Adelaide; city of churchesIf you’re visiting South Australia’s capital, the city of Adelaide, you’ll find a different pace of life to the bustle of Sydney or Melbourne. Known for its arts, sports and as the city of churches, there is plenty to see and do in the city itself. But there are also some things not to be missed a short trip out of the city. These were my best day trips from Adelaide.

 

 

 

 

Monarto Zoo

This was my absolute favourite trip I took out of Adelaide. I normally hate zoos because I can’t abide the idea of wild animals in confinement and seeing them so forlorn, but I also recognise the importance of such institutions in preserving the existence of some species on this planet. Monarto Zoo isn’t your average zoo.

What makes Monarto Zoo different?

If you’ve heard of an open plains or open range zoo before you’ll understand what makes Monarto Zoo different. The zoo spans over 1,500 hectares and is home to over fifty species of exotic and native animals, all of them with space to roam. It is the largest open range zoo in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It is also home to one of Australia’s largest lion prides and giraffe herds.

Monarto Zoo is owned by a conservation charity and has played an important role in breeding and re-population, having reintroduced species previously extinct in the wild. They also have some species classified as extinct in the wild.

Black Rhino at Monarto Zoo, Adelaide

One of Monarto’s two Black Rhinos

Getting to Monarto Zoo

Getting to Monarto Zoo will be easiest if you have a car. It is an hour drive from Adelaide.

LinkSA also offer a bus from Adelaide to Monarto Zoo running Monday to Friday.

Monarto Zoo is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm, last entry is at 3pm. If you also intend to visit Adelaide Zoo you can purchase an adult two zoos pass for $54. Single entry is $36 for an adult pass.

The Monarto Zoo experience

up close with a giraffe at Monarto Zoo, AdelaideMonarto Zoo offers a variety of animal experiences to get even closer with the giraffes, zebras, meerkats, chimpanzees and even the lions and rhino. However even if you don’t want to pay the extra for these experiences a highlight of a Monarto Zoo visit is how up close and personal you can get to the animals. There is an elevated viewing platform in the giraffe enclosure, which will bring you face to face with the curious giraffes who stroll right up to the platform. You can be metres from a cheetah, chimpanzees and meerkats.

You can choose to stroll through the grounds on the established trails, or hop on and off the bus that loops around the enclosures, including safari style through the lion enclosure.

It’s worth timing your route around for the scheduled times to hear from the keepers. Not only do you get to hear more about the animals, but it will give you a great opportunity to get some close up photos of the animals, such as their hand-reared cheetah Kwatile. Although she was born at Monarto, as a single cub her chances of survival were low so the decision was made to rear her by hand.

Hand reared Cheetah Kwatile at Monarto Zoo, Adelaide

 

The Barossa Valley

No trip to South Australia is complete without a drive through the picturesque Barossa Valley, especially if you’re a wine lover. While the Barossa is one of Australia’s best known wine regions, it also hosts a variety of events and culinary experiences comprised of gourmet local produce. It is a region particularly known for its Shiraz, and has some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world.

The Barossa region also features in a number of films and television programs.

Getting to the Barossa Valley

The Barossa is less than an hour from Adelaide and if you don’t have a car and a designated driver there are a plethora of options for tours. Each tour will offer a different combination of wineries and restaurants, so choose one based on any specific places you have in mind.

Where to go in the Barossa Valley

Wine is a personal taste so it’s a hard recommendation to make, but the Barossa Valley is home to a number of very well known wineries, including Jacob’s Creek, Penfolds and Wolf Blass. I’m more of a fortified wine/liqueur person myself so if that is more your style I recommend swinging by Chateau Dorrien for their amazing Chocolate Port. It was so good I carried it across South Australia and Victoria to get it home.

The famous chef Maggie Beer also has a store and eatery offering food straight from the farm. I wasn’t able to make it there myself but it was recommended to me by every local.

Vineyard in the Barossa Valley, South Australia

 

Glenelg

A short train ride from Adelaide can be found the quiet seaside town of Glenelg. I actually chose Glenelg as the destination for a few days of quiet relaxation after a busy few weeks, and was lucky enough to rent a beachfront apartment, at a surprisingly good rate too, a short stroll out of town that offered me a fabulous sunset view every day from my balcony. It was also the location of my second attempt to cross swimming with dolphins off my bucket list. Unfortunately my booked tour never ended up running. Years later I am still yet to swim with Dolphins.

Sunset at Glenelg

But even if you don’t plan to stay Glenelg is worth the visit. There are options for family activities, fishing charters, outlet shopping, tours and a beautiful beach. I have a tradition where if I am on the coast I need to eat the seafood, and Glenelg doesn’t disappoint with the selection on offer.

Dolphins are a common sight, it is worth taking a walk around to the marina, you probably won’t have to sit and wait for long before seeing a fin or two swimming by, especially at dusk. I was incredibly excited to see my first wild dolphins here.

Pair of dolphins in Glenelg Marina

 

Hahndorf

Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. It is a quaint, beautiful little town filled with old world architecture and that old colonial feel, and is worth the visit just for that.

Hahndorf Inn, Hahndorf South Australia

Getting to Hahndorf

Hahndorf is approximately a 20 minute drive from Adelaide, and as it is on the way to the Barossa Valley it is a common stop on the way.

Buses run from Adelaide to Hahndorf regularly.

Why visit Hahndorf?

Three words. Shop, stroll, eat.

Hahndorf is full of quaint little stores showing off local craftmanship in leather, wood and fabrics, and is a great place to get some of your gift shopping done.

There’s plenty to choose from for food options, expect big servings as anyone who has traveled to Germany or Austria well knows. But one of the things Hahndorf is best known for is its sweets, particularly the fudge. Trust me – try it!

Its also full of history, with a great story of the original German settlers.

 

Victor Harbor

I stayed in Victor Harbor after spending the day at Monarto Zoo on the first leg of my Adelaide to Melbourne road trip, as I didn’t want to face a long drive after a day in the sun. Given it is a diversion, you wouldn’t normally stop at Victor Harbor on this route, but its proximity to Adelaide makes it a good choice for a day trip.

Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor, South Australia, as seen from above

Getting to Victor Harbor

Direct from Adelaide, Victor Harbor is just over an hours drive.

Buses and trains also run from Adelaide.

Things to do in Victor Harbor

I had a really lovely morning in Victor Habor, hiking up a nearby bluff looking over Encounter bay to see the town from above. Victor Harbor is known for its sightings of whales, dolphins and other marine life, and while the view was exceptional there was no marine life on display for me.

Taking the horse drawn tram to Granite Island, situated in a marine park, offers more opportunities to see whales between May and November, as well as a colony of little penguins.

Kids will love taking the steam train ride along the coastline.

Victor Harbor is surrounded by National Park, so there is plenty of opportunity to interact with nature.

Where to stay in Victor Harbor

I stayed at the Anchorage Hotel which offered inexpensive and comfortable accommodation centrally located.

Petrel Cove, Victor Harbor, South Australia

Petrel Cove

You can read about my Great Ocean Road Trip here.

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