Of all Australia’s state capitals, there’s probably none that has more to offer on its doorstep than Adelaide. From wineries to the coast, you truly are spoiled for choice with day trips from Adelaide.
To explore some of the best things to do in South Australia, it can make sense to base yourself in Adelaide and then do shorter trips to the regions around the city. All the wine regions can be visited as day trips from Adelaide, as can many of the beach towns.
Of course, staying overnight gives you a bit longer to explore and I would always recommend that, if possible. But you can spend some time on the Murray River, go hiking in national parks, have a swim at the beach, and try some top restaurants – and still come back to Adelaide for the night.
So, with that in mind, I thought I would put together this list of the best day trips you can do from Adelaide. I’ve grouped them into different themes because there are some similarities in some of the suggestions.
If you’ve got time on your trip to South Australia, I would suggest doing a few of these Adelaide day trips. A wine region one day, a coastal excursion the next, and then some time around the Murray all makes for a perfect little holiday.
Let’s start with the best wine regions around Adelaide because they make for some wonderful day trips. It’s not just about the wine itself – although a few tastings will put a smile on your face. But the restaurants and other local produce are well worth exploring as well.
One of the easiest day trips from Adelaide is to the Adelaide Hills, which can be reached in less than 30 minutes’ drive from the city centre. You’ll feel the temperature drop as you start to ascend and before long the sweeping vista across the city towards the water will be laid out beneath you.
It’s only in the past decade or so that the wine region’s status has been taken seriously. Now, in particular, cooler-climate grapes like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir are crowd favourites. Anderson Hill and Pike & Joyce are a couple of great wineries to visit, or you might like to take this fun tour to multiple wineries.
Between the natural and agricultural land is a string of charming little towns, the most popular being Hahndorf. Filled with German heritage, it’s a great place to spend some time – but Stirling and Woodside are also worth a visit.
I’ve got lots more suggestions in my story about the best things to do in the Adelaide Hills. If you fancy taking it easy and having someone do all the planning, a great option is this Adelaide Hills tour which combines a wine tasting with some Adelaide sights and some other highlights in the region.
The Barossa is one of the most famous wine regions in Australia and has plenty to offer visitors. Because it’s just an hour’s drive from Adelaide, it makes for an easy day trip but can also be extended overnight, with lots of fantastic accommodation options.
Shiraz is the name of the game here and it’s home to some of the country’s biggest names, like Penfolds and Jacobs Creek. But amongst the 80 cellar doors, there are also smaller winemakers taking a more boutique approach.
As well as wine, there are lots of other producers with spirits, cheese, meat, preserves, and much more. It’s pretty easy to spend the day in the Barossa just eating and drinking!
As one of the oldest wine regions in Australia, there is also a wealth of heritage found amongst the farms, offering an insight into the development of agriculture in the state.
It’s well worth having a guide (and driver) for the Barossa, and there’s this great day tour from Adelaide that I would recommend.
Further north from the Barossa is the Clare Valley, another old and prestigious wine region but without some of the tourist feel that you can get within the Barossa.
Although shiraz is also popular in the Clare Valley, the region is particularly famous for its riesling, and one way to visit the cellar doors is the cycle along the 35-kilometre Clare Valley Riesling Trail. Or just pop into some of the top wineries, including Taylors Wines, Sevenhill Cellars or the more boutique Knappstein Winery.
There are several small towns that make up the Clare Valley – including Clare, Watervale, and Blyth – and each has their own characteristics. Pop into these charming communities to do some shopping at the markets, discover the heritage, and try some of the excellent dining.
To see it all, there’s this excellent day tour with wine tastings and some other key attractions.
If the Riesling Trail in the Clare Valley sounds a bit too long (or sweet), perhaps the Shiraz Trail in the McLaren Vale would suit better – it’s only 9 kilometres along. The cycling path also has beautiful views of the gumtrees and coast that this part of the Fleurieu Peninsula is famous for.
McLaren Vale is only about 45 minutes’ drive south of Adelaide and is a perfect combination of local produce and natural beauty. There are more than 80 vineyards, including d’Arenberg and it’s famous modern cube, and you can do this small-group tour to visit the best ones.
There’s also a wonderful collection of heritage, with 1880s streetscapes in towns like Willunga. Or discover the stunning landscapes in Onkaparinga River National Park.
One of South Australia’s biggest assets is its coastline – hundreds of kilometres of beautiful beaches that don’t have the development like New South Wales or the crowds like Queensland.
Although places like the Yorke Peninsular and Limestone Coast are bit far away, there are some other options that make for wonderful day trips from Adelaide.
Western Fleurieu Peninsula
McLaren Vale is not the only highlight of the Fleurieu Peninsula and, in fact, it’s just a short drive from the wine region to the beaches along the western coast of the peninsula.
Starting at Southport beach at Port Noarlunga, you can be on the golden sands within minutes from Adelaide. Heading down the coast, Maslin Beach is clothing-optional but has beautiful vistas from the headland (and I’m not talking about the sunbakers).
