There are things to do in the Adelaide Hills that will appeal to all types of travellers. The scenery, wildlife, and family friendly activities are the perfect mix of fun and relaxation. Although only 20 minutes from the city, the Adelaide Hills might as well be another world away.
In winter and autumn, the hills are often several degrees cooler than on the plains so have an extra layer handy. In summer, be aware that some attractions might close if there are fire bans.
Lookouts, walks and nature trails
From bushland to European streetscapes, the Adelaide Hills are a beautiful place to explore. Walking trails, lookouts and the botanic gardens are a great way to take in the landscape.
1. Mount Lofty summit
If you want to begin your visit to the Adelaide Hills on a high note, this is the place to do it. Mount Lofty summit has great views across Adelaide to York Peninsula. You can relax in the café and have the best seat in Adelaide to watch the sun set. There is also a visitor centre that has loads of information on the region.
2. Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty walk
This challenging 9km return walk goes between Waterfall Gully and the Mount Lofty summit. If you are not puffing too hard you might spot koalas, kangaroo and bandicoots. It’s also not uncommon to hear black cockatoos squawking overhead. The walk up is tough. Take water and take your time to enjoy the views. Allow three hours for the round trip. This walk is very popular. There are other trails in the area if you are trying to avoid people.
3. Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens
These compact, cool climate gardens are beautiful all year round. In spring Rhododendron and Magnolia Gullies are lovely walks. In autumn the red and orange leaves are spectacular. There are two carparks – the upper and lower. The lower option has easier walks around the lake. From the upper car park there are scenic walks down to the lake but getting back to your car can get you puffing.
4. Laratinga wetlands
For a completely different environment, check out the Laratinga Wetlands in Mount Barker. There are no hills here which make it the perfect place for a safe bike ride or walking your dog. It takes about an hour to do a full lap. There are shorter circuits which involve boardwalks and bridges. Laratinga is home to dozens of bird species so take you camera or binoculars if you are a birder. You never know what you will see!
Platypus spotting, feeding kangaroos, cuddling a koala. There are many ways to experience wildlife in the Adelaide Hills. You can even go on an African safari!
5. Cleland Wildlife Park
Cleland Wildlife Park is 5 minutes from the Mount Lofty summit. It is home to a collection of Australian native animals. There are keeper talks throughout the day. You can also hand feed animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, emus and potoroos.
The park offers a range of interactive experiences with its animals. You can get up close to a wombat, koalas, cockatoos and butterflies (all at extra cost). There is a large café and picnic areas. It is an easy place to spend a day.
6. Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary
For a native animal experience of a different kind try Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary. Warrawong is an open range sanctuary protected against feral animals. As you walk through the park, you can see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, bettongs and potoroos to name a few. The area also has rich birdlife.
Warrawong is home to South Australia’s only mainland population of platypuses. If you are quiet, still and lucky, you might just spot one. We recommend the guided tours – at dusk if you can. The keepers are expert animal spotters passionate about what they do. There are a range of animal encounters and keeper tag along experiences you can do.
7. Monarto Safari Park
While not strictly in the Adelaide Hills, you will likely have to drive through the hills to get there. Monarto is also shaping up as one of the most exciting animal parks in Australia. As the name suggests, Monarto Safari Park’s focus is on African animals. It is the largest open plain zoo in the southern hemisphere. If lions, giraffes, rhino and chimps are your thing you will love it. Read more in our Monarto Safari Park post.
The Adelaide Hills is a fantastic place to visit for children of all ages, and even the young at heart. Check out one of Australia’s best ‘big’ things, get into some nature play and explore life on a farm.
8. The Big Rocking Horse
Here is a big thing the kids will enjoy – the Big Rocking Horse. It’s huge! Unfortunately, it doesn’t rock but for a gold coin donation you can climb it and get a certificate to prove it. Besides the rocking horse, there is also a wooden toy factory with some lovely ‘old school’ toys in it.
For another gold coin you can walk through a petting zoo with kangaroos, emus, and farm animals. Bags of feed are available. There is small café on site too. It is a fun and inexpensive outing that younger children will enjoy. It is a picturesque drive to Gumeracha.
