Here we explore all the best things to do in Adelaide with kids, from museums and galleries to tours, wildlife parks, attractions and more.
Known as the city of churches, Adelaide is well known for its festivals, sporting events and as a thriving food and wine region. But it is not necessarily the first place you would consider for a family holiday.
But the capital of South Australia has plenty of attractions to keep families entertained – whether you are stopping off en route to the Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale or staying longer.
We certainly had a great time here.
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When the founding father of Adelaide, Colonel William Light designed the city, he specified that people should have to travel through green space to enter the city centre.
The abundance of parkland surrounding the grid format of the well-planned city remains today. This gives Adelaide plenty of wide-open grassy areas for kids to play and picnic and gives a lovely laidback feel to the city.
The city centre is also relatively small and flat, making it an easy place to explore with kids. And if little legs get too tired to walk you can always hop aboard a tram – they are free to ride within the city (between the Entertainment Centre in the north and South Terrace in the south).
Unfortunately the awesome electric scooters are only available to over-18s and no passengers are allowed.
The Best Adelaide Attractions
At first glance it doesn’t seem like there is a vast amount of things to do with kids in Adelaide, but once we dug a little deeper we discovered a lot of fun activities here.
Here’s our pick of what to do in Adelaide with kids:
South Australian Museum
In the words of my 10-year old “Wow, this is a really cool museum!”
The South Australian Museum showcases a diverse collection of specimens and culutural items – over 4 million in total.
Kids love the biological galleries, especially the collection of world mammals and whale and dolphin skeletons. Keep a look out for the lion with the twitching tail!
Other cool exhibitions to explore here include the 11m long life sized Giant Squid model, the Australian Polar Collection gallery and the Ancient Egypt gallery – complete with real mummies on display!
The Australian Aboriginal Cultures gallery also safeguards over 3,000 items.
Unfortunately when we visited all interactive screens were disabled due to Covid restrictions, but these would usually be the perfect way to get kids involved further with the exhibitions.
We were able to pick up an Easter egg-themed scavenger hunt for the kids at the front desk when we visited, so check to see if they have anything similar when you go.
Alternatively there is a wealth of educational resources including worksheets on their website. These are mainly aimed at school groups, but you should be able to get some good ideas. Free entry.
Art Gallery of South Australia
We were so impressed with the kids program at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Start at the Gallery is held on the first Sunday of every month (11am-3pm) and offers a wide choice of tours and activities – all of it free!
My kids took part in an excellent sketching tour of the gallery with a local artist – and the silent disco tour was nothing short of hilarious.
Also on offer were art & craft workshops, story telling, music performances and more.
Even if you can’t visit during Start at the Gallery, the gallery is still worth a visit to see one of the largest art museum collections in Australia, with its almost 45,000 works of art spanning 2,000 years. Free admission.
Adelaide Botanic Garden
The botanic gardens in Adelaide are the perfect place for a run around and a family picnic.
Located right in the heart of the city, there are 50 hectares of gardens to explore here.
There is a choice of three dining options within the gardens. We found the Kiosk to be the best option with kids.
Check the website for the various walks, talks and activities on offer, particularly during school holidays when they organise a range of kid-friendly activities.
Also within the Botanic Gardens you will find the Adelaide Zoo, a favourite with Adelaide kids for a fun family day out.
One of the reasons this is one of Adelaide’s most popular attractions is it is home to Australia’s only Giant Panda pair, Wang Wang and Funi. There are also over 2,500 animals from over 250 species to marvel at.
There’s a daily schedule of keeper talks and feeding times, so check the website before you go and plan your day so you don’t miss out on your favourite animals. There are also free walking tours held every day at 10am and 3pm.
There’s both a restaurant and a café within the zoo, or bring a picnic to enjoy in the grounds. To add to the fun, you can also arrive at the zoo by boat (see below).
Tip: If you are a member of Taronga Zoo, Perth Zoo or Zoos Victoria, you can enter Adelaide Zoo for free.
Adelaide Scavenger Hunt
A city scavenger hunt is a great way to get to know a new city and is fun for the whole family.
We signed up with the Let’s Roam. This app guides you around some of the main sights of the city , give you a series of fun challenges to complete along the way.
There’s no time limit to complete the hunt, so you can pause it an any time when you want to take a break or explore an area in more depth.
We paused ours at several times throughout the day – to spend time in both the museum and art gallery and to take a detour to the Botanic Gardens.
