Are you lucky enough to be planning to do some backpacking in Adelaide? Or maybe you need a little more convincing to add the South Australian capital to your itinerary? Either way, I’ve put together the best of my local knowledge into this bumper guide to backpacking in Adelaide.

Now, fair warning: this post is a stomper – it might just be the longest I’ve ever written. So I’d suggest grabbing yourself your favourite beverage, or maybe just breaking it up into multiple sittings. (Do people still ‘bookmark’ things?)

Hopefully, this guide to backpacking in Adelaide can convince you to swing by my neck of the woods. If you do have any questions about visiting or living in Adelaide, feel free to leave the question in the comments – just be prepared for a lo-o-o-ong answer.

Why should you go backpacking in Adelaide?

Adelaide is often overlooked by backpackers who hit up the eastern seaboard hotspots like Sydney and Melbourne. I’m not going to lie, this phenomenon does make my soul wither and die a little.

Trust me: things are pretty good down south! Having hosted lots of backpackers in Adelaide through Couchsurfing, I’m pretty pleased with how my city stacks up. 

If you’re looking to enjoy all the best things that Australia has to offer, without the crowds or the price tags of the eastern states, you should definitely consider Adelaide.

Grosset Wines in the Clare Valley
The wine. The wine is one of my top #5

My top 5 reasons to visit Adelaide

For more reasons for why you should budget travel in Adelaide, here’s my top five reasons to go backpacking in Adelaide.

Friendly people who love tourists

You know what happens when you live in a city that’s filled with tourists? They start to drive you crazy. Just ask any Londoner, Parisian or Sydneysider how they feel about tourists. Generally: not great.

Adelaide, by contrast, is practically falling over itself to welcome tourists. When South Australia was awarded one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 regions back in 2015, the whole city celebrated. Free coffees were given out. Self-congratulating occurred. 

People from Adelaide are friendly, helpful and far from burned by overtourism. They’ll love to help you in any way they can, and will probably strike up a conversation at every possible opportunity.

Is it a Londoner’s idea of hell? Probably. Does it make travelling in Adelaide a warm, welcoming experience that will restore your faith in humanity (at least a little)? I think so.

It’s really safe

When I was planning out what to put in my “Adelaide backpacker’s guide”, I considered adding a separate section on safety. Then I got kind of stumped thinking about what I would actually include in said safety section.

Adelaide is an incredibly safe city. Even our “unsafe” areas are super safe compared to most cities throughout the world. Of course, crime happens absolutely everywhere in the world — but it’s extremely unlikely you’ll experience it in Adelaide.

Pickpocketing? Never heard of it. As someone who has a habit of leaving their valuables in inconvenient places (especially public, train station bathrooms, which are not usually known for their wholesome stories of strangers helping strangers), I can tell you it’s actually surprisingly difficult to get your stuff stolen in Adelaide.

While the people are, generally, big teddy bears, the only thing I’d advise you to be aware of is the sea. Our beautiful beaches can be prone to rips, so be careful while swimming. Also sharks are kind of a thing. Just run if you hear the shark siren.

West Beach
West Beach, just a few kilometres from Adelaide!

We have the best of everything!

If you’ve spent any length of time talking about or researching visiting Adelaide as a backpacker, you might have heard the accusation that Adelaide is boring.

Lies, damned lies!

If pushed, I could come up with some criticisms of Adelaide (it’s too hot in the summer). However, “it’s boring” would not be one of them. 

Think about it. What do you want to see in Australia? Beautiful beaches – we have literally half a dozen less than 30 minutes from the city, and they’re all stunning. Great food? Uh, let me take you to Central Market, the southern hemisphere’s largest undercover food market, or maybe to try some of our multicultural restaurants.

By night, you’ll find a dazzling selection of wine bars, cocktail bars, pubs and more… with no 1am lockout. Take that, Sydney!

Then there’s the wine regions (the Barossa, McLaren Valley and Clare Valley, just to name a few that can be reached in under an hour). Oh, and the amazing national parks close to the city (Waterfall Gully clocks in at just 10 kilometres away.)

If you’re willing to head a little bit further out, then the options are even more amazing: the unspoiled wilderness paradise that is Kangaroo Island, the charming outback region of the Flinders Ranges, or the jaw-dropping beaches and mining heritage of the Yorke Peninsula.

Boring? I think not.

And the country’s best wine

There’s no way around it. Adelaide is home to Australia’s best wine regions. Don’t just take my word for it — Adelaide has been named as one of the top ten wine capitals of the world.