9. Woodhouse Activity Centre
Run by Scouts SA, Woodhouse is only 15 minutes from Adelaide and has a bunch of stuff to do. The highlight is Challenge Hill – a 30 piece obstacle course. There is a maze, frisbee golf and some fantastic new tube slides. You can buy a day pass to use the activities. There is also plenty of room for bush camping. Suitable for ages 5 and up, Woodhouse is a great place to spend a day or two.
10. Farm Barn
This is a lovely activity for younger children. They can get up close to a range of different farm animals and a few Australian native animals too. Located near Hahndorf, the Farm Barn offers a range of interactive experiences. You can milk cows, ride ponies and cuddle cute little bunnies and guinea pigs. The friendly staff also spend time talking about the animals and how a farm works. There are picnic and BBQ facilities which make it easy to explore the Farm Barn at your own pace.
go to town
One of the best things about the Adelaide Hills are the villages you drive through. While they vary in size, they all have in common an old world charm. Here are a few not to miss.
The leafy village of Stirling is the first of the bigger townships you come to as you leave Adelaide. It is worth walking a lap of the main street for its cafes, coffee shops and bakeries. Steam Roller Park and the picturesque Stirling oval are at either end of the street. They are great places to put your feet up and let the kids run around.
The main street is beautifully landscaped and is a picture at any time of year. In late April and May the deciduous trees put on a wonderful display of autumn colour. There are also regular markets held on the main street on the fourth Sunday of each month
Walking down the main street of Hahndorf, you would think you’re in a small German town. From traditional smallgoods, to the architecture, Hahndorf embraces its German heritage.
The main street has every type of shop you can imagine. You’ll see everything from antiques and gourmet food to clothing, craft and giftware. In autumn, see the lovely old buildings framed by rows of trees changing colour. Hahndorf has something for everyone. Doing a lap of the main street will keep you busy for hours!
13. Birdwood and the National Motor Museum
This pretty, unassuming little hills town is home to Australia’s premier motor museum. It has a collection of around 400 vehicles. It also hosts a range of special exhibitions and is home to a significant motoring library. There is also a huge range of motoring memorabilia on display.
Regardless of which car make you are loyal to, put aside a good day to explore all that the museum has on offer. It is well worth keeping an eye on their website to keep track of their latest special displays.
eating & drinking in the hills
Foodies will love the Adelaide Hills. Choose from cosy pubs, bakeries and chocolate factories or fine dining and wineries. Here is a short menu to tempt your tastebuds.
14. Wineries and more
It is easy to overlook the Adelaide Hills as a wine region. With the Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale, you can understand why. But, there are over 60 wineries in the Adelaide Hills producing award winning wines. Their hilly surrounds also mean you get some spectacular cellar door locations.
If deciding which wineries to visit gets too tricky, there are winery tours. Not only will they take you to the best cellar doors the in the hills, you also won’t have to draw straws to choose a designated driver.
If ciders, craft beers and spirits are more your thing you are also well catered for. Beer lovers can try the Lobethal Bierhaus and the Prancing Pony Brewery. Cider appreciators can try The Hills Cider Co., Paracombe Premium Perry and Sidewood. If gin is your thing try the Ambleside, Applewood and Adelaide Hills Distilleries.
15. Stirling, Crafers, and Uraidla Hotels
If you are more at home in a pub than a winery, here are three great pubs to get you started. Between them, the Stirling, Crafers and Uraidla hotels have won many awards. You can relax outside on a summer evening or sit around an open fire in winter. Enjoy great food, locally brewed drinks and a wonderful atmosphere.
Each pub, like the towns they’re in, has their own unique character. You could do worse than try all three over the course of a day or two and try to decide which your favourite is.
16. Mount Lofty House
If you are looking for a food and wine experience on a more luxurious scale, go no further than Mount Lofty House. The 1850s style manor is a beautiful boutique hotel. It is set among vineyards and has spectacular views across Piccadilly Valley.
Mount Lofty house has a day spa, fine food and luxury accommodation. The elegance and refinement of Mount Lofty house is the perfect way to spend an indulgent day or two.
17. Melba’s Chocolates
Located in Woodside, Melba’s chocolates are an Adelaide Hills institution. Anyone with a sweet tooth will love doing a bit of shopping here. You’ll likely leave with an armful of chocolates and lollies. You can watch chocolates get made on the premises and, if you look carefully, you might find the odd free sample.
