Glenelg SA is one of the most popular locations for visitors to Adelaide. It’s a great day trip for those staying in the city centre, or a perfect beach getaway for those looking for an escape. Here are some of the things to do in Glenelg while you are there.
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TL;DR? Here's the outline
- A Little About Glenelg South Australia
- How to Get to Glenelg
- Things to do in Glenelg
- Shop ’til You Drop
- Ride the Ferris Wheel
- Enjoy a Cocktail at the Moseley Beach Club
- Take the Kids to The Beachouse
- Kids will Love the Free Playground
- Eat Yourself Silly
- Take a Walk
- Relax on the Beach
- Learn about Glenelg at the Bay Discovery Centre
- Take a Photography Class
- Browse the Glenelg Art Gallery
- See South Australia’s Birth Place at the Old Gum Tree
- Take a Cruise and Swim with Dolphins
- Eat Ice Cream
- See a Movie
- Gather a Mystery Picnic of Local Ingredients
- Paint a Masterpiece
- Look Out for Events and Festivals
- Watch an AFL Game
- Check Out the Glenelg Air-Raid Shelter
- Things to do in Glenelg in Winter
- Where to Stay in Glenelg
A Little About Glenelg South Australia
Before 1936, Glenelg was home to the Kaurna people who lived all across the Adelaide Plains.
Glenelg then became the location of the landing of the Buffalo (and four other ships), bringing the first settlers from the UK to the newly declared colony of South Australia.
They had first stopped at Kingscote on Kangaroo Island, but with no fresh water found, they moved on, eventually coming to Holdfast Bay – given that name because here their anchors “held fast” to keep the ships steady.
On December 28th, 1836, Governor Sir John Hindmarsh proclaimed the settlement the “Colony of South Australia”. He was standing at the Old Gum Tree, a site preserved today in Glenelg (see below).
The centre of the settlement soon moved inland, and the port was moved to the better location that is now Port Adelaide, but Glenelg continued to grow into a busy town.
In the early 1900s, Glenelg became a playground for the rich. Mansions popped up all over the place, and the Glenelg Pier was a popular place to be seen.
Next to the pier was Luna Park, just like the one that still today is in St Kilda, Melbourne. Eventually, this amusement park was removed, and it became the basis for the most well-known Luna Park of all – the one on Sydney Harbour.
Glenelg today is a popular destination for both visitors and locals alike. It offers a busy restaurant strip with plenty of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.
Glenelg is a great place to visit all year round, but it really comes into its own in summer (like most beach destinations!).
How to Get to Glenelg
Glenelg is located on the beach about 11km to the southwest of the Adelaide City centre. It’s an easy drive straight down Anzac Highway, usually taking around twenty minutes.
The best way to get to Glenelg by public transport is to catch the tram. It runs around every twenty minutes, with single adult tickets currently $6.20.
There are concession and children’s tickets available, and using a MetroCard is cheaper too For all the other prices, see the Adelaide Metro website.
Things to do in Glenelg
If you are in Adelaide without things to do Glenelg is the place to visit, even if there is no plan on how to spend the day. Head to “The Bay” (as the locals tend to call it) and simply wander along Jetty Road.
Eat lunch in a cafe/restaurant, browse the shops, grab an ice cream and walk along the jetty. Catch a movie in the afternoon and watch the sun go down while sipping a cocktail in one of the many bars.
There are plenty of free things to do in Glenelg too.
But just in case you do need to know about the Glenelg attractions, I’ve got you covered with this list.
Shop ’til You Drop
You will find boutique stores all along Jetty Road and sometimes down the little side streets too. Rather than the big malls, shopping at Glenelg will feel more like shopping in years gone by.
You will not only find the same brands repeated here, but rather smaller, independent stores with fun clothing, quirky homewares and some great gifts.
I always like to browse through Denim & Cloth and Piper Homewares (on Waterloo St), and pick up some chocolate from Haighs!
Ride the Ferris Wheel
This is a summer-only attraction in Glenelg as during the winter the Skyline Ferris Wheel is packed up and it goes into hibernation.
It emerges around October each year as the Mix102.3 Giant Wheel, and stays in place until May, offering views over Glenelg, the beach and the surrounding suburbs every day from 10 am until 9:30 pm.
Enjoy a Cocktail at the Moseley Beach Club
We might not be able to visit Bali this summer and enjoy one of their famous beach clubs, but we can enjoy the same atmosphere right here on Glenelg Beach. This is one of the best Glenelg tourist attractions!
The Moseley Beach Club first appeared on the sand just north of the Glenelg jetty in 2017. Now it’s a welcomed and popular attraction each summer.
This was the first European-style beach club in Australia, the start of a trend that has now spread interstate and to other South Australian beaches.
This year (summer of ’23/24) the theme is Greece, celebrating all things Greek, so keep an eye out for the special touches this summer.
Entry to the Moseley Beach Club is free, but it does cost if you want to hire a lounger or a day bed.
They offer a wide range of drinks – including that cocktail in a pineapple you just have to put on Instagram – and plenty of food to keep you going. There is even a small kids menu.
