Long overlooked as a tourist destination, the city of Adelaide is now fast becoming an exciting must-see location in the vast country of Australia.
Despite being the capital of South Australia, the city was frequently snubbed as little more than a country town and, as a result, often overlooked by visitors in favour of its larger neighbour Melbourne.
These days however, Adelaide is growing a reputation as an event-filled, arty, foodie city in its own right.
With just over a million people, the city has a happening and lively feel to it, but is not capped by the mad rush-hour vibes of larger metropolitans.
The centre is wonderfully compact, easy to navigate and edged the whole way around by a wonderful avenue of parkland. White-sand coastline sits no more than 15 minutes away, as do the series of beautiful rolling hills in the other direction.
The numerous nearby vineyards, as well as the array of locally produced foods, make this city a food-lovers heaven and the annual fringe festival, horse racing cups, music events and sporting spectacles also add to its appeal.
Needless to say, I was seriously impressed!
In fact, I was totally blown away by just how great the city was and its incredible tourist potential. Sadly, I hadn’t factored this into my stay, so had little more than a couple of days in Adelaide to see and do as much as I could.
But fear not, I’ve condensed my highlights into this 24 hour guide, to bring you the perfect Adelaide itinerary.
- Surprises of the Adelaide Fringe
- The Best Adelaide Eats
- Complete Itinerary for an Epic Road Trip through Central Australia
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#1 Early Morning: Visit the Central Market
Get up early and start your Adelaide itinerary by making your way to the famous Adelaide Central Market on Gouger Street.
Wander the stalls checking out the vast array of fresh produce on offer, as well as the artisan delis, bakeries, butchers and booksellers.
You’ll probably be amazed by how busy the place is, even during the week, and by what I loved most – the diversity of people still coming here to do their shopping and catch up with friends.
As the largest undercover market in the Southern hemisphere, you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy for breakfast, so settle into a café to enjoy the atmosphere and engage in some great people-watching.
Highly recommended is the Big Table Café, where I had a delicious bircher muesli they were able to make vegan for me. We also had some great coffee, healthy veg smoothies and a lovely fresh, filled baguette – yummo!
After you’re finished munching, why not visit some of the food stalls to pick up picnic bits for lunch, like fruit, nuts, bread, cheeses and pickles.
Buying from the market will help to keep your budget low and also supports small, local businesses.
#2 Mid-Morning: Cultural Corner
From the market, make your way onto King William Street and then head north to what is known as the cultural centre of Adelaide.
This is only a 10-15 minute walk, so avoid catching a bus and save some money by getting some exercise instead!
You’ll get to see more of the city on foot anyway, as well as get a feel for its friendly, relaxed vibe.
Once you reach North Terrace, hang a right by the stately Government House and make your way along the road, passing the National War Memorial as you go.
Shortly you’ll see the South Australia Museum and behind that the Migration Museum.
Both of these are free to enter and provide a great insight into both the pre- and post-European settlement of the area.
Alternatively, the Art Gallery of South Australia is next door and has a wonderful collection of Australian, European and Asian artwork.
It’s quite an intimate gallery, which I really enjoyed, as I often find those in larger cities simply over-whelming.
The Art Gallery of South Australia boasts a nice mix of classic as well as contemporary work and is free to enter.
There are also free guided tours twice a day – bonus!
#3 Lunchtime: Botanic Gardens
Outside the museums, take a moment to enjoy the surroundings and watch as students of the nearby university pour out of classes.
Once you’ve got your cultural and intellectual fix, continue down North Terrace until it turns into Botanic Road.
On the left here you’ll, unsurprisingly, find the main gate to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, so duck into experience some peace and quiet away from the city.
If you make it early enough there is also a free guided tour leaving from the visitor centre, otherwise take a stroll yourself around the beautiful walking trails and landscaped areas.
When you’re done why not find a shady spot in which to enjoy your market-bought picnic goods.
Nothing wrong with a quick snooze in the sunshine either to let lunch go down!
#4 Early Afternoon: Shopping on Rundle
Back out on Botanic Road, walk south down East Terrace until it meets Rundle Street. Turn right onto this road and you’ll find yourself at the top of Adelaide’s main shopping hub.
This east end of the precinct boasts a range of more quirky, vintage and home-grown design stores, some of which are found down charming side lanes that are also home to some great pubs and bars if you fancy an afternoon drink.
A little further along, you will also find the trendy Ebenezer Place, which is the site of Adelaide’s original fruit and veg market.
This beautifully restored, historic building is now home to some great boutiques and cafes and is a cute place to shop for some alternative gifts.
If you rather buy high street, then the recently refreshed Rundle Mall, just down the road, is perfect.
This lovely paved, pedestrian street has a wealth of stores to peruse, as well as central flower and food stalls, where you’re sure to grab a bargain.
#5 Late Afternoon: Henley Beach
All shopped out? Then take yourself onto neighbouring Grenfell Street and catch bus H30, from Stop T2 or U2 Southside down to the beautiful Henley Beach on Adelaide’s nearby coastline.
This bus service runs approximately every half hour and takes around 35 minutes.
Just ask the driver to let you off at Henley Square and you’ll pay around $5 for the one-way trip. (Full timetable information available via Adelaide’s Metro).
Once at the beach, admire this long stretch of sand by sunbaking on it, walking down to the pier or taking a dip in the clean ocean. (Lifeguards are on duty here during the summer months).
It wasn’t quite warm enough for a swim while I was there, but I did enjoy feeling the sand between my toes, taking some photos and wandering along the promenade.
You can even hire a bike and cycle along it if you’re feeling more energetic!
If it starts to get cooler however, why not head into Henley Square for a drink at the historic Ramsgate Hotel.
You can enjoy some live music here too, before heading over the road to the friendly Greek Restaurant Estia for dinner.
Estia is BYO licensed, which makes things cheaper, and offers a great selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes – the zucchini, onion and feta croquettes were particularly lovely.
#6 Evening: Bar Hopping
After dinner, return via the bus to the city to enjoy Adelaide’s burgeoning small bar scene.
After the recent change in licensing laws, some wonderfully quirky bars are now popping up all over the city, often down side-lanes in disused buildings or warehouses.
Many exude a really bohemian vibe, with craft beers on tap, vinyls playing and a kitsch choice of décor.
Few hold more than 100 customers and I was really impressed by the sense of character they brought to the city.
Some even reminded me of evenings spent in London’s east end bars, albeit with outdoor seating areas and slightly warmer temperatures!
Most of these small bars are gathered around Peel and Leigh street in the city’s west end, but my favourite was The Thrift Shop Bar located on Waymouth Place.
Enjoy a nice craft cider in their beer garden, along with some food off the BBQ while admiring the dresses they use as lampshades and the suitcases propping up the bar!
#7 Night: Sleep in the City
While you might see Adelaide in a day, you’ll certainly want somewhere in the city to rest your head after all that activity.
Because I was travelling as part of a group, I stayed in an apartment, namely the Franklin Central Apartments, which I highly recommend for their very central location and clean, spacious layout.
For something more budget, there are some great hostels in the city too.
5 Essential items for Adelaide
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion, you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
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So that’s my ultimate Adelaide itinerary – the highlights of one of Australia’s best cities in 24 hrs.
Have you been to Adelaide?
What do you recommend doing and seeing?
Did you love it too?