Are you visiting Adelaide with plenty of enthusiasm but not so much cashola? No worries! There are plenty of amazing free things to do in Adelaide, that will show off the best of the city without forcing you to sell a kidney. As a local, I’m convinced that Adelaide is accessible for all – so let’s take a look at an impressive 25 free Adelaide activities that you can enjoy.
One of the many reasons that Adelaide is a great addition to any budget Australia itinerary is that there are so many free things to do. From cultural institutions to outdoor activities, there are so many free attractions in Adelaide.
Let’s take a look at the best on offer.
The best free things to do in Adelaide CBD
Most visitors to the South Australian capital will probably find themselves staying in the centre of Adelaide. If not, chances are you’ll find yourself in the city for at least a day or so.
The good news: there are plenty of fun, free things to in Adelaide. With these, you won’t even need to cough up for a bus ticket – pack your own lunch and you might as well break your debit card in half. (No, don’t do that, you’ll need it later).
Free arts and culture activities in Adelaide
Fair warning: I’m giving up any attempt at objectivity in this article and just rambling about how much I love my hometown. I make no apologies.
That said I am pretty convinced it’s an objective fact that we have some of the best cultural institutions in Australia. Even better? Most of them are totally free! How good is that?
Tandanya Cultural Centre
Of all the art galleries and museums in Adelaide, Tandanya is my favourite. It’s a celebration of Aboriginal art and culture, focussing on both traditional art as well as modern, contemporary artists.
It’s fitting that the name ‘Tandanya’ means the place of the red kangaroo in Kaurna language. The Kaurna are the owners of the Adelaide Plains, and have an enduring connection to the land to this day.
Not all of the artists exhibiting at Tandanya are Kaurna, and you can see many different styles of art. Mediums from photography to painting and clothing design are all represented.
Tandanya also puts on a calendar of great events, with the most well-known being Survival Day which is held on January 26.
I think it’s important to note that Tandanya is Aboriginal-owned and operated, and has been since it opened back in 1989.
Checking out the exhibitions is free, and the events are usually free as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re tempted out of some cash at the gift shop, but of course it’s totally up to you.
The South Australian Migration Museum
Another of my favourite free things to do in Adelaide is to pay a visit to the South Australian Migration Museum. It gives a really interesting look at the history of migrants to South Australia.
From the earliest Europeans through to more recent waves of migration, it shows how many different groups have shaped the state I live in and love.
While a couple of the exhibits haven’t changed much since I visited as a primary schooler in the 90s, there are quite a few modern and hands-on ones as well. In particular, I really liked reading diary excerpts from some of the earliest Irish migrants to Adelaide.
As well as the permanent collections, there are also temporary exhibits. At the moment, it’s all about souvenirs – the wackier, the better. I love anything a bit quirky, so I think it’s a great idea for an exhibition.
The Migration Museum is also a frequent participant in events like South Australian History Week. Be sure to check out their website and see if anything special is on!
The South Australian Museum
Yet another free attraction in Adelaide is the South Australian Museum. Yep, you can check it out without spending a single cent (unless the cafe gets you, like it did to me.)
Although the museum building on North Terrace looks pretty modern, it’s one of Adelaide’s oldest buildings. The museum opened in 1856, long before Australia’s federation back in 1901.
The museum has numerous permanent and changing exhibitions. Of all of them, my favourite is the Aboriginal history collection. It’s really well done, and very eye-opening. Aboriginal people should be aware that it does contain images of deceased people.
There’s also a pretty extensive taxidermy section; yep, just like the one in the Natural History Museum. Exactly like the Natural History Museum, it’s a combination of unnerving and intriguing.
Oh, and the lion’s tail does move. You’re not going crazy, I promise!
You can just do a self-guided tour, or there is a FREE (yay) tour. In spring/summer, it’s on daily at 11am. Check the website for other times.
South Australian Art Gallery
Also located on the wide and leafy North Terrace, the South Australian Art Gallery is another free Adelaide attraction. If you enjoy art, then this is well worth stopping in at.
It opened in 1881, not long after the nearby Museum. Since then, it’s grown to house more than 45,000 artworks from Adelaide and further afar. And counting.
These art pieces stretch back into history, and there’s also a focus on modern artwork as well. Frequent rotating exhibits mean that local, modern artists are well represented.
If you are visiting the South Australian Art Gallery then I recommend looking out for the works of Hans Heysen. One of South Australia (and Australia’s) most decorated artists, they have a very ‘Australiana’ theme, with lots depicting the Aussie outback.
The Mortlock Wing of the South Australian Library
The final venue to visit if you’re checking out the free cultural hotspots on North Terrace is the South Australian Library. While you’re free to explore the whole thing, I’d beeline for the Mortlock Wing.