We learned bite-sized pieces of history and other information about Adelaide along the way and had fun doing all the challenges. It was definitely a good way to keep the kids excited and engaged on a walking tour.
Adelaide Central Market
With over 70 traders under one roof, the Adelaide Central Market is one of the largest undercover fresh produce markets in the Southern Hemisphere and is a definite Adelaide must do.
Open Tuesday – Saturday, it is the perfect place for foodies to browse. Head here for breakfast or to stock up on picnic supplies.
IN addition to stalls and shops, you will also find a selection of cafes. Keep your eye on the website for details of upcoming events, including music, family-friendly activities, history tours, food tastings and more.
Popeye Boat Tours
Head on down to Elder Park and jump aboard a Popeye river cruise down the Karrawirra Parri (aka River Torrens). It’s a great way to take in some of the sights of Adelaide without having to exert too much energy.
There are a choice of cruises to choose from – the High Tea cruise will probably be most popular with the kids, although I would say the Gin cruise may be more appealing to the parents!
All cruises are accompanied by an informative commentary giving you an insight into the local history.
Tip: You can also take the boat to the Adelaide Zoo.
Located next to the launch site for Popeye Boat Tours, you will find Captain Jolley’s Paddle Boats.
Available to hire in 30-minute slots, the paddle boats seat two people and give you a fun way to get out on the river with the kids.
Both kids and adult life jackets are available.
Adelaide Tree Climb
My kids love a tree climb course, and the great thing about Adelaide Tree climb is it is located right in the centre of the city.
There are two courses: the Kids Course for kids between 100cm – 135cm, and the Grand Course for kids over 135cm (note kids under 16 years old need to be accompanied by an adult).
The Kids Course includes 3 sections with 21 tree top activities, with each section becomes progressively more challenging. The Grand Course comprises 5 obstacle courses with 52 challenges along the way, including zip-lines and a Tarzan swing.
Allow 90 minutes for the kids course and 2 hours for the grand course.
National Railway Museum
Got a train buff in the family? Australia’s largest railway museum has over 100 exhibits on display.
There are steam trains, diesel engines and loads of carriages to jump on and explore as well as a large model railway and a mini ride-on train running around the perimeter.
There are plenty of interactive touchscreens around the museum to keep the kids engaged too.
Check the website for upcoming events, such as their Family Fun Fairs.
Glenelg Beach is Adelaide’s most popular city beach and a great place for families.
Adelaide’s answer to Coney Island has plenty to keep families entertained for an afternoon, including shops, cafes and restaurants, an amusement arcade, a small water park with water slides and, of course, the beach.
You can also jump aboard a dolphin-watching trip from here.
The Glenelg tram takes you from the CBD all the way to the foreshore in Glenelg and takes around 25 minutes.
West Beach Adventure
Just north of Glenelg you will find West Beach and its epic Mega Climb multi-level aerial obstacle course (formerly known as Mega Adventure). My kids’ eyes popped out of their heads when they spotted this!
There are loads of fun activities and props to discover up there in the sky, including swing ball, a BMX bike, a picnic table and even a rowing boat.
Kids need to be 120cm to climb with an adult and 140cm to climb unassisted. Smaller kids (90cm – 140cm) can tackle the kids course with its 10 exciting challenges and mini zip-line.
Need even more of an adrenaline rush? Climb aboard the 18m high Giant Swing that reaches speeds of up to 70kmph!
Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary
Imagine kayaking with wild dolphins! Well you can at Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, located around a 20-minute drive from the CBD in Port Adelaide.
The sanctuary is home to around 30 resident dolphins, with more than 400 other transient wild dolphins visiting at various times.
The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is one of the world’s most accessible dolphin sanctuaries and one of only a few places you can see wild dolphins in their natural habitat so close to a city.
Guided kayak tours take you to explore the 10,000-year old mangrove forest and get up close and personal with the dolphins. Keep a look out for stingrays, seals and sea lions too.
Children need to be aged 9 and over to partake in the kayaking tour.
Cleland Wildlife Park and Gorge Wildlife Park
A 30-minute drive into the Adelaide Hills brings you to Cleland Wildlife Park, an interactive wildlife park where you can hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies, cuddle a koala and meet more local Aussie native animals.