If your tastes have a more savoury bent, right next door to Melbas is Woodside Cheese Wrights. And, to wash it down, there is a gin distillery next door. Something for everyone!
picking your favourite
While we’re on food, the Adelaide Hill’s cool climate makes it a great place to grow a variety of berries and other fruit. The best part is, you can pick your own.
18. Berenberg Farm
From November to April, Beerenberg is the place to go for strawberry picking. Located near Hahndorf, there are always plenty of plump, yummy strawberries to collect. There is nothing like the taste of strawberries picked straight from the field. It’s hardly surprising that the occasional one gets sampled along the way.
The farm shop also has a delicious range of sauces, marinades and relishes which you can buy year round. The products are all named which makes them fun gifts. For example, you can buy a jar of Deb’s pickled relish.
19. Other fruity picks
If you visit the hills in December and January, you can pick some juicy Christmas cherries. Check out Harben Vale Cherries in Balhannah or Marble Hill Cherries in Ashton. It’s a popular pastime with the locals so you might need to book a time to pick your fruit.
If you are a fan of figs, during February and March head to Glen Ewin Estate in lower Hermitage. Not only are the grounds spectacular, you’ll have up to five varieties of figs to pick. As well as the fresh fruit, there is also a restaurant and cellar door. You can try fig gin and a range of other locally produced spirits and wines.
Finally, if you are visiting in May, you can ‘Pick a Pink Lady’ at Harrisville Orchards in Lenswood. They have plenty of apple related produce for sale too. Keep an eye out as you drive through the hills for roadside apple stalls. The only picking you’ll have to do there is choosing between a fresh apple pie or a delicious apple strudel. Yum!
two wheel fun
You don’t need to spend long in the Adelaide Hills to realise it is a favourite destination for cyclists. If you prefer two wheels to four, hear are a few bike tips for your hills visit.
20. Tour Down Under
Held each year in January, the TDU is Australia’s premier cycling event. It attracts the world’s best teams and riders. Much of the tour takes place in the Adelaide Hills. There is a fantastic vibe along the course as the peloton races by. Better yet, get yourself to one of the race finish lines. The post-race celebrations and party that the host town puts on are great fun. It’s a week-long cycling fiesta!
21. Eagle Mountain Bike Park
Where better than the Adelaide Hills for a mountain bike park? If you prefer your cycling to be more off road, check out Eagle Mountain Bike Park. Located on the eastern slope of the ranges, there are over 20 kilometres of cross country trails. You can also try out the purpose built downhill track and a jumps park. There is something for all ability levels.
22. Amy Gillett Bikeway
For an easier ride, or even a walk, a great way to see some hills countryside is the Amy Gillet Bikeway. The 16km one way path runs between the picturesque towns of Oakbank and Mount Torrens. The sealed path, despite being in the hills, never gets beyond a gentle gradient. There are plenty of opportunities along the way for coffee stop. Spring and autumn would be the pick of the seasons for giving it a try.
arts & crafts
23. The Cedars
This is the home of one of Australia’s best known painters, Hans Heysen. Located near Hahndorf, his studio and house are in near original condition. They provide a fascinating insight into the artist and his family. The property is set on 60 hectares of garden that make a lovely spot for a picnic lunch . Best still, a revolving collection of around 200 of his painting are on display. Art lovers will find this insight into Heysen’s life fascinating.
Fabrik is a new art and craft precinct in the township of Lobethal. Located in the old woollen mills, the precinct was only established in 2019. It includes gallery space, studios, and displays celebrating the history of the mill. There is also a small shop where artists sell their work. If you are art and craft type, keep an eye on Fabrik’s website. They are always announcing new events and exhibitions. The historic Woollen mill buildings are worth a visit on their own.
25. Hills Sculpture Trail
For a different way to see the Adelaide Hills, plan your trip around the Hills Sculpture Trail. Local and international sculptors have contributed works to 16 towns in the Adelaide Hills. In many of the towns, the sculptures are the centrepiece of their parks and gardens.
It took us a few days, but we have been to all the sculptures on the trail. To learn more about the trail and what you can do in each of the sculpture towns, read our Hills Sculpture Trail post. As sculpture spotting can be thirsty work, we have included a quick guide to wineries near each town too.
We’ve included plenty of links if you want more information about the things on our list. We love learning about anything we have missed. So, if you have a great Adelaide Hills attraction or experience, we’d love to hear from you. If you are visiting Australia you might find this Australia Travel Budget Calculator helpful.