I love a good library, and the Mortlock Wing is one of the best. It’s all very Harry Potter-inspired, with antique books and hardwood furniture.
It’s a popular study spot for local students at the nearby Adelaide University, so it’s very much a “lived in” place. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere and is well worth stopping to admire.
As well as visiting the Mortlock Wing, you might be lucky if your visit coincides with a special event. The library has a great calendar of talks, activities and more, so it’s worth taking a look at the website to see what’s on.
Check out the Bradman Collection at Adelaide Oval
If you grew up in Australia, then I’m pretty sure you know who Donald Bradman is. He’s just one of those omnipresent characters that are as ‘Strayan as a Chiko roll. (If you don’t know what that is, stay ignorant. For your sake.)
For those uninitiated: Donald Bradman was a really, really good cricket player in the early 20th century. He has now reached utterly legendary status in ‘Straya, and is particularly loved by Dads around barbecues.
If you are a Dad around a barbecue, or just fond of old Donny Bradman, you’ll love the collection of memorabilia at Adelaide Oval. There are lots of items in the Bradman Collection, and it’s an excuse to check out the stadium as well.
And it’s totally free, which is not bad at all.
Free outdoor activities in Adelaide
Adelaide’s weather is pretty amazing for basically the entire year. This means that getting out and about is a great option while in the city (says I, who I do believe is part-bat). Plus, exploring Adelaide’s beautiful outdoor areas is free!
Walk around the River Torrens
There are quite a few beautiful green spaces in Adelaide but my favourite is the River Torrens. Located in the north of the city, it’s a quiet and peaceful spot just a stone’s throw from the city’s main attractions.
The area near the famous “rotunda” is perfect for enjoying a picnic, or just plopping down to read a book. Or you can walk the loop along the riverbank and down towards the Adelaide Zoo.
It’s hard to believe you’re in the centre of Adelaide, as it’s just so peaceful. If you go early in the morning, you might catch rowers practising, while by day you’re most likely to run into some grumpy-looking pelicans.
One thing about the River Torrens, though: DO NOT attempt to swim in it. Every Adelaide kid grows up adhering to the unwritten rule to never swim in the Torrens, lest you end up with some kind of bizarre disease.
Visit the Adelaide Botanic Gardens
To get yourself even more lost in greenery in Adelaide, you can head for the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Covering more than 50 hectares, it’s a huge and gorgeous place in Adelaide. And of course, visiting it is totally free.
The gardens are so huge that it’s easy to find a little tucked-away corner where you’ll feel like you’ve got it all to yourself. Just watch out for teenagers hiding in bushes… it’s a well-known hotspot for, er, “dates”.
Stick to the main paths and your chances of running into young Romeo and Juliet are at a minimum. You’ll also spy lots of beautiful flowers and plants, including many that are indigenous to South Australia.
While just exploring the gardens is a fun and peaceful free activity in Adelaide, you can also join a tour. Most of them are free, including the daily tour that departs at 10:30am. Check the website for more details.
Other free things to do in Adelaide
Still looking for more ideas for free things to do in Adelaide? Don’t you worry, I’ve got you sorted.
Explore the West Terrace Cemetery
Hurrah! I couldn’t do a guide to free things to do in Adelaide without mentioning West Terrace Cemetery. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you might know I have a bit of a thing for cemeteries.
Well, now that I’ve made myself sound like a total and utter creep…
West Terrace Cemetery is, unsurprisingly, located on West Terrace on the edge of the Adelaide CBD. You can easily walk there from pretty much anywhere in the city.
The cemetery is South Australia’s oldest, having been established around 1837. It is now the final resting place of more than 150,000 people.
Amongst the graves there are a few of particular interest, including my personal favourite: the Somerton Man of the Tamam Shud Case. (There’s your Wikipedia rabbit hole for the day!).
There’s also the grave of Augusta Zadow, a prominent suffragette and trade unionist – aka a lady after my own heart).
One interesting thing about the West Terrace Cemetery is that many different denominations lay side by side – the Jewish and Catholic sections are particularly distinct.
It’s totally free to visit and explore for yourself, but there are also paid tours held throughout the year as well.
Take yourself on a self-guided walk
It’s not an activity per se, but Adelaide really is the perfect place to take yourself on a walking tour. Why? Well, I hate to brag but Adelaide is the best designed city in Australia.
See? We don’t just have the highest ratio of serial killers to brag about!
Adelaide’s grid-like city plan was quite revolutionary when it was designed by Colonel Light back in the 1800s. Plus, it’s a relatively compact city, so you don’t have to go traipsing all over the place to find the highlights.
