3 days in Adelaide itinerary: 2023 guide for first-timers
Planning to spend 3 days in Adelaide? Great idea – it’s one of the most underrated cities in Australia. Discover what you can get up to during three days in the city and what options are available should you want to extend your trip.
Wondering what there is to do in Adelaide for 3 days?
First-timers to Australia often head to Sydney or Melbourne (and sometimes it can be hard to pick between these two).
These are both great cities. However – and I hate to say it – you are missing out if you don’t plan on visiting Adelaide.
A smaller city with a distinctly European flavour, Adelaide boasts just about everything Australia’s bigger cities have to offer, but without the tourist crowds.
You’ll find a fantastic events scene, renowned eateries and plenty of museums and galleries to explore. There’s easy access to beautiful beaches and interesting day trip destinations to choose from.
You don’t need to spend too long in this city, to experience what it has to offer. 3 days in Adelaide is enough to soak up the sights and squeeze in a day trip, if you fancy.
In this article, we’ll cover how you should spend this time in this fantastic city, offer some suggestions of where to stay and eat, and things to see outside the CBD.
Your 3 day Adelaide itinerary
Let’s dive straight in! Your Adelaide itinerary will include the following:
- Day 1: get to know the city
- Day 2: art & culture
- Day 3: take a day trip
- Bonus Day 4: beach day or explore an outer neighbourhood.
How many days is enough in Adelaide?
As Adelaide is a fairly small city, you can see most of the sights (and even throw in a day trip to somewhere close by) in 3 days.
If you’ve got the time, I recommend stretching your trip out to four or five days.
Ambitious travellers can squeeze in a day trip to both Kangaroo Island and one of the wine regions, such as the Barossa Valley or Adelaide Hills.
When is the best time to visit Adelaide?
Unlike Sydney or the tropical north, Adelaide has a fairly cool, dry climate.
Summer is warm, with temperatures generally in the twenties, with a top of 28-29°C (up to 84.2°F).
Winters tend to be mild to cold with average temperatures of 8-16°C (46.5-60.8°F).
If you’re a fan of the heat but don’t like crowds, consider visiting in February or March, when school is back in session and things in the city are a little quieter.
Like most of Australia, the shoulder seasons of autumn (March-May) and spring (September-November) are lovely, with a temperature range of 14-24°C (57.2–75.2°F).
I’ve mostly visited Adelaide in November and the weather has been excellent – warm days and balmy nights.
Discover the best time to visit Australia in general and why you should consider visiting in winter.
Time your trip to Adelaide with an event
There’s always something going on in this city. Here’s just a few events you can plan your 3 day trip to Adelaide around:
- Santos Tour Down Under (January)
- Heaps Good Festival (January)
- Adelaide Fringe (mid-February to mid-March)
- WOMADelaide (March)
- Adelaide Festival (March)
- Tasting Australia (April)
- Adelaide Guitar Festival
- TARNANTHI Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art (October to January)
Where to stay in Adelaide
With all the logistics out of the way, let’s get on with the fun part – planning your Adelaide itinerary.
So. What exactly should you do if you’re spending 3 days in Adelaide?
Here are a few suggestions.
Day 1: get to know the city
Let’s start by getting your bearings.
Adelaide is one of Australia’s planned cities, which means it’s fairly easy to navigate around on foot, rather than being a spaghetti street-type mess (I’m looking at you, Sydney).
Things to do on day 1 of your Adelaide itinerary
Here’s a few options for things to do while you learn your way around Adelaide.
1. Check out the city’s street art scene
Adelaide has a street art scene that rivals Melbourne’s.
Splattered on the side of buildings, down laneways, in parking lots and around corners you’ll find vibrant examples of street art, by local, national and internationally renowned artists.
If you’re short on time, I recommend prioritising the City of Music Laneways Trail, particularly the mural of musician Sia.
You should also most definitely check out the wall of cars (pictured above), because it’s rad.