Gorge Wildlife Park is a little further away at around an hours drive, but is on the way to the Barossa Valley if you are heading up that way anyway. It offers more of the same – hand-feeding the kangaroos, cuddling the koalas, meeting the snakes etc.
Both these Adelaide wildlife parks have on site cafes, or you can bring your own picnic for the grounds.
Monarto Safari Park
A bit further away and around an hour’s drive from the centre of Adelaide, Monarto Safari Park (formerly Monarto Zoo) is the world’s largest open-range zoo.
Spanning more than 1,500 hectares, this Adelaide safari park is home to more than 500 animals from over 50 different species. It’s where to come to catch a glimpse of some of your favourite African animals, including lions, cheetahs, rhinos and giraffes.
There are hop-on, hop-off buses to get you around an up close to the animals and also various walking tracks.
It takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to do the full trip around the perimeter and buses are spaced around 20 minutes apart if you want to jump off and take a longer look at any of the animals, or follow a walking track for a bit.
The Barossa Valley is just an hour’s drive from Adelaide and so easily accessible for a day trip and opens up even more fun things to do in the area.
Obviously the focus of the Barossa region is wine – it is Australia’s most famous wine region.
But there is more to the Barossa than just wine and we also found many other fun activities here, including cycling amongst beautiful scenery, the Barossa farmers market, the Barossa Chocolate Company and the very cool Whispering Wall.
But yes it is mostly about the wine here and we spent several days checking out the most family friendly wineries in Barossa (full article coming soon) and can recommend the following:
- Whistler Wines – the most family friendly winery we found. Has a large lawn, playground, friendly wine dog and even a treasure hunt around the ground. DIY platters are available too.
- Calabria Wines – huge grassy lawn area with fun garden games. Onsite restaurant Harvest Kitchen is the perfect place for a long lazy lunch, with kids menu and colouring on offer.
- Chateau Tanunda – cool cellar door to explore and has a croquet lawn.
- Pindarie Wines – amazing giant haystack for the kids to climb on and large area of grass to run on. The Grain Store has homemade pies, platters and kids lunch boxes and paninis.
- Seppeltsfield – sprawling grounds to explore, picnic grounds and BBQ facilities and beautiful onsite restaurant Fino if you are looking for something more refined.
- Z Wines – the cellar door is a tasting room on the Tanunda main street so no space to run around but they have a small play area with toys for younger kids and do a cute kids tasting platter.
- Turkey Flat – large lawn with lots of garden games to choose from and platters also available.
- Charles Melton – grass lawn with lounge furniture, cheese platters and garden games on offer, such as boules/petanque and finska.
Best Family Hotels in Adelaide
As with most cities, there is a good choice of family friendly accommodation in Adelaide. This is our pick of the best.
The Mayfair is a gorgeous boutique hotel right in the heart of the Adelaide CBD, right across from Rundle Mall. The luxurious Twin Queen rooms are perfect for small families, with two queen beds and stylish bathrooms.
There is complimentary WiFi, and the complimentary mini bar is refreshed daily. Onsite restaurant Mayflower is open for breakfast, high tea and dinner, and the roof top bar Hennessey is perfect for sundowners. Children are welcome here prior to 7pm.
Popular Peel St and Leigh St are just a short walk away with a further selection of bars and restaurants.
The only downside to the Mayfair hotel was its lack of swimming pool, which may be a priority during the summer months. That is where the Intercontinental comes in, with its heated outdoor pool.
Baby cots and rollaway beds are available here, although a family of four or more will require two rooms, but interconnecting rooms are available.
There is a choice of onsite restaurants, and the location on the banks of the river just a short walk from North Terrace means you are close to restaurants and attractions.
Oaks Glenelg Plaza Pier Suites
If you prefer apartment-style accommodation for a bit more space, then the Oaks at Glenelg offers you plenty of space, as well as ocean views.
Located on the esplanade right across from the beach, the suites also benefit from kitchens and laundry facilities. There is a good choice of restaurants nearby and you are just a short drive from the city centre.
Adelaide Central YHA
Prefer something more budget? Why not consider staying in a youth hostel? YHA Australia have been working hard to make their properties more family friendly and the Adelaide YHA is no exception.
The family rooms come with a double bed and bunk beds and with an ensuite bathroom, giving you both space and privacy. They also have TVs, free WiFi, air-conditioning and tea and coffee facilities.
There’s also an onsite kitchen and barbecue facilities as well as a ping pong table. And did we mention the free pancakes every morning?
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