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adelaide, australia, maritime

Free things to do in Adelaide

Perhaps not as famous as Australia's other cities - of which Sydney and Melbourne are undoubtedly the most popular - South Australia's capital city happens to be a real hidden gem. And, for those in the know, Adelaide has so much to offer, especially for travellers on a strict budget. From its full calendar of often-free festivals to museums, national parks, beaches and more, there are plenty of free and affordable activities in Adelaide.

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It may sound like a cliché, but it really does feel like Adelaide has a little bit of everything. There's the compact city centre, which is usually where Adelaide's biggest festivals are hosted, a long chain of beaches stretching either way along the coast, multiple wine regions just a short drive away, excellent eateries and plenty of national parks and wildlife reserves too.

It's easy to assume that you have to splash out to truly enjoy what Adelaide has to offer. Thankfully, this isn't the case, as there are so many free and affordable things to do in this city; here are some of our favourites.

1. Attend a festival

South Australia is known as the Festival State, and Adelaide has a busy roster of festivals and events going on across the entire year. One of its biggest - and most renowned - festivals has to be the Adelaide Fringe. Hosted in February and March, the vast majority of its shows are ticketed, but you can visit the festival showgrounds for free. With names like the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony, these free-to-visit venues are spectacles within themselves, with performers, street food and and an unmissable vibe.

Other festivals to look out for are OzAsia (October-November), Adelaide Festival (March), Illuminate Adelaide (July) and the National Pharmacies Christmas Pageant (November).

2. Visit a garden

If you feel like getting some fresh air, Adelaide has some amazing gardens - most of which are free to visit. Near the city centre, you'll find Adelaide Botanic Garden. This garden is home to plants from all over the world, as well as a glasshouse and an unmissable waterlily pavilion. The perfect place for a picnic, you can find cafes and kiosks in the garden. Adelaide's Himeji Garden is another outdoor gem close to the city; transporting you straight to Japan, this garden is the ideal place for finding some peace and quiet.

Further away, we'd recommend Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, a hilly garden that features walking trails, wildlife and a lovely circular lakeside stroll. If you park at the lower car park, you'll find a kiosk. Towards the south, Wittunga Botanic Garden is a lovely spot on a sunny day, with paths weaving throughout and an adventure playground for kids.

3. Explore a market

Food markets are one of the best places for getting acquainted with the delicacies of a destination - while picking up an affordable meal, of course! Adelaide Central Market is the city's biggest and oldest. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, the market is free to enter and will leave you with major indecision while you try to figure out what you'd like to eat first! From fresh produce to ready-to-eat options like pies, pasta, pizza and poffertjes, there are so many stalls to discover here.

Every Sunday morning, locals and holidaymakers head to the Adelaide Showground's Farmers Market. Another market that's free to enter, the stalls here change frequently but they always focus on the best produce that South Australia has to offer, from baked goods and fresh produce to locally brewed beer and gin.

One of our personal favourites is Stirling Market. About a 30-minute drive from Adelaide, this smaller market takes place in Stirling on the last Sunday of each month. Full of tasty food, gifts and live music, it's a great option for experiencing a market that has a community feel.

4. Discover the museums

Adelaide has an interesting variety of museums and galleries scattered across the city and further afield. While some of these do carry an entrance fee, most of the museums and galleries in the city centre are free. This includes the South Australian Museum, featuring galleries on topics as diverse as Aboriginal cultures, Australian polar explorers, palaeontology and more. It's a firm favourite with families too.

On either side of this museum, you'll find the State Library of South Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Both are worth a visit too.

Interested to see more? Here are all the Adelaide museums and galleries with free admission:

  • South Australian Museum

  • State Library of South Australia

  • Art Gallery of South Australia

  • Australian Space Discovery Centre

  • Migration Museum

  • MOD.

  • State Herbarium of South Australia

5. Hit the beach

Australia has no shortage of world-renowned beaches, and you'll be delighted to hear that South Australia has its own array of gorgeous beaches. Naturally, these are free to visit, and some of the prettiest beaches are just a short drive or tram ride away from the city centre.

Henley Beach, Glenelg Beach and Brighton Beach are some personal favourites, especially if you're a fan of a beach that's close to cafes and shops. If you're happy to venture out a little further, Christies Beach, Port Noarlunga, Moana Beach and Silver Sands Beach are all worthy of a lazy beach day. And, if you're planning on exploring more of South Australia, you'll find plenty of beaches in regions like the Yorke Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Limestone Coast.

6. Enjoy free public transport

Unlike many destinations around the world, getting around central Adelaide isn't expensive or difficult - in fact, it's free!

There are a number of free public transport services in the city centre, including city connector buses that loop around the main CBD, as well as trams that connect the city centre with Adelaide Botanic Garden, Festival Plaza and more.

For a full list of free services and routes, check out the Adelaide Metro website.

7. Go shopping at Rundle Mall

Whether you're keen to shop or not, Rundle Mall is a must-see, especially when you're busy exploring Adelaide's city centre. This pedestrianised street is full of character and has over 1,000 shops within its vicinity. While you can find more modern multi-level shopping malls on this street, don't miss out on exploring the older shopping arcades. Often featuring wood panelling and vintage signs, these arcades are where you can find some truly unique souvenirs and artworks. One of our favourite spots is the Dymocks flagship store, a massive book shop located in the former Regent Theatre.

On the street itself, you won't be able to ignore quirky landmarks like the Rundle Mall Fountain, the 'Mall's Balls' and the group of life-sized bronze pigs!

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