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Surprise! 11 exciting Adelaide experiences you might not know about

Adelaide is a pretty, laidback, and well-designed city situated on the banks of the River Torrens.

Its inviting city centre blends wide open streets full of historical buildings with pretty parklands and other public spaces. Further afield are brilliant beaches as well as those world-famous wine regions.

But while much of that is well-known, Adelaide has a few surprises up its sleeve, too.

So, it’s time to unearth some of the city’s lesser-known but highly memorable activities and attractions.

Unearth sights aplenty at Adelaide Botanic Garden. Read more below.

1. You can climb an Adelaide icon

Adelaide Oval is among the most famous cricketing grounds anywhere in the world and also hosts regular AFL matches for the passionate, Aussie rules-obsessed locals.

The venue offers another thrilling experience, too: A roof climb. From this elevated vantage point, visitors can experience possibly the best views of the CBD and surrounds on offer as well as witness the celebrated stadium in a whole new light.

Regular day, twilight, and night tour options are available, but for the ultimate experience book a roof climb that coincides with a footy match. Unforgettable!

Reach for the sky with this enthralling experience. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

2. The botanic garden has incredible architecture

Tranquillity, openness, myriad plant life, a central location, and free entry – there’s a lot to love about Adelaide Botanic Garden. All to be expected, you might say.

What sets these gardens apart, though, is a trio of outstanding structures. The Bicentennial Conservatory might be the most famous of the lot. And as the southern hemisphere’s largest single span glasshouse, it sure is impressive.

But the Palm House seems even more eye-catching. This striking Victorian-style glasshouse, imported from Germany almost 150 years ago, is believed to be the only building of its kind to remain.

Don’t miss the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion, either. This imposing glass palace features the renowned Victoria amazonica waterlily.

The grand Palm House houses a remarkable collection of plants from Madagascar.

3. You can sample famed wines without leaving the city

With its global reputation for producing delicious wine, a tour of South Australia’s famous grape-growing regions makes for a fun experience. But time-poor visitors can let their tastebuds run wild without venturing past the city’s boundaries.

The centrally located National Wine Centre of Australia is an extravagant structure that’s home to a wealth of vino-related attractions.

Highlights include the interactive self-guided Wine Discovery Journey, an enthralling experience that extensively explores Australian wine from past to present; and the nation’s largest tasting room experience with 120 different Aussie wines to sample.

Or take an entertaining and educational tour of Penfolds Magill Estate on the outskirts of the city and sip on wines from this world-famous brand.

Sample top-shelf wines at Penfolds Magill Estate. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

4. Nature escapes are done with absolute ease

One of the beauties of Adelaide is a city escape can be enjoyed with relative simplicity.

Take Morialta Conservation Park for example. Planted just 15km east of Adelaide’s CBD, it feels a world away from city life. A network of walking tracks takes in stunning and colourful rugged cliffs and leads to gorgeous seasonal waterfalls, including Morialta Falls.

There are breathtaking views from lookouts, wildlife that includes koalas, and wildflowers in spring. For the more adventurous, the park is renowned for thrilling rock-climbing adventures.

Beautiful Morialta Conservation Park is within easy reach of the city. 

5. There are free tours of a chocolate factory

Sweet tooths take note: Free guided tours at Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolate maker are up for grabs in Adelaide.

Haigh’s has been creating delectable premium chocolate for more than a century, and you can learn all about its rich past at this sweet spot. Tours are held Monday-Saturday from 9am-2.30pm and Tuesday-Friday from 9am-4pm and include tastings. Yum!

There is a catch, though. Adjoining the factory is a visitor centre, which regards itself as Australia’s largest chocolate shop. Naturally, it’s filled with a vast assortment of goodies. And we defy you to keep your wallet or purse closed during a visit here!

Delicious chocolate. Free tours. What more needs to be written? Credit: Haigh's Chocolates.

