10 free things to do in Adelaide

January 31, 2014
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At various points in history, Adelaide has been called the City of Churches, the Garden City on Steroids and even (extremely unfairly by Britain’s Channel 4) the City of Corpses. Yet South Australia’s capital city has a lot more going on than just pretty gardens and dead bodies… and some of them will cost you nothing. Here’s 10 of the best free things to do in Adelaide.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Summer in Adelaide means festival season. There are plenty of great events to choose from, but if you’re on a strict budget then your best bet is The Garden of Unearthly Delights, which runs from February 13 to March 16. Their outdoor festival space (the garden) has lots of performance venues, carnival rides, stalls, food and sideshows. The food and rides will require cold hard cash, but entry into the garden is free, as is the live tunes and general good vibes.

A quaint day at the seaside

Fancy a break from the summer heat? Head to Brighton beach for a day of swimming, wandering the art deco promenade, chilling out on the jetty, and enjoying the ye olde worlde charm of the place. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and/or a long-time fan of swimming au naturel, then go to Maslin beach. This special spot claims the official title of “first unclad beach in Australia”, meaning it’s a ‘free’ thing to do in more than one sense of the word.

Get the tram

Eat your heart out, Melbourne. A gift from the state government to the poor visitor, Adelaide has free trams throughout the CBD. You can take it from one end of the city to the other while hopping on and off at your leisure. Some of the sites along the free tram path are the SA Museum, State Library, Art Gallery, Botanic Gardens, Central Markets and the East End of Rundle Street.

Climb Mount Lofty

The highest peak in Adelaide is the fittingly titled Mount Lofty. Start this walk at the beautiful Waterfall Gully, which is just a 15 minute drive from the city centre, and climb to the summit for a magic view of the city and coastline. You can bring your own food for a picnic, but there are also cafes at the top for a well-earned coffee or lunch break. The climb is a fairly challenging 3.5km walk, which equals to around a three hour round trip if you’re going at a decent pace. If that sounds too exhausting, you can always just drive to the summit to enjoy the view.

Touring the chocolate factory

Adelaide is where the outrageously delicious Haigh’s chocolates are born. You can take an amazing free guided tour of the factory. There’s sadly no oompa loompas or chocolate fountain, but the factory tour does include complimentary coffee and tea and special tastings (yes, FREE CHOCOLATE).You’ll also receive a voucher for 20 per cent off whatever you want to purchase at the end of the tour, which, given Haigh’s prices, you’ll probably need.

The South Australian Art Gallery

If you need a dose of culture, the South Australian Art Gallery is huge and free (though some exhibitions are ticketed). They have some works by old famous dudes – Renoir, Holbein and the like – as well as an impressive collection of Asian and Indigenous Australian art. They’re also pretty tech savvy. You can explore the gallery with a Mobile Web App, or hire an iPod for free so you to know what you’re looking at.

Market madness awaits

Adelaide Central Market is famous for its food and fresh produce. Every obscure, fresh and delicious ingredient you could possibly need can be found here. There are activities and workshops there too, and plenty of cafes to keep you hydrated throughout your highly strenuous afternoon of shopping. If you’re more interested in vintage threads, then the market for you is Gilles Street Market, which is open the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month.

Get on your (free!) bike

As if you needed more proof of Adelaide’s awesomeness: they have free bike hire. You can pick up a bike from different pods around the city, though you will need to leave your ID as security. Ride freestyle around the city or follow a set path like the River Torrens Linear Park trail. This is a 10km loop through the heart of the city that travels past the Torrens lake, the zoo, rose gardens and waterbirds.

Jam Factory

Jam Factory is an odd sort of gallery/artist collective/organisation hybrid that actually has little to do with persevered fruit and sugar. It’s based in the city centre and features studios, galleries and shops. It’s free to wander around, but for just $5 you can do a guided tour and watch the artists at work – the glass-blowing is particularly cool.

Botanic garden

Want to finish your trip with a romantic picnic surrounded by wetlands, Mediterranean plants, and lovely little ponds? Of course you do. The Adelaide Botanic Garden is small but pretty, very close to the CBD, and they won’t charge you to loll about and enjoy the natural beauty of the place.

Kate Lyons

Kate Lyons is University of Sydney Alumni and writes for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Daily Life. She is a former editor of student publication, BULL, and blogs at katelyons.net.