Looking to explore Adelaide further and get out of the city centre? Go and see the historic suburb of Port Adelaide. Renowned for its maritime heritage, this blue-collar suburb might be a little rough around the edges, but that is part of it’s charm. It is also quickly changing with a lot of new development in the area. Here are all the things to do in Port Adelaide during your visit.
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- 1 Why Visit Port Adelaide
- 2 Best Things to do in Port Adelaide
- 2.1 Port Adelaide Street Art
- 2.2 South Australian Maritime Museum
- 2.3 Torrens Island Quarantine Station Tour
- 2.4 Port River Dolphin Cruise
- 2.5 National Railway Museum
- 2.6 South Australia Aviation Museum
- 2.7 Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tour
- 2.8 Admire the Tall Ships
- 2.9 Fishermen’s Wharf Markets
- 2.10 Hire a Kayak or Paddle Boat
- 2.11 City of Adelaide Clipper Ship
- 2.12 Portobello River Cruises
- 2.13 Drink Craft Beer
- 2.14 Go to War with Indoor Paintball
- 2.15 Watch an AFL Team Train
- 2.16 Do a Pub Crawl
- 2.17 Drink in a Hidden Whisky Bar
- 2.18 Eat in the Cafes and Restaurants
- 2.19 Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour
- 2.20 Kayak with Dolphins
- 2.21 Shop until you Drop
- 3 Getting to Port Adelaide
Why Visit Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide is located about 15km north west of the city centre, not quite on the beach, but instead on the banks of the Port River. Traditionally, like all of Adelaide, this is the home of the Kaurna people. It was first settled by Europeans in 1837, just days after the initial landing in Glenelg. Many of the early settlers wanted this area, which was perfect for ships to come and go, to be the centre of the city. Unfortunately there was no fresh water here, so that did not happen and the ships’ cargo and passengers had to travel what was then a large distance into the town.
So Port Adelaide became a bustling wharf area, filled with all the usual colourful characters that are known to gravitate towards those areas. This was a workingman’s area, particularly known for it’s wharfies, who liked to work hard and play harder. There was a pub on every corner and this was a fun and bustling town.
In 1908 a second port was opened, this time not in the heart of Port Adelaide, but instead at the mouth of the Port River. It was named Outer Harbor. Over time the ships stopped coming into the inner harbor, until in the 1960’s, with the advent of containerisation, the ships stopped almost entirely. The area went into decline.
Since 2010, that decline has reversed. New developments are being announced all the time and building, renovating and planning seem to be everywhere. The Port still has that edge of yesteryear, but it’s getting back it’s spark and bustle. Now is the time to come and see it for yourself.
Best Things to do in Port Adelaide
There are so many Port Adelaide attractions that you will not fit them all into a singe day. Pick and choose your favourites, or stay the night. Click here for accommodation options in and around Port Adelaide.
Port Adelaide Street Art
Port Adelaide has been the location of several Wonderwalls Festivals over the last few year. During each festival (usually held in March) a whole group of street artists descend on The Port and brighten up some of the dreary blank walls. There are currently more than fifty huge murals and plenty of other smaller ones spread throughout. You will likely come across several of the murals just by visiting – who can miss the ones on the sides of the 10-storey Marine & harbours Building! – but if you want to explore further and see some of the more hidden murals, stop into the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre and pick up a street art map.
South Australian Maritime Museum
The South Australian Maritime Museum. is located in one of the historic warehouses on Lipson Street. It is filled with all things about the sea. I love walking in and seeing the full-size ketch displayed in the first gallery that both kids and adults alike love to jump aboard and experience. You will also find displays on how many of our early European settlers travelled to Australia, information about our navy, and some of the first explorations along our coast. There is a big focus on sustainability and the effects on our marine life throughout the museum. Temporary exhibits are also passing through too, adding to the information.
Entry to the museum also included entry to the port Adelaide Lighthouse – but the lighthouse is currently closed due to Covid. Hopefully it will be opened again soon and we can go back to climbing to the top to enjoy the view.
For opening times and ticket information, see the South Australian Maritime Museum website here.
