28 Amazing Things To Do In The Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills is a picturesque region located just a short drive from Adelaide, South Australia. This region is renowned for its rolling hills, stunning views, and charming towns. With its beautiful landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the Adelaide Hills is a must-visit destination for tourists. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, cultural and historical sites, food and beverage experiences, or just a peaceful escape from the city, the Adelaide Hills has something to offer for everyone.
In this blog post, we will be highlighting some of the most exciting things to do in the Adelaide Hills that will make your trip unforgettable. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore one of Australia’s most enchanting regions!
The Green Adventurers acknowledge and pay respect to the Kaurna & Peramangk people as the custodians of the lands and waters of the Adelaide Hills region. We pay respect to elders both past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We acknowledge and respect the Kaurna & Peramangk people’s cultural, spiritual, physical and emotional connection with their land, waters and community.
About The Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills are located to the east of the city of Adelaide and include many townships including Hahndorf, Stirling, Mt Barker, Lobethal, Woodside and more.
The traditional owners of the region are the First Nations Peramangk and Kaurna people who called this area home for thousands of years before the invasion of European settlers. Records indicate that approximately 600 Peramangk were living around Mount Barker and at least 1,200 across its Nation and Claim areas at the time of European colonisation.
As white settlers claimed the land and began clearing land to build settlements and farms, the Indigenous people were displaced as they could no longer access their usual food and water sources. Many Peramangk & Kaurna families were moved to Aboriginal missions set up by Lutheran Church and government organisations and the Peramangk language as a whole was lost but there are descendants of the original Adelaide Hills people still living in the region.
Some of the place names in the hills are the original Indigenous names including Brukunga, Uraidla, Gumeracha, Onkaparinga, Echunga, and Cudlee Creek.
In 2018, after 18 years of legal proceedings, the Kaurna people were recognised as native title holders of the lands around Adelaide including a large part of the Adelaide Hills.
Getting To The Adelaide Hills
The quickest and easiest way to explore the Adelaide Hills is by car. The region is a short drive from the Adelaide CBD. Some towns like Crafters & Norton Summit are around a 20-minute drive and even the furthest destinations can be reached in under an hour.
Don’t have a car? Check out rental car options here.
Adelaide Hills Tours
If you don’t have your own transport see the Adelaide Hills on a guided tour and get the added bonus of a knowledgeable guide!
- Adelaide: Hahndorf German Village Day Tour with Lunch
- Adelaide: Highlights, Hahndorf, & McLaren Vale Wine Tastings
- Adelaide: Half-Day City Highlights, Mt. Lofty, and Hahndorf
- South Australia: Guided Full-Day Highlights Tour
- Adelaide Hills, Hahndorf & Mount Lofty from Adelaide
- Adelaide: Adelaide Hills Full-Day Tour with Wine Tasting
- Hahndorf: Gourmet Food & Wine Electric Bike Tour
- From Adelaide: Hahndorf and Barossa Valley with Winery Lunch
- Hahndorf: Wine Tasting and Blending Experience
- Adelaide Hills Tour with River Murray Lunch Cruise
Outdoor Activities In The Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills are a stunning destination for outdoor activities. With its rolling hills, lush forests, and picturesque wineries, the Adelaide Hills offer plenty of opportunities for adventure. From hiking and cycling to camping and kayaking, there are plenty of things to do in the Adelaide Hills that will make your trip unforgettable. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day out or an adrenaline-filled adventure, the Adelaide Hills has something for everyone. Discover all the amazing outdoor activities you can enjoy in this beautiful region!
Mount Lofty – The Highest Peak In The Adelaide Hills
At an elevation of 712 metres from sea level, Mount Lofty in the highest point in the Adelaide Hills and the best view. From the summit you can see views of the city below all they way out to the ocean as well as the surrounding hills & suburbs. The huge white obelisk was constructed in 1885 and was used as a central reference point when Adelaide was being surveyed.
