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Top 10 Free Things To Do In South Australia

by Rose Foster

South Australia boasts some incredible (and free) destinations, and we have collated a list of the top 10 must-sees. From scenic features, to fun arcades, South Australia really has it all – and better yet, for all ages.

1. Adelaide Botanic Gardens

This city-centre oasis of greenery is a great breath away from the bustle of city life. Adelaide Botanic Gardens offers some expensive displays of floral beauty, with rare and distinctive species of plant life nestled amongst perfectly-manicured lawns. As the obviously perfect location for an amazing picnic, Adelaide Botanic Gardens does not stop there – it places heavy emphasis on not only showcasing the plants themselves, but providing educational context for each and every plant species. The gardens are separated into themed sections, from the Amazon Water Lily pavilion with its huge lilies, to the exquisite Palm House with its great architectural features.

The shaded space makes for an ideal escape from the hot Adelaide, and is especially convenient considering its location in the heart of the city. There are free guided walking tours available by the volunteers at Friends of the Botanic Garden, and there is also a nice restaurant to dine at for those of you hoping for an extended stay at the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Note

  • Large garden spanning 51 hectares
  • Wonderful architecture including 3 glasshouses
  • Rose Garden the first of its kind in Australia
  • Opens 7:15am Monday to Friday, 9am weekends & public holidays
  • Closes 7pm December – January, 6:30pm February – March, 6pm – April, 5:30pm – May, 5pm – June/July, 5:30pm – August, 6pm – September, 6:30pm – October/November

Find out more here.

2. Waterfall Gully

Located in Cleland Conservation Park to the east of Adelaide, Waterfall Gully is a lovely snippet of South Australian nature. It’s name is derived from its most obvious feature – the First Falls, a spectacular waterfall at the south-eastern end. With many walking trails and tracks available, a trip here will no doubt open up the opportunity for a lovely stroll with the stunning, surrounding natural scenery as backdrop. Keep your eyes peeled, because you may just spot some koalas and other wildlife along the way. Immerse yourself in nature and take a trip to the Cleland Conservation Park.

With different levels of difficulty for each trail, this place is suitable for everyone and anyone. Stride through the easy terrain of the Adelaide Hills, or if you’re in the search for a physical challenge, then try your hand at a walk all the way up to Mount Lofty Summit instead.

The Utopia restaurant nestled at the base of the waterfall is an essential to visit while you’re here – with traditional Swiss chalet style architecture and outstanding food, its location makes it one of the most incredible dining experiences in South Australia; and it’s affordable, too.

When you plan your next visit to Waterfall Gully (because of course you’re planning it, who would say no to visiting after this amazing description?) then try to coincide your visit with recent rainfall in order to see the fall at its most impressive!

Note

  • Walking track all the way up to Mt Lofty summit (3.8km total)
  • Plenty of animal and bird life to see
  • Ample free car parking
  • Bring proper comfortable walking boots

Find out more here.

3. South Australian Museum

If you’re looking for a taste of South Australian history, then the South Australian Museum has hundreds of mouthfuls waiting for you. Located on Adelaide’s North Terrace, it is an excellent curation of South Australian history, with comprehensive blends between both natural and indigenous history. With one of Australia’s most extensive displays of indigenous Aboriginal art, artifacts and history in general, the South Australian Museum covers the entirety of the Aboriginal culture through both stories and physical items such as boomerangs, medicinal techniques and various other crafts. 

Main displays are spread out over 3 levels of specialty exhibitions. Take a dip into the past with both static and interactive exhibits that include photos, videos, interactive monitors and more to cater for all learning styles.

Natural history is also in-depth at the South Australian museum for all you museum enthusiasts, with skeletons of whales and dolphins, and Antarctic displays that examine Australia’s historic involvement with the frozen continent.

Overall, the South Australian Museum is one of Adelaide’s best indoor activities no matter the weather. And we haven’t even told you the whole story yet – it’s free, too (although a donation is recommended)!