Within easy day trip distance of Adelaide you have the Barossa Valley, widely regarded (by unbiased people who grew up there like myself) as Australia’s best wine region. Even if you don’t know the Barossa, chances are you’d seen some of their wine such as Jacob’s Creek, Wolf Blass or Kellermeister.

Offering up one great wine region would be pretty amazing – but we don’t stop there. There’s also the McLaren Vale (with the famous “cube”), the Adelaide Hills and the Clare Valley as well. 

If you love wine – or you just enjoy a cheap way to get tipsy – then Adelaide’s wine credentials are impressive.

Glass and tasting notes at Grosset Wines
Wine tasting at Grosset Wines

It’s easier on your wallet than many other states

Australia used to be considered a fairly expensive country for backpackers, although I think that tumbling Aussie dollar has helped. (Please spare a thought for us Aussies experiencing the opposite conversion rate!)

That said, hotspots like Sydney and Melbourne can still be extremely expensive. Basics like food and accommodation can be on the pricey side, while you might need to sell a kidney for most activities.

Things are a lot better in Adelaide. I’ll be honest – the second-mortgage-for-activities thing is kind of Australia-wide. However, in terms of accommodation, food and transport, you’re likely to take a serious sigh of relief when you see Adelaide prices.

When is the best time to visit Adelaide?

Any time you want! (Am I coming across as a tad needy?)

Anyway, Adelaide is a pretty great year-round destination. It does get surprisingly cold during the height of winter, but luckily it doesn’t stick around for long. 

Adelaide has four pretty distinct seasons – don’t be fooled into thinking we’re a tropical destination like Queensland or the Northern Territory. 

Summer is between December and February, and is the most popular time to visit Adelaide. Temperatures can get really hot – days above 40 C are not uncommon, and heatwaves are always a threat. 

That said, one great thing about Adelaide is that it is dry heat, which I find way more manageable. We basically never have humidity – I’d take 36 degrees in Adelaide over 26 degrees in Darwin, any day!

During summer, there are a number of festivals around Adelaide. This includes the famous Fringe festival, which starts at the end of February.

Just a casual 40 degrees or so this day!

The bulk of the Fringe is actually held in March, meaning it’s technically autumn. Even still, temperatures usually stay really warm during autumn, and there are still lots of great festivals. It’s not quite as intense, and things definitely start to drop as you head towards winter.

Winter does happen in Adelaide, don’t be fooled! It can get really chilly during June/July/August in Adelaide – I’m talking less than 10 degrees! Yuck!

 That said, prolonged periods of rain are pretty rare, so it shouldn’t put too much of a dampener on your plans.

Things warm up again starting in September and through October (aka Georgie’s Birth Month) and November. 

Spring is a really nice time to visit Adelaide, especially if you want to see the wine regions. They’re typically pretty green, although let’s be honest – this is Adelaide, so ‘green’ is kind of relative!

Okay, so after that overload of information: when should you visit Adelaide? If you’re coming for festivals, I recommend visiting in February/March. Otherwise, pretty much any time between mid-September and April are pretty guaranteed to have good weather.

Of course, if you can only come at another time – don’t worry! You can definitely make it work.

Adelaide CBD at night lit up with lights
Adelaide CBD lit up at night

5 amazing festivals to attend in Adelaide

One of the best things about Adelaide is the abundance of festivals! They’re held all throughout the year and many are budget-friendly. Here are my five top picks to experience while backpacking in Adelaide!

Fringe Festival (February/March)

It’s the big one! Every February and March, Adelaide throws a LAVISH party to remind ourselves that we actually are pretty cool. And what an amazing festival it is.

The festival initial began as a celebration of all the arts on the “fringes” of the mainstream. Think comedians, magicians, burlesque dancers and all the other performers that the hoighty-toighty types turned their noises up at.

Since then, it’s grown to be the second largest arts festival in the world (after the Edinburgh Fringe). It’s an amazing month long smorgasbord of shows, exhibitions, festivals and more.

Even if you’re backpacking in Adelaide and on a budget, you can still enjoy the Fringe. While larger acts can be expensive, there are still plenty of shows that cost just $5 or $10 a ticket. 

There’s also really good deals to be found – including freebies! The /r/adelaide subreddit and Fringe Deals pages are both great places to snag some bargains and even free tickets. I can’t promise you everything you see will be good, but it’s always interesting!

Wine at a winery in The Barossa Valley, one of the best day trips from Adelaide
You won’t need to travel far to taste the best of South Australia!