On the weekends they open early for breakfast, and DJs are usually playing later in the day.
Take the Kids to The Beachouse
The Beachouse is a family amusement centre right on the beach and is one of the best things to do in Glenelg with kids.
Kids will love coming here to slide down the waterslides, ride the dodgem cars and bumper boats, play mini golf and much more!
There is no entry fee to The Beachouse, you pay as you go along. There will often be timed sessions though where one payment covers everything. Look out for them in the mornings, particularly on weekends and in school holidays.
Kids will Love the Free Playground
Right on the foreshore between the Beachouse and the jetty is a fabulous free playground young kids will love. Even if you are just strolling along the street, this is the place to stop when your kids need to blow off some steam.
There are small trampolines at ground level, things to climb on too.
if the weather is warm, the kids will love playing in the water feature in nearby Moseley Square. It has those jets that squirt up from the ground that they love to run through to cool down. Adults might just like to join them too!
Eat Yourself Silly
There are so many food options at Glenelg. Anything you could possibly want you can find here somewhere. From fast food to chain restaurants, takeaways to cafes, pub meals to fine dining, it’s all here.
The restaurants are scattered all around the place,
If you are looking for restaurants that are a little more up-market, consider the Glenelg Marina Pier for options like Sammy’s on the Marina and the Marina Sunset Bar.
More casual venues, cafes and fast food are found on and around Jetty Road.
I recommend trying Doughballs Pizza (for, well, pizza!), Moseley Bar and Restaurant for good pub meals and St. Louis House of Fine Ice Cream & Dessert for coffee and dessert.
If you have kids with you (or maybe even if you don’t!), make sure you drop into Uniqorn Eats for their Instagrammable rainbow fare.
For a treat, visit the Stamford Plaza Adelaide for their high tea.
Take a Walk
There are some fairly obvious locations in Glenelg for a walk. Hit the beach and you can walk for kilometres in each direction.
Stay on the coastal path adjacent to the beach and walk even further (this path stretches almost the entire 70km of Adelaide’s foreshore.
Some sections are still being completed or upgraded for bikes and prams, but around Glenelg, it’s all finished). For a short stroll head to the end of the Glenelg Jetty.
If aimless walking is not your thing, you can take a self-guided walk around the suburb to admire the Glenelg mansions. Download the map and historic details about the mansions here before your visit.
Relax on the Beach
Sydney has Bondi, Melbourne has St Kilda – in South Australia the first beach people interstate think about is likely to be Glenelg. And for good reason too.
The beach is a wide strip of white sand lapped by gentle waves. And unlike some of the interstate beaches, Glenelg is never crowded so you will always have space here.
If you want to cool off, the water is generally shallow and calm, making it a great place for young and less confident swimmers. The beach is also patrolled by lifesavers in the warmer months for extra safety.
Learn about Glenelg at the Bay Discovery Centre
The Bay Discovery Centre describes itself as “a Social History Museum celebrating the cultural heritage of South Australia.”
This is a small but fun and colourful museum with displays on everything from the first South Australian settlers (who landed here at Glenelg) to swimwear throughout the years, to the Glenelg tram and Magic Mountain (a theme park that was located in the area for many years).
If you are spending any time in Glenelg – and you should – then half an hour or so here would be a great inclusion in your day.
The Bay Discovery Centre is open daily from 10 am-2 pm and entry is by gold coin donation.
Take a Photography Class
How about this if you are looking for things to do in Glenelg at night? Enjoy an evening at the beach learning night photography with Adventure Art Photography.
The three-hour workshop will teach you the best ways to capture stunning sunsets and create those long-exposure water photos often spotted hanging on walls.
You will learn how to take the perfect night portrait, and for something fun, you will try light painting the Ferris wheel.
Now that is a great souvenir to take home from your Glenelg visit!
Browse the Glenelg Art Gallery
Glenelg Art Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Stamford Grand Adelaide at the end of Jetty Road. There are all sorts of artworks that can be found here, from the expected paintings to sculpture, books, jewellery and skincare.
It is part a collective space that welcomes Aboriginal artists mostly from central Australia and the APY Lands in the north of South Australia and part a traditional gallery.
You can always find something new happening here. That means while browsing you can often find artists working here to chat with too.
See South Australia’s Birth Place at the Old Gum Tree
As I mentioned above, in 1936 Governor John Hindmarsh stood near an old bent gum tree and declared, in the name of King William IV, this to be the colony of South Australia.
Today that gum tree has been preserved and is the location of South Australia’s official Proclamation Day ceremony on December 28th each year. It’s one of the historical things to see in Glenelg.
Located in a backstreet of Glenelg, it’s now in the corner of a leafy park. If it’s lunchtime, pack a picnic or bring supplies to use the provided BBQ to cook up a meal.
Children will love to play on the playground in the park while you take a moment to look at the Old Gum Tree or just relax in the quiet surroundings.
Take a Cruise and Swim with Dolphins
Of all the Glenelg things to do, this one might just be my favourite! The waters of Holdfast Bay and further into the gulf are always filled with dolphins – and you can take a cruise from Glenelg to see them.
