Be it balloon rides in the Barossa, or a make-your-own-wine master class in McLaren Vale, Adelaide is an ideal base camp.
There’s so much to see and do in Adelaide that it might feel like an oversight for first-time visitors to head out of town. But the city’s proximity to everything from world-class wineries to wildlife parks means you just have to point your car in any given direction to find plenty of great options for exploration. After you’ve explored Adelaide, use the city as a base camp to experience the best day trips from the SA capital.
You must take to the road before you take to the air as the launch site for your sunrise adventure with Barossa Valley Ballooning is located an hour’s drive northeast of Adelaide, enabling you see some of the state’s stunning countryside along the way. Enjoy a breakfast with bubbles after soaring over the vineyards that have been sewn onto the earth around the Barossa Valley.
The cellar door experience at d’Arenberg takes on a rather different look when visitors are given free rein to play winemaker for the day. Blend and bottle your own wine at the Blending Bench at d’Arenberg where the craft of winemaking has evolved since the vineyard was established in 1912. Blend three distinctive wines to create a bespoke shiraz and snap a selfie with your newly minted bottle in front of the iconic d’Arenberg Cube.
Lovers of Riesling experience a big slice of the bucolic countryside on a ride that runs parallel to the old Riesling railway line. The 32-kilometre long Riesling Trail is steeped in history and one of the joys of this self-guided ride is that you can sip and roll your way through wine country without having to drive. The ride showcases the Clare Valley’s winemaking scene with single-stop cellar doors around Riverton where you can sample award-winning Rieslings.
Set off early and stay all day at Victor Harbour, which has a kicked-back holiday vibe all-year round. You’ll need to take a horse-drawn tram along the wooden causeway to nearby Granite Island, which makes this seaside escape feel even more magical. On the island, you’ll find a wacky sculpture trail; off the island you’ll find seals and dolphins on a Big Duck Boat Tour.
Catch the Cockle Train from Victor Harbour to Goolwa to learn about the town’s history as a river port in the mid-to-late 1800s. The SteamRanger Heritage Railway Cockle Train pulls into the heritage Goolwa Wharf precinct, at the mouth of the Murray, where you can link your journey on the steam train with a ride on a steam-powered paddleboat. Fun fact: the Cockle Train was named after the practice of locals catching the train to collect cockles for bait.
Give yourself plenty of time to linger in Strathalbyn, which has more than 30 heritage-listed buildings and is known for its history, hospitality and charm. Regarded as the antique capital of South Australia, the pretty village on the Fleurieu Peninsula was settled in 1839 by Scottish immigrants. Follow the River Angas walk and you’ll soon be surrounded by a surplus of natural beauty: think emerald-green hills, towering gums and wheat fields.
Catch the right day and you’ll see Maslin Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula – under an hour from Adelaide – at its best, with its red ochre cliffs set against a backdrop of blue sky. Nearby Port Willunga Beach is also worth a visit: snap a selfie near the pylons that stand like sentinels in the sand, marking the location of a long-gone jetty, and in front of the stunning caves carved into the stone by fisherman.
Climb onboard the PS Marion paddle steamer and set off up the mighty Murray from the river town of Mannum where you can chug through the water on cruises that range from an hour to overnight. Settle into the pace of the fully restored paddle steamer and enjoy the passing scenery as you amble along the river and appreciate both the serenity and the sheer Aussie-ness of it all.
Lofty ambitions for wine-lovers
Refer to Adelaide as ‘the City of Churches’ and you’ll likely be met by a collective eyeroll from locals. That’s simply because there’s so much more to the SA capital. Let’s start with the fact it’s located near to more than 60 wineries dotted everywhere from the Barossa to McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley. Lean into the charm of the extremely accessible Adelaide Hills with a visit to Mount Lofty, a 20-minute drive from Adelaide’s CBD.
Find more travel tips in our Ultimate Adelaide holiday guide.