Tasting Australia (March/April)

A festival that lets you taste all the amazing regions of South Australia is one small space? Hallelujah! It’s no wonder this is one of my favourite festivals in Adelaide, and one I highly recommend to backpackers.

I mean picture this: you get a souvenir glass that you can take all around the various stalls laid out on Tarndanyangga (Victoria Square) under the festoon lights. Think a little bit of Coonawarra Cab Sav followed by a big Barossa Shiraz… and maybe a pinot from the Hills if you’re feeling a bit ~lighter. 

There’s also great food, live music and those fabulous ~vibes that everyone is always banging on about on Instagram. That’s Tasting Australia, and if you’re in Adelaide in March/April, I highly recommend swinging by.

Cabaret Festival (June)

Another fabulous arts festival that’s held every year is the Cabaret Festival. I just looove everything cabaret, and so I feel pretty lucky to live in the town that’s home to the world’s largest festival devoted to it!

The Cabaret Festival sees some of the best cabaret performers in the world visit Adelaide, while you’ll also find some more informal shows around Adelaide. 

While those organised by the Festival Theatre can be on the pricey side, you can keep your eye out for bargains and cheaper adjacent events.

Umbrella: Winter Sounds (July/August)

Adelaide tends to stuff many of its events into a short few weeks, in a phenomenon known as “Mad March”. That’s why I’m so glad to see an event smack-bang in the middle of winter.

It’s enough to tempt us Adelaideans out of our post-Fringe slump, and out into the bars for some fabulous music.

Organised by Music SA, one of the things I love about the Umbrella: Winter Sounds festival is that it’s very accessible, even for smaller artists. While the big names of the Fringe and Cabaret are great, I also think it’s important we foster a local, smaller scene as well.

Best of all, quite a few of the events are totally free – so definitely get along to one if you’re backpacking in Adelaide in July and August!

OzAsia Festival (October/November)

Just as the city is waking up after winter, the OzAsia Festival arrives on the scene. Beginning with a fabulous opening ceremony complete with lanterns and a dancing dragon, it bursts to life each October.

The opening ceremony ushers in a fabulous festival celebrating Asian culture and engagement, including food, shows, events and more. There’s a great calendar of things to do and see – Phare the Cambodian Circus was a particular highlight last year!

Even if you don’t get along to any events, I highly recommend paying a visit to the market near the banks of the Torrens to try some delicious street food!

Getting to Adelaide

To go backpacking in Adelaide, you’ll need to get here first! Here’s how.

Visiting from overseas

Adelaide is surprisingly well connected to the rest of the world! Gone are the days of having to fly east to Sydney or Melbourne before flying out of Oz. Today, Adelaide stands on its own two feet!

Some of the airlines and destinations that fly direct to or from Adelaide airport internationally are:

  • Emirates (the UAE)
  • Qatar Airlines (Qatar)
  • Jetstar (Denpasar, Indonesia)
  • Fiji Airways (Fiji, yass!)
  • China Southern (Guangzhou, China)
  • Air New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand)
  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
  • Singapore Airlines (Singapore)
  • Malaysia Airlines (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

I also hear rumours that a direct flight to Los Angeles may be on the horizon: I’ll keep you posted!

Of course, there’s an even wider selection if you don’t mind stopping over somewhere along the way. Sydney and Melbourne are both international hubs for Australia, while Europe is well connected via Dubai, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

Campervan on the Road to Wilpena Pound
Roadtrip?

Visiting from interstate

If you want to visit Adelaide from elsewhere in Australia, you have a few options depending on your budget.

Flying

Chances are the best way to visit Adelaide is to fly. 9/10 it’s your cheapest option, and it’s always the fastest! 

Adelaide is well connected to most major cities including Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Perth. A range of airlines fly between these cities, but your cheapest options are usually Tigerair or Jetstar.

Tip: Subscribe to Tigerair’s newsletter for their great “Tiger Tuesday” deals! I also rely heavily on Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights.

Bus

Another option to get to Adelaide from interstate is to catch the bus. I’m generally speaking not a huge fan of this option because it’s a) slower and b) more expensive than flying. 

However, there are those pesky emissions to think about – and also buses can be great if you want to stop off at smaller towns along the way. They nearly all end up at the big bus station on Flinders Street, right in the centre of Adelaide, which is also a little more convenient than the airport.

If you’re coming from Melbourne, a good option for the bus is Firefly Express, which services various towns along the way (such as Ararat, home to the ultra-creepy abandoned asylum). Greyhound is another well-known bus company that operates in Australia.