How To Get To Mount Lofty
The view is even better when you work for it and the 3.9km walk from Waterfall Gully will certainly get your heart-rate going. The walk is classified as Grade 4 – Hard Hike by Walking SA and the climb of 475 metres includes a lot of steep terrain. This is not an easy hike for beginners so a moderate fitness level or more is recommended.
Mount Lofty is easy to access by car. Take the freeway to the Adelaide Hills and exit at Crafers. The route to Mount Lofty summit is clearly signed and it’s around 3km from Crafers. The car park at Mount Lofty is not free so a visit will set you back $4 for an hour.
Mount Lofty is not easy to access by bus. The closest you can get is to Crafers from there walk 4.5km to Mount Lofty. Although this is longer than the Waterfall Gully hike it is a lot less steep gaining 140m in elevation, it is still 9km all up so not an easy walk.
If you don’t have your own vehicle taking a tour to the Adelaide Hills is a great option and will include a stop at Mount Lofty.
Mount Lofty attracts plenty of visitors so there are excellent facilities including a paid car park, visitor information centre, gift shop, toilets, cafe & restaurant which are all accessible and wheelchair friendly.
Mount Lofty Car Park Opening Hours
October to March — 6:00am — 11:00pm
April to September — 6:00am — 9:00pm
Mount Lofty Summit Gift Shop:
Open 9:00am — 5:00 pm daily (closed Christmas Day).
Wildlife at Mount Lofty
If you see a rat-like creature scurrying about at the summit it may be a bandicoot! The Southern Brown Bandicoot is a nationally endangered species found in the Mount Lofty Range.
I have been lucky to see one here on multiple occasions so keep your eyes peeled. Bandicoots are nocturnal so they become active in the evening so if you are catching a Mount Lofty sunset you may have some company!
You can also spot kangaroos and koalas here, especially on the walking trails.
Hiking In The Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills are a great place to explore and experience the beauty of nature. With its breathtaking views and diverse terrain, it is an ideal destination for hiking enthusiasts. It offers a variety of walking trails, ranging from easy to challenging, which makes it suitable for all levels of hikers.
The Heysen Trail
The Heysen Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Adelaide Hills, as it takes you through some stunning landscapes and provides a great opportunity to explore the region’s rich wildlife and flora. The full trail is 1200km from Cape Jervis to Parachilna so most hikers do smaller sections of the trail.
Sections in the Adelaide Hills
Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens
You will be hard-pressed to find a more impressive garden anywhere in the world! The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens are nothing short of spectacular and a must-see for all visitors to Adelaide. The garden is on a sloped hill so some of the different areas of the garden require a bit of walking uphill. There is parking at both the top and bottom of the garden but I prefer to park at the bottom and start with the uphill walk first.
Adelaide has many reservoirs which have only recently been opened for public access. Mt Bold is the largest reservoir in South Australia, and the reserve is surrounded by more than 5,500 ha of land. Much of the surrounding bushland has been preserved and is the original old stringybark woodland that has not been subject to much human interference. There is also a manna gum woodland and many swamps and creeks. The beautiful and dense forest is filled with native species with 160 native animals living in the area including the southern brown bandicoot.
Mountain Biking & Cycling In The Adelaide Hills
Amy Gillett Bikeway – The trail spans 15 km, starting just north of Oakbank, winding through Woodside, and ending at Mt Torrens. Although it is a bikeway it is also suitable for walkers. While primarily utilized by cyclists, the trail is perfect for short walks, bike rides with kids or leisurely strolling
Need a set of wheels? BikeAbout offer E-bike hire from Hahndorf, Woodside & Langhorne Creek.
Bike Riding Tour
Hahndorf food and wine E-Bike Tour – Explore the Adelaide Hills on an electrifying adventure with the Mt Lofty Electric Bike Guided Tour. This tour starts in Hahndorf where you’ll hop on a bus and make your way to the starting point for a scenic bike ride. Soak in the breathtaking views from Mt Osmond, discover the history behind the Pioneer Women’s Trail, and keep an eye out for koalas and other wildlife as you wind through the hills. Take a break at Mt Lofty Summit for a coffee before continuing your journey through the forest to Mt Osmond. The tour concludes in Hahndorf, giving you the chance to stroll through the charming German village and explore Adelaide’s history.
