Perfectly located between rolling hills and beautiful beaches is Adelaide, South Australia's capital and the largest city, and the primary gateway to the state. Despite being the commercial and political center of South Australia, Adelaide is still an underrated holiday destination and is not as well-known as the other major cities on the East Coast. However, those who make their way to Adelaide are treated to a wide range of activities to do and places to see.
Adelaide is a bustling town that has a host of cultural attractions, stunning architecture, pristine white sand beaches, expansive green spaces, a buzzing nightlife scene and so much more. Additionally, the city is known for being one of the top wine capitals in the world because of its proximity to some of Australia’s most famous wine regions.
Whether you’re coming to the South Australian capital on a standalone trip or stopping by as a part of a longer trip around the country, you will find that there are plenty of activities that you can do here to keep you occupied. To get a good introduction to the city and what it has to offer without rushing through the attractions, you would want to spend at least 3 days in Adelaide.
This 3-day Adelaide itinerary is a great option for those who want to capture the essence of the city without feeling like they missed out on anything; it includes everything from markets and museums to beaches and wine valleys. To make your trip even more convenient, look for an Adelaide luggage locker where you can safely store your bags while you explore the city.
Adelaide itinerary – Day 1
Morning: Adelaide Central Market
For day one of this itinerary, the focus will be on the Adelaide city centre, which is officially known as Adelaide CBD. There is no better way to begin an early day of walking and sightseeing than fueling up with some good food at the lively Adelaide Central Market, the city’s most popular foodie destination and the biggest covered market in the entire Southern Hemisphere.
Located in the heart of the city centre, the Adelaide Central Market is a true haven for food enthusiasts and is filled with several stalls and vendors selling all kinds of goods – from fresh vegetables, fruits and produce to local delicacies and wine. While here, you can explore the different stalls and grab breakfast to fuel you for the day ahead.
Some of the most renowned spots at the central market include the Barossa Fine Foods (known for their charcuterie and meats), the Smelly Cheese Shop (which sells a wide variety of cheese), Dough (for freshly-baked pastries), and Haigh’s Chocolates (Australian makers of chocolate products).
After you have stuffed yourself with some delicious local goods, walk for about two minutes until you reach Victoria Square (also known as Tarntanyangga), Adelaide’s central square. The public square is a good spot to learn about the history of the area and is home to some interesting landmarks such as the Statue of Queen Victoria, Three Rivers Fountain, and the Reconciliation Plaza. Once you are done checking out the points of interest in Victoria Square, continue your stroll until you reach Rundle Street.
Located in the trendy East End District, Rundle Street is a hub for activity. The boulevard is filled with some of Adelaide’s top restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels. Additionally, the area also serves as a venue for some of the city’s biggest annual events, including the Fringe Festival and Adelaide Festival. Here, you can find all sorts of cuisine, ranging from Asian to Italian and even plant-based meals. Some of the most popular spots in Rundle Street where you can have lunch are Hey Jupiter, San Giorgio, Mekong and Vego’s.
Afternoon: North Terrace
When you are done with your lunch, it’s time to continue your itinerary and make your way to the lovely North Terrace. As the premiere cultural precinct of Adelaide, it is home to some of the city’s most renowned cultural institutions. One of the attractions that you should not miss here is the South Australian Museum, which is home to an impressive permanent collection of artifacts and objects related to the history of South Australia. Additionally, the museum boasts the biggest collection of Aboriginal artifacts in the world.
Another North Terrace must-see is the Art Gallery of South Australia, one of the country’s most prestigious art galleries and a major tourist attraction in Adelaide. The Art Gallery of South Australia houses an incredible permanent collection made up of more than 38,000 works of art, with a focus on Aboriginal art, Australian art and Asian art, ceramics and textiles.
Next, head over to the Migration Museum for some more history. Perhaps one of the most unique museums in Adelaide (and in South Australia), it is the first museum of its kind that focuses on migration and the settlement history of South Australia. The museum has a collection of important objects and documents related to immigration history and is dedicated to preserving and promoting cultural diversity.
If you have time, other noteworthy spots worth checking out include the National Wine Centre, the State Library, and the Adelaide Zoo. Once you are done exploring, end your afternoon by wandering the peaceful Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The 51-acre green space is a favorite place among locals and tourists to get some time away from the city’s hustle and bustle. While exploring the garden, you have a chance to encounter some amazing Australian animals and wildlife As well as exotic plant species.
Night: Adelaide Chinatown
After a full day of sightseeing, the only thing left to do is unwind in preparation for the next day. One of the best areas in the city centre to have dinner and light drinks is Adelaide Chinatown. Found in the South East end of the CBD, the area is world-famous for its diverse selection of international cuisine, from Chinese and Japanese to Indian and Vietnamese.
