12 Unique Things to do in Adelaide

by Paul Joseph  |  Published October 18, 2016

Once a sleeping country town dotted with cathedrals and spires, Adelaide has grown to become a fully-fledged metropolis teeming with shopping, fine arts and gastronomy – all offering a rich diversity reflected by the city’s cosmopolitan, multi-cultural population.

The scenic North Terrace, one of the four terraces that bound the central business and residential district of Adelaide (Photo: asheshwor via Flickr)

Bright, leafy and clean, Adelaide is also a great destination for anyone who enjoys waterside living, bordering both the imposing South Pacific Ocean and the meandering River Torrens. Indeed, making the most of the Great Outdoors is woven into the DNA of just about everyone who lives here.

But Adelaide also boasts a more intangible quality that can only truly be experienced by coming here and immersing yourself in daily life. If you ever do visit, you may wish to sample some of the unique things to see and do that we have compiled below.

1. Escape Hunt Adelaide

With so many cultural attractions and landmarks to tick off your list in Adelaide, breaking away from the tourist trail isn’t always easy. But getting to know a city is about more than just sight-seeing. The real trick is to live like a local, and there’s nowhere better to do that than at Escape Hunt Adelaide, one of over 30 Escape Hunt venues across the globe. This unique, live escape room venue, complete with a fully licensed bar, is one of the city’s most popular haunts for parties, team-building sessions and functions – but there’s nothing stopping tourists and travellers joining in too. In fact, the more the merrier, so long as you love solving puzzles, cracking codes and searching for hidden codes in a race against the clock. What better way to enjoy Adelaide’s penchant for exciting, challenging and educational experiences?

Escape Hunt Adelaide

A fun-seeker dresses up for the occasion during an escape Hunt escapade (Photo: Escape Hunt Adelaide)

2. Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ markets have become something of a middle class cliché, but there’s no denying the appeal of casually perusing the varied produce on offer at these popular sites, safe in the knowledge that you’re supporting small family farms and agricultural diversity in the processs. Indeed, there’s something eminently civilised and genteel about wandering from stall to stall, picking at exotic food samples and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. If this sounds appealing, a visit to the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market is a must-do for any visitors to the South Australian city. The largest farmers’ market in the region, the event takes place every Sunday from 9am to 1pm inside the Beef Cattle Pavilion and outside in the adjoining car park. It features around 90 local farmers and producers selling fresh, seasonal produce including fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, nuts, chutneys and jams, bread, cheese, wine and much more.

Adelaide Showground Farmers Market

A market stall-holder poses proudly with his wares (Photo: Andre Castellucci)

3. Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute

If you’ve ever wanted to delve deeper into Australia’s Aboriginal roots, then there’s nowhere better to do so than at Tandanya, Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre. Home to several gallery spaces, the centre plays host to a number of traditional and contemporary visual art and sculpture exhibitions throughout the year by acclaimed local, national and international artists. This is a great place to come to learn more about the vibrancy and diversity of expression ingrained in Aboriginal culture.

4. Gilles Street Market

There’s no better way to get under the skin of a city than by visiting a bustling outdoor market. In Adelaide, Gilles Street Market takes place once a month and is widely considered the city’s premier showcase for fashion and design wares. Over 90 stalls offer a colourful selection of designer samples, retro fashion, shoes, jewellery, accessories and much more, while the atmosphere is further enhanced by live DJ sessions and an excellent choice of food and beverage stalls.

Gilles Street Market

Colourful items showcased at Gilles Street Market (Photo: Gilles Street Market)

5. Adelaide Gaol

One of the oldest remaining colonial public buildings in the city, Adelaide Gaol allows you to step back in time and explore the site of some of Texas’s most notorious figures and grisly history. Visitors can get a taste of what daily life was like behind bars for the prisoners that were housed here between 1841 and 1988, by walking the hallways and cells and letting your imagination do the rest. There’s also an interactive exhibition that sheds further light on the infamous institution and its former inmates. And, of course, such a landmark wouldn’t be complete without stories of resident ghosts.