Fox Creek Bike Park
The self-proclaimed “raddest bike park in Australia”, the Fox Creek Community Bike Park is free and open to bikers of all abilities to enjoy.
As much as I would rather see a native forest and not one created for profit, the pine forests in the Adelaide Hills are a magical place to explore. Kuitpo and Mt Crawford are both managed for wood production but are available to be used and enjoyed by the community.
Wildlife In The Adelaide Hills
The Adelaide Hills is a biodiverse region in South Australia and is home to a variety of wildlife species. Some of the most notable species found in the area include:
- Koalas: These iconic marsupials can be found in eucalyptus forests in the Adelaide Hills.
- Kangaroos: The open woodlands of the Adelaide Hills provide a habitat for eastern grey kangaroos.
- Birds: The Adelaide Hills are a popular destination for birdwatching, with over 200 species of birds found in the region, including fairy wrens, black cockatoos and the rare and endangered regent parrot.
- Reptiles: The Adelaide Hills are home to a number of reptiles, including the southern grass skink, the eastern three-lined skink, and several species of snakes.
- Native mammals: The Adelaide Hills are home to several native mammals, including the brush-tailed possum, the yellow-footed antechinus, and the southern brown bandicoot.
- Amphibians: The Adelaide Hills are also home to several species of frogs, including the spotted grass frog and the southern brown tree frog.
Towns To Explore
Hahndorf – Historic German Village
If you are going to visit one town in the Adelaide Hills make it Hahndorf! Hahndorf is a historic German village in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. It was established in 1839 by Prussian Lutheran settlers and is one of the oldest German settlements in Australia. The village has a unique charm and offers visitors an insight into its rich cultural heritage, with many original buildings still standing today.
Visitors to Hahndorf can explore the town’s many attractions, including its old-world architecture, art galleries, cafes and restaurants serving traditional German cuisine. There are also a number of wineries nearby that offer tastings and tours for those who want to experience some of the local produce.
Stirling is a gorgeous little hills town just 20 minutes from the Adelaide CBD. The main street is the perfect place for a stroll and browse through the cute boutique shops. You can’t miss Red Cacao for the best vegan hot chocolate ever!
The Stirling Hotel has one of the best vegan pub meals in Adelaide.
When I lived in the Adelaide Hills a walk along the Heysen Trail to Bridgewater was an almost daily occurrence. The Bridgewater Inn is perfectly located on the river and is the perfect place to rest and maybe indulge in a vegan schnitzel!
The biggest town in the Adelaide Hills is Mount Barker and although it feels more developed than the smaller towns it has retained its charm, especially in the main street.
Art, History & Culture
SteamRanger Heritage Railway
The SteamRanger Railway is a heritage railway that operates in the Adelaide Hills & Fleurieu Peninsula regions of South Australia. The railway operates a fleet of historic trains including the Bugle Ranger & The Cockle Train. The two services from Mt Barker station are the Bugle Ranger to Philcox Hill and the Southern Encounter to Victor Harbor.
Whether you’re a train enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a unique and scenic way to explore the Adelaide Hills, the SteamRanger Railway is a great option!
Hahndorf Academy Regional Arts & Heritage Centre
A not-for-profit cultural centre with a shop, gallery, and museum celebrating local artists and stories.
National Motor Museum
The National Motor Museum, located in Birdwood, is a museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history of the motor vehicle in Australia. It features a collection of over 300 vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, and racing cars. The museum’s collection covers over 100 years of automotive history, from early horse-drawn carriages to modern electric vehicles.
The Pioneer Women’s Trail
The Pioneer Women’s Trail: A historic trail that winds through the Adelaide Hills and is dedicated to the memory of the pioneering women who helped to settle the region.