Just keep in mind the distances you’re looking at – Adelaide’s closest big city “neighbour”, Melbourne, is 800 kilometres – or a 10 hour bus ride – away.

12 Apostles at the Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is a fab way to get from Melbourne to Adelaide!

Driving

If you’ve got access to a car, then driving is a great option for getting into Adelaide if you are coming from Melbourne or another “nearby” location. There are lots of great road trips leading into Adelaide, and you’ll get to see some real outback!

Driving becomes increasingly cost efficient the more people who travel together. You might be able to find travel buddies at your hostel, or Couchsurfing is a good resource to find people (with reviews!) to travel with.

Another option to drive to Adelaide on a budget is to look into campervan relocations. I’ve never done this myself, but I’ve always been intrigued by the idea and would love to give it a go!

It looks like a great way to save some cash and have an awesome adventure. Pretty fabulous if you ask me!

Train

There is one. It’s crazy expensive. If you’re a backpacker on a budget, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Torrens River in Adelaide, with water fountain
Staying in the CBD is ideal if you are backpacking in Adelaide

Where to stay in Adelaide

If you are staying short term in Adelaide, then I suggest staying in either the Adelaide CBD or Glenelg. However, if you are planning to stay longer then there’s a bit more choice!

Adelaide CBD

If you’ve only got a short amount of time in Adelaide, then I recommend staying in the centre of Adelaide. It’s easy and convenient, and you’ll probably save some dosh on transport as you can walk pretty much everywhere.

  • Adelaide Central YHA – my pick of all of the hostels in Adelaide, this one is clean, friendly and centrally located. It’s not the cheapest hostel by a few dollars, but you get a free breakfast!
  • Backpack Oz – generally the cheapest hostel in Adelaide, Backpack Oz is a little bit older than the YHA, but it’s still clean and safe. It also enjoys a good location in the city.

Glenelg

If you’d prefer not to stay in the city, then I recommend heading for beachside Glenelg instead. There’s the tram, which makes popping back into Adelaide a breeze, while the suburb itself is beautiful. Early morning swims and night-time drinks at a waterfront bar? Sounds good to me!

  • Glenelg Beach Hostel – if you love the beach then you’ll love this hostel within walking distance of Glenelg’s foreshore. There’s a kitchenette to prepare your own meals, and even a library.

Permanent rentals etc

If you are planning on staying in Adelaide for an extended period, for example on a working holiday, you’ll need to find some more permanent accommodation. 

In general, rental accommodation around Adelaide is fairly easy to find if you have proof of employment. Compared to rental prices in some other states, Adelaide is not too bad – although there are certainly some residents doing it tough.

To keep costs down, your best bet is probably to look for sharehouses. Some popular places to find share houses include Gumtree and Flatmates. Facebook Marketplace is another good place for finding places to share.

There are quite a few nice places to live in Adelaide, but some of my favourites include:

  • Norwood (nice, close to the city, lots of cafes/shops – pricey, though)
  • Bowden/Croydon (close to the city, hipster vibes)
  • Port Adelaide (up-and-coming, quirky, on the direct train to Adelaide)
  • Blackwood (country vibes, lots of nice walks, a bit further from town)
  • Findon/Underdale (close to the city, up-and-coming)
Street Art in Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide is a fun, up and coming area with lots of great street art!

Getting around Adelaide

As much as local Adelaideans love to complain about our public transport system, it’s actually pretty good. There are buses, trains, trams and even the “o-bahn”, a strange train/bus hybrid that is really odd, come to think of it.

At present, they are all operated by our public transport department, Adelaide Metro. This makes things super simple – the same ticket works for pretty much all of the suburban public transport.

If you have more than a day in Adelaide, I recommend buying an Adelaidemetro card for $5. It’s one of those rechargeable cards (look at us, Adelaide, getting all 21st century!) and the prices are much cheaper to use the card over a single trip ticket.

Once you validate your ticket, you are entitled to use any public transport for up to 2 hours. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me!

Even better – public transport is free within the city centre. You can catch the tram between East and West Terrace without paying a cent, and there’s also the 99C bus as well.

AdelaideMetro Ticket Prices

If you are planning to travel a lot then you may be interested in the 3 day ($25.50), 14 day ($61 adult/$30 concession – more details here) or 28 day pass ($101 adult/$60 concession). 

It gives you unlimited travel for that time, but is really only good value if you are planning to use it a lot. Note also the days must be consecutive.

