Planning a trip to Adelaide and unsure about what to do? This post highlights all the best things to do in Glenelg.
As part of our 6-week road trip around Australia, we stayed for five nights in Adelaide in South Australia before picking up our hire car and heading from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road.
We discovered that Glenelg was the most popular beach in Adelaide and that a 35-minute tram ride would take us from the CBD (Central Business District) to the coast to discover all the best Glenelg attractions – what more could we want?
After a two-night train journey to Adelaide aboard The Ghan, one of the world’s most famous trains, and then one night on Kangaroo Island, we were a bit shattered and were ready for some beach time, and Glenelg Beach was high on my list of Adelaide must-dos.
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The History of Glenelg
If like me, you are from the UK, you might think of Glenelg, near the Isle of Skye in Scotland, when you hear the name of this Aussie beach, and you would be right to make a connection.
The area was established in 1836 and named after Lord Glenelg, a British Cabinet member and Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, making Glenelg the oldest European settlement on mainland South Australia.
Now we knew a bit about its history, we wanted to know what to do in Glenelg once we got there. We had researched that Glenelg was renowned for its long, sandy beach, stunning sunsets, rich heritage, and buzzing beach vibe, so we decided to see for ourselves if it lived up to the hype.
One Day Glenelg Itinerary
Our Tram Journey from Adelaide
Our base in Adelaide was the Miller Apartments, and lucky for us the Rundle tram stop was just around the corner by Rundle Mall, Adelaide’s main shopping street. We hopped aboard the tram (they come every 15 minutes) and disembarked at stop 17 Moseley Square, right by the beach.
We chose to go in the afternoon as we wanted to be at the beach to witness one of Southern Australia’s incredible sunsets, but you can easily spend a whole day there.
An Alternative Journey to the Beach
If you love cycling and want to see more of the beautiful route between Adelaide and Glenelg, then a dedicated bike tour is the answer.
Arriving at Glenelg Beach
Our first stop was to grab an ice cream because it was hot, hot, hot! Once we had devoured it, we walked from the tram stop towards the beach and came to a centenary memorial for the founding of South Australia. The impressive landmark was flanked by palm trees and bathed in sunshine – This was the Australia we had been expecting.
Our first impression of Glenelg was “WOW”. The sandy beach went on forever, and the sea was blue, clear and shallow, perfect for a swim. Sadly, we had forgotten our swimsuits in our haste to pack rucksacks with water, sunblock, sandwiches, cameras etc.
To be truthful, we were pretty nervous by the thought of swimming in Australia in case a member of the “Jaws” family decided they wanted a mouthful of pale English flesh.
It happens, but not daily, so we would have been ok – hopefully! Nevertheless, without costumes, we had to be content watching others cool off in the ocean.
One of the best things to do in Glenelg is to spend time on the beach, and I later discovered that the beaches in Glenelg usually have low waves and a continuous shallow bar offering safe swimming for all the family.
Instead of jumping into the water, we wandered along the foreshore on a quest to find some shade. If you have been to Australia, the temperatures there need no explanation; but if you haven’t, imagine that there is someone following you around with a hairdryer on full heat – yes, it is that hot!
Heritage Homes in Glenelg
So with our water and fruit to cool us down, we sat under a huge tree and people-watched (one of my favourite hobbies) before continuing our walk as far as The Broadway Kiosk, a beachfront cafe.
We were surprised to see several heritage homes along the way. Many hotels in Glenelg are high-rise, so to see these heritage properties full of character and charm was lovely. Australia has quite a few of these heritage homes dotted about, and we had seen similar smaller ones in Port Fairy and Hobart.
One property was called Stormont, and on further research, I discovered it was built in 1886 and by 2010 was valued as the most expensive property in South Australia, fetching around $6.5 million at that time!
A second property was called the Albert Hall (not sure if there’s any connection to the one in London) and had a ballroom that would hold 100 people in its heyday – they certainly knew how to entertain in the 1900s!
If you want to find out more about the history and heritage of Glenelg and the surrounding area, then a visit to the Bay Discovery Centre, located inside the Town Hall, is a good idea.
Best Things to do in Glenelg
There are plenty of things to do in Glenelg and the other beaches in Adelaide.
Visit Seacliff Beach
A 10km walk will take you to Seacliff beach (we decided this wasn’t for us if we wanted to make it through the day without turning into lobsters); you can fish off the jetty or participate in a variety of watersports.
