Mention Port Adelaide to an Australian and they will probably tell you about either their love or hatred of the Australian Rules football team. They might also know it’s near the water and has a maritime history. There is a lot more to the area than that though, and finally, the secret is getting out. People other than the locals are starting to discover its charms. Here are the best things to do in Port Adelaide South Australia. Things to do include museums, dolphins, markets, street art and more.
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Things to do in Port Adelaide
Port Adelaide is in the north-western suburbs of Adelaide. It’s a historic area with the first settlers arriving in 1837 when it was serving as the Adelaide port for South Australia. With shipping containerisation, the working port has moved to Outer Harbor, with the inner port now reserved for small boats and water sports. It is traditionally a working-class area, and is currently undergoing a transformation.
There are many new cafes and restaurants, with Quest Apartments recently opening a new location here and the infrastructure for visitors is improving all the time. Now is a great time to find out what is happening in The Port. Here are all of the best Port Adelaide attractions to keep you busy.
South Australian Maritime Museum
The most well-known of the Port Adelaide museums is the Maritime Museum. With the history of the area, this is no surprise. On entry to the museum, the first thing you see is a full-size replica of a ketch that was locally built in 1873. From there you make your way through a display showcasing the Australian Navy before moving on to information on the local dolphins that live in the Port River.
Downstairs in the basement is all about the boats that brought people to Australia, from the first ships to those in the 1950s and 60s. There are replicas of some of the cabins so you can experience the cabin sizes for yourself.
Down here are also computers you can use to search passenger lists for your ancestors if you know they came to South Australia by boat. I liked that the original features of the old building are still on display, with exposed beams and rough walls.
The top floor was predominantly local information. Local boatbuilding is showcased with memorabilia from those companies. There are local photographs, and even a small jetty, showing the changes to the port and coastal areas.
Adult entry to the museum is $15, and the entry ticket also includes a complimentary climb up inside the Port Adelaide Lighthouse. We weren’t able to do this the day we visited, but the ticket is valid anytime we want to go back.
Torrens Island Quarantine Station Tour
When it comes to things to do Port Adelaide has some unique options. Torrens Island sits in the Port River and its island status made it the perfect location for a quarantine station. Back in 1879, some new arrivals to South Australia were sent here to isolate to keep the colony free from Smallpox.
Exactly 100 years later, Smallpox was declared eradicated, and the quarantine station was shut done. At the time, the buildings were pretty much just locked up and everyone walked away, meaning they are incredibly well preserved. Today many of the buildings have state heritage listings.
The two-hour tour to the quarantine station is run periodically by the South Australian Maritime Museum. Tickets can be booked online in advance or by calling the museum.
National Railway Museum
If you are looking for what to do in Port Adelaide with kids then this is it. The National Railway Museum is on Lipson Street, a short walk down from St Vincent Street. It is home to over 100 different exhibits. Amongst those are many old locomotives and carriages previously used by the South Australian Railways, and also some from other companies interstate.
There are other smaller displays on almost anything related to the railways, including wartime displays, the travelling circus, and women in railways. There are display boards and ticket counters previously used at the Adelaide Railway Station. Everywhere you look there are historical artifacts, from whole stations to signs and signals.
The model railway fans will enjoy a display showing the different areas of the state and the trains that ran on them, and a miniature train ride is available throughout the day doing laps of the entire site which the kids will love. Even for the non-train enthusiast, the $15AUD entry fee is well worth it.
For a full review of our visit including many photos go to OurWorldinReview
Take a Dolphin Cruise on the Port River
Discover the Port River’s beauty and history by joining the Port River Cruises for a 90-minute dolphin cruise. See the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, the International Garden Island Bird Sanctuary, and the shipwreck graveyard. Spot some Port River dolphins, one of the few metropolitan dolphin pods globally. The cruises operate throughout the year and offer a great weekend activity in Port Adelaide.
Port River Cruises now has two boats, and you can look out for special themed cruises, such as the Kaurna Cultural Cruise, and entertainment cruises. You may also order a seafood box filled with prawns, oysters, and fish to enhance your cruise experience. You can buy beer, wine, and soft drinks onboard.
South Australian Aviation Museum
This is one of the least known Port Adelaide tourist attractions. Right next to the Railway Museum is the Aviation Museum. Housed in a relocated WWII hangar the museum is home to approximately 15 aircraft. You can’t help but notice the impressive F-111 as soon as you walk in, but there are many other planes of various sizes throughout the building.
Some of the planes are roped off, but there are extra guided tours that can be purchased to get inside them and hear about the history of that particular plane. There are also many displays of various items to do with flight, from information on the rocket program at Woomera to the mail runs in country Australia.
There are homemade planes, various propellors and engines pulled apart to show how they work. I particularly enjoyed seeing the old passenger planes. They may have been less luxurious, but they had so much legroom!
A nice touch around the displays is some seating areas. The seats appear to be airport waiting area seats. I meant to ask on my way out if they had come from the old Adelaide airport when the new one was opened, but it completely slipped my mind. I will have to ask on my next visit.
Visit The One & All
I admit it’s been years since I have been on The One and All sailing ship, but it’s a fantastic way to experience a little of the romance of the sailing era. The One and All is a recent build (1987) in the style of the tall ships of bygone days but with modern safety features.
Climbing up the mast while the boat was rocking on calm seas was an experience. I can’t imagine trying to climb it in rough seas with no harness! Based at Queen’s Wharf, there are various tours and sailing opportunities. Please head over to their website to see all the options and prices.
Embark on a Walking Tour to Discover Port Adelaide
Join Flamboyance Tours’ knowledgeable guide, Katina, as she leads you through the charming streets of Port Adelaide on select Sundays throughout the year. This tour offers a fascinating glimpse into the area’s past, including its previous name, “Port Misery,” and its questionable maritime history. Discover why Port Adelaide boasts a pub on every corner and perhaps hear a spooky ghost tale or two.