6. The old gaol is seriously spooky

A visit to the fascinating Old Adelaide Gaol will get the heart pumping. This leading attraction explodes with gripping yarns retracing many of the colourful characters incarcerated within these walls as well as a wider outlook of the state’s penal past.

Take a self-guided tour for an engrossing glimpse at this historical structure. It’s an eerie and authentic revelation: What you see is what they (the prisoners) got.

There are plenty of tour options available, and a daytime excursion can be spooky enough. But joining an evening ghost crime tour is absolutely pulsating and takes the term ‘spine-tingling’ to a literal level.

A hair-raising experience awaits at Old Adelaide Gaol. Image courtesy: Adelaide's Haunted Horizons Ghost Tours.

7. The Adelaide Hills’ microbrewery scene buzzes

Ok, so the Adelaide Hills aren’t technically in Adelaide, but at a 30min drive from the CBD it scarcely matters. While this area might be known for its first-rate wineries, there is a cluster of brilliant microbreweries that warrants just as much attention.

Lobethal Bierhaus is an absolute beauty with tasty food the equal of its brews, while Prancing Pony Brewery on the outskirts of Hahndorf serves up a hefty range of full-flavoured beers in a cosy setting.

The spacious LOT.100 in the Hay Valley is home to Mismatch Brewing Co. alongside a cidery, distillery, and more while Uraidla Brewery's many tasty beers are on tap at the inviting Uraidla Hotel.

Or venture as far as the heart of Adelaide only to experience the inviting Lady Burra Brewhouse, which bills itself as the city’s only CBD microbrewery.

Lobethal Bierhaus is among the Adelaide Hills' brewtiful finds. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

8. The museum’s Australian Aboriginal collection is huge

More to the point, the South Australian Museum has the world's largest collection of Australian Aboriginal cultural material.

There are a whopping 30,000-plus items on display with all manner of artefacts and other culturally significant items to view.

It all forms part of a first-rate museum that comprehensively explores a massive range of themes with strong interest for young and old.

Visitors could conceivably spend all day here. And best of all – entry to the museum is free, making this one of those essential Adelaide attractions.

A mammoth Australian Aboriginal collection leads the museum's many highlights. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

9. Adelaide has a thriving laneway culture

Move over, Melbourne. A vibrant CBD laneway culture exists in the South Australian capital, too. Dozens of small-scale bars and eateries are dotted around Adelaide’s pedestrian-only thoroughfares, creating a fun and lively atmosphere in the city’s heart.

Leigh St is a stalwart of the laneway scene, but the likes of Bank and Peel streets and Ebenezer Place also attract their fair share of hip punters.

On one of those beautiful, balmy Adelaide nights, laneway hopping is an irresistible experience.

Adelaide's lively laneway culture is worth getting among. Credit: South Australian Tourism Commission.

10. Popeye is not just a cartoon character

Ok, this attraction isn’t exactly one of those unusual things to do in Adelaide, but we thought it warranted a mention.

And rather than being an attention dodger, it’s an Adelaide institution. For those not in the know, Popeye is a boat – or several boats – that cruise along the River Torrens between Elder Park and Adelaide Zoo.

A journey on Popeye is a relaxing way to take in city sights, and it can count Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip among its many passengers.

As well as regular day cruises there are a few fancier options, including high teas and gin tours.

Popeye is an Adelaide institution.

11. The state library makes for amazing pics

Looking for free things to do in Adelaide? Head to the State Library of South Australia. The grand building is an absolute treasure, serving up a series of aesthetic delights.

The Mortlock Wing is a serial attention grabber. Bold, ornate, and historical, it is a regular fixture on lists of the world's most beautiful libraries.

There is loads to see here, though, and daily and monthly themed tours of this site are sure to captivate. And these tours won’t cost you a cent, either!

Instagram essentials: The Mortlock Wing. Credit: Ockert le Roux.

Isn't it time you had an awesome Adelaide adventure? Book your next BIG4 break now.

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