Pioneer Women’s Trail, Verdun to Beaumont
Food & Beverage In The Adelaide Hills
Want beer, cider, wine & gin in one location? Lot 100 has every taste covered.
Lot 100 is a vineyard and cellar door near Nairne. Known for producing high-quality, premium wines, beers, gin, and cider, Lot 100 offers visitors a unique and diverse range of beverages to enjoy surrounded by rolling hills and stunning scenery. The Vinteloper vineyard grows a variety of grape varieties, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, which are used to produce a range of wines with unique and distinct flavours.
Lot 100 is also home to the Mismatch brewery which produces a range of craft beers, using locally sourced ingredients and unique brewing methods. The brewery offers a range of beers, from crisp and refreshing sours to rich and flavorful stouts.
South Australia’s best cider is also made at Lot 100. The Hill Cider Company makes absolutely divine ciders. Sampling a few varieties with a tasting flight is a great option just make sure you have a designated driver because they can be quite high in alcohol content.
The fun doesn’t stop there! The 78 Degrees Gin distillery is one of the 5 parts that make up Lot 100 as it is the Ashton Valley Fresh juice company.
In addition to production facilities, Lot 100 also features a tasting room, where visitors can sample the venue’s range of wines, beers, gin, and cider, and learn about the production process. The tasting room is set in a beautifully restored historic barn, offering a unique and relaxed setting for beverage tastings and enjoyment.
Whether you’re a wine enthusiast, beer lover, gin aficionado, or cider drinker, Lot 100 has something to offer for everyone. With its commitment to quality and locally sourced ingredients and sustainable farming and production practices, enjoying a beverage here is the perfect way to taste the flavours of the Adelaide Hills.
Adelaide Hills Markets
The Adelaide Hills region of South Australia is home to several bustling markets, offering locals and visitors alike the opportunity to explore and experience the area’s rich culture, history, and local produce. Some of the popular markets in the Adelaide Hills include:
The Stirling Market is held on Druid Street in the heart of Stirling. Stallholders offer a range of fresh produce for you to purchase, artisan chocolates, art, jewellery, handbags, local natural beauty products, plants, fashion, fresh produce & much more.
Hahndorf Pop Market
POP Market is all about supporting small businesses producing handmade and homemade items in South Australia. Products range from home decor, gifts for children, unique artwork, furniture, flowers & plants to something sweet after your Hahndorf lunch. Check upcoming dates here.
Country town pubs are always as unique as the town you find them in. The Uraidla Pub accurately being both the best and worst pub in town! Gone are the days when the best vegan option you could get at a pub was a garden salad, in a region famous for its food the bar is high and venues are great at catering to dietary needs.
Check out the vegan pub meals guide for the full list of pubs around Adelaide with great vegan options.
At Beerenberg Strawberry Farm, you can experience the joy of hand-picking your own fresh strawberries! The farm has been owned by the Paech family for six generations and the name “Beerenberg” means Berry Hill in German, honouring their heritage.
Visitors are welcome to pick strawberries from November to April. Admission is $5 per person, and you pay $10.95 per kilogram for the berries you gather.
Before heading to the farm, it’s advisable to check their website for availability, as the berry patch may need to close during the day due to being picked out or unfavourable weather conditions. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to savour the sweet, juicy goodness of fresh-picked strawberries!
Cherry picking is a popular activity in the Adelaide Hills during the cherry season, which typically takes place from late November to early January. The Adelaide Hills is home to many cherry orchards, where visitors can pick their own cherries or purchase freshly picked cherries from the farm gate.
Seasons & Events In The Adelaide Hills
Autumn In The Adelaide Hills
The most colourful time of year in Adelaide is autumn when the trees turn every shade imaginable of yellow, orange and red. Autumn in Adelaide is in March, April & May but it really takes until early April for the colours to really start to show.