6. Wild At Hart Market

Featuring a wide range of stalls offering locally sourced and seasonal produce, Wild at Hart is one of Adelaide’s most popular foodie markets. It draws large numbers every Sunday to the waterfront at Hart’s Mill, which serves as a scenic setting for the bustling commerce that takes place here. Visitors can also sample excellent coffee while soaking up the relaxed atmosphere and gaining an insight into a rich feature of local Adelaide life.

Wild At Hart Market

Fresh produce on display at Adelaide’s Wild At Hart Market (Photo: Wild At Hart Market)

7. Penfolds McGill Estate Restaurant

Penfolds is arguably Australia’s most famous wine label and the company owns wineries in the country’s most fertile wine growing regions. But Penfolds McGill Estate Restaurant is located in the place where it all started – Adelaide. The restaurant boasts the finest in modern Australian cuisine and a large cellar of Penfolds wines. Tastings and private cellar tours run every day of the week and offer guests the opportunity to sample a selection of wines that have helped give the label its enviable reputation.

Penfolds McGill Estate Restaurant

The stylish interior of Penfolds McGill Estate Restaurant (Photo: Penfolds McGill Estate Restaurant)

8. Railway Museum

When the first South Australian train line opened on 19 April 1856, it was the first government owned and built railway in the British Empire. With an aerial view of South Australia, it is easy to understand how important this was to the vast and sparsely populated state. The Railway Museum in Port Adelaide is the best place to learn about Australia’s railway history, as it provides key insights into the history of Australia and the unique challenges lawmakers face when creating infrastructure

9. Aviation Museum

For historians and aviation enthusiasts alike, the South Australian Aviation Museum is a must-see destination when visiting South Australia. Having just celebrated its 30th anniversary, the museum has built up a large collection of planes, component parts and historical displays. Among its collection are the iconic Spitfire and Gypsy Moth and if visitors happen to arrive on either the ‘Engine Run’ or ‘Open Cockpit’ days, they can even enjoy the opportunity to climb inside one and hear the distinctive roar of its engine.

10. Ayers House Museum

Few people associate 19th-century Australia with opulence but, at the Ayers House Museum, visitors can gain an authentic look into South Australian high-society from a bygone era. With mining and gas interests, Henry Ayers was part of the South Australian elite and eventually became Premier of the state in 1863. His former house is one of the last remaining mansions of its time and the on-site museum accurately details what living as a member of high society was like in the days before Australian federation.

Ayers House Museum

The pristine grounds surrounding Ayers House Museum (Photo: South Australia’s History Festival via Flickr)

11. The Big Rocking Horse and Toy Factory

There is no shortage of ‘big’ attractions in Australia. In Queensland, there’s the Big Pineapple while the Big Banana in New South Wales also packs some serious stature. But in Adelaide, it’s the Big Rocking Horse that looms larger than most. More than a mere novelty-sized statue, the Big Rocking Horse is adjoined by a wooden toy factory, wildlife park and restaurant. Visitors can tour through the toy factory, feed the friendly kangaroos, wallabies and emus, or even take a relaxed lunch in the picnic area set against the beautiful Adelaide Hills.

The Big Rocking Horse and Toy Factory

A giant rocking horse sits outside the The Big Rocking Horse and Toy Factory (Photo: athewma via Flickr)

12. National Wine Centre

With famous wine growing regions such as the Barossa Valley nestled just outside of the city, Adelaide has established itself as must-visit destination for wine lovers. So it makes sense that one of the largest cellars in the Southern Hemisphere (boasting a 38,000-bottle capacity) is in Adelaide’s National Wine Centre. Here, wine lovers are able to sample produce from around the world but, perhaps equally importantly, also get an opportunity to learn more about the rich heritage of South Australian wine and how it fits into the international wine scene.