Find out more about the street art in Adelaide and perhaps even jump on a guided tour – by pedicab, nonetheless.
You can even take a tour focusing on the works of artist Jimmy C.
2. Explore Rundle Mall
Rundle Mall is Adelaide city’s main shopping precinct and has just about everything you need.
It’s worth strolling through, dropping into stores as needed, and poking your head down laneways, stopping for a bite to eat along the way.
There’s also some delightful art to be found in the mall, such as ‘A Day Out’ – statues of four pigs snuffing around.
And everyone visiting Adelaide should get a photo next to ‘The Spheres’, most commonly known as the Mall’s Balls.
3. Poke around Adelaide Central Market
Adelaide Central Market has 70 traders under its roof, offering up all sorts of wares.
You’ll find everything from fruit and veg, meat and seafood to gourmet cheese, nuts and chocolate.
4. Climb the rooftop of the Adelaide Oval
Head out to Adelaide Oval to see the city from a different perspective.
The stadium offers roof climbs, which give you unparalleled views of the cityscape, and the foothills and coastline beyond it.
↠ Secure your spot on the rooftop climb
5. Cruise down the Torrens River/Karrawirra Pari
I personally love a good river cruise – you get to learn about the place you’re visiting, while drifting on a body of water. Perfect!
Check out the sights of Adelaide from the river that runs through its heartland.
↠ Book a place on a cruise down the Torrens River
Day 2: art & culture
With your first day in Adelaide done and dusted, it’s time to enjoy another full day in the city.
Things to do on day 2 of your Adelaide itinerary
On your second day in Adelaide, you’ll check out some of the city’s renowned museums and uncover a little bit of history.
1. Visit the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA)
The Art Gallery of South Australia is one of the best in the country (and there’s no shortage of decent art galleries in Australia).
The gallery hosts exhibitions by world-renowned artists – local and international superstars.
It’s also beautifully curated, with vibrant and sometimes very odd modern art nestled among oil painting of landscapes and portraits from the nineteenth century.
Best of all, entry is free, with donations accepted.
2. Check out the South Australia Museum
This museum has an impressive collection, focusing on Australian Aboriginal and Pacific cultures, earth and life sciences.
‘SAM’ contains over four million specimens and research projects based in everything from palaeontology to mineral science.
Definitely the place to go to while away a couple of hours.
3. Drop into MOD.
MOD. at the University of South Australia has a more futuristic twist.
Its collection is aimed at young adults of 15 and older and features exhibitions on Australia’s Indigenous heritage, climate change, science and AI, among many other things.
Entry is free. It’s well worth having a snoop around this immersive public space.
4. Poke around Adelaide Gaol
If you’re into gruesome history, then you should probably head to Adelaide Gaol.
It’s one of the city’s oldest colonial buildings and 45 people were executed within its walls (and their bodies are buried on the grounds of the gaol).
The gaol was decommissioned in 1988 and is now a premier tourist sites, accepting visitors day and night.
5. Jump on a ghost tour
Did you know Adelaide Gaol is one of the most haunted places in Australia?
Hear spooky stories and keep an eye out for grisly ghouls during a two hour nighttime tour of the gaol.
There’s plenty of other spots in the city to see a spectre or two, from the very haunted Adelaide Arcade, to Adelaide Zoo. Book early to avoid disappointment.
Day 3: take a day trip
You’ve spent a couple of days peeling back the layers of Adelaide. Now it’s time to explore what’s just beyond the city limits.
Things to do on day 3 of your Adelaide itinerary
There’s quite a few places you can head to on a day trip from Adelaide. Most are wine regions, with one notable exception.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to offer up three options. Pick the one that sings to you.
1. Barossa Valley
One of Australia’s oldest wine regions, the Barossa Valley is only an hour’s drive from Adelaide.
Its known for its rich reds (particularly the ‘Barossa Shiraz’), riesling and fortified wines. There’s over 90 cellar doors to explore.
