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 laidback and cosmopolitan city that’s easy to enjoy. But one of the most appealing qualities of Adelaide is that it is a gateway to many of the best places to visit in South Australia.
From the city you can head out and 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 for your trip a little easier, we’ve collected ten of the best day trips from Adelaide which should appeal to all sorts of travelers.
Note on How to Get Around
Although many of the day trips mentioned below can be done by public transport, for more flexibility and independence consider renting a car for the day. Your own 4 wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than using other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we have listed the best tour for each day trip (if available) for you below.
1. Barossa Valley
Definitely 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 names like Jacobs Creek and Penfolds among its many impressive vintners. It’s no secret that your time in Barossa Valley is going to revolve around wineries. However, you can also stop and enjoy small historic towns like Tanunda as well. There are also lovely viewpoints like Mengler’s Hill Lookout which help you appreciate the beauty of the valley’s landscape.
Getting there: The Barossa Valley is roughly an hour drive from Adelaide, although taking a wine tour means you can drink without worrying about driving.
2. Kangaroo Island
Many visitors to these parts are eager to visit Kangaroo Island, which makes sense as it’s one of the best side trips from Adelaide. Kangaroo Island 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 nature reserve, with critters like koalas, sea lions, penguins, and yes, kangaroos. Head for Seal Bay Conservation Park to spot sea lions down by the beach, or Flinders Chase National Park if you want to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and echidnas. You’ll also want to visit Kangaroo Island for rugged rock formations, like the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, along its coastal cliffs.
Getting there: To visit Kangaroo Island from Adelaide means driving 1 ½ 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 and be shown around.
You probably wouldn’t expect to find a German town in South Australia, but that’s what you’ll find in Hahndorf. A great little Adelaide day trip, Hahndorf is found out among the Adelaide Hills not too far from the city. The town was settled by German migrants in the 19th century 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 pretzels, and even 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: To reach Hahndorf from Adelaide there are hourly buses that take 45 minutes to get there. Alternatively, you can combine Hahndorf with some regional wineries by taking an organized tour.
4. McLaren Vale
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 first began and there are some vines here that are over a hundred years old and still producing. Within this region, below the Mount Lofty Ranges, you’ll find over 80 cellars and vineyards, meaning there’s plenty of options for wine-tasting. McLaren Vale is best known for its Shiraz, but also boasts some fine Grenache and Cabernet. And if you want to mix things up a bit, why not take to the Shiraz Trail and walk or cycle through the area. You’ll also find that many wineries serve up 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 while in Adelaide, head down to the suburb of Glenelg on Holdfast Bay. This seaside suburb of the city is home to Adelaide’s most popular beach, but boasts other charms as well. Still, 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 which is full of cafes, restaurants, and the The Beachouse amusement park. To learn more about the area, head to the Bay Discovery Centre inside the local town hall for its exhibitions, including one on vintage swimwear. Before heading back, stick about to watch the sunset from the waterfront, something for which Glenelg is especially known.
Getting there: Just a short trip from Adelaide city center, you can take the tram or bus and be there in 20 to 30 minutes.
6. Clare Valley
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 a series of 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. So, 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 begins to transform from picture-perfect farmland to remote, untamed countryside. Then there are the small country towns dotted within the valley like Sevenhill and Watervale, where you can stop for a typical pub lunch.
Getting there: Traveling from Adelaide to the Clare Valley is an approximately 2 hour drive.
7. Adelaide Hills
Look east from the city of Adelaide and you’ll find the low-lying mountains of the Adelaide Hills. This region is sprinkled with lovely little towns and wineries that together make a nice day’s outing no matter your 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 all nearby. All of these are pleasant places to explore, with boutique stores, and cafes and restaurants perfect for brunch. If you’re into handicrafts, consider stopping in at Lobethal, or Cleland Wildlife Park for up close encounters with native wildlife including emus, kangaroos, and koalas.
Getting there: Regular buses only run to certain towns in the Adelaide Hills like Stirling and Aldgate. Driving, on the other hand, 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.
8. Fleurieu Peninsula
One of the best things to see in South Australia outside of Adelaide is the Fleurieu Peninsula south of the city. Not only is the peninsula known for its wineries in the McLaren Vale, it also boasts some inviting towns and gorgeous coast. A great place to stop to see what local life is like is the town of Willunga for the local farmers market. From there head down to the coast at Port Willunga, with its fantastic beach and the moody Port Willunga 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 up to the top of The Bluff for panoramic views. It’s there that you have the chance to spot whales, seals, and dolphins.
Getting there: Driving to the Fleurieu Peninsula from Adelaide takes roughly an hour depending on where exactly you go.
9. 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 in its care more than 500 animals. Thanks to its massive 1,500-hectare park, visitors get to enjoy a proper safari experience in a reserve specifically started as a sanctuary for endangered species. The park features five main habitats which reflect different ecosystems across Asia and Africa, with a great long list of native Australian species and species from overseas. Among its Australian wildlife are tammar wallabies, greater bilbies and eastern barred bandicoots. As for exotic international species in conservation, there are southern white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, American bison, and South African cheetah, just to name a few.
Getting there: To get from Adelaide to the Monarto Safari Park is around a 75 minute drive.
10. Murray River
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 all that far from Adelaide to enjoy the Murray River. For 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 with boardwalks and birdlife, while not far away are the rock pools and waterfalls of Mannum Waterfalls. 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 like Mannum are a 75-minute drive from Adelaide, while Coorong National Park is more like a 2 ½ hour drive.
As you can see there’s a nice selection of destinations within easy reach of Adelaide to explore. Hopefully this will help show you just how much South Australia has going for it.