For a Metrocard, after you purchase the card for $5, you can use it as follows:

Type of farePeakOff-Peak (9.01am – 2.59pm midweek and Sundays)
Adult$3.77 (single trip $5.60)$2.07 (single trip $3.70)
Concession$1.87 (single trip $2.90)$1.00 (single trip $1.40)
Child$1.26 (single trip $2.80)$1.00 (single trip $1.40)
Child <5FreeFree

What to do in Adelaide

One of the top reasons I recommend backpacking in Adelaide is that there are plenty of free and cheap things to do around the city. If you’re looking for ideas, here are some of my favourite things to do on a budget in Adelaide!

(Pssst: for even more ideas, click the links to my other Adelaide content!)

Top free outdoor activities in Adelaide

Adelaide’s gorgeous climate and landscape makes it perfect for lovers of the outdoors. Best of all, most outdoor activities in Adelaide are totally free!

Torrens River

Adelaide is pretty small, so it’s not exactly the kind of city that totally tuckers you out. Even still, if you find yourself craving some green space, then your best bet is to go for a wander by the Torrens River.

I really love this part of the city because it’s a reminder of how liveable Adelaide is. It’s a long, meandering trail that you’ll share with walkers, cyclists, rowers, and probably the odd pelican.

If you want to stretch your legs then you can follow the river for quite a way, from the top of North Terrace all the way down to the Adelaide Zoo. Along the way, be sure to keep your eyes out for Adelaide’s own “love locks” bridge.

If you’re looking for a sedentary way to enjoy the outdoors, you can always just plop down for a picnic and enjoy. The area around Elder Park is particularly beautiful, as you can see Adelaide Oval, the River, and back over the city skyline.

Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything at all just to visit!

How to get there by public transport: Walk. It’s right in the city – if you’re on the south side of the city, you could get the free tram which will drop you off on the corner of North Terrace and King William Street.

Glenelg Beach
Glenelg Beach – a popular free Adelaide attraction

Glenelg Beach

If you’re visiting Adelaide and the weather is okay or better, you pretty much have to visit the beach. Yeah, yeah, everyone’s heard of Bondi and Coogee… but Adelaide has plenty of beautiful beaches, that are nowhere near as crowded!

For those bustling beachside vibes (but with room to move) both locals and visitors love Glenelg. Fondly known as “the Bay”, its probably Adelaide’s best loved metropolitan beach.

Glenelg itself stretches about 1.5 kilometres of beauty sandy seaside, but you can walk even further down to Brighton or Somerton. At the Glenelg portion, you’ll find clear water, a jetty, and even some volleyball courts to try out.

Along Jetty Road, there are plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and even a waterpark known as the Beachhouse (technically, it’s just off Jetty Rd). So you can easily make a day – and an evening – out of staying in Glenelg while backpacking in Adelaide.

How to get there by public transport: The tram makes it super easy! You will need to pay, but you can pick it up from various stops in town. Just make sure to check that the tram is actually going to Glenelg. They should be well sign-posted on the front.

Waterfall Gully

When you think of waterfalls, you probably think of far off hidden oases deep in a jungle. Well, you can get those feels at Waterfall Gully, but it’s all within easy striking distance of the Adelaide CBD.

In fact, Waterfall Gully is just eight kilometres from Adelaide. Here, you’ll find a bunch of gorgeous walking trails that will take you past the dazzling waterfalls.

Just keep in mind that they do tend to dry up in summer and early autumn, so to get the most impressive views you’ll want to add them to your winter itinerary. That said, the park is still beautiful even without the rushing waterfalls.

One more thing – even though all of the trails are pretty well marked, it’s still important to be prepared for hiking in Waterfall Gully. Adelaide can get very hot, so you’ll want to make sure to bring plenty of water!

How to get there by public transport: Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a trek to get to Waterfall Gully on public transport. The closest bus route is the 142, and the closest stop is 19. From there, it’s a fairly long but beautiful walk to the entry.

A koala. Sadly, a stock image, not one I saw in Morialta!

Morialta Conservation Park

Because out of all the adorable Australian animals, we’ve got to admit koalas are probably the cutest? Right? 

Well that’s about as controversial as I get (juuuust kidding – have you not read my posts about hostel jerks?)

Anyway, there’s no denying that koalas are pretty darn adorable. For a great chance of seeing them close to the city, I’d advise making the trip out to Morialta Conservation Park

If you arrive car-less (there’s public transport), then it is totally free to enter the National Park and to walk around. 

I’d advise sticking to one of the signposted walking trails, and keeping a close eye out for animals including koalas, kangaroos and even echidnas (another contender for ‘cutest Australian animal’.)

