When people go to Australia they are normally headed to Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne but Adelaide is well worth a visit too. Sadly, the South Australian capital city is ranked eighth on the list of the most visited cities in Australia, which is a shame as it has so much to offer.
Adelaide is surrounded by the lush green of the Adelaide Hills and the vibrant blue of the St. Vincent Gulf. A plethora of parks and waterways intertwine with the concrete streets of the city centre. In fact, downtown Adelaide is entirely surrounded by parks like Victoria Park, Veale Gardens, and the Botanical Gardens.
While unlike most of Australia that gets year-round sun, Adelaide receives more rain in the winter months. But like the rest of the country, it can be a little expensive, especially for those on a budget. That being said, there are still plenty of free things to do in Adelaide and we have made a list just for you.
You can't be hugging a koala or wombat with luggage in your hand, so make sure you store it at a luggage storage locker in Adelaide. See the sights without heavy bags wearing you down. It's the best way to see Adelaide!
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Relax and enjoy the Zen of one of the most beautiful gardens right in the heart of a large city. The Adelaide Botanic Garden covers 50 hectares and contains some great attractions. Three glasshouses with flora from around the world include the one-of-a-kind Palm House which contains endangered plants from Madagascar.
There are many gardens within the Adelaide Botanic Garden to explore such as the International Rose Garden, SA Water Mediterranean Garden, and First Creek Wetland. And if you have kids, don't miss Little Sprouts Kitchen Garden. Here your little ones can learn about where food comes from, enjoy storytime in a grass hut, and explore the winding paths of the garden.
There are free daily walking tours and a museum, and if you get hungry there are places to grab a bite to eat. The gardens are close to the Adelaide Zoo, where you can have one of many animal encounters including feeding a tiger. You could spend days exploring all of the botanic gardens or just simply relax and take in the beauty it offers.
Adelaide Central Market
One of the largest covered fresh produce markets in the Southern Hemisphere, Adelaide Central Market holds seventy different traders from fresh produce to home and beauty. It is easy to spend hours just wandering through all the market stalls, it is not so easy to not buy something! With great local crafts and artwork, some tasty pastries, and interesting souvenirs, how can you resist?
There is live music on Fridays, and on Saturdays, they have Market Day for families with activities like face painting. You can even eat for free with the number of free samples you will find at the food stalls. The market is in the Adelaide city centre right across from the Victoria Square tram stop. For information on Adelaide's buses, trams, and more, read this guide compiled by Bounce.
One of the best experiences you can have while visiting Adelaide is to go to Kangaroo Island and while getting to the island is not free, there are plenty of free things to do there. Climb the five hundred plus steps of Prospect Hill for the most stunning view of the island. Try your hand at fishing at the Chapman River or on Kingscote wharf and jetty to catch squid. Kids will love exploring the caves and rock pools on Stokes Beach or looking for wildlife on the 3km Wallaby Track walking trail.
You can get to Kangaroo Island from Cape Jervis by a car or foot passenger ferry, and flying to the island is another option. Kangaroo Island has plenty of accommodation, car rental, and tour options for those that want to really explore the island.
State Library of South Australia
If you are looking for one of those unusual free things to do in Adelaide, check out the State Library of South Australia. It's a great place not just to find a quiet place to read and relax, but to explore. Daily free guided tours will take you around to see many of the indoor and outdoor exhibits, and there are also interesting lectures and exhibits for kids.
One of the best displays is the Mortlock Wing where you will feel like you have been transported back in time to the magical world of Harry Potter. You will find the library in North Terrace near the Adelaide Botanic Garden.
Although the Rundle Mall district is the place to go shopping you don't actually have to spend any money to enjoy the area. The area is home to some of Adelaide's most interesting street sculptures and landmarks. Search out the mischievous four pigs on their "Day Out" or the "Mall's Balls".
Don't forget to get photos of the Rundle Fountain and Bee Hive Corner, the most popular meeting spot in Adelaide. You can also sit and listen to music from the many Buskers that play throughout the day and night. Rundle Mall is close many other attractions like the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Adelaide has an amazing program called Bike SA that allows you to rent bikes totally free! The only catch is the bikes can only be hired from two locations in the City of Charles Strut (a suburb of Adelaide) and they must be returned to that same location. And you have to leave a valid driver's licence or passport as a deposit which you pick up on the return of the bike.