Torrens Island Quarantine Station Tour
There are various times throughout the year that the South Australian Maritime Museum runs tours to the Torrens Island Quarantine Station. This isolated camp was originally built to stop smallpox being brought into the new colony. Since then it has had a dubious history as an internment camp for men of German descent during WWI. The site was also used at various times for animal quarantine.
It was closed down in the 1980s, and it has been preserved in good condition, so stands as a time capsule. Some of the rooms look almost as though the inhabitants have only recently left.
To find more details of the tours and to book, go to the South Australian Maritime Museum website here.
Port River Dolphin Cruise
The Port River is home to the most urbanised pod of dolphins in the world. There are around forty bottlenose dolphins that call the river home, and about 300 more that pop in from time to time. Visitors can take a cruise along the Port River to see the dolphins, who like to ride the bow wave of the boat as it cruises along. The tour goes for about 90 minutes and there is commentary for much of the trip about the industries surrounding the river, history of the river and many more interesting facts.
While of course there is no guarantee that the dolphins will be around, after all, they are wild animals, every time I have been on the Dolphin Explorer we have spotted them. Sometimes there have been lots of dolphins along the whole river, other times it’s been just a single one riding the bow wave. Sometimes they are close to the boat, sometimes in the distance. Even without the dolphins, it is an enjoyable way to spend some time, especially if the sun is shining.
For more details and to book, visit the Dolphin Explorer website here
National Railway Museum
Located on Lipson Street, the National Railway Museum is one of the best things to do in Port Adelaide with kids – or all sizes! There are well over 100 locomotives and carriages here, although some are not on display. Many of them can be climbed on and explored, and some are running. Every day there are loops around the museum on a tiny steam train called Bub (his “brother” Bill runs along the Semaphore Rail track nearby) and during special events some of the larger engines and carriages are also run for rides, including the “red rattlers”.
Other exhibits in the museum include historical items such as the old departures board from the Adelaide Railway Station and many different signals. There is memorabilia from the war years, the travelling circus as well as women in the railways. Model train enthusiasts will love the large display of different areas of South Australia and the trains that ran there.
For more information, see the National Railway Museum website here
South Australia Aviation Museum
Port Adelaide has ships and trains, so it will be no surprise to hear that there is a museum dedicated to planes too! Funnily enough though, this is one of the least known Port Adelaide tourist attractions. I lived nearby for more than ten years before I knew it existed. The huge hangar is located not far from the National Railway Museum and is filled with all sorts for planes and aviation memorabilia. Many of the planes are open so that visitors can go inside them to have a look – a 1960’s passenger plane is very different from today!
So this is the places to come to live out all those Top Gun fantasies as there is a F/A-111 here to have a look at. There are also tours available so that you can sit in the cockpit and really pretend that you are Tom Cruise.
See all the details on the South Australian Aviation Museum website here
Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tour
With so much history in Port Adelaide, it seems almost a given that this would be a great place to run a ghost tour, and a group of locals have got together and done just that. The Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tour is taking people around the streets after dark and telling you about some of these stories and pointing out some of the locations where the local ghosts are said to still hang out.
Hear stories full of murder and mayhem and learn things like where the dead bodies were kept in The Port – and it wasn’t always the Morgue, which is also visited along the way. Look into some of the haunted buildings and see if you can spot the ghosts that live there – I dare you!
For more details of the Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tour see here
Admire the Tall Ships
Remember this romantic days of sail as you wander along the Port Adelaide wharves by taking a closer look the the two tall ships that call this area home. Visitors will often find the “Falie” or the “One and All” at berth here, preparing for their next trip out to sea.
The Falie is the last remaining Historic Ketch in South Australia. She usually has an open day at least once a month where visitors can come on board for a look. Payment is simply a gold coin donation.
The One and All is a more recently built ship, first commissioned in 1987. It is used as a training ship, and offers regular opportunities to join her for a sail. As well as shorter day and evening sails, there are also multi-day voyages for those who are really keen to try this majestic form of transport for themselves.
Fishermen’s Wharf Markets
Open on Sunday’s and public holiday Mondays, the Fishermen’s Wharf Markets are a treasure hunter’s dream. This huge shed right on the wharf is filled with all sorts of stallholders. From fresh produce and artisans to hobbyists and second hand dealers, there is a bit of everything, Outside you will find entertainers and food vans to keep you going as you search for that perfect find.