Note

  • Beautifully curated displays of human and natural history
  • Fully wheelchair accessible on all levels
  • Exhibits on Ancient Egypt, Aboriginal culture, Megafauna, minerals & meteorites, opals, whales and dolphins, world mammals and more
  • Free guided tours available at 11am on weekdays

Find out more here.

4. Adelaide Arcade

The Adelaide Arcade is home to over 100 boutique and specialty stores that incorporate materials such as cast iron, marble and glass to wonderful effect. Built in 1885, this historic shopping hub is located right off the city’s central shopping district at Rundle Mall. Its beautiful tiling makes it a joy to stroll along, and you can peruse its extensive range of elegant stores, not to mention a wide variety of food and coffee, too.

The arcade houses an abundance of long-running retail icons (such as the must-visit Haigh’s Chocolates), from budget discount stores to exclusive niche items such as jewelry, hats, dolls and more.

If that isn’t enough, there is also a museum at the arcade that documents way into the past through vintage newspaper articles, photographs and other miscellaneous artefacts. Take a turn into the spooky season by embarking on a ghost tour – local legend says it’s haunted!

Note

  • Range of interesting shops and cafes
  • Easy access to Rundle Mall
  • Open 9am – 7pm Monday, Thursday, 9am – 9pm Friday, Saturday – 9am – 5pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm
  • 2 levels worth of shopping

Find out more here.

 

5. The Art Gallery of South Australia

If you’re an art lover, then you absolutely have to visit the Art Gallery of South Australia – there is no question about it. With stunning structural designs and exquisite displays of visual culture, this lovely building, and its cosy, intimate feel, is the perfect place to dive into rich South Australian art. 

The gallery features an eclectic mix of both old and new art housed within its older, colonial-style walls. As the birthplace of some of Australia’s most renowned artists, the sheer effort evident in maintaining this art gallery exemplifies the care that South Australia places into the art world. 

General admission is free and provides you with a day’s worth of artistic entertainment. If you prefer, pay a visit to the frequent specialist exhibitions, although, these do have a fee.

Note

  • Open 10am to 5pm daily
  • Extensive collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art
  • Good cafe serving quality coffee within
  • Over 38,000 individual works of art

Find out more here.

 

6. Mt Lofty Summit

Mt. Lofty Summit offers a sweeping, panoramic view of Adelaide and its surrounds like no place else on Earth. It is much more than just your average snap-and-leave lookout point. As the highest of the peaks in the Mount Lofty Ranges, visitors to ascend to the summit will reach a viewpoint 710 metres above sea level and gain a great outlook of Adelaide city itself as well as the surrounding plains and valleys. The attraction is designed to provide a balance of both education and views, with multiple information signs detailing local landmarks, coin-operated telescopes, a gift shop, restaurant and cafe all in one.

The hybrid restaurant/cafe at Mt Lofty takes “dining with a view” to a whole new level. The meals alone and surprising high quality food would be enough to attract any traveller in Australia, alongside the wide variety of cakes to pose as the great compliment to a cup of coffee. But what makes this place stand out is the astonishing views that literally take your breath away. On your Big Lap of Australia, you do not want to miss out on this whopper.

Additional Information

  • Visitors Centre open 9am to 5pm daily
  • Excellent restaurant offers sweeping views while dining
  • 15km from Adelaide CBD

Find out more here.

7. Victoria Square

Victoria Square, Adelaide’s heart of activities and events, has recently undergone a massive face-lift that is just waiting for you to enjoy. With up to date modern facilities and entertainment, Victoria Square is a thriving hub that is a great starting point for first-time visitors to Adelaide, with its central location serving both a convenient rendezvous and departure point for exploring the city. 

This face-lift brought with it a relocated tram line and extended tram stop, as well as impressive water feature, terraces and perimeter gardens, and a relocation of its famous Three Rivers Fountain.

Although one could claim it is just a “park”, the Square truly comes alive when hosting some of the city’s most significant events – including the Adelaide Fringe, Tour Down Under and various other happenings throughout the year. If visiting during an event-less time of year, then take the time to walk amongst calming fountains, relax in the shade, bring a book and sprawl under a tree, or take the kids along to play in the sandpits.

