Adelaide may not be the first destination that springs to your mind when someone mentions “city break”. But, my hometown has made quite the stir in recent years.
In 2016 Adelaide ranked as one of Lonely Planet’s top cities to visit and it even made The New York Times recently. Since then we’ve definitely seen a surge in inter-state and international visitors. I might be a tad biased, but I think a long weekend in Adelaide is the perfect way to see what all the fuss is about.
I’m born and bred in South Australia’s capital, and despite my enduring love of travel, I also love coming home to my city. It’s definitely a “goldilocks” city to me; it’s big enough that there is more than enough to fill an itinerary, but small enough that you don’t feel lost amongst the crowds.
Some call Adelaide “a big country town”, and maybe we are in some ways — just with plenty of cocktail bars, museums, and restaurants to go with our friendly and relaxed lifestyle.
Adelaide at a Glance
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, located right at the bottom of Australia, in the middle. Our closest neighbor is Melbourne 800 kilometers to the east of us, and then there’s Perth, some 2,000 kilometers to the west.
The wider metropolitan area of Adelaide has over 1.5 million people, but the city itself is pretty modest in size — just a square mile.
The city of Adelaide is situated on the land of the Kaurna people, a group of First Nation’s people who have an enduring connection to the land, to this day. Many place names, such as the central square Tarndanyangga (also known as Victoria Square) are the Kaurna names.
Adelaide has a warm, moderate climate that is often proudly described as “Mediterranean” by locals. We don’t really have humidity, although our summers do get really hot. Temperatures rarely drop to single figures, even in winter, and rain is also pretty rare. Basically, Adelaide is nice to visit all year round.
The best time to visit Adelaide, however, is probably February/March when we have the Fringe Festival, the world’s second largest open-air arts festival. There’s a dazzling calendar of events from comedians to contortionists and pretty much everything you can think of in between. I love Adelaide all through-out the year, but if you can coincide your time in Adelaide with the Fringe, you’re in for something particularly special!
Where to Stay For a Long Weekend in Adelaide
If you’re going to Adelaide for a long weekend, you’ll want to stay central so that you can easily visit the attractions and access public transport.
As the city is small, any of the inner city hotels are pretty convenient. Hindley Street, King William Street or North Terrace are right amidst the action but therefore can be loud. East Terrace or Hutt Street are a little further away, but more peaceful. Luckily, the tram is free within the CBD, so getting around is easy.
There are plenty of hotels to cater for every budget and style, from luxurious five-star hotels (like the Mayfair Hotel) through to laidback backpacker hostels (such as Sunny’s). Another option would be to stay near Glenelg Beach, which is a beautiful area, but about half an hour from the city center.
What to Do During a Long Weekend in Adelaide
A long weekend of three days is absolutely perfect for visiting Adelaide, as it will allow you to explore the city as well as several of the outer regions. Here’s how I’d advise you spend your three days to experience a variety of Adelaide gems.
Day 1 of a 3-Day Adelaide Itinerary: Adelaide CBD
Start your Adelaide itinerary by exploring the many attractions of Adelaide’s city center, which is referred to as Adelaide’s CBD (central business district).
The only exception here is if your first day in Adelaide happens to fall on a public holiday, in which case I’d make that your beach day instead, as most amenities in Adelaide close on public holidays.
Adelaide is a beautiful city, and if you’ve gotten a view from above, you may have noticed the many green spaces located within and around it. This is a great place to start your tour, so head over to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens to start your time in Adelaide with a free tour. Departing at 10:00 am every day, this tour will introduce you to a bit of the history of Adelaide and walk you through the beautiful gardens.
After the tour, continue down North Terrace which is home to many of Adelaide’s cultural hubs. Best of all, they’re all free to enter! I love the Aboriginal history exhibit at the Adelaide Museum (skip up-stairs unless you’re particularly keen, as it could do with a refurbishment), as well as the ever-rotating exhibits at the Art Gallery.
My favorite of all is the Migration Museum, however, which has lots of interactive exhibits that bring the history of all different migrants to life. It really gives you an insight into how Adelaide became the multicultural city it is today.
From the Migration Museum, you can either get on the free tram heading in the direction of Glenelg or South Terrace, or walk down King William Street. The walk will take you past some pretty buildings, including the Town Hall and General Post Office. You can also stop by Rundle Mall if you want to do any shopping!