Hire a Kayak or Paddle Boat
Right in front of the Port Adleiade Lighthouse is a kiosk where you can hire a kayak or a paddle boat and get out on the water for an hour or two right here in the Port River. If paddle boats and kayaks are a little too small and slow for you, the company that hires them out also have some bigger toys in the form of a variety of boats that you can rent. They also do fishing charters and dolphin cruises too. Find them in the kiosk on the weekends, or contact them in advance to book during the week.
Click through to the Port Adelaide Boat Hire and Tours website for more details
City of Adelaide Clipper Ship
The City of Adelaide is the oldest surviving clipper ship in the world. While it has previously been sitting on the wharf in Port Adelaide it has now been moved to it’s forever home at Dock 2, just the other side of the Tom Diver Derrick Bridge. The City of Adelaide was constructed in 1864 and did 23 journeys from London to Adelaide carrying passengers and goods. It was eventually left languishing in a shipyard in England until a group of volunteers were able to bring it back to it’s namesake city in 2014. It’s now possible to do tours of the ship to learn more about it and its history with all funds from the tours going straight towards the restoration.
For more details, click through to the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship website
Portobello River Cruises
The Portobello River Cruiser is what can only be described as an upmarket floating picnic table, to allow you to dine and float around the Port River. Imagine enjoying dinner during a beautiful sunset with dolphins swimming just metres from you. Delicious food can be ordered from the local Portobello restaurant, although you can bring your own snack if you prefer. Drinks cannot be brought onboard though and must be ordered from the menu
Click through to the Portobello River Cruiser website for more details
Drink Craft Beer
When Pirate Life announced they were moving their brewery to bigger premises in Port Adelaide it was a real boost to the area. Not only have they brought the brewery, but also created an amazing space in which to taste their beers. Beer enthusiasts can learn about the brewery and how the beer is made, and of course taste the beer, on the 45-minute brewery tour. The location occasionally transforms into a live performance venue, or becomes a hub when there are local festivals. Every weekend you will find food trucks here to provide food with that beer, and if you need a haircut, the barber here will do that while you have a beer too.
Look out for some of the Port Adelaide street art all around, from an amazing peacock on the side of the brewery, artwork on the grain tanks and an every-changing variety of art on the hoarding around the front. Pirate Life is well worth a visit.
Go to War with Indoor Paintball
Just across the road from Pirate Life in another of the historic warehouses is Battlezone Indoor Paintball. Most days you will drive past and completely miss it, but inside these walls is a war zone. Bring a group of friends and battle it out for a great afternoon of fun. When the winners and losers have been decided, hit the video game room for another type of battle. Battlezone is a local, family run business. that has been here in Port Adelaide for more than 30 years. See all the details on their website here.
Watch an AFL Team Train
Port Adelaide is the location of one of the oldest – and most successful – Australian Rules Football Club in Australia, and they also happen to be one of only two South Australian teams in the highest competition in the country, the AFL. While the clubrooms now officially sit in the neighbouring suburb of Alberton, it is very much the spiritual home of this much loved club. The Port Adelaide supporters are very well known for being loud and parochial, the club means everything to them.
Visitors can go and watch Port Adelaide train at their Alberton home (except during covid times!) or just have a meal in the clubrooms and browse the memorabilia that covers the walls. There are also many premiership cups on display too. Pick up a Port Adelaide souvenir at the shop to show your conversion to a supporter of this incredible club. (Yes, I am a Port supporter!)
Work is currently underway to redevelop and refresh the club. It will include a dedicated museum space to celebrate 150 years, new retail space, new bars and restaurant spaces, and conference space as well, so in years to come it will be a true attraction.
Do a Pub Crawl
With so many pubs in The Port, it’s the perfect opportunity to do a pub crawl without having to travel too far in between stops. In some cases, the next pub is almost right next door. While the pub culture has always been strong in Port Adelaide, with the re-opening of the Port Admiral Hotel a few years ago a re-emergence started. The pubs are no longer seen as daggy ventures were a handful of regulars hold up the bar, now they are vibrant venues that bring in visitors from all over the city.
