Adelaide is one of Australia’s hottest destinations, offering a cocktail of sophisticated culture, heritage architecture, abundant natural delights and a vibrant food and drink scene.
From sports venues and wineries to markets, beaches and museums, South Australia’s thriving city has it all, but we’ve done our best to narrow it down. So, without further ado, here are Culture Trip’s must-visit attractions in Adelaide that you have to tick off on your next visit.
Established in 1989, the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute is the oldest Indigenous-owned and run cultural centre in Australia. Deriving its name from the Kaurna name for Adelaide, Tarndanya – meaning ‘place of the red kangaroo’ – Tandanya celebrates Aboriginal art and storytelling in all its incarnations, including visual art, music, print, video and written word, and has a café with Indigenous-inspired food. They also host several events throughout the year, including the Spirit Festival, Survival Day, NAIDOC Week, exhibitions and an art fair.
Adelaide’s laneways are home to plenty of fun and exciting hidden bars, where you’ll find the best spots hidden behind secret doors, tucked away in basements, on rooftops and down secret alleyways. The go-to spots for boutique bars in the city are Leigh Street and Peel Street, but there are plenty of others to choose from, including rooftop spots offering great views over the city.
Head underground and take a unique tour through the old treasury to uncover the history of colonial life in one of Australia’s oldest buildings, the Old Adelaide Treasury. Although the building has been refurbed into hotel apartments, it can still be explored as part of a tour, including the old government cabinet room, and the tunnels underneath the treasury. Built in 1850, the tunnels were built to secretly deliver government mail and store gold from Victoria’s Goldfields, which would eventually be melted down to form the Adelaide pound, Australia’s first gold coin.
Once home to South Australia’s criminally insane patients, Glenside Hospital, formerly known as the Parkside Lunatic Asylum, amongst others, was designed in the mid-19th century by EJ Woods. Completed in 1885, it served as a psychiatric hospital until the 1970s when it was largely abandoned. Now, the hospital’s infamous Z Ward – where the criminally and mentally insane were held – is open to the public, running both day tours and ghost tours that tell the stories of the inmates and this fascinatingly dark side of colonial history.
Adelaide is home to the oldest surviving clipper ship in the world, the City of Adelaide. Five years older than London’s famous Cutty Sark, the City of Adelaide was built in 1864 and made 23 return trips from England to South Australia, with an estimated 250,000 Australians being able to trace their ancestry to the famous ship. The City of Adelaide was moved to its final destination in Port Adelaide’s Dock 2 in November 2019, and it is now open for self-guided tours.
Only 20 minutes from downtown, the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is a protected area of coastline that is home to over 30 wild bottlenose dolphins, and regularly visited by many more. Encompassing a 10,000-year-old mangrove forest, along with saltmarsh, seagrass and tidal flats, the dolphins share their sanctuary with stingrays, long-nosed fur seals, endangered Australian sea lions and plenty of diverse Australian birdlife. The best way to explore the sanctuary is by water, with paddleboarding and kayaking popular pastimes, but you can also stay high and dry and watch the dolphins and birds from the mainland.
Just 10km (6mi) northeast of the CBD, the rugged gorges, cliffs, waterfalls and woodlands of Morialta Conservation Park in the Mount Lofty Ranges have been Adelaide’s outdoor playground for over a century. Perfect for hikers, birdwatchers and rock climbers, the park features three waterfalls along Fourth Creek, aptly named First, Second and Third Falls, which are their impressive best in the winter months after heavy rainfall.
About 22km (14mi) from Adelaide’s centre, the Cleland Conservation Park is home to the Cleland Wildlife Park, Mount Lofty Summit, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden and Waterfall Gully. Making for a great day trip from the city, you can combine visiting the animals at the wildlife park with the flora and fauna of the Botanic Garden, before braving the hike up to the top of Mount Lofty, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas over the city all the way to the coast. Take the scenic route down through Waterfall Gully, before heading back to the city and treating yourself to a well-deserved meal at one of the city’s great restaurants.
Additional reporting by Cassie Wilkins.