However you get there, the main thing is to arrive at the Central Market on Gouger Street. This a true foodie heaven — it’s the largest undercover fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere, and there is an amazing selection of stalls. In particular, you can’t miss the Smelly Cheese Shop, and the Barossa Fine Foods.
I recommend putting together a small picnic to take away from the market. Hopping on the free tram from Tarndanyangga, head back towards the Adelaide Entertainment Center/West Terrace, and get off at the Adelaide Railway Station. Walk through the station to the Torrens River and the Rotunda, which is a picturesque spot to enjoy your lunch.
From here, it’s a beautiful walk along the river. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including kookaburras, galahs, and swans, and feel free to stop and rest along the way. Toward the end, you should see a bridge covered in locks and love messages — have a quick look before walking through the Adelaide University Campus, which will see you back on North Terrace.
As a final stop, I highly recommend the Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Centre. This gallery/performance space has many amazing exhibitions featuring traditional and modern Aboriginal art, as well as dance, theatre, and music performances. It’s well worth stopping in, and there’s also a beautiful gift shop.
Dinner and Night-Time
One of my favorite things about my city is how multicultural the cuisine in Adelaide is. You will be spoiled for choice, with everything from Argentinian to Uyghur on offer.
Frankly, it’s hard to find a bad meal in Adelaide, however, I’d recommend heading back to Gouger Street. On Friday and Saturday evenings the strip is buzzing with people dining out on the street, so it has a great atmosphere. There are lots of great choices here, but Star of Siam (Thai) is always a classic.
If you’re not ready to head back to your accommodation after your meal, you’re in luck with Adelaide’s brilliant small bar scene. On Friday and Saturday nights, the city is very lively, especially around Hindley and Rundle Streets. Peel Street is a particular hot spot for stylish small bars, while Hains & Co just one street over (on Gilbert Place) is a local favorite.
If you’re looking to do some dancing, then Casablabla on Leigh Street features multicultural beats and a slightly older crowd, while Electric Circus (EDM) or Jive (alternative) are more popular amongst students.
Day 2 of a 3-Day Adelaide Itinerary: Glenelg Beach
If you’re sporting a cloudy head from last night’s fun, then don’t worry — the beach is the perfect place to rest your dancing feet. Adelaide has many beautiful beaches, and several of them are less than half an hour from the CBD. Semaphore, Grange and West Beach are all popular location options.
The most popular of all beaches in Adelaide, however, is Glenelg Beach. Think of it as Adelaide’s answer to Sydney’s Bondi beach, although it’s nowhere near as crowded. It’s also the last stop on the tram, so just jump on the tram (not free this time, unfortunately) and make your way down to “the Bay”, as it’s known to locals.
Make like a true Adelaidean and stop for a lazy brunch before you get down to the shore. Zest Art Cafe on Sussex Street is a classic favorite with a cozy interior and a great menu (including vegetarian options). I also love the Green Tea House on Jetty Road for Vietnamese. Their pho and Vietnamese iced coffees are exceptional!
Once you’ve had your brunch, wander down to the foreshore to spend a day at the beach. In summer, there are often volleyball nets set up and you can also walk along the Glenelg Jetty to take in the view of the sea and shore from the end. Of course, don’t forget to leave plenty of time just to laze on the shore and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Lunch and Afternoon
If you’re keen for a walk, it’s super beautiful between Glenelg Beach and nearby Brighton Beach, which is a little quieter. Like Glenelg, Brighton has some great cafes, pubs, and shopping on the esplanade.
For something a little more upbeat in Glenelg, there’s also The Beach House, a water park/arcade that is great fun for kids (and kids at heart). In particular, the waterslides are a lot of fun and the views from the Beach House are nice too.
Dinner and Night-Time
After a day in Glenelg, head back to Adelaide for another delicious dinner. If you’re looking for something upscale, then both Orana (very expensive) and the Apothecary (mid-range) are great restaurants that serve “new Australian” menus.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, then I absolutely love Parwana Afghan on Henley Beach Road. You’ll need to get an Uber, taxi or bus there, but I promise it will be totally worth it! Another great budget option is the Sushi Train on Grenfell or Gouger Street, which has great sushi at a very low price.
For after-dinner drinks a rooftop bar is a great option. 2KW is a new and stylish option, which is a little more expensive but absolutely gorgeous, while Harry’s Bar on Currie Street is laid back and unpretentious, although the view is not as special.
Day 3 of a 3-Day Adelaide Itinerary: Barossa Valley
Once you’ve experienced the city and the beach in Adelaide, there’s one more thing you need to try to complete the trifecta: South Australian wine! It’s renowned all over the world, and South Australia’s wine regions are friendly and beautiful.
There are several great wine regions in South Australia, but I always recommend a visit to the Barossa Valley to visitors. Not only is the Barossa Valley widely regarded as one of the absolute best wine regions in Australia (you may have heard of some of its labels, such as Jacob’s Creek, Wolf Blass, and Seppeltsfield), but it’s not just wine. Even if you’re not a wine drinker, there is plenty else to enjoy in the Barossa Valley.
Of course, the wine is a big drawcard, and the Barossa Valley has many amazing cellar doors (wine tasting rooms). Even I haven’t been able to taste them all yet, although I’m doing my best! My favorite thing about wine tasting in the Barossa Valley is that it is just so friendly and laid back. Even if you know absolutely nothing about wine, then you’ll have a great time in the Barossa.
Oh, and most wineries charge absolutely nothing to taste their wine, which is pretty awesome too.
Most wineries in the Barossa don’t open until the late morning, so be sure to start off the last day of your long weekend in Adelaide with a good meal. This is another great chance to experience Adelaide’s brunch culture — in Adelaide, I love Crack Kitchen on Franklin Street, while The Loose Caboose in Mile End (vaguely on the way to the Barossa) is also exceptional, and set in an old train station.
Wineries (and Lunch)
If you have a car, then you will have almost endless choices in the Barossa Valley. Personally, I’d recommend visiting Charles Melton Winery, where you taste around the big farmhouse table. The wine is absolutely exceptional, and there are also two cute Border Collie dogs to play with. Pretty much heaven, right?
Just across the road from Charles Melton is another one of my absolute favorites, Rockford Wines. This winery is famous all over the world, yet you’d never know it from the relaxed and unpretentious vibe. It’s set in a totally beautiful and charming old farmhouse, and is definitely a “must” in my book!
Finally, a newer favorite of mine is David Franz Wines. You do have to pay to taste here (it’s redeemable on purchase), but it’s worth it! You sit out on the verandah, sipping on your wine while overlooking the gorgeous vineyards. Definitely be sure to try the rose, especially on a hot day.
If you manage to get through these three wineries and are still looking for more, then I really love Langmeil Wines and Bethany Wines as well.
For lunch, you really can’t go past dropping into the Maggie Beer Farm Shop, where you can do some tasting of her various preserves and pates, and enjoy a delicious picnic overlooking the dam.
If you don’t have a car, or no one will agree to be the designated driver (it goes without saying, but do not drink and drive in the Barossa), your other option is to take a tour. There are a few that leave from Adelaide or from Gawler Railway Station (which is easy to get to from the city). My personal favorite tour option is the Hop On, Hop Off bus as it gives you more flexibility. There are two to choose from: the Trail-hopper, which visits the bigger names, or the Barossa Explorer, which is a more informal option.
For dinner, you could either stay in the Barossa Valley or, alternatively, head back to Adelaide. This might depend on whether you have your own transport, as it is quite difficult to get back to town after dark, without your own car.
If you do have your own transport, then it’s great to stay in the Barossa and taste some of the culinary delights. The Barossa Valley has really been pushing its food scene as well as its wine, and there are some great restaurants that have popped up all around the Valley. In particular, I love Ferment Asian which does innovative and delicious meals.
If you’re returning to Adelaide, then don’t worry — there are plenty of amazing places still to try. If you can get a table, Africola (South African) is absolutely amazing, while La Rambla on Peel Street does great tapas and sharing platters. Either option would be a fabulous way to top off your long weekend in Adelaide.
Final Thoughts About a Long Weekend in Adelaide
I hope this 3-day Adelaide itinerary is helpful, and has inspired you to consider spending a long weekend in Adelaide (or even longer!).
Although it’s often overlooked in favor of the east coast legends like Melbourne and Sydney, Adelaide has many charms. As tourism is less common in Adelaide, don’t be surprised if people are nearly falling over themselves trying to help you and welcome you to the city!
Like most Adelaideans, I’m thrilled to see my city getting the recognition I think it deserves, and we look forward to welcoming you to enjoy our stunning beaches, thriving cultural scene and delicious vino very soon!
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