Adelaide Hills Day Trip & Free Things to do in the Adelaide Hills

Adelaide Hills is commonly referred to as the beautiful leafy hillside suburbs east of Adelaide. Positioned along the impressive Mount Lofty Range and only a 20 to 30 minutes drive from Adelaide, Adelaide Hills offers the best balance between urban life and nature.

In the Adelaide Hills, you can find a range of nature reserves from Black Hill to Belair and everywhere in between. Thanks to the remarkably preserved nature, wildlife is also abundant in the Adelaide Hills. Yet, you can still easily find a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes, and wineries within the Adelaide Hills, which make it the perfect place to live, play, and visit.

You cannot visit all the places in the Adelaide Hills in only one day. However, it is practical to visit Adelaide Hills’ main attractions on a day trip from Adelaide.

To help you navigate and plan your day trip to the Adelaide Hills, I have put together a practical self-drive itinerary for the Adelaide Hills. Most of these attractions on this itinerary are free or require only a small fee to visit.

Hope you can find this itinerary useful in your trip planning process.


Stirling is a small suburb in the Adelaide Hills and one of the most picturesque suburbs to live in near Adelaide.

Stirling is only a 20-minute drive up the South Eastern Freeway from Adelaide. Sitting right beside the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, the tree-lined street in Stirling is just stunning all year round.

In saying that, the streets here are especially charming in the autumn months when the leaves are turning into an array of gold, pink, red, and every colour in between. It is a great pleasure to simply sit near a cafe window with a cup of coffee and enjoy the beauty of this hilltop suburb.

Cost: Free, but you may want to grab a coffee and breakfast here.

Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens & Mount Lofty Summit

After your morning coffee at Stirling, be sure to drive over to the other side of the freeway to check out the famous Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens.

With a variety of cool-climate plantations, Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens is also a colourful place to visit in autumn. Since the temperature here is generally cooler than in Adelaide, it is a great place to escape from the summer heat as well.

From the botanic gardens, you can also hike to the Mount Lofty Summit for an unparalleled view of Adelaide and its surroundings. If this is your plan, you may need to plan out at least a couple of hours for this return walk.

Alternatively, you can follow the Mount Lofty Summit Road to drive from Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens to the Mount Lofty Summit as well. This drive only takes about 5-minute if you are driving from the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens Upper Carpark.

Cost: It is free to visit both Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens and Mount Lofty Summit. However, parking at Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens costs AUD 1 per hour & is capped at AUD 4 per day (free on Sundays & public holidays).


Another short drive up the South Eastern Freeway, you will find yourself at the Hahndorf exit and heading towards the charming German Town, Hahndorf.

First established in the 1800s as a German settlement, Hahndorf is still oozing a strong German heritage. A stroll along the main street (aka Mount Barker Road) in Hahndorf to appreciate its fachwerk buildings has long been a favourite activity among visitors.

Along this walk, you can find a range of artisan shops, art galleries, local bakeries, restaurants and cafes, buzzing pubs, and cellar doors featuring the famous Adelaide Hills wines.

German sausages and beers are big selling points for Hahndorf. Many restaurants and pubs sell German sausages and beers along Hahndorf’s main street, with many of them have been around for a long time.

I’m not a fan of sausages and beers, but my friends who are, have strongly suggested:

  • The Haus for the German sausages
  • Hahndorf Inn for that full-on German pub experience with food and beer.

Hahndorf does sometimes get a bit overrun by visitors. However, it is still a great place to visit when in Adelaide for the first time because of how unique this little village is.

If you are visiting Adelaide in the autumn months, the leaves in Hahndorf’s tree-lined streets are also turning into arrays of gold and red, which makes Hahndorf even more picture-perfect.

Cost: Strolling around Hahndorf is free, but you may want to purchase a souvenir or two to bring home.

Beerenberg Farm

If you are from Australia but not Adelaide, I believe the first time you have heard of Beerenberg is likely from the jar of your breakfast jam.

Beerenberg is a South Australian family-owned business and has been producing delicious jams and condiments for families all over Australia for many many years.

Today, this family business is still based in the southeastern end of Hahndorf, where their ancestors first settled over 200 years ago.

At the Beerenberg FarmOpens in a new tab., you can not only find a huge variety of Beerenberg products, but also a vibrant farm cafe featuring a selection of fresh local produce. This is by far my favourite place to eat in Hahndorf.

Last but not the least, Beerenberg Farm offers a great Pick-Your-Own Strawberry experience from November to April each year.

The Beerenberg Farm provides a huge strawberry patch, and you will always be guided to the juiciest and sweetest patch each time. In addition, these strawberries are also decently sized (much bigger and tastier than the ones from the grocery stores).

To access the strawberry patch, you do need to pay a small entrance fee (AUD 5 for adults & kids for free). You will be given a small box to store the strawberries when entering the farm (it holds about 1 kg for each box from my memory). Once you have picked enough berries, you can then proceed to the farm gate to pay for your strawberries by weight.

