Just started studying in Adelaide or thinking about travelling there once borders have reopened? Whatever your reason for exploring the city, it helps to know where to focus your efforts. No matter how much you want to spend, we’ve put together a guide to the best activities in South Australia to suit any budget.
Big budget activity: Kangaroo Island
In late 2019 and early 2020, Australia was devastated by powerful bushfires that left the country reeling, including the beautiful Kangaroo Island in South Australia. One of the best ways you can help recovery in these places is by visiting them, buying local products and supporting the local economy through tourism.
Return ferries from Kangaroo Island 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 wildlife is one of KI’s highlights. The Seal Bay Conservation Park is the only place in the world that allows you to walk amongst endangered Australian sea lions. You can spot koalas along the Koala Walk at the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, or try your luck finding little penguins in Penneshaw on a night tour. You’ll probably also encounter echidnas, goannas, and kangaroos all over the island, so keep your camera handy.
The island is also a great spot for food-lovers. KI is known for fantastic seafood, cheeses, wines and rare honey. Once you’ve finished feasting, swim or snorkel at picturesque beaches, see the stunning sunset at Vivonne Bay, and soak up the tranquil atmosphere at Stokes Bay or Western River Cove.
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. Here, you’ll find over 250 Australian and exotic species 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 photo ID.
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. You won’t find many animal enclosures here – most creatures are living in their natural habitat, meaning you can get right up close to them! 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 contains 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 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.
The Barossa is easily accessible, too; you can do it by bicycle, motorbike, vintage car, hot air balloon or helicopter.
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. Opened way back in 1869, you can feel the rich culture of this place from the moment you step inside. Sample the freshest fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese, baked goods and health foods, along with some 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!
The best free activities in Adelaide
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 up 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 layer 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.
Soak up some culture
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, so you can spend a whole day delving deeper into Australia’s history without spending a cent. Browse the fascinating exhibits and examine artefacts from the Ngarrindjeri people at the Museum. At the Gallery, enjoy Australian, Indigenous, Asian, European and North American art, and join a free guided tour to learn all about the Gallery’s collection.
Catch some sun 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. Right on the beach is The Beachouse amusement park, where you can enjoy mini golf, waterslides, rides and arcade games.
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!).
Find peace at Himeji Gardens
If you love Japanese culture, the Himeji Garden is 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 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.