Note

  • Recently underwent extensive redevelopment
  • Three Rivers Fountain a staple attraction
  • Hub of annual events and activities
  • Easily accessible via public transport
  • Fun water feature for kids

Find out more here.

8. Himeji Garden Adelaide

Gifted to Adelaide by the Japanese sister city Himeji in the early 1980’s, this oasis offers tranquility and features that are hard to find in South Australia. The Himeji Garden offers many structures typical to a Japanese garden, as well as minimalist designs that are wonderful to stroll through, such as well-manicured shrubs and trees, the incorporation of sand, still ponds and the clever use of empty space. It’s a great spot to look for some peace and quiet, as well as being within easy reach of the CBD. 

The gardens provide refreshing spots for picnics, with a balanced blend of both sunny and shaded areas to enjoy regardless of season. Delve into delicious homemade food as you listen to the soothing melody of running water, adding to the atmosphere of peace that permeates the green surrounds.

The garden is divided into two sections: a “water” and “dry” area. Both emphasise different physical attributes, yet are similarly designed to evoke the inherent beauty of nature. Although it is easy to skip through the entire garden within 10 to 15 minutes, that entirely misses the point; instead, grab a book or bring along a packed lunch, empty your mind, and enjoy a welcome respite from the bustle of city life.

Note

  • Open 8am to 5:30pm daily
  • Guided tours available for groups of 10 or more
  • Two separate styles within the garden – lake and mountain, and dry garden

Find out more here.

9. St Peters Cathedral

Adelaide’s “the City of Churches” moniker was not given for no reason – Adelaide is home to some of the most remarkable religious architecture in Australia, some of which dates back to the early 1800s. The St. Peter’s Cathedral on King William Road is perhaps one of the most visually impressive examples of such architecture. It immediately brings to mind the more famous Notre Dame in France, with its grandiose and prominent spires and crosses in the traditional Gothic Revival style. The construction is a feat that is unbelievable for its era, featuring a degree of intricacy and care that one simply does not see these days. The attention to detail both inside and out is astounding. Stroll through its enormous halls, with stained glass windows, interesting copper sculptures populating the interior, and a high altar that leaves everyone’s mouths’ agape.

Volunteers at the cathedral offer free guide booklets that provide additional context and background on the church’s features for those interested – a nice touch. St. Peter’s Cathedral is particularly spectacular at night, as it is illuminated in a dazzle of lights! You do not want to miss out on this one.

Note

  • Multiple weekly services: Sunday 8:00am, 10:30am, 6pm. Monday to Friday 7:30am, 8:45am. Wednesday 10am, 5:15pm, 6pm.
  • Open to the public from 9:30am to 4pm Monday to Saturday; 12pm to 5pm Sundays.
  • Free information booklets available in multiple languages
  • Guided tours available for a small fee

Find out more here.

10. Maslin Beach

Although Adelaide’s region is not typically known for its amazing beaches, Maslin Beach is a quality stretch of waterfront in its own right, surrounded by majestic cliffs and long, clean sections of sand. Best known as Australia’s first-ever official nude beach, this slice of paradise offers much more than this unique gimmick – the waters are crystal-clear, in sheltered and calm conditions, making the ideal spot for a lovely swim. Scenic walks are available atop the clifftops, where you can take in the vast ocean and clean beaches – a testament to the pride and care locals take in keeping it clean.

For all you aspiring photographers embarking on your Big Lap, Maslin Beach in the evening offers one of Adelaide’s best photo opportunities, as the beautiful sunsets and warm glow reflecting of the calm waters makes for some fantastic shots. For those of you preferring to stay on the more “clothed” part of the beach, the northern end offers a strictly family-friendly section of beach.

Note

  • Australia’s first official nude beach
  • Public transport available via the Adelaide Metro
  • Gentle, protected waves make for leisurely swimming
  • Toilets and showers available

Find out more here.

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