The Adelaide City Council has put together a bunch of great walking routes. You can find them all here.
If you’d prefer not to walk, then there’s a great alternative thanks to the free 99A and 99C buses. This will take you all around the city, and won’t cost you a penny!
Tour the National Wine Centre
So, all too often ‘budget travel’ means living like a pauper. I mean, the #1 budget travel tip I’ve read for Adelaide is drink goon. Goon!
(For the uninitiated, that’s cheap and nasty box wine that will make you question all your life choices the next day).
You cannot come to Australia’s premier wine destination and drink WINE OUT OF A BOX. Strewth!
Okay, now that I’ve nearly given myself an eye twitch, let me give you an alternative. The National Wine Centre of Australia is the place to go and learn to impress your snobby friends with your newfound wine knowledge.
Plus, there are frequent events where you can taste wine for free. Any time of the day or year, you can also taste what’s on offer for $2.50 a pop. Okay, it’s not free – but it’s cheaper than goon and I’ll judge you far less for it.
The best free things to do in the Adelaide suburbs
Once you’ve experienced the best of the free things to do in the Adelaide CBD, I’ve got great news. There’s even more to enjoy for just the cost of a bus ticket.
Visit Glenelg Beach
One of the absolute best things about Adelaide is the proximity to many great city beaches. None are more iconic than Glenelg Beach, affectionately known as “the Bay” by locals.
Glenelg Beach is an incredibly beautiful beach, with clear water, tons of soft sand and activities (like volleyball) on the foreshore. The beach covers about 1.5 kilometres, so even though it can get relatively busy in summer, it’s never wildly overcrowded.
Honestly, Glenelg Beach is such an integral part of most childhoods in Adelaide that I hadn’t really stopped to think about how great it is until recently. But it is really, really good.
You could easily just spend a day at the beach – or perhaps take a walk along the sand to nearby Brighton. However, if you have the attention span of a gnat (like me), you might like to check out some of the other attractions.
The shops, restaurants and water park The Beach House are less budget-friendly, but they are fun if you’ve got some spare change.
Glenelg Beach is super easy to get to from Adelaide. Just hop on the tram and you’ll get there in about 25 minutes.
Visit Semaphore, Henley, Grange, Brighton or West Beach
Glenelg Beach gets a lot of hype, but it’s far from the only city beach worth visiting in Adelaide. In fact, if you were to stay a week you could basically pick a new one for every day.
Within half an hour there’s a slew of great beaches which are obviously all free to visit. My favourite is Semaphore Beach, which has a slightly bohemian vibe and a great esplanade nearby. I also love Brighton Beach, which is kind of like Glenelg’s scrappier little brother.
To be honest, though, choosing the best beach in Adelaide is kind of like choosing a favourite child – when all of your children are actually lovely.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with the beaches in Adelaide. Best of all, all of the ones listed in the heading are easily accessible by either the bus or train (which are both operated by Adelaide Metro).
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Take in the views from Mount Lofty
Yet another iconic free attraction in Adelaide is climbing up to “Mount Lofty”. Just ask any Adelaidean to show you their Instagram feed on a Sunday morning – the lookout will be well represented.
Located about 15 kilometres east of Adelaide, Mount Lofty Summit is the highest peak in the Adelaide Plains area.
The fact that it’s located in the “plains” may give away that even the highest peak isn’t really that high. It stands at 710 metres above sea level.
That said, because the city is so flat, you still get a really beautiful panorama over Adelaide. Plus, the walk up is quite picturesque and you get to join Adelaide’s smug elite after having achieved the climb!
If you’re not into walking (fair play) then you’ll be pleased to hear you can just drive up there and look out from the summit.
The car park is open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights, and, ah, again, look out for the flirty teenagers. Approach car windows with caution.
Explore the street art in Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide is one of the most underrated areas to visit in Adelaide – but I don’t think it will stay that way for long.
Like many former dock/port areas, Port Adelaide has a bit of a reputation for being on the rough side. Of course, we also know that hipsters are all about that, so it’s experienced quite the revival in recent years.
Although it still retains some of its gritty charm, the centre of Port Adelaide is pretty charming. There’s lots of interesting and historic buildings, including many which are related to the city’s maritime history.
As Port Adelaide is very much a lively and dynamic place, many of them are covered in interesting street art. There’s even a super cool street art festival called Wonderwalls, which I really hope returns in 2020.
Even if it doesn’t, you can just wander around the city and keep your eyes peeled for some amazing works. In particular, I love those that pay homage to the traditional owners.