If you are a plant-based diner, you’ll be delighted to know that there are numerous vegetarian and vegan dining options in the area. Some of the most prominent restaurants in Chinatown include Ying Chow, Concubine and Simon Taste.
Adelaide itinerary – Day 2
Morning: Mount Lofty Region
No visit to Adelaide would be complete without checking out the famous wine regions nearby. Some of the most popular wine regions include Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley. However, these are somewhat out of the way especially if you only have limited time. Therefore, for day two of this itinerary, the focus will be on Adelaide Hills, a region that boasts incredible wineries and is accessible from the CBD via a half-hour drive.
But first, on your way to the hills, make a stop at the famous Mount Lofty region and make your way up the summit to get panoramic views of the Adelaide city centre and beyond. The area is also home to the incredible Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, a sprawling park filled with lush greenery, blooming flowers, hiking trails, and even art installations.
If you’re craving more natural beauty, head to the nearby Cleland Wildlife Park, where you have the chance to encounter Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. There are also some restaurants and cafés in the area where you can have breakfast before continuing your journey.
Afternoon: Adelaide Hills
Located east of the city centre, the Adelaide Hills is home to over 40 world-class wineries and cellar doors. Because of its high-altitude location, most of the wines that are produced in the region are cool climate kinds, such as sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay. Hundreds of tourists from Adelaide and all over Australia come to this region for wine tasting tours.
One of the most popular wineries in the hills is Bird in Hand Winery, a family-owned and operated business that is best known for its white wines and sauvignon blanc. Other wineries that are worth checking out include Howard Vineyard and Sidewood Estate.
Night: Germany at Hahndorf
Once you have had your fill of delicious Australian-made wines, the next thing to do is to travel to Germany by way of Hahndorf. This small town is located within the Adelaide Hills region and is the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia. The charming and picturesque town has a strong German heritage that is evident in its houses and establishments.
Hahndorf is filled with restaurants, cafés, bakeries and pubs and is also home to some of the region’s most reputable wineries, such as Hahndorf Hill Winery and The Lane Vineyard. The town also has no shortage of amazing restaurants to eat at, most of which serve authentic German favorites such as schnitzel, pork knuckle, sauerkraut and wursts of all kinds. However, if you want to sample some traditional German fare, head over to The Haus Hahndorf or The German Arms.
Before you leave town and make your way back to the city, don’t forget to stop by the German Village Shop where you can shop a wide range of souvenirs and novelty items native to Germany.
Adelaide itinerary – Day 3
Morning: Glenelg Beach
You simply cannot leave Adelaide without seeing the beaches the city is known for. The third and final day of this 3-day itinerary is focused on the beachside suburb of Glenelg, home of the famous Glenelg Beach. Getting to the suburb from the city centre is easy; there is a tram that runs to and from the CBD throughout the day. Once you get to Glenelg, have breakfast in one of the many cafés and breakfast joints scattered around town.
Once you’re full, simply stroll to Glenelg Beach and enjoy the sun, sand and sea. Swimming here is generally safe because of the calm waters; however, it is still best to be aware of potential dangers such as rip tides and marine life stings. The beach is also a popular spot for activities such as volleyball and paddle boarding. If you are not up for the physical activity, you can just put on some sunscreen and sunbathe, read a book or simply relax by the shore.
When you get hungry, you can have a delicious lunch in one of the many great restaurants near Glenelg Beach. Some of our top recommendations include Sammy's on the Marina, which is known for its amazing seafood, and Goodslice Pizza Natural, which serves up freshly-baked pizza made using locally-sourced and organic ingredients.
Afternoon: Bay Discovery Centre
When you’re done swimming and beach bumming, stop by the Bay Discovery Centre and get some insights into the culture and history of Glenelg. This small but fascinating museum showcases how locals live and celebrates the heritage and vibrant culture of Glenelg and its surrounding areas.
If you have time before heading back to the city, stop by the Chorus of Stones, a memorial dedicated to South Australian war veterans. The site plays audio recordings of the veterans as they detail their time in military service.
Night: Peel Street and Leigh Street
There’s no better way to end your trip to Adelaide than experiencing the vibrant nightlife scene at Peel and Leigh Streets. These two streets run parallel to each other and are considered the nightlife hotspot in the city.
The area is lined with excellent restaurants as well as bars and nightclubs for some after-dinner drinks. Some of the famous nightlife spots in the area include Maybe Mae, Pink Moon Saloon and Leigh Street Wine Room.
See Adelaide in 3 Days
While three days may seem like a long time, you may find that this period will go by quickly when in Adelaide. The city and its neighboring areas offer plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure.
This three-day itinerary is the perfect introduction to Adelaide and all the best activities and spots that the city has to offer. Should you find yourself with an extra day or two, you should definitely visit the other famous Adelaide beaches or make a day trip to the wine regions of Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale.
Still planning your visit to Adelaide? Check out these guides for more ideas!