As the capital of South Australia, the city of Adelaide is the first place people look when visiting the area. This makes sense, given Adelaide’s reputation as a laid-back and cosmopolitan city that’s easy to enjoy. But one of Adelaide’s most appealing qualities is that it’s a gateway to many of the best places to visit in South Australia.
You can head out from Adelaide to find world-class wine regions, beaches, wildlife, and plenty more. These places are bound to make an already fun visit even better and more meaningful. To make planning your trip a little easier, we’ve compiled 10 of the best day trips from Adelaide that appeal to all sorts of travelers.
How to Get Around
Although you can make many of these day trips with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. With your own four wheels, you control your time and schedule; depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the lowest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can get the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries! We’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
One of the most common day tours from Adelaide is the famous wine region of the Barossa Valley. Lying northeast of Adelaide among rolling hills, the Barossa Valley is both picturesque and full of internationally renowned wineries. The region is best known for its shiraz wines and counts Jacob’s Creek and Penfolds among its many impressive vintners.
It’s no secret that your time in the Barossa Valley will revolve around wineries. However, you can stop and enjoy small historic towns like Tanunda as well. There are also lovely viewpoints, such as Mengler Hill Lookout, which help you appreciate the beauty of the valley’s landscape.
Getting there: The Barossa Valley is roughly an hour’s drive from Adelaide, but taking a wine tour means you can drink without worrying about driving.
Book Wine Tour to Barossa Valley
Many visitors to these parts are eager to visit Kangaroo Island, one of the best side trips from Adelaide. This is the third-largest island in Australia and one of the best natural destinations in South Australia. It’s basically a playground for those who like wildlife and the outdoors.
Much of the island is a nature reserve, with critters like koalas, sea lions, penguins, and, of course, kangaroos. Head for Seal Bay Conservation Park to spot sea lions down by the beach, or Flinders Chase National Park to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and echidnas. You’ll also want to visit Kangaroo Island for the rugged rock formations, like the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, along its coastal cliffs.
Getting there: Visiting Kangaroo Island from Adelaide means driving 1.5 hours to Cape Jervis and taking a 30-minute ferry over to the island. Without your own transport, you’ll need to take a guided tour to get there.
You probably wouldn’t expect to find a German town in South Australia, but that’s what you’ll get with Hahndorf. A great little Adelaide day trip, Hahndorf is out among the Adelaide Hills, not too far from the city.
The town was settled in the 19th century by German migrants, who brought with them the cuisine and customs of Germany. That means you’ll see homes built with German architecture, pubs selling German food, bakeries offering Bavarian pretzels, and cuckoo clocks for sale. To learn more about the town’s history, head to the German Migration Museum at the Hahndorf Academy. On the edge of town is The Cedars, the studio of renowned landscape painter Sir Hans Heysen, where you can see some of his work.
Getting there: There are hourly buses that take 45 minutes to reach Hahndorf from Adelaide. Alternatively, you can combine your day trip to Hahndorf with a visit to some regional wineries by taking an organized tour.
Another of the best places to visit from Adelaide for wine lovers is McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide. This is where the state’s wine industry began, and some vines here are over 100 years old and still producing.
Within this region, below the Mount Lofty Ranges, you’ll find over 80 cellars and vineyards, providing plenty of wine-tasting options. McLaren Vale is best known for its shiraz wine, but it also boasts some fine grenache and cabernet. You’ll find many wineries that serve excellent food as well, making them a one-stop shop for indulgence.
Getting there: Exploring McLaren Vale from Adelaide requires either a 35-minute drive or a wine tour, which can save you the worry of counting drinks.
If you’re after some beach time, head down to the suburb of Glenelg on Holdfast Bay. This seaside suburb is home to Adelaide’s most popular beach.
Though Glenelg has other charms as well, it’s best to start with a trip down to the waterfront to see the long, sandy beach and the scenic Glenelg Jetty. Just behind all that is Glenelg Foreshore, home to cafes, restaurants, and The Beachouse, an entertainment complex that includes rides and a water park.
To learn more about the area, head to the Bay Discovery Centre inside Glenelg Town Hall, which even has an exhibit on vintage swimwear. Stick around to watch the sunset from the waterfront – a sight for which Glenelg is especially known.