Check out the Ship Graveyard in Port Adelaide
For something totally different but equally cool to do for free in Port Adelaide, you can check out the Ship Graveyard. Yep, it’s just as creepy as it sounds and I love it.
Between 1909 and 1945, Port Adelaide was home to dozens of ships that were used in a variety of industries. As the industry started to dry up and the ships became old and unusable, it was necessary to find a way to get rid of them.
The decision was made to retire them to ‘graveyards’ located around Port Adelaide. Today, more than 40 old ships are slowly crumbling into the sea.
I just absolutely adore this kind of creepy stuff, so you can bet I was all about that. Even better? There’s a totally FREE trail, so it won’t cost you a cent to let your imagination run wild amongst the crumbling vessels.
There are actually five separate sites, but I’d recommend heading for Garden Island which is where 25 of the ships are abandoned. You can find more information here.
Spend a day strolling around Belair National Park
There are quite a few National Parks in South Australia, and many of them are great free days out in Adelaide. However, Belair National Park is particularly special.
It’s Adelaide’s oldest national park, and the second oldest in Australia. (Also the eighth oldest in the world, so that’s pretty cool.)
If you like the outdoors and are interested in getting to know the rugged Australian landscape, I’m sure you’ll love it here. There are dozens of trails that are perfect for walking, cycling and even horseriding.
While walking, you might get to spot some Australian wildlife including magpies, kookaburras, koalas and even shy echidnas.
There’s also an abundance of free picnic areas, complete with free barbecue facilities! Anyone who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch clearly hasn’t read Journey with Georgie…
(Okay, so obviously the food isn’t free – but it’s still all very wholesome.)
Note: I recommend catching public transport and entering the Belair National Park on foot or on a bike, which is totally free. There is an entrance fee if you drive your own car.
Do a free tour of Haigh’s Chocolate Factory (yum!)
I feel like this one doesn’t need much of an explanation. You can tour Adelaide’s most beloved chocolate factory, Haigh’s, totally free.
You’ll find the chocolate factory in Parkside, just a few kilometres away from the Adelaide CBD. Here, you can watch some chocolate maestros at work – and maybe even taste some sweet treats.
The guided tours are totally free and are held every day. However, you do need to book your spot on the tour as they get quite busy. It’s easy to do, just fill out the form on their website and someone will be in touch.
Next stop: a chocolate lover’s paradise!
If you’ve got sturdy shoes on, you could probably walk from the Adelaide CBD to Haigh’s. However, there’s also a bus that runs regularly and takes only a few minutes.
Explore the Morialta Conservation Park
Another one of the best places to visit in Adelaide for free is the Morialta Conservation Park. It’s another one of those spots that make you go ‘aaaah!’ as soon as you breathe in that fresh country air.
While it does feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, Morialta Conservation Park is actually only 10 kilometres away from Adelaide. So you don’t need to worry about getting too lost in the wilderness out here.
You can expect to see lots of native plants and trees, and even animals if you’re lucky! Keep a particularly keen eye upwards as a lot of koalas call Morialta home.
There are lots of trails to check out, including a gentle 1.6 kilometre trail which wall take you around the Morialta Falls – one of the highlights of the park. (Note it dries up in summer, so you’re best to go in spring/winter if you want to see the falls).
Check out the waterfalls of Waterfall Gully
Another gorgeous, free park in Adelaide is Waterfall Gully. As the name suggests, this is the place to go if you love waterfalls. And really, have you ever met anyone who doesn’t love waterfalls?
In total, Waterfall Gully boasts seven beautiful waterfalls, which is pretty impressive. There are various different hikes which will take them all in – there’s even an app to help you find them. (And navigate them if you’ve got no phone reception).
My favourite actually combines two places on this list. The 4.5 kilometre hike between Waterfall Gully and Mount Lofty Summit will take in some of Adelaide city’s best views.
All totally free, of course.
If you do have some cash to splash, Waterfall Gully runs adjacent to Cleland Wildlife Park. Here you can see many native animals including kangaroos, koalas and wombats.
Discover a bit of Bavaria in Adelaide at Hahndorf
Of all the things you’re expecting to stumble upon in Adelaide, South Australia, a Germanic town may not be one of them. But be assured, there’s a little piece of Bavaria in the Adelaide Hills.
I’m talking about Hahndorf, a super picturesque town that’s been heavily influenced by German settlement. From German restaurants to butchers selling bratwurst, it’s like a little slice of Europe.
This is no tourist trap (well, maybe it is a little bit nowadays). It was founded by 50 German families who fled Germany in the mid-1800s due to the persecution of Lutherans. This is the reason for the distinctly German vibe.