A popular spot for day-trippers is Aldinga Beach, which you are allowed to drive your car onto (fun for 4WDers that don’t get much action). But the water here is welcoming for everyone and great for swimming and snorkelling. The orange eroded cliffs make a great backdrop.
One of the most famous restaurants in the region, Star of Greece, is perched above Port Willunga Beach, but there are lots of other seaside restaurants that offer respite from the sun in the height of the day, and golden views as it sets.
On the south-eastern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula is the summer playground of Victor Harbor. It’s a historic town, known for its maritime heritage, but these days the beaches and beautiful coastline are among the main attractions.
It’s the variety that’s made Victor Harbor popular for generations of local visitors – with sun and surf, along the great pubs and restaurants, and natural sites nearby like Hindmarsh Falls.
A must-do is a visit to Granite Island to see the penguins and the impressive rock formations. You can walk there across the jetty or take the iconic horse-drawn tram.
Victor Harbor certainly makes a great day trip from Adelaide but it’s also somewhere you may want to consider staying a night or two, and combining with some time in Goolwa.
Although Goolwa also embraces its heritage as a thriving river port, it’s become better known in recent years as a base for water sports. Whether it’s jet skiing, water skiing, boating, or kayaking, you can do it here.
As the gateway to the Mouth of the Murray, Goolwa can also be a good base to explore the mighty waterway on this Murray cruise or this Coorong cruise. A paddle steamer journey or a trip on the steam-powered Cockle Train is also a nod to the history of the region.
And amongst the sandstone buildings from the 1850s are new restaurants and bars, and an unpretentious approach to creating a holiday destination. There are opportunities to learn about the Indigenous heritage, the industrial age, and get amongst the vibrant nature in the region.
The Murray River is such an important part of the story of South Australia, and is still one of the state’s most important natural features. There are several ways that you can get a slice of the river on one of these day trips from Adelaide.
While it’s possible to access the Coorong from Goolwa (which makes sense if you’re staying there), it’s also about a 2-hour direct drive from Adelaide to the heart of the Coorong National Park.
This natural wonder is a long shallow lagoon fed by the Murray along the edge of the ocean. The mix of freshwater and salinity creates an expansive and special wetlands full of animals – and birdlife, in particular (so wonderfully captured in two versions of the movie Storm Boy).
There are lots of ways to explore the Coorong – with walking trails, by boat, in a kayak, or on a 4WD trail. You can be adventurous, or take it easy. As well as all the natural sights, there are many important Indigenous areas and other heritage attractions.
A bit closer to Adelaide, you can reach parts of the Murray River in about an hour, with the small city of Murray Bridge the closest point. It’s the centre of the surrounding agricultural land and is full of heritage.
From here, you can take the Murray Bridge Canoe Trail, which leads you past important landmarks on the banks of the river. Or jump on one of the paddle steamer cruises to float past the delightful eucalypt landscapes on a bit of history.
Other nearby towns that were once important trading stops also still have much of their river heritage. One of the most impressive is Mannum, with its historic buildings and museums. River cruises also leave from here and there are some wonderful walks around town.
Speaking of heritage, the towns around Adelaide are full of it, and exploring the history of the region is a great way to learn more about the development of South Australia.
Strathalbyn is about halfway between Adelaide and Goolwa, and was founded in 1839 to support the pastoralists who were settling the area. Some of the original buildings from those early decades still remain and it’s worth visiting to get a sense of that early colonial period.
The most important building is the Post Office, constructed in 1911 and now on the Commonwealth Heritage List. But you’ll find many others along the main street, including at the Strathalbyn and District Museum and the Stationmasters Art Gallery.
Strathalbyn is also famous for its antique stores and other boutique shops along the main street. And it’s one of the stops for the Steamranger steam trains that follow different routes in the Fleurieu Peninsula. It may be worth seeing if there’s a train trip planned for the day you’re visiting.
For a different type of heritage, there’s Burra, about two hours’ north of Adelaide. This historic mining town was founded around the copper industry, and much of that infrastructure is left, including abandoned mine sites and underground dugouts.
One of the most visited spots here are the ruins of a cottage that featured on a Midnight Oil album, but there’s also the Burra Regional Art Gallery and the old police lock up.
The proximity to the Outback brings the ochre dirt into Burra, and you can see some of the natural environment at the nearby Red Banks Conservation Park. You’re also not far from the Clare Valley, so a visit to Burra can be combined with a day trip from Adelaide to the wine region.
And finally it’s worth mentioning Kangaroo Island, although it really does deserve much more than a day. By the time you factor in the travel to and from Adelaide, it doesn’t leave you long enough to see all the best attractions on the island.
If you only have a day to spare, though, I would recommend not doing one of the large bus tours because a lot of time is just spent wrangling the crowds. Instead go for this boutique day tour from Adelaide (or their two-day version). Or, of course, take your own car to have even more flexibility.
Make sure you include the sea lion colony at Seal Bay, the gravity-defying granite formations at Remarkable Rocks, the majestic Admirals Arch, and any of the superb local producers.
Kangaroo Island is a truly special place, where Australia’s wildlife and landscapes are at their best – but, remember, it’s just one of many day trips from Adelaide that are worth doing.