does mean going back into the city and out again, taking more like 90 minutes.
Located to the southwest of the city centre Glenelg is the best known of Adelaide’s beachside suburbs. It is the location of the proclamation of South Australia as a province of England on December 28th, 1836 after the first ship landed that day. (Interestingly, while this is the date we use in SA as our settlement date, the province was actually officially created in February 1836, before the ships left England!)
The best way to get to Glenelg is to jump on a tram in the city centre. You will need a ticket to go to Glenelg (the trams are free in the city centre but not all the way to Glenelg). The tram terminates right by the beach at Glenelg, so you cannot get lost.
If the day is nice, spend some time enjoying the beach. Take a dip in the water here, it is generally calm without too many dangers, but of course take all the usual precautions when swimming in the sea anywhere. During the summer (late November to late March) you can spend the whole day just lazing on the sand, drinking cocktails and enjoying the sun at The Moseley Beach Club. Look out for complimentary yoga classes on some Saturday mornings (but you will need to book in advance).
If spending all day at the beach is not for you, then there are some other things to do in the area too. Wander up and down Jetty Road and browse all the stores along the way. Pick up an ice cream at St. Louis House of Fine Ice Cream & Dessert or a hot chocolate at Bracegirdle’s Glenelg. If the weather is too cold or too hot you can escape inside for a while and watch a movie at the GU Film House Glenelg. For the kids (or kids at heart) hit The Beachouse, and amusement complex with waterslides, dodgem cars, a games arcade, mini golf and more. During summer you will also find a large ferris wheel on the foreshore too.
To learn a little about the history and culture of Glenelg, call into the free Bay Discovery Centre. This small museum is an interesting insight to the area. Also take a few minutes to stop at the Chorus of Stones memorial and listen to some of the stories of South Australian war veterans who have served in a variety on conflicts.
There are no shortages of options in Glenelg for food, so take your pick as you walk along the foreshore or Jetty Road. You will likely not be disappointed no matter where you choose. For a casual meal I recommend Goodslice Pizza Natural, for great pizzas using local and organic products (they do serve more than just pizza too!). For a more upmarket meal, Sammy’s on the Marina serves up amazing seafood.
Glenelg is a great place for nightlife in the evenings too. The Moseley Bar & Kitchen is popular and the bar opens late during the weeks and into the early hours of the morning on Friday and Saturday. The Grand Bar at the Stamford Grand is another great place to enjoy late into the night. Look out too for plenty of other bars, cocktail places or even late night dessert bars.
Port Adelaide is to the northwest of the city centre and sits on the Port River. It’s a historic area with the first settlers arriving in 1837, when it was serving as the Adelaide port for South Australia. With shipping containerisation the working port has moved to Outer Harbor, with the inner port now reserved for small boats and water sports. It is traditionally a working class area, and is currently undergoing a huge transformation.
The easiest way to get to Port Adelaide is by train. Take the Outer Harbor line from the Adelaide Railway Station and Port Adelaide is about a thirty minute trip.
Port Adelaide is a great location for museums. Here you will find the South Australian Maritime Museum, the National Railway Museum and the South Australian Aviation Museum (complete with F-111 fighter jet). All three are worth exploring, with both adults and kids alike catered for. You can also find the historic “City of Adelaide” clipper ship currently being restored. It is open for tours through the hull to learn about the history of this ship and the shipping industry from the time.
Continue the maritime theme by strolling the wharf and admiring the tall ships as they sit at berth. On a good day you will see both the “Falie” and the “One and All” here. Then jump aboard the Dolphin Explorer and take a cruise along the Port River where you will be sure to glimpse the local Port River dolphins while learning about the history of this industrial area.
If you visit on a Sunday or public holiday, fossick through the Fishermen’s Wharf Markets. There is such an eclectic mix of stalls you could literally find anything! Favourites include books and collectibles, local produce and craft, hardware and secondhand items. There are usually some food trucks and buskers here to enjoy too.
While you are strolling the streets, keep your eyes peeled for all the incredible Port Adelaide street art. Port Adelaide has been participating in the Wonderwalls festival over the last few years and as such has amassed over fifty large, wall-sized murals, some taking up the whole sides of buildings. You will find art ranging from beautiful to controversial and everything in between. For a map of the artwork, call into the Port Adelaide Information Centre.
When it comes time for food you will again be spoilt for choice. New places are popping up all over Port Adelaide. For a casual lunchtime meal I recommend trying Red Lime Cafe. It’s all vegan, but absolutely delicious with arguably the best coffee in Port Adelaide. In the evening Low & Slow American BBQ is very popular (you will need to book in advance). Spice ‘N Ice does fantastic Indian food, Argo Hellenic Cafe is great for Greek, and Miss Viet for Vietnamese.
Port Adelaide has a huge pub culture and any other them are also great for meals at all times of the day, and I suggest calling into at least one of them. If you are a craft beer lover, Pirate Life has their brewery here and is a great place to stop for a tasting flight. There are also a few small bars that will help you enjoy the evenings – look for Korked Wine Bar or Captain Rehab’s Bar @Mixed Creative. If you prefer something adventurous on a Saturday night, there are ghost crime tours to learn about the history of Port Adelaide and explore some of the old buildings.
More than Three Days in Adelaide?
If you are lucky enough to have more than 3 days in Adelaide, then here are a few more suggestions for what to do in Adelaide on those extra days.
- visit another wine region, with or without the wine tasting.
- go to Monarto Safari Park
- do a day trip to Victor Harbor
- do a day trip to Kangaroo Island (in all honesty, while this is possible, it is a very long day and relatively pricey. I actually recommend spending at least one night on the island to enjoy it at a slower pace)
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.