The way I see it, there’s four options for sampling the best of the Barossa, when you’re heading there from Adelaide:
- self-drive with a designated driver
- hire a private driver (for something special, travel by via a vintage red cab or mustang convertible)
- book onto a hop-on/hop-off bus, so you can sample wine to your heart’s content, without keeping to a strict schedule
- get someone else to do the hard work for you, by booking onto a day tour to the Barossa Valley.
Unless someone in your group is happy to not drink, the other options are probably better bets.
2. Adelaide Hills & Hahndorf
A short drive from the city, Adelaide Hills is known for its gourmet food and wine scene, and picturesque villages.
One such village is heritage-listed Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. You’ll find German buildings, bakeries, pubs and cafes, only 30 minutes from Adelaide.
Apart from self-driving, you can experience Adelaide Hills during an organised tour, or book a spot on a hop-on/hop-off bus.
↠ The full day tour from Adelaide will take you to eight cellar doors, including Hahndorf Hill Winery.
↠ A hop-on/hop-off bus will shutter your between nearby wineries, with pick up and drop off in the city included.
3. Kangaroo Island
If wine isn’t quite your thing, but nature most definitely is, consider taking a day trip to Kangaroo Island instead.
A warning – a one day trip to Kangaroo Island is a big commitment, with about three hours of travel there and back, if you’re leaving from Adelaide.
If you have the time and means, I recommend spending at least one night on the island. It’s a big place, and there’s plenty to see and do there.
However, don’t let the travel put you off. If Kangaroo Island is high on your must-see list, an organised day trip is a great way to get it done.
There’s a few tours to choose from, depending on your preference. All include coach and ferry to the island from Adelaide in their price:
↠ Jump on a day tour to Kangaroo Island that takes you to sights such as the Remarkable Rocks and Seal Bay Conservation Park, with lunch included.
↠ Book onto a Sip and See tour to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide. It includes stops at a honey farm, eucalyptus distillery, winery and a two course lunch.
Day 4: beach day or explore an outer neighbourhood
I know this itinerary is specifically for spending 3 days in Adelaide.
However, if you’ve managed to squeeze in a long, long weekend visit to the city and are not sure of what to do with your extra day, here are some ideas.
Things to do on day 4 of your Adelaide itinerary
Spending a bonus fourth day in Adelaide? Explore these options.
Laze around Henley Beach or Glenelg Beach
If the weather’s fine, head to the beach. There’s two within close proximity to Adelaide city and getting to them is straightforward.
How to get to Henley Beach. Henley Beach is a 15 minute drive from the CBD. You can also get there via bus, which is around a 40 minute trip.
How to get to Glenelg Beach. Glenelg Beach is 11 kilometres southwest of the city, a 20 minute drive.
If you’re using public transport, the easiest way to get to Glenelg is by tram. Single adult tickets are currently $5.80, but it’s $4 if you use a MetroCard or tap your debit card.
Head to Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide is a riverside suburb of Adelaide, north of the city centre.
It’s an interesting place, well-worth exploring for a few hours.
Here’s what you can expect to find.
Check out the street art scene
Thanks to art festival Wonderwalls, almost every inch of Port Adelaide is covered in vibrant murals by renowned local and international artists.
You can walk the city streets or download the Visit Port Adelaide App for a map of all the works.
Grab a drink at or tour Pirate Life Brewery
One of the top spots to visit in Port Adelaide, the brewery’s headquarters has a delectable food menu and plenty of ales on tap.
Walk-ins and dogs are both very welcome.
Cruise out to a shipwreck graveyard.
Port River is home to many fascinating sights, including wild dolphins, ancient mangroves and a ship graveyard. Find out more during a 90 minute cruise.
Or spend a delightful three hours kayaking to the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, through the aforementioned mangroves.
Where to eat & drink in Adelaide
If you ask me, this is what you come to Adelaide for. The city has a fantastic food and drink scene, with something to satisfy every preference and budget.