This guide will take you through all the best places in and around Adelaide to see the autumn colours.
The English Ale – Mylor
This is undoubtedly the most unique and strangest experience I have had in The Adelaide Hills and quite possibly in the world! I visited Mylor on an afternoon in May and accidentally came across a festival known as The English Ale.
To celebrate the return of the “Jack In The Green” or the green season and the end of the hot dry summer and a procession of dancers and singers who are dressed in costumes that could be described as olden-day, silly and even spooky! The gathering ends in the burning of the wicker man – a figure made of sticks and wood.
The event is held each May – The 2023 English Ale will be held at Mylor Oval on 20th May.
Things To Do In The Adelaide Hills With Kids
Gumaracha Giant Rocking Horse
The 14-metre high giant rocking horse was built in 1981 by local wood craftsman, Rodney Jackson, and is one of the largest rocking horses in the world. It is located at the Gumeracha Toy Factory, which sells handmade wooden toys and souvenirs, and offers a museum that showcases the history of wooden toys in Australia.
Look For Mushrooms
Definitely not an experience that solely appeals to kids, exploring forests and gardens to find cute mushrooms is a fun activity for everyone. Kuitpo & Mt Crawford pine forests are good places to spot the amanits muscaria – a white spotty mushroom that looks like a cartoon. Here are some other varieties you may spot!
The best time to go foraging for mushrooms in the Adelaide Hills is during the rainy season, which typically runs from April to November. During this time, the forest floor is moist, and the environment is perfect for mushrooms to grow and prosper.
While some varieties of mushrooms are edible, there are also many that are deadly poisonous so only touch them under the guidance of an expert.
Fairy Garden Bridgewater
Take your kids for a walk to look for fairies! Heysen Trail Walk with Kids to the Fairy Garden, Bridgewater
Kuitpo Tree Climb
A brand new activity in the Adelaide Hills is the Kuitpo Forest Tree Climb. With a variety of treetop obstacles for kids and adults as well as ziplines, this is great for adventure lovers & thrill-seekers!
Where To Stay In The Adelaide Hills
Whether you’re seeking luxury or budget-friendly options, the Adelaide Hills region offers a range of accommodation options to suit all needs and preferences. With its beautiful scenery, rich history, and abundant natural resources, the Adelaide Hills are the perfect place to escape and experience the beauty of the outdoors.
- Hahndorf Oak Tree Cottages –
- Hahndorf Rest & Hahndorf Peace
- The Manna by Haus, Ascend Hotel Collection
- Mt Lofty Botanic Garden Studio
- The Stirling Golf Club
- Sticky Rice Villas
- The Manor Basket Range
- Aldgate Creek Cottage Bed and Breakfast
- Aldgate Valley Bed and Breakfast
The Adelaide Hills is famous for being a high-quality fruit-growing region and the wine from the Adelaide Hills is famous around the world. The historic german village of Hahndorf is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in South Australia.
March is a great time to visit Adelaide when the Adelaide Fringe Festival is on and the hot summer weather has cooled off making it perfect weather to explore. Late April and May is the best if you want to see the autumn colours and November is when Adelaide turns purple when the jacaranda trees bloom.
The top places to visit in the Adelaide Hills are Hahndorf, Mount Lofty summit & botanic gardens.
Surprisingly yes! The Adelaide Hills are not exactly an alpine region but in the depths of winter the weather is cold enough to deliver a light dusting to the Adelaide Hills on a rare occasion.
Hanhdorf is a historic German settlement and the residents are leaning in strongly to the German heritage with many bars and restaurants offering traditional German cuisine and beer.
April & May is the best time to see Hahndorf’s autumn leaves. You don’t want to miss this vibrant display!
Conclusion: Things To Do In The Adelaide Hills
Wow! There are SO many things to do in the Adelaide Hills and this is just scratching the surface. I hope you will love this beautiful region as much as I do and find many exciting things to do, see and eat.
If you have any questions or need help planning your trip send me an email – [email protected]