Spend the morning on a catamaran cruising the waters looking for the dolphins – who are said to seek out the boat so it’s not hard to find them.
Then, if conditions are right, there are options to get in the water with the dolphins. If you are anything like me, this is best done in summer, although they do provide wetsuits to help in the colder weather.
Don’t want to swim with the dolphins? You can go on the same cruise but just watch them from deck. This is a great option for winter or if you prefer not to get wet. Click here for the details.
Eat Ice Cream
I know I’ve mentioned lots of places to eat above, but I wanted to specifically mention ice cream. After all, isn’t it almost essential to get ice cream when you visit the beach?
Glenelg has a plethora of ice cream shops, from St. Louis House of Fine Ice Cream & Dessert which is a sit-down cafe, to all the usual hole-in-the-wall type places, such as Copenhagen, Gelatissimo and Cold Rock.
My personal favourite though is a new addition to Jetty Road, Bottega Gelateria which makes all sorts of delicious treats, including some plant-based options.
See a Movie
Still looking for Glenelg things to go? Movie lovers can get their fix while they are here at Glenelg.
Event Cinemas Glenelg is a smaller branch of the franchise and offers arthouse and niche screenings alongside the popular blockbusters. The cinemas are only a few years old so they offer the latest in comfort and experience too.
Gather a Mystery Picnic of Local Ingredients
Have you been on a mystery picnic yet? This great day out has brought together a treasure hunt, a food tour and a picnic. You sign up in advance and the day before you will receive clues to get you started.
After picking up your first ingredient for your picnic, you will get another clue. Y
ou will eventually collect a number of ingredients, see a lot of the local area and get to try some of the great local foods before sitting down and enjoying a picnic with your loved ones.
There are Mystery Picnics all over SA for couples, families and friends, including one right here in Glenelg. Look out for special picnics that take advantage of the seasonal local produce too.
Paint a Masterpiece
This has to be one of the most fun things to do at Glenelg! Join in on one of the paint and sip sessions at Studio Vino.
You certainly don’t have to be a Picasso to have fun at these sessions, and you don’t have to have your own group, you can join in with a public class.
You will get to take home a unique souvenir of your time in Adelaide, created while you relax with a glass of wine.
Look Out for Events and Festivals
This is South Australia, so there always seems to be some sort of event or festival going on, and Glenelg is no exception. Here are some of the Glenelg activities, events and festivals to look out for during the year:
- Bay Sheffield Carnival
- Glenelg Winter Carnival
- Sea to Shore: Glenelg Seafood Festival
- Glenelg Christmas Pageant
Watch an AFL Game
Glenelg is home to one of the state league (SANFL) teams that plays Australian Football. Head to the oval to watch a game during your stay to enjoy this unique style of football at the grassroots level.
Both the men’s and women’s leagues play at various times throughout the year, usually between March and October. In the summer, you will find state-level cricket played here at Glenelg Oval, which you may also enjoy.
Check Out the Glenelg Air-Raid Shelter
Did you know there is an air-raid shelter in Glenelg? Me neither! But there is, and if you are lucky enough to be visiting on the third Sunday of the month, or on Remembrance or ANZAC Days, it is open to visitors.
The Air-Raid Shelter was built in 1942 during World War II and was used as a base for telephonists and the air raid warden. It is about the size of a two-bedroom house.
Today it has been turned into a small museum with stories of how WWII affected the residents of Glenelg and surrounding areas.
See the Holdfast Bay website for more details.
Things to do in Glenelg in Winter
What to do in Glenelg in winter can sometimes be a concern since it does have such a summer vibe to it.
Don’t worry though, Adelaide winters often allow visitors to at least enjoy the outdoors to a certain extent unless you happen to catch a rare day where it rains the whole time.
Already listed above are some indoor activities in Glenelg for both adults and kids, or you can brave the cold with the locals at a SANFL game.
You will also find that many of the restaurants and cafes that during summer have outdoor seating, will change to indoors for winter, or put up weather protection and use outdoor heaters.
The Moseley Hotel may no longer have the beach club, but instead, they install some beautiful transparent igloos in Moseley Square for a unique dining experience.
Look out for special winter events, such as Christmas in July and Winter Wonderland. Temporary ice skating rinks are often set up in Moseley Square (usually during the school holidays) and other activities too.
So even if it’s cold, still jump on the tram and visit Glenelg.
Where to Stay in Glenelg
There are plenty of accommodation options in Glenelg if you choose to stay for a while – and why wouldn’t you? Here are some of the most popular options:
- Stamford Grand Adelaide – 5-star luxury right at the end of Jetty Road with beach views. Could not get a better location.
- Oaks Glenelg Plaza Pier Suites – Beachfront accommodation, mostly apartment-style with access to pool and gym
- Nightcap at Watermark Glenelg – Good 3-star accommodation within walking distance of the beach
- Bayview Apartments – For longer stays and the convenience of an apartment
- Water Bay Villa Bed and Breakfast – B&B style accommodation away from the bustle of Jetty Road
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