There is an option for renting a bike over multiple days on their website. Renters must be aware of Australian law requiring all bike riders to wear helmets (provided by the company) and the renter is responsible for any damage to the the bike.
One of the best free things to do in Adelaide is to take a tour. Yes, you can see all the highlights on a free guided tour or do it on your own with a self guided walking tour. The free guided tours will normally last around two hours where you will see monuments, statues, and places of interest, and enter some of the public institutions.
If you want to do your own self guided walking tour there are apps that you can download on your phone. You will still get to hear all the information and history of the areas such as the Adelaide CBD (Adelaide Central Business District) with all of its sculptures, street art, and more. One of the best things about doing your own self guided tour is that there is no set time or time limit. You get to set the pace.
Art Gallery of South Australia
Art lovers need to visit this art gallery, and if you have never been to an art gallery before, you need to take advantage of this awesome free attraction. Over 46,000 items from paintings, sculptures, clothing, furniture, and everything in between are on display, and some of the art pieces are over 2,000 years old.
The Gallery of South Australia's goal is to educate through art and to make it accessible to everyone. Showcasing Aboriginal art and local Australian artists as well as collections from around the world, this space is the premier gallery of South Australia. Free tours are offered throughout the day, and you can stop for a bite to eat on their patio restaurant.
South Australian Museum
One of the most important museums in Australia, the South Australian Museum has been making education and learning fun for over a hundred and fifty years. In fact, the museum has already celebrated its 165th birthday, which makes it older than New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History in London.
It possesses one of the world's best natural history and cultural collections. The museum has five floors of thousands of artifacts, fossils, and other specimens in amazing interactive exhibits. There are free tours and great kid's programs, especially during the school holidays.
River Torrens Linear Park Trail
Take a walk or go for a run along the River Torrens which stretches 18.5 miles from Athelstone to West Beach/Henley Beach at the mouth of the river. There are easy trails on either side of the river and spots for picnics and duck feeding, and plenty of playgrounds for kids.
The River Torrens will feel like an oasis, especially when walking through the downtown area. Several bridges allow you to cross the river as you make your way past reed beds and eucalyptus trees known as River Red Gums. Combine the trail with a free bike rental and you can really go exploring.
You read that right, you can sample some world class wine for free! Many of the wineries in the Barossa Valley are so proud of the wines that they want to share them with all who come through their doors. Two such wineries are Bethany Wines and Turkey Flat Vineyards, both are short drives out but the drives are beautiful and you get to drink wine for free.
Cleland National Park
The Cleland National Park is a bushland conservatory in the Adelaide Hills, southeast of the city. It is one of South Australia's favored networks of trails that give you access to wildlife, amazing views, plus some cultural heritage sites.
The Adelaide Hills have fantastic trails for mountain biking and hiking. The park also has a few hidden treasures like the three heritage ruins (Tinlines, Keir's, and Chinaman's Hut) and perch swamps. Perch swamps are "swamps that sit at a higher level to the surrounding land", there are five in the Mount Lofty Ranges in the park.
You will also find the Cleland Wildlife Park here, it is not free to enter but you can play with birds, reptiles, and insects, and you can hug a koala. If you have kids you might not have a choice but to stop here.
Cricket is one of the biggest sports in Australia and Sir Donald Bradman is an icon in the game. If you are a sports fan you need to check out this exhibition located at the Adelaide Oval. This world-class exhibition is a fun and interactive place to watch game footage of the legend in action and even test your own skills. Many of his personal items are on display like trophies, bats, clothing and more.
Travel the City
The city of Adelaide has a couple of free public transport options to get you around. The free bus is called the City Connector Bus service. It does an inner city loop as well as an extended loop that will get you to North Adelaide. A great thing about the buses is that they are stroller and wheelchair accessible with air conditioning for comfort. You can get yourself to shopping and dining areas as well as many of the city's attractions.
There is a free city tram that goes to the Botanic Garden, Adelaide Festival Centre, and also to the Entertainment Centre. A second free tram is found in Glenelg, a beach suburb; it travels Jetty Road to Mosely Square.
Free Things to Do in Adelaide
There are many more free things to do in Adelaide like hitting the beautiful beaches. Many of the art galleries and museums have free entry, too. If you like chocolate, the Haigh Chocolate Factory gives free tours and samples. We gave you a list of the best free things to do in Adelaide, but by no means are these the only things to do for free!