Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in South Australia
This now defunct prison in the heart of Thebarton was the first home of criminals in South Australia. While it serves as a museum today, Adelaide Gaol held lawbreakers and convicts between 1841 and 1988. Life was hard here and executions and torture were a part of daily life.
Travelers who journey to this top attraction will find plenty to do and see on a tour of this historical icon, and visitors say the guided day and evening tours are an ideal way to not only learn about the history of Adelaide Gaol, but those who once called its walls home, too. Travelers who opt for a self-guided tour will still find impressive displays with well-marked information and plenty of historical context.
People come to America to watch baseball and they go to Australia to watch cricket. The Adelaide Oval, located in the parklands between city center and North Adelaide, has been home to two teams, as well as the South Australian Cricket Association. Built in 1871, lights were not added to this 54,500-seat stadium until 1997.
The Adelaide Oval is an ideal spot for catching both international and domestic cricket, as well as Australian rules football games, rugby and soccer. The stadium has also proved a successful music venue, with acts like Paul McCartney, Madonna and Michael Jackson taking the stage.
For a taste of new-world Adelaide, travelers make a stop at Rundle Mall. But for a look at the city’s historic past and contemporary culture there is no place better than North Terrace. The mile-long avenue passes by the art center, parliament house, national library, university and Botanical Gardens, as well as an iconic church from 1838 and a restored 1920s railway station. Large grassy fields and tall shade trees provide the perfect resting place for an afternoon picnic, while a number of pubs mean travelers are always within reach of a cold, refreshing drink.
Victoria Square is actually a rectangle—a cheeky point of geometric contention amongst the locals who sprawl on its grass. Every day, particularly around lunchtime, you can find office workers enjoying an outdoor lunch on a shaded table or bench, or families playing with young children around the famous three-spouted fountain.
More than just a public square, however, Victoria Square is where the Adelaide community gathers for outdoor events. Enjoy outdoor yoga classes and community vegetable gardens or evening concerts in the park, and since the square is within walking distance of notable sights such as the teeming Central Market, it’s always a flurry of pedestrian activity and is unbeatable for its energy and people watching. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the ground where the modern day square is built was a traditional Aboriginal gathering place, and cultural groups still assemble today to partake in ceremony and song.
It took 65 years for this building to be erected, but despite major delays it’s a stately structure Aussies are seriously proud of. Daily tours provide access to Chambers and the chance to view historic documents, like the Magna Carta, up close and in person. Permanent exhibits on women in government and an impressive art collection—including one of the world’s largest tapestries and an outdoor sculpture garden—make this a cultural destination for visitors locally and aboard.
When most people think of chocolate they think European. Belgium, Switzerland—these are nations known for creating smooth and creamy pure cocoa treats. But Aussies know some of the most decadent chocolate pleasures are made at their very own Haigh’s Chocolates. Since 1915 this fourth generation, family owned company has been churning out candies that are worth the trip. From classic dark chocolates to new salted caramels, travelers can find a taste of Australia at one of the company’s 14 retail stores across the country—including six in Adelaide.
Some 400,000 customers flock to this shopping Mecca every week—including 85% of Adelaide’s international travelers. With 700 retailers it’s no surprise. Make a stop at the Adelaide Visitors Information Center, where friendly staff and a library of brochures offer up advice on what to do, where to go and what not to miss in the area. Next walk through Adelaide and Gays Arcade, where beautiful skylights line the ceiling. Retailers here were the first in the country to have electric lights, and locals believe six ghosts live in the arcade, including a caretaker who fell to his death repairing the generator that powered the lights.Browse the shelves at one of the mall’s dozens of books stores before heading to Haighs for a famous chocolate frog. The fourth generation family owned business is an Australian staple, and has been whipping up its famous cocoa treats since 1915.