Peter Rabbit is a garden cafe by day and a bar by night. The plates are huge and delicious – I’ve eaten here two days in a row, I was so curious about what was on the menu.
Late-night pizza joint Sunny’s not only offer delicious Napoli-style pizza, but have a particularly fun retro-fitout.
Daughter in Law is a favourite restaurant of mine in Melbourne and Adelaide’s iteration is just as delicious. Pro-tip: treat your taste buds to the IFC (Indian Fried Chicken) and Colonel’s TSO’s Cauliflower. It is ‘inauthentic’ Indian, after all.
Serious about spaghetti? Midnight Spaghetti are pouring South Australian wines alongside some pretty pleasing plates of pasta.
A little on the spenny side
If there’s a restaurant in Adelaide you’ve gotta eat at, it’s Africola. They serve up an $85pp ‘Feed Me’ menu – a label they take seriously, as it’s impossible to leave the restaurant without being stuffed full to bursting. Worth it – I regularly dream about their golden dhal.
Settle into Peel St and pick plates from their ever-changing chalkboard menu. It’s Southeast Asian dining with a Middle-Eastern edge and Mediterranean flair.
If you’re after the fanciest of feasts, you’re going to want to dine at Arkhé (it has southern rock lobster on its menu, after all). This open-flame dining experience is run by chef Jake Kellie and located in Norwood.
Here are a few watering holes you can order libations from, during your 3 days in Adelaide.
The Bibliotheca Bar & Book Exchange is a book-themed bar in the city. Sip on a top-notch cocktail in a cosy nook with your next read.
The wizard-themed Sorcerer’s Bar has everything from butterbeer shots to German schnaps.
Cry Baby Bar is located right next to Sunny’s and guarantees a good time.
Adelaide’s regal Mayfair Hotel does a delicious high tea within their Mayflower Restaurant.
It’s available every day from 1–3pm.
How to get to Adelaide
So, what’s the best way to get to Adelaide? Here are a few options.
The easiest way to get to Adelaide is by plane. Adelaide Airport is the city’s airport and is conveniently located very close to the CBD.
While there’s no train line to and from the airport, you can hop on a bus that will take you into the city. You can pay for the bus via a Metro card, which can be purchased from the airport ticket vending machine at the bus stop.
Alternatively, you can use a rideshare option. An Uber into the city is around $16-22 and a taxi $26-30.
Travelling from Melbourne? Catching the Overland train is a low-emission way to move between the two cities.
Tickets in Red Standard start from around $125, which can be much cheaper than flying.
One of the top travel experiences in Australia is catching The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide, or vice versa. Sigh. A girl with an interest in responsible travel can hope and dream – and save, I guess.
You can also drive to Adelaide as part of a multi-day journey. The closest cities to the South Australian capital are Melbourne and Perth (well, sort of).
It’s only eight hours (ha, this is by Australian standards) from Melbourne to Adelaide if you’re taking the super speedy route. However, you should probably include the Great Ocean Road in your trip planning, because it is gorgeous.
You can also drive from Darwin to Adelaide, which is an epic journey I would love to do some day, either by train as previously mentioned, or car. I’m not picky.
3 days in Adelaide: in conclusion
I’m fairly confident you’re now convinced that Adelaide, as Australia’s best kept secret, is a destination worthy of a few days of your time.
If you’d already made your mind up about spending 3 days in Adelaide (or more!), I hope this itinerary has helped you with your trip planning.
Have you been to Adelaide? What were the highlights for you? Or if you’re visiting in the near future, what are you most excited about seeing? For more on Australia, see my Australia Travel Guide.
After more inspiration for your trip to Australia? Check out the following:
- 7 day Melbourne itinerary written from a local’s perspective
- How to spend 5 perfect days in Perth
- Unique & beautiful places to visit in Victoria
- 30+ fun things to do in Perth
- Top Australian road trip ideas
- Small towns in Australia worth visiting
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- Memorable things to do in Hobart