Adelaide is one of Australia’s hidden gems, but the surrounding countryside is also full of wonders. Regional South Australia is home to award-winning cultural and gastronomic destinations, stunning beaches, and wine country that is renowned around the world.
As a local, I’ve been taking day trips to explore Adelaide’s surroundings for years, and below I’ve curated my top picks!
When to Go:
Where to Stay:
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The 7 Best Day Trips From Adelaide in 2023
No matter which direction you travel from Adelaide, you’ll end up at a fantastic destination.
Many of the best nearby attractions are under two hours’ drive from South Australia’s capital city, so you can also spend a lot of time exploring your destination (and sometimes multiple destinations) with minimal driving time.
The closest attractions to Adelaide are small towns, villages, and country regions where you can escape the relative bustle of the capital. Fresh air, historic architecture, and untouched natural scenery awaits!
There are day trips for every kind of traveler, whether you’re a foodie looking for a chocolate-tasting tour, a wine connoisseur visiting a vineyard, or an animal lover ready to get up close and personal with native Australian wildlife.
To the east of Adelaide, you have the Adelaide Hills. With some towns in this region only 40 minutes away from the CBD, you could easily factor this into a day trip.
Head north and you’ll arrive in the famous Barossa Valley, adored for its wineries and foodie destinations. Similarly, travel south and you’ll find the wine region of McLaren Vale, which is also the gateway to the Fleurieu Peninsula.
Keep going to reach Victor Harbor and one of South Australia’s most popular local hideaways, Kangaroo Island.
1. Adelaide Hills
A collection of towns and country destinations close to home.
Travel Time By Car: 45 minutes
Tour Recommendation: Small Group Adelaide Hills and Hahndorf Hideaway Tour from Adelaide
In my opinion, the Adelaide Hills are the highlight of Adelaide and all the surrounding areas.
The hills border the city on the eastern side and are close enough to incorporate into a morning or afternoon trip only. However, with several attractions in the hills, you’ll want to make a day of it, at least!
The Adelaide Hills are known for their charming towns and hamlets that serve as a throwback to 19th and early 20th century Australia, including Hahndorf, Stirling, and Birdwood.
Dispersed throughout the greenery of the hills are wineries and vineyards where you can stop for lunch—Barristers Block Wines at Woodside is a particularly great choice.
There are also family attractions to discover, from the Hahndorf Farm Barn to Melba’s Chocolate Factory to the Sticky Rice Cooking School to the Big Rocking Horse.
The Adelaide Hills begin around 10 kilometers from the CBD and can be accessed by the South Eastern Freeway, whether you’re driving yourself or taking a bus. As there are sufficient public transport options, this is one of the best day trips from Adelaide without a car.
2. McLaren Vale
The southern wine country is known for national labels and picturesque countryside.
Travel Time By Car: 50 minutes
Tour Recommendation: McLaren Vale Luxury Full-Day Small Group Wine Tour
Not even an hour to the south of the CBD lies the picturesque wine region of McLaren Vale.
In this area and its surrounds, you’ll find several famous wineries and world-class restaurants, including Down the Rabbit Hole Cellar Door & Restaurant, Coriole Vineyards (a destination so pretty that it’s often used for weddings), and Chalk Hill Wines.
The d’Arenberg Cube is arguably McLaren Vale’s most iconic attraction. Inside the cube, you’ll find a wine sensory room, a virtual fermenter, an art exhibition, a tasting room with supreme vistas, and a video room. The in-house restaurants at the Cube—Singapore Circus and d’Arry’s Verandah—are among Adelaide’s best.
In the summer, you might want to combine a trip to McLaren Vale with a beach visit, since it’s only minutes away from some of the area’s best southern beaches, including Aldinga and Port Willunga.
McLaren Vale can be accessed by bus or car and is easy to reach by traveling on the Southern Expressway, which extends from Adelaide’s southern suburbs.
3. Barossa Valley
The north-eastern wine-producing region is home to scenic vineyards and heritage communities.