Getting there: Glenelg is just a short trip from Adelaide, with trams and buses that can get you there in 20 to 30 minutes.
Yet another place around Adelaide known for its wine is the Clare Valley. Up north of the city, between the towns of Auburn and Clare, you’ll find over 50 cellars and wineries. Unlike the other major wine regions of South Australia, the Clare Valley is not known for its shiraz, but rather its excellent riesling.
Naturally, the most popular activity here is to go wine tasting at different cellars. Between stops, you’ll be able to admire the landscape as it transforms from picture-perfect farmland to remote, untamed countryside. Then there are the small country towns dotted within the valley, including Sevenhill and Watervale, where you can stop for a traditional pub lunch.
Getting there: Traveling from Adelaide to the Clare Valley is an approximately two-hour drive.
Look east from Adelaide and you’ll find the low-lying mountains of the Adelaide Hills. This region is sprinkled with lovely little towns and wineries, making a nice day’s outing for travelers of all interests.
Hahndorf may be the best-known place in the Adelaide Hills, but it’s definitely not alone, with towns like Stirling, Aldgate, and Birdwood nearby. These are all pleasant places to shop and get brunch, with boutique stores, cafes, and restaurants. If you’re into handicrafts, consider stopping at Lobethal. If you want something wilder, visit Cleland Wildlife Park for up-close encounters with native animals, including emus, kangaroos, and koalas.
Getting there: Regular buses only run to certain towns in the Adelaide Hills, such as Stirling and Aldgate. Driving takes 20 to 40 minutes, depending on where you go. To properly see the area without your own wheels, you’ll want to take a guided tour.
One of the best things to see in South Australia outside of Adelaide is the Fleurieu Peninsula south of the city.
The peninsula is known for its wineries in McLaren Vale, but it also boasts some inviting towns and gorgeous coast. To get a taste of the local life, stop in the town of Willunga for the farmers market. From there, head down to Port Willunga, with its fantastic beach and moody Jetty Pylons.
There are plenty of other beaches to explore, but if it’s wildlife you’re after, venture south to Encounter Bay. Once there, make the steep trip to the top of The Bluff for panoramic views. It’s here you’ll have the chance to spot whales, seals, and dolphins.
Getting there: Driving to the Fleurieu Peninsula from Adelaide takes roughly an hour, depending on exactly where you go.
Monarto Safari Park
For those hoping to see lots of animals while in Australia and Adelaide, Monarto Safari Park is an obvious choice for a day trip. After all, it is the largest open-range zoo in the world and has more than 500 animals in its care.
In this 1,500-hectare park, you get to enjoy a proper safari experience in a reserve specifically started as a sanctuary for endangered species. It features five main habitats that reflect different ecosystems across Asia and Africa, hosting a long list of both native Australian and overseas species. Among its Australian wildlife are tammar wallabies, greater bilbies, and eastern barred bandicoots. As for exotic international species in conservation, you’ll see black and southern white rhinos, American bison, and South African cheetahs, to name just a few.
Getting there: To get from Adelaide to the Monarto Safari Park is around a 75-minute drive.
Buy Monarto Safari Park General Entry Ticket
Australia’s longest river is the Murray River, crossing three states before pouring out into Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. But you don’t need to go that far from Adelaide to enjoy the Murray River.
If you want stunning views of the river, head to Big Bend for a clifftop panorama. In the small town of Mannum, you’ll find the Hermann Gass Bird Sanctuary, where you can tread the boardwalk to see the bird species that call the river home. Not far away are the Mannum Waterfalls and their rock pools. Right at the end of the Murray lies Coorong National Park, a protected area of sand dunes, beaches, and lagoons between Lake Alexandrina and the ocean.
Getting there: The closest parts of the Murray River, such as Mannum, are a 75-minute drive from Adelaide, while Coorong National Park is more like a 2.5-hour drive.
As you can see, you have a nice selection of destinations within easy reach of Adelaide to explore. We hope this will help show you just how much South Australia has going for it.
Peter Edson says
Is the author aware that according to the Tourist Bureau Burra, a National Heritage listed town,is part of the Clare Valley and offers a fascinating glimpse of mining history, marvellous heritage buildings, glimpses of the outback as well as a great choice of cafes. People visiting Burra rave about this gem of a place.peter