The pick-your-own strawberry from Beerenberg Farm is a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy & I actually visit them at least once every summer just for the fresh juicy strawberries.

Cost: Entrance to the farm shop and cafe is free. Entrance to the strawberry patch requires a small fee (AUD 5 for adults & kids for free). There will be additional costs if you have picked any strawberries or purchased any goods.

Big Rocking Horse

The Big Rocking Horse Opens in a new one of Adelaide Hills’ most iconic attractions.

The Big Rocking Horse is an 18-metre tall rocking horse made of steel. It also offers a viewing platform at the top, which can be accessed for a small fee (AUD 2 at the time of writing this article June 2022).

Because of its sheer size, the Big Rocking Horse has attracted many people to Gumeracha over the years.

Adjacent to the Big Rocking Horse, you can also find the Toy Factory, a wildlife park, and a cafe.

The Toy Factory manufactures quality wooden toys onsite. From their toy shop, you can view the toy manufacturing process and purchase a large selection of wooden toys as well.

For an entrance fee of AUD 2, you can also access the adjacent wildlife park (entrance & ticket via the toy shop). This wildlife park houses a range of goats, alpacas, wallabies, kangaroos, emus, and feathered animals. Most of these animals are very friendly. If you have purchased a bag of food (AUD 2 per bag) from the park entrance, you can hand-feed many of these animals as well.

For me personally, visiting this wildlife park is by far the best part of visiting the Big Rocking Horse, and I believe I’m not the only one.

If you got hungry while visiting here, there is a cafe on-site serving a decent selection of food. The cafe does close up earlier than the rest of the facility, so you may want to plan ahead of time if you wish to purchase any food or drinks from here.

Cost: Entrance to the Toy Factory and viewing the Big Rocking Horse are free. It costs AUD 2 to enter the wildlife park or climb up the Big Rocking Horse.

Morialta Falls

After visiting the Big Rocking Horse, you may wish to finish the day with a relaxing walk to view the beautiful Morialta Falls.

There are multiple waterfalls within the Morialta Conservation Park, and the most visited one is the First Falls.

The First Falls walk is an easy 40-minute return walk from the carpark to the stunning First Falls. This walk is relatively flat, so it’s the perfect walk to finish a busy day with. Along the walk, be sure to keep your heads up and look for koalas as well.

The waterfalls do change from season to season. If you are only interested in seeing the waterfalls, you may be better off only visiting here in the winter months when there are more rainfalls. The waterfalls do tend to dry up a little in the dry summer months. However, there is still plenty of nature and wildlife to explore within the Morialta Conservation Park.

Cost: Free to enter & free parking.

Additional Free Things To Do in the Adelaide Hills

Cleland Conservation Park

Only a 20-30 minute drive from Adelaide, you can find yourself exploring the wilderness within the Cleland Conservation Park.

Expanding from Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty Summit, Cleland Conservation Park is one the most popular place for a hike near Adelaide.

There are multiple walking tracks within Cleland Conservation Park.

Among these tracks, the walk between Waterfall Gully and Mount Lofty Summit is definitely the most popular one. You may also wish to try out the hike from Chamber Gully to Mount Lofty Summit for some stunning views of Adelaide.

Cost: Free to enter, with free parking at Waterfall Gully & Chamber Gully.

Belair National Park

With only a 20-minute drive from Adelaide CBD, Belair National Park is nature at your doorsteps. In saying that, a visit to Belair National Park will make you feel like you are a world away from a busy city centre.

I personally found it much easier to spot kangaroos and koalas here in Belair National Park than in all the other parks mentioned in this article.

Belair National Park is also a dog-friendly park, providing your dog is kept on a leash & under effective control. Hence, it is the perfect place for you to bring your beloved dogs on an adventure with you.

A campground is also right next to Belair National Park, which makes it the perfect place for those staying in the campground to visit.

Cost: Visiting Belair National Park is free. However, you do need to pay an access fee (AUD 12 per vehicle at the time of writing this article) if you are driving into the park. With that being said, many free car parks are available just outside of the front park entrance & near the side entrances.

Lobethal Lights in December

If you happen to be visiting Adelaide around mid-December and Christmas, Lobethal Lights is an event not to be missed.

Christmas Lights along the Main Street in Lobethal is a tradition for over 60 years.

Around this time of the year, you will find many people from all over Adelaide visiting Lobethal after nightfall to experience the Christmas spirit.

Apart from appreciating the beautiful light displays along Main Street, you can also join the Carols, Twilight Market, and Christmas Pageant during your visit. This is definitely an extraordinary experience for both kids and adults to enjoy.

There are a variety of food and drink options to discover along Main Street as well.

Cost: It is free to join the Lobethal Lights & free off-street parking too.

Watch the top 5 things to do in the Adelaide Hills on YouTube

Bec's Travel Itinerary

I'm passionate about travel. I would like to use this platform to share my travel experiences. Please support me by subscribing to this blog. You can also find more travel related contents on my YouTube channel and Instagram. Thank you :)

Recent Posts

Discover more from Bec's Travel Itinerary

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading