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Must-Do Adelaide Activities for Every Budget

This article is sponsored by UniSA

Looking forward to studying in South Australia in 2023, or eager to explore one of Australia’s most liveable cities?

Whatever your reason for travelling here, it helps to know all the unique things you can do in and around Adelaide. No matter how much you want to spend, we’ve put together a guide to the best activities in Adelaide to suit any budget.

Big budget activity

Kangaroo Island

Australia’s third-largest island, Kangaroo Island (KI), requires more than a day trip to fully experience everything it has to offer! You can hike through rugged national parks, explore the coastline on a quad bike, go kayaking, and so much more!

Return ferries from KI can be expensive, but there are discounts offered to students studying in Australia, and you can find cheaper hostels and Airbnbs to stay at.

The island is a great spot for food lovers. KI is known for fantastic seafood, cheeses, wines and honey. Be sure to check out the island’s picturesque beaches and indulge in some adventurous activities such as sand-surfing at Little Sahara

The wildlife is also one of KI’s highlights. From sea lions, koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, goannas, and little penguins, you’re bound to spot some animals on your travels, so keep your camera handy.

Flinders Ranges

Another thrilling excursion is a visit to the Flinders Ranges. This is where you get to explore outback Australia, take in the beauty of the dramatic landscapes dating back to over 600 million years, and appreciate the richness of South Australia’s Aboriginal history.

If you love outdoor camping, 4WD adventures, bushwalking, and stargazing, the Flinders Ranges are the place to explore. Many tour operators host trips here, and you might be able to get a discounted tour as a student. If you have a car, you can road trip to the Flinders Ranges. It takes about five hours to drive from Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, so it’s advisable to stay for a few nights so you get the most out of your travel. 

The best cheap activities in Adelaide

Check out the animals at Adelaide Zoo

You’re never too old to have a great zoo day, and Adelaide Zoo is one of the best in the country. It’s the second-oldest zoo in Australia and is favoured by both locals and travellers. There are over 250 species of exotic and native Australian wildlife, and more than 2,500 animals – including two giant pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, who have lived in Adelaide since 2009. Plus, as a student, you’ll get discounted concession entry tickets – just bring your student card.

Attend one of the free keeper presentations throughout the day and pay a little extra for unique animal experiences, such as hand-feeding a colony of little penguins or meeting one of the big cats.

Meet some locals at Cleland Wildlife Park

If you want to get up close and personal with some adorable Aussie animals, look no further than Cleland Wildlife Park for a super easy Adelaide day trip. You won’t find many animal enclosures here – most creatures are living in their natural habitat. Look out for kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, native birds, echidnas and snakes. Buy a bag of food and you can feed the free-roaming animals. You can even touch them (just make sure to wash your hands after). For a little extra, you can enjoy unique encounters with koalas, reptiles, butterflies and wombats, and learn all about these animals from experienced keepers.

Try Aussie wines in the Barossa Valley

One of Australia’s best wine regions, the Barossa Valley, is full of fantastic wineries both big and small. Only an hour out of Adelaide, the Barossa definitely makes for one of the best day trips from Adelaide. It has 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors, and is surrounded by cute villages, stone churches and rolling hills. It is the home of Australia’s most famous red wine, Penfolds Grange, as well as other big wineries like Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass. You’ll also find some of the finest produce in the country here; Maggie’s Farm Shop is an Adelaide icon and The Farm Eatery next door has an incredible menu packed with local wares, 40’s Cafe sells award-winning pizza, while the cellar doors you visit will usually offer a delicious cheese platter to enjoy with your wine.

Adelaide Central Market

Wander around Adelaide Central Market

The largest undercover produce market in Australia, Adelaide Central Market is full of life, colour and dedicated traders all year round. Opening in 1869, the markets have a rich history and a unique culture. Sample the freshest fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and baked goods, or grab a meal at one of Adelaide’s best eateries. You can also join a tour and learn about the unique history of the market and all the delicious things you’re tasting.

Adelaide Central Market is South Australia’s most-visited tourist attraction, with over nine million visitors a year. Make sure you’re one of them!

Check out Adelaide Planetarium

If you are into stargazing and love astronomy, the Adelaide Planetarium, based at the University of South Australia‘s Mawson Lakes campus, is the perfect place for you. The best thing is, you don’t have to travel very far from Adelaide to explore the wonders of the universe. The planetarium is open during weekdays and offers a range of activities such as projector simulations, the Night Sky experience, movies, special learning courses, and immersive guided events at reasonable prices. 

The best free activities in Adelaide

Mount Lofty

Trek up Mount Lofty

Mount Lofty offers incredible views of the entire city and costs nothing to experience. At 710 metres above sea level, there are several ways you can get to the top. Drive if you’re in a rush, or take the one to three-hour hike or bike ride if you’re feeling up to it – just make sure to pack a bottle of water and apply a generous amount of sunscreen. You can also pack a picnic and spend the day on the mountain spotting kangaroos, emus and other wildlife. Then, you can wander over to Waterfall Gully or Mount Lofty Botanic Garden and experience the natural beauty of this unique region of Adelaide.

Dive into museums and exhibitions

Museums and galleries are some of the best ways to get to know a city on a student budget. Luckily, you’ll find the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia right next to each other, and both have free entry, so you can spend a whole day without spending a cent. Browse the fascinating exhibits and examine artefacts from the Ngarrindjeri people at the Museum. At the Gallery, enjoy Australian, Asian, European and North American art, and join a free guided tour to learn all about the Gallery’s collection. Meanwhile, MOD. – a museum of discovery – will have a new ‘INVISIBILITY’ exhibition opening in February 2022 that shines a spotlight on the unseen to help us understand the world better. 

Catch some waves at Glenelg Beach

You can’t go wrong with a beach day when you’re trying to save money. The most popular beach in Adelaide is Glenelg Beach, and you’ll find the beach busy with sunbathers, swimmers, joggers and cyclists. Here, you can spend the day alternating between people-watching on the shore and taking a dip in crystal-clear water. 

The suburb of Glenelg is buzzing, with the beach surrounded by lots of fantastic cafes, pubs and boutiques. You can spend a day exploring the suburb without spending anything, but you might want to splash out and spend a few dollars to grab an ice cream to eat while you walk along the jetty, or some fish and chips to enjoy on the sand (look out for seagulls!).

Himeji Gardens

Find peace at Himeji Gardens

If you love Japanese culture, the Himeji Gardens are the place to be. An oasis of tranquillity right in the heart of the CBD, the Garden was a gift from Adelaide’s sister city in Japan, Himeji, in the early 1980s. Wander through perfectly manicured shrubs and trees, still ponds and gorgeous lily pads. With shady and sunny areas, the Garden is the perfect place for a picnic any time of year. Spot goldfish, ducks and turtles in the Garden’s water feature, accompanied by a hidden waterfall under the trees. Check out an authentic Japanese Zen garden and teahouse, and enjoy intricate Japanese architecture. The best part? Entry to the Garden is entirely free.

Students at the University of South Australia have access to a wide range of activities, both on and off-campus, including a Summer Social program with free or low-cost options including an Adelaide Oval Roof Climb, paddle boarding, yoga, painting classes, movie premiers and more. Find out more about studying at the University of South Australia!