The low-key South Australian capital offers a broad range of attractions and inspiration aplenty for a family holiday – from kayaking in a dolphin sanctuary to exploring edgy street art.
One of Adelaide’s affectionate nicknames is ‘the 20-minute city’, which rings true with regards to the time it takes to catch the tram to Glenelg Beach, the most popular stretch of sand in Adelaide. BYO beach ball and bounce between Glenelg and Semaphore beaches, where you will find plenty of space for a swim. Take the kids for a spin on the Ferris wheel and then hire some stand-up paddleboards from Stand Up Paddle in Seacliff.
The Adelaide Hills are – you guessed it – a 20-minute drive from Adelaide. Pick strawberries from the Beerenberg Farm patch at harvest time (November to April), or stock up on jams and preserves from the farm shop to enjoy on a picnic with panoramic views at Mt Lofty Summit. Children will be inspired to walk along a native bushland trail at nearby Cleland Wildlife Park if they know they will likely see koalas in their natural habitat. Grab a copy of the Gumnut Gazette to read articles on subjects such as ‘Scat Chat’ (about wombat poo) and Amazing Arthropods.
Adelaide is renowned for its flourishing cultural scene and the choices are endless for families who want to get their fix. While most of the major festivals are held over summer, you can also get your kids engaged in the arts mid-winter by taking them to a show produced by the Windmill Theatre Company or Patch Theatre. Children aged three to 10 will love the Patch production of Zooom inspired by the book Harold and the Purple Crayon (until 31 August). The 45-minute show ‘combines old-school whimsy with technology’ and invites the audience to help a lost star find its way home.
Treeclimb is Australia’s first inner-city aerial-adventure park. Located in Kurangga/Blue Gum Park, the innovative environment aims to excite thrill-seekers with treetops divided into five different levels of difficulty. Budding Ninja Warriors should aim high and tackle the Grand Course, which comprises 52 challenges that progress from green (easy) to black (tough). All up, children can keep the thrill level high by tackling all 70 obstacles, six zip lines and the exhilarating Tarzan swing. The site also includes public facilities such as BMX bike tracks and basketball courts.
Beneath the City of Churches’ mild-mannered exterior and avenues full of stately sandstone architecture is an edgy air that takes first-time visitors by surprise. Dive deep on a Jimmy C Street Art Tour of Adelaide with Flamboyance Tours to learn about the UK-born, Adelaide-raised artist (Jimmy C) and his drip-style form of street art. For sheer novelty, tweens and teens with limited attention spans will appreciate the short and sharp 90-minute snapshot of Adelaide’s street art scene and walls that artists such as Jimmy C have made their canvas.
Families with children aged eight and over (and at least 120 centimetres tall) will appreciate watching the sun set over the SA capital from atop the Adelaide Oval. Start the Roofclimb Twilight tour while the city is bathed in a soft mauve light, then take possession of the Riverbank platform, where you will hear some of the stories that make Adelaide so colourful. Before pulling stumps, take a moment to appreciate the 360-degree vistas over the twinkling cityscape and beyond to the coastline and rolling foothills.
Go for a morning paddle with Adventure Kayaking SA when the Port River is glassy and the sun is low in the sky. After launching from Garden Island, The Dolphin Sanctuary & Ship’s Graveyard Tour meanders through mangrove creeks and into the marine park sanctuary, home to some 40 bottlenose dolphins and an array of bird and marine life. In addition to exploring the sanctuary, a place of great ecological significance, the three-hour tour offers a snapshot of Australia’s early maritime history along the Ship’s Graveyard Trail, where these spectacular relics from the past were abandoned in and around the Great Depression.
Adelaide Central Market is a must-do for foodie families. Sign the children up to a free Market Minis tour to help them understand more about the food they eat in this dietitian-designed program by the team from Sprout Cooking School. While the children are learning how to cook seasonal, healthy meals from scratch, parents can navigate their way around the nearby stalls. Pluck some products from The Smelly Cheese Shop, Lucia’s Fine Foods and The Mettwurst Shop to enjoy on the remainder of your SA sojourn.
The River Torrens feels like part of the fabric of the city as its banks are strewn with canoodling couples, picnickers, power walkers and joggers loping along the well-lit paths. One of the best ways to see this side of Adelaide is via a sunset cruise onboard a BBQ Buoy, which you can launch at Pinky Flat. Children will love taking the doughnut-shaped boats for a spin up the river with its rippling reflections cast from the trees, sky and buildings. Customers can request a boat with a barbecue grill. BYO mettwurst.
Adelaide Zoo is home to animals that range from potoroos to penguins, orangutans to African lions. Check out the Today at the Zoo program and make a plan to meet the keepers, observe a lion being fed, and peep at the zoo’s giant pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni. Children will love the wild Animal Experiences, too, which include hand-feeding a giant giraffe and getting up close to mischievous meerkats. Make time to check out the brand-new Nature’s Playground at Adelaide Zoo, which includes an aerial walkway (with a zoo view), climbing structures, water play features and natural creek bed.
Let your children’s imagination run wild at The Carrick Hill Story Book Trail in Springfield which leads them to landscaped scenes taken out of classic stories such as The Secret Garden, Wind in the Willows and The Hobbit. The heritage building located on 40 hectares of land also includes an internationally significant art collection, pretty picnic areas and a burgeoning vegetable garden that is also home to a bunny statue named Peter Rabbit. Make sure your children are perfectly coiffed ahead of a high tea that is in keeping with the intensely British theme of the English manor house. Cucumber sandwiches anyone?
Join carloads of locals at the Mainline Drive-In for some old-fashioned fun. Tune your radio to the station that plays the film’s audio before lining up for snacks to enjoy when classic movies such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids flash onto the giant screen. Chances are your children may not have experienced this retro cinema tradition, so watching a movie under the stars in the suburbs will make for great holiday memories. Don’t wait for darkness to descend before you get comfortable: reverse the car in and bunker down with pillows and blankets. Pass the buttered popcorn.
The go-tos in Glenelg, just 12 kilometres from Adelaide’s CBD, include a ride on the Ferris wheel, a dolphin-spotting cruise with Temptation Sailing and a visit to the Beachouse, which has heated waterslides, Dodgem cars and bumper boats. Unwind along the Glenelg To Seacliff Coastal Walk, snap a selfie on Glenelg Pier and go for a jaunt along Jetty Road, which is lined with great eateries.
The Adelaide Riverbank snakes through North Adelaide, which is also fringed with pretty parklands. From here, you can ride in a gondola along the River Torrens, take a Popeye River Cruise, get an amazing glimpse into the lives of giant pandas at Adelaide Zoo, and check out the Bradman Collection at Adelaide Oval.
There’s much to see and do in and around Adelaide CBD. For starters, it’s a short hop away from the West End where you can rub shoulders with the cool kids at Sunny’s Pizza. If the skies are charcoal, head to science and tech museum, MOD. but if the sun’s out, hire free bikes and do a few loops of the Riverbank. A must-visit in the cooler months is The Winter Village, an alpine-inspired wonderland with igloos, ice skating and pop-up food stalls.
Getting from A to B
Getting around Adelaide is easy. Purchase a metroCARD Visitor Pass from Adelaide Airport, Adelaide Railway Station or Adelaide Metro InfoCentre to access three days of unlimited travel for one fixed fee. The card can be used on trams, trains and buses.
The Adelaide Rail Network will connect you to destinations such as Port Adelaide and Semaphore Beach, while the trams are most convenient for travel within the city, where they are free to use between the Entertainment Centre Station and South Terrace Station.
Adelaide also has a free City Connector Bus Service in the CBD, which is useful for travel to attractions such as the Adelaide Botanic Garden, Adelaide Zoo, South Australian Museum and Adelaide Oval.