While many of the things to do in Hahndorf do attract a charge, simply walking around doesn’t cost a cent. Plus, there are some free activities – like trying jams and preserves which are for sale in shops along the main street.
The best free things to do further out from Adelaide
There are plenty of free attractions right within the city or just a short trip away. However, if you have access to a car then there are a few other choices as well.
Visit the Barossa Valley’s best cellar doors
How much have I harped on about the Barossa Valley? Answer: a lot. Why? Well, because it’s probably my favourite place in South Australia.
Circling back to my dismay about tourists drinking goon, in the Barossa you can try some of the world’s best wine – for free. Yes, free!
While some producers have started imposing a modest fee for tasting (shame!) plenty of others are totally free. Even those that do charge a fee, usually make it redeemable on purchase.
Now if you’re on your own or all of your party wants to drink, you might want to opt for a wine tour, which will attract a cost (that said, the hop-on-hop-off bus is very affordable).
If someone is willing to take on the solemn duty as designated driver, however, exploring the Barossa can be a really cheap day out. Especially if you bring a picnic lunch which you can enjoy somewhere pretty, like Mengler’s Hill Lookout.
Pat the animals at the Big Rocking Horse
So I think they may recently have imposed a $2 ‘cover charge’ for entry to see the animals, but it’s so close to free that I can include it, right?
Anyway, yet another free Adelaide attraction that featured heavily in my childhood memories in the Big Rocking Horse in Gumeracha.
If you’ve spent any time in regional Australia, you may have learnt about our obsession with building “Big” things. Big oranges, big lobsters, and now Big Rocking Horses. It’s the largest in the world, apparently (although it doesn’t really rock).
My highlight, though, is the adjoining wildlife area which is home to a group of kangaroos as well as other animals. Today they are all happily living out their life in the large park, harassing tourists for food and chilling in the shade.
Sounds pretty good to me.
For $2 you can enter the park to look around, while another $2 will give you a bag of food to feed them with. Just watch out for the sneaky, sneaky alpacas who may try to steal it.
Explore the gorgeous beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula
Adelaide’s city beaches are beautiful, but if you really want to have your socks knocked off then I recommend going a bit further out.
Once you get away from the metropolitan beaches, you’re likely to find sands that are almost deserted. Another highlight: most beaches also boast a delicious bakery nearby, which is ideal for a tasty and budget-friendly lunch.
There are beautiful beaches dotted over much of South Australia, but the Fleurieu Peninsula is particularly gorgeous. Think kilometres of beautiful, white sand, clear water, etc etc – you know, all the prerequisites for an “OMG” beach.
There’s almost too many beautiful beaches to list, but some of my favourites include Sellick’s Beach, Second Valley Beach and – if you prefer things a little more lively – Port Elliot.
Discover “Little Cornwall” and the Copper Triangle
Growing up north of Adelaide, the Yorke Peninsula – and especially Moonta and Port Hughes – were #1 Mack family holiday territory. I’ve got lots of good memories of the beach there (and not so good memories of some serious sunburn).
I always knew that the area was referred to as ‘Little Cornwall’, but it really meant nothing to me – that is, until I found myself living in the actual Cornwall.
Now there’s certainly a lot of difference between the Cornish coast and that on the Yorke Peninsula. But there’s also a lot of similarities – not least the abundance of Cornish pasties for sale.
The beaches in this region are absolutely gorgeous (Wallaroo and Moonta Bay are two highlights). There’s also quite a lot for history lovers, especially in the “Copper Triangle” region of Kadina-Wallaroo-Moonta.
Some of the historic museums do charge entrance, but heading to the beach and keeping an eye out for the remnants of the area’s mining past is totally free!
Map of free things to do in Adelaide
Where to stay in Adelaide
To make the most of these free things to do in Adelaide, I recommend staying in the Adelaide CBD. From here, you’ll have easy access to everything on this list.
- Adelaide Central YHA (Budget) – my pick of Adelaide hostels is the Adelaide Central YHA. It’s clean, friendly and well located in the centre of Adelaide. Breakfast is even included in the price!
- Majestic Minima Hotel (Mid-range) – technically this is just out of Adelaide in North Adelaide, but there’s a free bus or you can walk. This charming hotel has a gorgeous mural on the outside and is cosy but comfy on the inside.
- Hotel Richmond (Upper mid-range) – in terms of location, you can’t get much more central than Hotel Richmond. Located in Rundle Mall, it’s an easy walk to all of the city’s attractions and has a great balcony.
- Mayfair Hotel Adelaide (Luxury) – got a little more room to move in your budget? I had the pleasure of touring the Mayfair Hotel when it opened and it really is spectacular. Plus, it’s super central location is really convenient.