Have fun at The Beachouse
If travelling to Glenelg with kids, then the Glenelg water park called The Beachouse is one of the most popular family attractions in Glenelg.
Dine in Holdfast Bay
We took a 5-minute stroll from Moseley Square to the Marina during our trip. The Marina overlooks Holdfast Bay and is home to luxurious boats and high-end seafood restaurants. If you are into sailing, this is an excellent place to wander.
Time for Cocktails on the Beach
The Moseley Beach Club had just opened for business when we turned up in the early evening, and this beachside bar/cafe with its loungers, umbrellas and sea view was just the place to grab a beer and burger while we waited for the sun to set.
Its position right by the iconic Glenelg Jetty meant we could start watching the sun go down from our loungers and then wander along to the end of the wooden jetty to catch the finale.
The Moseley was buzzing and full of young and beautiful Australians. For those of you that are following the blog posts of my epic round-the-world trip, you will know that I was travelling with my 18-year-old son and so for him being in a beach bar that was playing loud pumping music with his 50-something mum probably wasn’t great for his street cred!
Needless to say, after sharing a few Corona beers, we had a lot of laughs, and once the “sunset” crowd started to arrive, we headed off to witness the sun setting from the jetty.
Sensational Glenelg Sunsets
I had heard about the phenomenal sunsets in Australia and was expecting great things from the natural light show I was about to witness.
A big crowd had gathered at the end of the jetty, and we managed to nudge ourselves through to the front – let’s face it, I hadn’t come to the other side of the world not to get some good sunset photographs!
We stood watching the fireball in the sky change from yellow to burnt orange to gold and slipped our sunglasses on so we wouldn’t be blinded by its intensity.
The talk about Australian sunsets was all true – this one was amazing. We watched as a sailboat passed through the last bolts of sunlight which had lit up the water like a flame.
Gasps of oohs and ahhs from the people around us all mimicked how we were feeling, and as the last of the sun’s brilliance departed the horizon, the crowd let out a cheer and started clapping as if this had been somehow set up purely for our pleasure.
It did make me laugh but, at the same time, made me feel quite emotional. We witnessed the beauty and power of our first Australian sunset and will never forget its magnificence.
Fun Things to Do in Glenelg
Fun Things to Do in Adelaide
Want to Stay in Glenelg?
If you are heading to Adelaide but think that you would prefer to stay by the beach, then there is a good range of accommodation in Glenelg, including:
Premium – The Stamford Grand boasts 220 luxury rooms and suites with either magnificent ocean views or stunning Adelaide Hills views.
Mid-Range – Oaks Glenelg Plaza Pier Suites with an indoor swimming pool and by the beach.
Budget – Ensenada Motor Inn and Suites is a one-minute walk to the beach and gets good reviews.
Want to Eat and Shop in Glenelg?
There’s only one place to head, and that is the Jetty Road retail precinct. It is almost one km long, and the Glenelg tram line runs along its length, with stops at either end and in the middle.
Here, you will find shops, restaurants, and coffee shops to suit all tastes and budgets.
Check out the Best Restaurants in Glenelg on TripAdvisor
Please Pin for Future Travel to Australia
Looking for further Australian inspiration? Please check out the following posts:
Tuesday 21st of December 2021
Sun, sea and cocktails on the beach... life doesn't get much better that that! What an amazing place with an incredible view, I could quite happily sit there sipping on my Pina Colada (or two) for hours on end with that sunset. Another place to add to the bucket list... Thanks Angie!
Tuesday 21st of December 2021
I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I would definitely recommend it goes on your bucket list for places to visit in Australia
Mike & Anne
Tuesday 21st of December 2021
wow, we spent 3 weeks exploring Australia and never heard about this place in all our research. but it seems like we might need to make a return trip, and put this place high on our Aussie list. and that sunset did look magical (Great photo with the boat right in line). next stop Glenelg!
Thursday 16th of December 2021
Glad to know that you were able to enjoy Glenelg Beach. Too bad that you were not able to go swimming. I had no idea that there are several historic houses along the way. Would love to visit them next time. Thank you for sharing this post.
Wednesday 15th of December 2021
Taking a bike tour around the beach area sounds so fun. I'm also envious that you were able to spend such a long time exploring! I'd love to explore the beaches in Adelaide, and it's no wonder that Glenelg is popular - so beautiful.
Tuesday 14th of December 2021
Even though I am more of a mountain person, Australian beaches always intrigued me. Would love to take a road trip like you across Australia. Glenelg beach seems like a nice place to chill.