How to get there by public transport: It’s relatively easy to get to from Adelaide. Simply get the E3 or D3 from Currie Street to stop 26. From there, it’s about a half an hour walk to the entrance.

The Botanic Gardens in Adelaide
The Botanic Gardens in Adelaide

Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Another place to go if you’re craving some greenery (to walk in, people!) is the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. I’ve loved this place since high school and it’s still one of my favourite spots in the city.

The Adelaide Botanic Gardens are a big green space located in the north eastern corner of the city. There’s about 50 hectares of space in total, and hundreds of species of native and international plants.

As the space is so big, you can easily find a spot to escape from the world and just zone out with a good book. Or, you might prefer to stop by the cafe or even join one of the daily free tours of the gardens.

Apart from the “Botans” reputation as a hookup spot for teenagers who aren’t allowed to bring their girlfriend/boyfriend back to mum and dad’s, it’s all very wholesome. 

There are a number of pre-defined trails you can take, and also frequent exhibitions as well.

How to get there by public transport: It’s in the city centre, so super easy to get to!

Mortlock Wing at the South Australian Library
The gorgeous Mortlock Wing at the South Australian Library

Top free cultural activities in Adelaide

Not really the “outdoorsy” type — don’t worry, I’ve got you. Whether you’re just not a fan of the “outside” (hey, I get it!) or you’re looking for some different activities to try, here are some of the best free cultural activities in Adelaide.

Tandanya

I have to admit that I spent many, many years just not getting art. That was all until I found myself standing in front of a beautiful artwork at Kununurra’s Waringarri Arts, and it all fell into place.

There is just something about most Aboriginal Art that makes me feel it really, really deeply. I think you might experience this too if you visit Tandanya, which is one of the absolute best free things to do in Adelaide.

Now, let me stress that Tandanya does not “just” sell and display traditional Aboriginal artwork. It’s a cultural space that displays a range of mediums as well as performances and events.

Tandanya is an Aboriginal owned and operated organisation, and has been supporting Aboriginal artists for over 40 years. I highly recommend visiting if you are backpacking in Adelaide!

Migration Museum

For a very different perspective on the people who have shaped modern Adelaide, it’s well worth visiting the Migration Museum on Kintore Avenue.

This fascinating  museum does a great job of telling the stories of the waves of migrants who have arrived in Adelaide. Through facts, personal stories and interactive exhibits, it traces the history of migration to South Australia.

I like to suggest visitors stop by both Tandanya and the Migration Museum as they offer two different perspectives. It’s impossible to talk about migration to South Australia without also talking about displacement, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

Well, now that I’ve gotten all Very Serious, back to the fun stuff: the Migration Museum has lots of fun interactive exhibits to try your hand at. Some of its a tad dated, but for the most part it’s a great day out in Adelaide.

State Library

Another free attraction that can be found along North Terrace is the State Library of South Australia. Now I love any old library (books > people), but this one has a particular delight hidden inside.

I’m talking about the Mortlock Wing, one of the prettiest hidden gems in all of Adelaide. This beautiful library is enchanting and Harry Potter-esque, and well worth stopping by for a quick visit.

It’s a favourite study spot amongst students in the know, and has a peaceful atmosphere surrounded by beautiful leather hardback books. It’s not somewhere you need to spend hours and hours, but I highly recommend dropping by.

Cheap activities in Adelaide

If you’ve got a little bit of cash to splash then there are even more options for what to do in Adelaide. Here are some of my favourite budget-friendly ideas.

The Central Market in Adelaide. Free if you don’t buy anything! (Good luck with that, though!)

Visit the Central Market

Technically, visiting the Central Market is actually totally free – but you’re a stronger budget traveller than I am if you can leave without spending a few dollars.

Just the sight of all that delicious produce is enough to have me shouting “take my money!” at the nearest smallgoods stall.

There are certainly plenty of stalls to choose from. The Central Market is the southern hemisphere’s largest undercover produce market. From fresh fruit and veggies to preserves and even some spirits, it’s all here.

My personal favourite of all is the Smelly Cheese Shop, the place I go when I’m trying to make a cheese platter that will convince people I’m an actual, real adult. (It works on everyone except close friends and family).

The stalls are a great place to put together a DIY picnic which you can then enjoy down by the River Torrens or perhaps Tarndanyangga. 

If you’re not a fan of the DIY route, there are also lots of great cafes and restaurants dotted around where you can grab a casual bite without breaking the bank.

Go on the paddle boats

This is one of those activities that stirs up a very, very great amount of nostalgia in people from Adelaide. Whatever you do, don’t criticise the paddle boats!