More Things to Do in South Australia
Sometimes referred to as Light’s Vision, this lookout on Montefiore Hill is named after Colonel William Light, the founding father of Adelaide. During the summer of 1837, Light was put in charge of selecting and surveying the site for the city. A life-sized statue of Colonel Light sits here, having been originally erected in Victoria Square but moved in 1938 to create Light's Vision on top of Montefiore Hill. Local legend says it’s where he looked out and began planning the city.
Around 1,800 exotic and native mammals, birds, reptiles and fish reside at the 8-hectare Adelaide Zoo, comprising 300 species. Major attractions include the Southeast Asian rainforest exhibit, Immersion, a walkthrough jungle environment where tigers and orangatuns feel within reach. Also the giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi!
Opened in 1883, it is Australia's second-oldest zoo and the only not-for-pro fit zoo in the country. Many of the structures are National Trust registered although these, such as the elephant house, these days are used for educational exhibits while the animals have moved to more natural environments. There is a Children's Zoo where you can pet animals including kangaroos and koalas, and the Envirodome, an education/interactive center.
Covering the Western end of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National Park is one of Australia’s most diverse wildernesses. Boasting an intricate network of trails and boardwalks, the park showcases both natural and historic sights. Popular experiences include visiting the wind sculpted Remarkable Rocks, or the Admirals Arch which stretches over the powerful ocean that shaped it. Also located along the coastline is the Cape Borda Lightstation. Explore by yourself or take a guided tour of the lighthouse and cemetery – the midday tour includes the firing of a restored signal cannon.
The Flinders Chase Visitors Centre provides extensive information about the park, including the best places for wildlife viewing. A colony of New-Zealand fur seals lives on the rocks surrounding Admirals Arch. The Breakneck River Hike offers prime bird watching opportunities, whilst the shorter Platypus Waterholes Walk crosses the habitats of platypus, wallabies, geese, echidnas and goannas.
A scenic boardwalk leads to the viewing platform for Admiral’s Arch – the naturally formed rock bridge that towers above colonies of New Zealand fur seals.
Originally an ancient cave, Admirals Arch has been shaped by the intense winds and surf that pound the coast of Kangaroo Island. Stalactites still hang from the rocky ceiling whilst the floor has been eroded to a smooth finish. The Arch has been designated a geological monument, and is one of 27 geological monuments on the island.
The boardwalk runs along the cliff face, providing uninterrupted views of the ocean. Dolphins can often be spotted, and whales migrate along the coast from May to October. Year round entertainment however, is provided by the colony of fur seals that live and play on the rock platforms beneath the cliff. Pups are born in December, and remain with their mothers for a year, playing in the rock pools under the Arch.
Remember the days of buying your fresh fruit and vegetables direct from the people who grow it? The thrill of bargaining, and buying according to what's in season, with a recommendation of what's best tasting at the moment and how you should eat it? You can still experience that at Adelaide Central Market.
For 140 years this market in the heart of the city has been providing residents with fresh produce. Over 80 stalls selling direct from the producers, include fruit and vegetables, meats and seafood, bakeries, cheeses, small goods and plants and flowers. There are cafes to rest in with a coffee or snack after an invigorating session of bargaining.
This favorite mid-size South Australian vineyard was built in just five months back in 1980. Since then, its luscious red and white wines have been celebrated both locally and internationally, and its true family farm feel has been welcoming visitors for generations.
After learning touring the grounds and learning about the practice of wine making, travelers can saddle up to the Weighbridge—now known affectionately as Peter’s Bar—for a taste of Peter Lehmann’s bold Shiraz. Growers have been gathering at the Weighbridge after a long day’s work since the vineyard first opened. Today visitors can join them in the same age-old tradition, too.
Glen Forest Tourist Park is a 400-acre outdoor playground with activities for the entire family. The main attractions are of the four-legged variety; kangaroos, wombats, dingos and koalas are just a few of the many species at home in the extensive animal park, along with abundant bird life that resides in the area’s many natural spring-fed waterways. In the animal nursery, it’s hands-on fun as kids learn to feed and cuddle the newborn wildlife.
