5 Amazing Daytrips From Adelaide
While every other capital city in Australia cranks up the pace, Adelaide remains blissfully easy to navigate; a 20-minute drive from the hills, the beach or rolling wine country.
In fact, you can drive in almost any direction and find stunning landscapes and pleasant distractions, with an emphasis on good food and easy living.
The big guns of Adelaide day trips are Kangaroo Island, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, and a thousand different tour buses will get you there. Below is a slightly more unusual selection – beautiful day trips, barely an hour away.
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Victor Harbor via Strathalbyn
The idyllic seaside town of Victor Harbor is 80km south of the South Australian capital, a popular spot for weekend getaways or week-long vacations, or for daytrippers looking for quaint coastal vibes. Take the scenic route through Strathalbyn to get there, through Adelaide hills wine country by the sea.
Strathalbyn is a sweet little country nook filled with mid-century antiques and craft stores, and a couple of lovely pubs overlooking the Angas River, which runs right through the middle of town. There’s a big, blackened tree by the river that appears to be covered in white leaves at dawn and dusk – the feathers of a massive flock of cockatoos. Seeing them take flight is some kind of magic.
Victor is a little further along, on the southern side of the Fleurieu Peninsula. It boasts the usual array of sea-sprayed cafes and craft stores, but the granite island just offshore is the real reason for a visit. To reach the hulking natural wonder – which is home to a colony of little penguins – take an old-timey horse-drawn cart across the wooden causeway, or walk the 2000-odd steps.
For lunch, drive 10 minutes east and visit The Original Port Elliot Bakery. Join the queue to sample its famous baked goods, from a plump bee sting to a golden Cornish pasty, and finish with a dip in the wild but clear waters of Horseshoe Bay.
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Port Adelaide & Semaphore
Port Adelaide is barely outside of the Adelaide city limits, but it makes for a beautiful day out. One of the oldest colonial settlements in Australia, the old port has been invigorated recently by a massive urban renewal project which has restored major historic buildings and brought a rush of new blood to the area.
The main pull from a daytripper’s perspective is the Port River, which is home to a much-loved pod of wild dolphins. The best way to see them is to hire a kayak and glide an easy path through the beautiful Port River mangroves, taking in the ‘Ship’s Graveyard’ of more than 20 ghostly wrecks along the way.
A short drive away from the port is the seaside ‘burb of Semaphore, which has a beautiful stretch of white sand and warm water, and an esplanade filled with cute/quaint diversions, including a mid-sized scenic railway that departs from the foot of the jetty and a water park.
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The Adelaide Hills
The lush, sprawling Adelaide Hills are filled with cute towns and hamlets, and beautiful cold climate wineries, ripe for one day-trip or a dozen.
Head northeast to visit the Gorge Wildlife Park where you can cuddle a koala or get close to a dingo, then continue on Gumeracha to see The Big Rocking Horse at the all-wooden toy factory. Further east is Birdwood and the historic National Motor Museum. A drive south will take you through Lobethal, home to the lovely Lobethal Christmas lights, and then through Lenswood, which is apple farming country.
Any roadside stall will offer up sky-high apple pies for you to take home, plus juice still crisp from the presses.
A trip through the southeast Adelaide Hills will take you through the stunning towns of Stirling and Aldgate, both wowser beautiful in Autumn, and on to the equally lovely Handorf. Founded by German settlers, Handorf has a million little day trip pleasures on offer, including the ChocoVino Experience at Handorf Hill Winery and strawberry picking at Beerenberg Farm, source of the best jams and spreads in Australia.
On your way back down to the city, you can stop in the leafy refuge of Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens or by the tumbling waters of Waterfall Gully. Finish off with a genuine local secret: find the lookout off Hayward Drive in Mount Osmond and settle in for the most spectacular sunset Adelaide has to offer.
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Morialta Falls & Cherryville
For a beautiful day trip right on the city fringe, cruise up Montacute Road all the way to Cherryville, named for the abundant wild and farmed cherries you can find in the area. Come back down via the Norton Summit Road and find your way into the Morialta Conservation Park, home to the beautiful (seasonal) Morialta Falls.
The 3.5-hour Three Falls hike will take you past dramatic cliffs, gorges and scenic vistas over Morialta, the Adelaide Plains and the River Torrens. There are shorter hikes for those who want to take it easier, past lush vegetation and wildlife. And if you’re truly organised, you can spend the day abseiling or rock climbing some of Adelaide’s most impressive cliffs.
On the way home from this cliff-climbing adventure, see if you can find a place called Wood Oven Gourmet Pizza on a dark suburban street in Campbelltown – it’s literally the best pizza you will eat in South Australia.
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Maslins & The Fleurieu Peninsula
The north side of the Fleurieu Peninsula is a stunning stretch of coastline, marked by epic sandstone bluffs and headlands, and gorgeous white sand beaches.
Start the day with a spot of snorkelling at Marino Rocks where you can spot the leafy sea dragon, the marine emblem of South Australia. A short drive south, you’ll find the stunning Hallett Cove Conservation Park, home to geological formations from the Permian, Pliocene and Pleistocene eras.
Another 15 minutes south and you’re in Maslin, home to the famous Maslin’s Beach, which in 1975 was declared the first nudist beach in Australia. On the Maslin’s Beach road, you’ll come to a T-junction – turn right to get your kit off and commune with the sea, or left for some beautiful cliff-top hiking.
At Port Wilunga beach you’ll find some of the most incredible (and dangerous) cliff jumping in South Australia, and more amazing snorkelling opportunities. At low tide, you can swim out over the Star of Greece shipwreck, but watch out for sharks. This part of the coast is chock-full of squid, snapper and groper, which makes it a happy feeding ground for the old Great White.
Finish off your day trip on the Fleurieu with a drive onto Sellecks Beach. The gob-smacking beauty of the Gulf of St Vincent opens out in front of you, and you can drive right out to the waves and watch the sun go down.
(Lead image: badjonni / Flickr)