Instead, join the locals and hire one to take on a paddle around the River Torrens. It’s a fun way to take in the Adelaide sights, and you can even cool off under the fountain on a hot day.

Last I checked, the paddle boats were $25 to hire for an hour, and two people can easily go on one. You’re left largely to your own devices can can paddle up and down to your heart’s content.

It’s a bit of a leg workout, so perfect for working off all those goodies you’ve enjoyed at the Central Market!

You can paddle boat under this fountain if it’s hot!

Visit the Old Adelaide Gaol

I love anything a bit kooky and spooky, so you bet I couldn’t leave paying a visit to the Old Adelaide Gaol off this list.

It’s one of the oldest European buildings in South Australia, dating from 1841 when it was established as the first permanent prison in South Australia.

From that time up until 1988, it served as one of the main prisons in South Australia. In fact, it was the sight of several executions until the state outlawed the practice in the 1970s.

During that time, one woman was executed – Elizabeth Woolcock, a tragic figure who – arguably – poisoned her husband Thomas with arsenic. Whether Elizabeth was guilty at all, the victim of battered spouse syndrome or just plain guilty remains debated to this day. At any rate, she was just 25 when she was hanged at the Old Adelaide Gaol.

A visit to the jail is likely to be filled with many such tales of woe, as well as a peek at the less than fabulous conditions prisoners were in for nearly 150 years. If you like things ultra spooky, you might even like to opt for a ghost tour by night!

Sea Lions on Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is one of my favourite places to visit from Adelaide!

Top day trips from Adelaide

There are lots of great day trips that you can take from Adelaide if you’ve got a little more time. Here are some of my favourites!

Barossa Valley

For amazing wine, you can’t look past the Barossa Valley!

Kangaroo Island

If you’re looking to walk on the wild side, then untamed Kangaroo Island is absolutely gorgeous.

Moonta Bay

Beaches and mining history are what’s on offer at beautiful Moonta Bay!

Cheap eats and drinks in Adelaide

Being on a budget doesn’t mean foregoing delicious food and drink in Adelaide!

Budget places to eat in Adelaide

Even a backpacker in Adelaide can eat plenty of delicious food.

Central Market

The aforementioned (ah, there’s that lawyer in me) Central Market is a great place to grab supplies for a picnic or to whip up a dish in your hostel kitchen. 

While some of the smallgoods can be on the pricey side, the fruit and veg is budget-friendly. 

This is especially the case if you drop by on a Friday or Saturday afternoon when you’ll hear the calls of grocers sending out their products at rock bottom prices!

Sushi (Cherry Blossom in the Food Court)

Oh, if there is one thing I miss above all else in Adelaide it’s the abundance of delicious, fresh sushi. Just a few more months, my delicious little nori rolls!

Sushi is one of the cheapest, and most delicious, meals you can find in Adelaide. $5 will fill you up with two delicious rolls, and soy sauce, as long as you choose your roll wisely. After lunch and around closing time (about 5pm), you can often find it even cheaper.

For takeaway sushi I recommend heading for Cherry Blossom in the Myer Food Court. To be honest, most of the stalls in the food court are very affordable – but Cherry Blossom is my favourite.

If you want to go a little more upmarket, then the nearby Sushi Train on Grenfell Street is basically a bottomless black hole for my money. That said, if you are capable of exercising a little self control, you can get a delicious dinner for around $15.

Hawker’s Corner

Will it give you food poisoning? Probably not, but don’t sue me if it does.

Just kidding (mostly). Hawker’s Corner’s decor may look like it was stuck in the 1970s, but I promise its hygiene standards are a little more recently updated.

Hawker’s Corner is basically a big food court with a selection of delicious street food-esque stalls to pick from. They’re mostly Asian, and all delicious. 

I personally enjoy a side of danger with my meal and you definitely get that vibe while dining here. In all seriousness, I do really recommend this place for delicious, cheap, filling and authentic Asian cuisine (especially Chinese, Indian and Thai.)

ChinaTown

Still sticking with the ‘food court’ theme, there’s a great one in ever-buzzing ChinaTown off Gouger Street. Not far from the Central Market, this is a great place to pick up some delicious – and extraordinarily cheap – eats.

You’ll be able to fill up a big plate and get change from $10, which is a-okay in my books. Sure, the digs aren’t fancy – but this is backpacking! It’s blasphemy to eat somewhere with linen napkins!

Away from the foodcourt (which can be found about halfway down, on the left), I am also madly obsessed with Dumpling King down the end. 