Other family activities include an 18-hole mini golf course, off-road Segway rides and widespread picnic areas. There are also 80 acres of vineyards, which produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay varieties for the Lincoln Estate label.
500 million year old granite has been shaped by the elements to create the intriguing formations that are the Remarkable Rocks. Perched on a large granite dome that drops abruptly to the crashing surf, the Remarkable Rocks are changing even today. Information boards display pictures of the rocks from the 1800s alongside current photographs, as well as detailed information on the weathering process.
The Remarkable Rocks have been weathered into strange and unique shapes – many visitors enjoy picking out familiar objects in the formations, such as giant chairs and hooks. Enhancing their beauty are the colours in the granite uncovered as the rocks are worn down – blues, blacks and pinks play across the surface of the rocks.
This museum, with its huge whale skeleton in the front window, is one of Adelaide's landmarks. The enthralling exhibits showcase Australia's natural history and include a gallery devoted to Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson (with expedition footage). The absorbing Aboriginal Cultures Gallery displays artifacts of the region's Ngarrindjeri people.
Six floors of exhibits range from the focus on Australian and Pacific collections all the way through to the popular Ancient Egyptian room. There is a major fossil collection including perhaps the oldest piece found at 550 million years old. You can bring your own finds in for identification at the Discovery Center and visit the Information Center to find out more about Australia's Indigenous cultural heritage.
Everyone knows that the Australian mainland has swaths of wide-open desert, but it’s the southern coast of Kangaroo Island that has the most impressive system of sand dunes. Here, in the area known as “Little Sahara,” wind-sculpted dunes and shifting white ridgelines stretch out for a full square mile, with the tallest dunes rising to over 250 feet above the nearby ocean.
For as naturally gorgeous as they appear, however, the real fun in Little Sahara is in climbing the dunes, taking in the view, and then flying down the soft white slopes while strapped to a sandboard or toboggan. Much like snowboarding or riding a sled, sandboarding provides an adrenaline rush without the icy hard landing, and you can make tracks down the side of a dune in only your bathing suit or board shorts. Sandboards, however, aren’t the only tracks that you’ll find imprinted on the dunes, as early morning visitors will often find wildlife has left behind footprints in the night.
Stroll, jog or find yourself a grassy patch to read a book in the splendid, city-fringe Adelaide Botanic Garden, established in the 1850s. Highlights here include a unique prefabricated palm house (1877), the Museum of Economic Botany (check out its stencilled ceiling), and the 1988 Bicentennial Conservatory, which recreates a tropical rainforest environment.
Comprising the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide are two other sites: the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden and Wittunga Botanic Garden. Mount Lofty is less than half an hour from the city centre and has plants which thrive in cooler climates than those of the plains below. Wittunga in the Adelaide Hills was once the private Garden of Edwin Ashby and has been open to the public since 1975. It is a popular place for picnics.
Present-day Australia is a country based on immigration. This fascinating and unmissable museum tells the stories of the migrants who came from all over the world to make South Australia their home - where did they come from, why, and how did they get here? There's information on over 100 nationalities in their database, along with poignant personal stories displayed to full effect including some hands-on displays.
Paying respect to the indigenous people of the country, there are also displays of Pre-European Australia and the impact that immigration has had on Indigenous people. Through its education service, the museum actively works to teach about cultural diversity and tolerance.
Things to do near South Australia
- Things to do in Adelaide
- Things to do in Kangaroo Island
- Things to do in Barossa Valley
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Tasmania
- Things to do in New South Wales
- Things to do in Ballarat
- Things to do in Great Ocean Road
- Things to do in Melbourne
- Things to do in Mornington Peninsula
- Things to do in Queensland
- Things to do in Northern Territory
- Things to do in Western Australia
- Things to do in South Island
- Things to do in North Island