From beaches to cultural excursions, check out these awesome free things to do in Adelaide.
Adelaide is a small coastal city located in South Austalia. While its more popular counterparts often overshadow it, there are plenty of things to do in this ‘big country town’, and plenty of good reasons to visit – especially if you happen to be a budget traveller. From beach lounging to museum hopping, here’s a guide to the best free things to do in the South Australian capital.
Make the most of Adelaide’s stunning coastline by checking out one of its beautiful beaches. Glenelg is the city’s most popular metropolitan beach. It has a beachfront path, jetty, as well as boutiques and restaurants close by. You can easily get to Glenelg via a tram from the city centre. Other options include Henley Beach, Christies Beach and Brighton Beach; the sheltered bay of Port Elliot; and Semaphore, which is known for its dunes and surrounding Art Deco buildings.
More than 400,000 people visit Rundle Mall every week. Home to 1,000 retailers, you don’t need to spend money to enjoy the mall, as it’s home to some very fascinating landmarks and sculptures. Highlights include The Mall’s Balls, A Day Out – which features four bronze pigs, including one rummaging in a rubbish bin – Beehive Corner’s Gothic Revival-style architecture, The Rundle Lantern and the Adelaide and Gays Arcades, both built in 1885.
Amazingly, 45 percent of Adelaide’s city centre consists of parkland. Adelaide Botanic Garden is the biggest park of them all. Take a walk and check out some of the impressive gardens, including the Garden of Health, the International Rose Garden and the Australian Native Garden. Architecture buffs will also enjoy the Palm House. Built in 1877, it’s one of the last of its kind and houses a Madagascan plant collection.
The River Torrens Linear Park Trail is a 46.5-kilometre (29-mile) path that starts at Athelstone at the bottom of the Adelaide Hills and finishes between West Beach and Henley Beach. Over 30km (19mi) of the trail follows the River Torrens through the Adelaide central business district (CBD) to its mouth at West Beach or Henley Beach. Completing the entire route is a full day’s bike ride, but you can easily shorten it and cycle from the CBD to the coast instead.
One of Australia’s most visited cultural institutions, the South Australian Museum is a great free Adelaide attraction. Over 150 years old, it houses the world’s most extensive Aboriginal artefact collection, with over 30,000 items. At the museum, you can also learn about Pacific cultures, ancient Egypt and the biodiversity of South Australia.
Established in 1881, the Art Gallery of South Australia houses almost 45,000 pieces of art from Australia, North America, Europe and Asia. The collection features paintings, sculptures, metalwork and an impressive representation of colonial and contemporary Australian furniture. Past exhibitions have included Desert Colour and its focus on Aboriginal art, and Picasso: The Vollard Suite, which is his most celebrated etching series.
For a deposit that includes either your passport or driver’s licence, you can hire a free bike from several locations. The only catch is that you have to return the bike to the same place. Adelaide also has a free City Connector bus service, which runs on an inner-city loop and an extended loop around North Adelaide. It conveniently provides a link to the city’s main tourist attractions, as well as its premier shopping and dining destinations.
Established in 1869, Adelaide Central Market welcomes over 9 million people annually. It has more than 70 traders selling everything from fresh produce and health foods to cheese and bakery staples. The market is also home to some of the city’s most popular cafés and eateries, including Big Table – a favourite for over 20 years. As one of the southern hemisphere’s largest undercover food markets, it’s a great place to spend a rainy Adelaide morning.
Sir Donald Bradman is considered the greatest batsman in cricket history. Located in a purpose-built museum in the Riverbank Stand at Adelaide Oval, the Bradman Collection is a free exhibition that includes his personal collection of cricket memorabilia. Spanning 50 years from 1927 to 1977, items on display include trophies, clothing and his trusty cricket bat. You can also watch Bradman footage in a theatre and test your skills in an interactive display.
Located at the University of South Australia, MOD. is “Australia’s leading future-focussed museum, provoking new ideas at the intersection of science, art and innovation”. The museum has seven purpose-built galleries over two floors. One of its permanent exhibitions is the country’s first Science on a Sphere, which shows planetary data on a central sphere that’s surrounded by touchscreens. It’s Adelaide’s answer to Hobart’s MONA.
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The City of Port Adelaide Enfield has created several self-guided walking tour brochures, which you can download from its website or pick up at the local Visitor Information Centre. There’s a heritage walking tour that takes in the suburb’s many historical buildings, while the Port Adelaide Dolphin Trail brochure highlights where you can spot dolphins in the area. Finally, check out the Ghosts of the Port self-guided ghost walking tour.
These recommendations were updated on December 19, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.