Travel Time By Car 1 hour
Tour Recommendation: Barossa Valley Wineries Tour with Tastings and Lunch from Adelaide
The north-eastern answer to McLaren Vale is the Barossa, just an hour away from the CBD. The region is also home to a world-class selection of wineries, among which are Hentley Farm Cellar Door, Whistler Wines, and Jacob’s Creek.
The Barossa Valley has also made a name for itself as a foodie destination, boasting restaurants such as Harvest Kitchen, Lou’s Place, and Artisans of Barossa.
Another must-visit spot for food-lovers is Australian chef Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, where you can enjoy a lunch of platters and purchase in-house goods.
The Barossa is close enough to Adelaide to visit on a day trip, but if you did want to explore the region in more depth, there are also several hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area. Check out the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort or the lavish Barossa Pavilions for the ultimate getaway.
4. Victor Harbor
A charming waterfront town steeped in history and marine life.
Travel Time By Car: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Tour Recommendation: Victor Harbor and Southern Highlights Tour from Adelaide
One of the best family-friendly day trip destinations from Adelaide is the bayside town of Victor Harbor. The quaint town is a popular tourist destination in the summer, easily recognized by the iconic horse-drawn tram that takes visitors to Granite Island, home to a colony of penguins.
Victor Harbor is also the location of the South Australian Whale Center, and if you visit between June and September, you might even spot the Southern Right Whales as they migrate to Encounter Bay from Antarctica.
Nearby is also the Urimbirra Wildlife Park and the heritage Cockle Train, which travels from Victor Harbor to the nearby town of Goolwa and boasts views of the surrounding coastal cliffs.
You can drive to Victor Harbor or catch the bus from Adelaide, which usually takes under two hours.
The only time I’d recommend avoiding Victor is during the Schoolies festival, which usually takes place in mid-to-late November. During this time, thousands of school-leavers head to the bay to celebrate the end of their schooling, and it can get a little rowdy.
5. Kangaroo Island
A quiet island off the South Australian coast known for its wildlife, geological wonders, and nature reserves.
Travel Time By Car: 2 hours to Cape Jervis, then 40 minutes on the ferry, and then another 40 minutes to the town of Kingscote
Tour Recommendation: Kangaroo Island Scenic Nature and Wildlife Day Tour
Kangaroo Island is one of South Australia’s greatest attractions. There’s so much to explore there that most people visit for longer than a day. I went for three days and still didn’t see everything! But if you’re on a tight schedule, you could see a few of the main sights in one long day trip.
The island is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including penguins, sea lions, koalas, and of course, kangaroos. More than a third is in official nature reserve territory, and the island is also home to other-worldly geological formations, including the Admirals Arch and the Remarkable Rocks.
Waiting to be discovered on the island are several wineries, farms, and distilleries (the lavender farm is a must!), and national parks and wildlife parks.
You can reach the island via ferry, which leaves from Cape Jervis, to the south of Adelaide. If you’re really strapped for time, Qantas offers short 30-minute flights to Kangaroo Island from Adelaide Airport.
There’s limited public transport on the island itself, so your best option is to take a car on the ferry, hire a car when you get to the island, or join a Kangaroo Island tour.
6. Monarto Safari Park
A real safari park with more than 500 animals to observe.
Travel Time By Car: 1 hour
Since its founding in 1983, Monarto Safari Park has been one of Adelaide’s most popular attractions for families and animal-lovers.
The park has undergone several recent upgrades and renovations, including the construction of a new Visitor Center and glamping facilities. A new resort at the park is also set to open by the end of 2023.
Monarto stands out from other similar destinations in Adelaide as it boasts a range of non-native Australian animals (along with native wildlife), which you can view in a safari setting. In particular, there are several African animals to see, including giraffes, zebras, and African lions.
There are also a handful of exciting animal experiences you can sign up for, including the Lions 360 feeding experience. I’d personally recommend the Giraffe Safari!
You can reach the park by car or bus, and it’s only about an hour from the CBD.
7. Clare Valley
An idyllic valley of rivers, breweries, and culinary hotspots.