Along the way, you’ll witness breathtaking street art that has recently adorned the walls, and the tour culminates with a drink at one of the local pubs. This activity provides the ultimate overview of the suburb, making it the perfect choice for those seeking to explore Port Adelaide.
City of Adelaide Clipper Tour
The City of Adelaide is the oldest surviving clipper ship in the world. While it has previously been sitting on the wharf in Port Adelaide it has now been moved to its forever home at Dock 2, just the other side of the Tom Diver Derrick Bridge.
The City of Adelaide was constructed in 1864 and did 23 journeys from London to Adelaide carrying passengers and goods. It was eventually left languishing in a shipyard in England until a group of volunteers were able to bring it back to its namesake city in 2014.
It’s now possible to do tours of the ship to learn more about it and its history with all funds from the tours going straight towards the restoration. Click through to the website to see current times and prices.
Street Art Walking Tour
Your Port Adelaide sightseeing would not be complete without checking out some of the amazing street art, absolutely the best of the free things to do in Port Adelaide.
The suburb was the host of the Wonderwalls Festival in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2020. There are some fantastic pieces of artwork scattered throughout the area from some well-known local and international artists. Even passing through you cannot miss some of the pieces as they take up the whole sides of a seven-story building. Others are hiding down back alleyways, in side streets, and some are even inside buildings.
Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tour
I’m throwing this one in here even though I haven’t had the chance to test it out for myself yet because I have heard great things about it. As one of the oldest suburbs in the state, there is no surprise that Port Adelaide has a myriad of stories of murder and mayhem.
The Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tour is taking people around after dark and telling you about some of these stories and pointing out some of the locations where the local ghosts are said to still hang out.
If you have done one of these ghost tours, I’d love to hear how it was.
Portobello River Cruiser
This one has only just started up. I haven’t given it a go yet, but the reviews are great and I wanted to include it here so my readers can plan for a visit during summer. The river cruiser is what can only be described as an upmarket floating picnic table, to allow you to dine and float around the Port River.
Imagine enjoying dinner during a beautiful sunset with dolphins swimming just metres from you. Food is supplied by the local Portobello restaurant. Keep an eye on the website or Facebook page for updates.
Do a Pub Crawl
Port Adelaide has at least ten operating pubs in a very small area. Many of them are in heritage buildings and have been operating for well over one hundred years. Pirate Life Brewing has also moved its local operations to Port Adelaide as the craft beer scene takes off in the area. They have an amazing venue great not only for beer tasting but often there are live events there too.
Also check out the newly renovated and reopened Port Admiral Hotel on the corner of St Vincent St and Commercial Road, or enjoy a relaxing drink in the sun a bit further up the road at the First Commercial Hotel. With hotels on almost every corner, you will be spoilt for choice.
Port Adelaide Heritage Bus Tour
The Port Adelaide Historical Society is running bus tours around Port Adelaide on various Sundays throughout the year. The 2.5-hour tour will take you past many of the oldest buildings in the area and tell you about their history through the commentary of a local tour guide. The tours leave from the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre (see below). For more information including dates and booking, go to the website here.
Cafes and Restaurants
Port Adelaide is getting more and more cafes and restaurants. The older places are refurbishing, and new places are opening. The dining is spilling out onto the sidewalks so that the diners can enjoy the atmosphere. It is possible to find almost any food type, with some vegan options too.
There are many pubs in the area if you are looking for a good pub meal, a few drinks, and some entertainment in to the evening. A wine bar has recently opened and there will soon be a craft beer brewery to bring another dimension. This area is also starting to blossom with boutiques, so if a little shopping is on your list, it’s great to wander after your meal.
During your Port Adelaide visit check out the new Port Adelaide Plaza shopping centre. There are a whole pile of great restaurants and cafes here too.
Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour
The best way to get to know any area is to walk the streets and soak up the atmosphere. Rather than just wander aimlessly, download the Visit Port Adelaide app on your smartphone or call in to the Visitor Information Centre and pick up a map to show you the way.
The tours on offer include Walk the Port, which covers a bit of everything, then specialty tours for the street art, craft beer, heritage sites, an environmental trail, all the anchors in the area, or even the ghosts of the Port. Most walks range from 45 minutes to 2 hours – although my guess is the craft beer tour could take a lot longer!
Getting to Port Adelaide
Catching the train from the main train station in Adelaide is the best way to get to Port Adelaide. Port Adelaide lies on the Outer Harbor line and will take about twenty minutes and cost no more than $5.90AUD each way. Buses are also available from the city centre or from other suburban hubs.
For more information on Adelaide public transport please go to Adelaide Metro. If you want to drive or catch a taxi then it will take about twenty minutes from the city. There is plenty of free parking in the area.
More Things to do at Port Adelaide
When visiting Port Adelaide what to do can be hard to decide. It is easy to spend a whole day just exploring the streets. If you are looking for more information on Port Adelaide tourism visit the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre at 66 Commercial Rd for all your sightseeing needs.
As mentioned the opening of the Quest Apartments right on the waterfront now provides a fantastic option for a place to stay when you visit Port Adelaide. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to that, then there is also the Port Adelaide BackPackers just across the other side of the car park.
Venturing slightly further up the road, right on the beachfront is the Largs Pier Hotel. You get a touch of years gone by in their beautiful big rooms. Enjoy a bottle of local wine on the balcony as the sun sinks into the sea.
Want even more? – I have created a Facebook Group to answer any questions you may have about travel in South Australia. We can help with any queries you have, make further suggestions and provide the latest information. Click here to join now.
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