Drink in a Hidden Whisky Bar
Accessed through a tiny lane opposite the Police Station, Studio 99 Whisky & Art is literally a blink and you miss it venue. I didn’t discover it until I was walking past on foot one day and glanced through the open gate. Housed in an old foundry building, it has an industrial feel that adds to that dark and mysterious whisky bar atmosphere. They have a range of blended and single malt whiskys from all over the world, and if you ask nicely, they might also be able to find something for the non-whisky drinkers too.
Have a look at the Studio 99 website here
Eat in the Cafes and Restaurants
There is a growing food scene here at Port Adelaide. It may not be Michelin star-style dining, but there are some really good solid options. For Indian, Spice N Ice have been around forever and are consistently good. Low & Slow American BBQ is almost always packed to the rafters and the BamYan Hotel is gaining a great reputation for it’s more casual dining, Afghan food.
The Port Plaza redevelopment has recently opened and there are now a big choice of eateries here too. Everything from Thai to Burgers to Pancakes are here. I am yet to test a lot of them out, but there are many good reviews.
For good coffee, Red Lime Shack is a good option. They are also the place to go for delicious vegan food. For coffee with a view, The Folklore Cafe is located right beside the wharf, floating over the Port River. This is a great place to spot those dolphins.
Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour
The best way to get to know any area is to walk the streets and soak up the atmosphere. Rather than just wander aimlessly, download the Visit Port Adelaide app on your smartphone or call into the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre and pick up a map to show you the way. The tours on offer include Walk the Port, which covers a bit of everything, then specialty tours for the street art, craft beer, heritage sites, an environmental trail, all the anchors in the area, or even the ghosts of the Port. Most walks range from 45minutes to 2 hours – although my guess is the craft beer tour could take a lot longer!
Kayak with Dolphins
Make your way to the outskirts of Port Adelaide and visit the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary. Hire a kayak or join in on a tour and explore this interesting area around Garden Island. Not only could you have a very close encounter with the dolphins if they choose to come and investigate you, but you can experience paddling along eerie mangrove creeks, ducking under low branches in the dappled light. Nearby is the Garden Island Ship’s Graveyard, which is the final resting place of around 25 ships. The last boat was sunk here in 1945, so not all of them are visible and those that are are often only above water at low tide.
Shop until you Drop
While I admit the shopping scene in Port Adelaide has more of a local, practical edge to it rather than shops for visitors, there are still some interesting options around. Op-shoppers will love it here, with three or four second hand and charity stores in quite close proximity. While of course these are filled with clothes, there are often other interesting items too, who knows what you will find. I often visit when I am looking for second hand books.
There is also a fabulous toy store in Port Adelaide called The Lighthouse Toy Shop on St Vincent Street which has a great range of traditional and unique toys. Nearby is The Hemp Culture which has a large range of sustainable products for your wardrobe & home.
For more shops look to the Port Mall area that runs off of St Vincent Street, or go to the new Port Plaza shopping centre further along Commercial Road. Port Plaza is best for food, but there are some other shopping opportunities too.
Getting to Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide is easily reached by car. It’s around 20-25 minutes from the city centre, straight up Port Road. There is plenty of free parking around in The Port, but beware, because some areas are paid and you will need to ensure you follow the directions.
You can also reach Port Adelaide by train from the Adelaide city centre. It’s about a twenty five minute train ride, and it will take about 10-15 minutes to walk from the train station to the waterfront.
There are also a variety of public buses that pass through Port Adelaide, most of them stopping close to the Commercial Road/St Vincent Street intersection.
A single trip, adult peak ticket is currently $5.50AUD for both the trains and buses. Tickets may be cheaper than this if you purchase a MetroCard and add credit to it in advance, if you have a concession, or if you travel in off-peak times. Tickets are available on board buses and trains as well as in many shops and newsagencies around the city. For more information on public transport, look at the Adelaide Metro website. Use the Adelaide Metro Journey Planner to discover your route.
Visiting more great South Australian locations? These posts might help
Adelaide 3 Day Itinerary
Best Places for South Australia Whale Watching
Glamping South Australia – The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Style
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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.