Travel Time By Car: Just over 2 hours
Tour Recommendation: Get UnCorked in Clare Valley Tour from Adelaide
Approximately 100 kilometers to the north of Adelaide, you’ll find the scenic Clare Valley.
Another wine region full of historic towns and gastronomic hotspots, the valley is perfect for a day trip from Adelaide. Thanks to the picturesque surroundings, it’s also one of the most romantic day trips from Adelaide.
From bike and walking trails to golf courses and country clubs to award-winning restaurants and wineries, there are endless things to see and do in the valley.
Clare also hosts exciting events throughout the year, including the SA Autumn Garden Festival and the Clare Races, both of which take place in March.
You can reach the Clare Valley via car or bus, or by air by touching down at the Clare Valley Aerodrome, just 10 minutes away from the region’s heart.
FAQs About Adelaide Attractions
How is the public transportation from Adelaide to the main day trip destinations?
In many cases, there will be public transport available to take you from Adelaide to the surrounding regional destinations. Of course, you’ll always have more flexibility when driving yourself, but otherwise, public transport is a good option.
There is a metro bus service that connects Adelaide to various towns in the Adelaide Hills, and McLaren Vale. See the website for details and timetables. Public transport also connects Adelaide to Monarto Safari Park via LinkSA.
There are two buses that link Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, the details of which can be found on the Barossa website.
To travel to Victor Harbor by bus, you can catch the LinkSA Route 1253 bus that departs from the southern Adelaide suburb of Marion once per day, Monday through Friday.
The company SeaLink, which also operates the ferry to Kangaroo Island, runs a coach service from Adelaide to Cape Jervis (where the ferry leaves to travel to Kangaroo Island), which stops at several other nearby destinations.
Which side of the road do they drive on in Adelaide?
In Adelaide and regional South Australia, you will be driving on the left-hand side of the road. However, you will be driving on the right-hand side of the car!
International drivers can drive in South Australia using their overseas license as long as they carry with them either an international driving permit or an English translation of their license. Note you can only drive vehicles that your overseas license permits.
Is rural driving in South Australia safe?
Day trips from Adelaide may involve some rural driving, which can be unsafe if you don’t practice caution. Most importantly, ensure that you understand and have familiarized yourself with the local road rules.
Traveling in the country can be particularly risky because you’ll likely have to drive on one of the freeways running out of the city, which tend to be used by large freight trucks and semi trailers, which are known to have several blind spots.
In addition to learning the local road rules, also get up-to-date on truck safety. This includes not staying in a known blind spot for too long and being careful when overtaking heavy vehicles.
Along with the potential dangers from other vehicles, it’s also important to look out for wildlife when driving on country roads.
Particularly on Kangaroo Island where the road speeds are generally 100 kilometers per hour, kangaroos sometimes jump in front of oncoming cars as they try to cross the road. At this speed, this can do serious damage to your vehicle and may even cause an accident. Be aware of what wildlife is around, never speed, and stay alert.
Because of the possible risks of driving yourself, you may want to join a tour that goes to the destination you’re visiting or catch public transport if it’s available. However, you can still drive yourself on your day trip from Adelaide as long as you’re well-versed in local laws and risks.
Which Cities/Towns/Attractions are less than 2 hours away from Adelaide?
The best thing about taking a day trip from Adelaide is that the majority of the best places to visit are under two hours away by car. The Adelaide Hills is the closest destination, with some towns taking under an hour to reach via the South Eastern Freeway.
Because of the close distance of the Adelaide Hills, you could visit one or two towns in the morning and be back in Adelaide by the afternoon, or vice versa. Monarto Safari Park takes around an hour to reach from the CBD, and is just a little deeper into the Adelaide Hills than other key locations.
McLaren Vale takes about 50 minutes to reach from the Adelaide CBD—a quick drive down the Southern Expressway. Victor Harbor is another half an hour or so of driving from McLaren Vale.
To the north, the Barossa Valley takes just under an hour to reach from the city along the Northern Expressway. You can visit any of these popular places in under two hours of driving time, making them the most ideal day trip destinations.