Dumplings from Dumpling King (albeit the one on King William Street) featured in Tom’s wedding proposal (true story) so when I say obsessed, I mean really enamoured by these delicious dumplings.

Toolbox: Best multicultural restaurants in Adelaide

Cheap drinks in Adelaide

Booze in Adelaide. The good news: it’s fabulous, especially at the wine bars The bad news: it’s really freaking expensive.


Never fear, I’ve found a few places where you can enjoy a tipple without having to auction off a kidney or your first-born child. Or worse, drink GOON!

Harry’s Bar

The best part of hanging out at this bar is you stand a reasonable chance of running into yours truly there. 

Even though I’m also oft spotted amongst the well-heeled crowd on Peel St, I’ve got to admit I love nothing more than a working class pub. And Harry’s Bar has that vibes, although I have noticed an infiltration of suits in recent times.

There’s a nice terrace at Harry’s Bar and the kind of odd, slightly musty decor also tickles my fancy. My favourite thing about Harry’s Bar is the drink specials. 

On Thursdays between 3pm and 7pm, all drinks are $5 (yes) and every day their house wine is $4. That’s about as good as it gets in Adelaide!

The Duke of York

This pub on Currie Street is popular amongst backpackers and students – two groups who know a bargain when they see one. And the Duke of York certainly has some good bargains during Happy Hour.

For their happy hour (Monday – Friday, 4 – 6pm; Friday 7pm – midnight and Saturday 6pm – midnight) they do $5 base spirits and $5 house wines (no wine on Saturdays, boo).

Honestly, it’s not the fanciest pub out there but it’s cheap and friendly with a big beer garden as well.

Drink in

If you are a broke backpacker in Adelaide, then I suggest making like all the other broke Adelaideans and just drinking at home. (Note: I said at home. You are not really allowed to drink in most public spaces in Adelaide).

It is way more cost effective to drink at home, and if it’s D&Ms with your fellow hostel buddies you’re looking for – it’s probably the way to go.

Now, I have one stipulation about drinking your own booze in Adelaide. It CANNOT be goon. Seriously!

I mean, for the love of God, fellow travel writers, please stop telling backpackers in Adelaide to drink Goon. It’s a travesty! We’re in one of the wine capitals of the world – drinking goon is just not right!

So, to help you avoid the scourge that is goon (and the resulting hangover) here are three drops you can try, which are cheap but not nasty. You can get them from Dan Murphy’s:

  • Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Shiraz – about $7.50
  • McGuigan Black Label Traminer Riesling – about $5
  • Peter Lehman Princess Moscato – about $5

Finding work as a backpacker in Adelaide

If you’re backpacking in Adelaide and have work rights, you might want to know about the job situation. Firstly, it is not as dire as some people would have you believe.

The truth is that Adelaide went through a fairly rough patch economically a few years ago. That said, recent job growth has been amongst the best in the country and the jobs do exist.

Best of all, at present (there is talk of big changes soon), ALL work performed in South Australia – yes, including Adelaide – is considered “regional”. So any work in a listed industry (such as fruit picking or construction) will count towards your second year visa.

If you are looking for construction work, you can take a look at groups like Adelaide Backpackers where jobs are sometimes listed. In addition, Seek is a good general resource, while the Harvest Trail is helpful for finding harvest (fruit picking) jobs.

If you don’t care about the second year visa, there are even more opportunities in Adelaide. Hospitality is a great industry for backpackers – Adelaide Oval is one employer that takes on a lot of casuals. You can also check out the Adelaide Hospitality Facebook group for more jobs.

Barista
This is very much a stock image.

Your rights as a worker in Adelaide

A word of warning: unfortunately, exploitation of backpackers happens all over Australia. Australia has a strong minimum wage and other entitlements, and you are 100% entitled to this as a temporary worker in Adelaide. 

Accepting low pay or bad conditions is not only unfair to you, but also unfair on others including the permanent workers who rely on these jobs to feed their families. It allows bad employers to get away with illegal conduct and makes it difficult for others to enforce their rights. Ask questions or look it up if you are not sure if something is right!
The Fair Work Ombudsman website contains lots of great information about working conditions in Australia. The Young Workers Legal Service also offers free advice and representation (if possible) to workers under 30.

Final thoughts

I hope this has given you the inspiration to try backpacking in Adelaide… because, frankly, I’m way out of words!

That said, if you do have any questions – feel free to ask them below. I’ll do my best to answer any queries about Adelaide, living here or working here!

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