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8 Free Tours of Adelaide Institutions

Home > Adelaide > Art | Books and Writing | Free | Museums | Tours | Lists
by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published April 27th 2016
What's behind the doors and gates?
Free/Gratis/No Cost - terms you don't hear a lot these days in relation to entry and tour around some of Adelaide's finest buildings and iconic sites. Upon investigation, there are more than you realise and these are but 8 of the choice on offer all either in the CBD or up at North Adelaide.

1. Art Gallery of South Australia

Along the cultural boulevard of Adelaide, North Terrace, the imposing facade of the Art Gallery, dating from 1936 draws you in immediately and upon free entry, a vast collection of art works awaits, purported to be one of the best in Australia.

To really appreciate the world of fine arts, and particularly if you are an art lover, would highly recommend a free tour, which are available 7 days a week at 11 am and 2 pm. Tours depart from the North Terrace entrance.

Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Gallery Facade

2. South Australian Museum

Right next door is the Museum, with a diverse view of natural history on display. A real favourite for all of the family, particularly kids, free guided tours run at 11 am on weekdays and 2 pm and 3 pm on weekends and public holidays. Tours leave from the main foyer and knowledgeable guides lead visitors on a journey of discovery.

South Australian Museum
Historic Museum View

3. State Library of South Australia

The State Library is often thought of as just a place where they keep books. However venturing within its walls reveals so much more, including a vast collection of the State's treasures including books, art works, photographs, sound recordings, diaries, maps and the list goes on.

Free tours are run Monday to Friday at 11 am and 2 pm and leave from the upper floor adjacent to the Cloakroom/Security wandering through the three buildings of the State Library (SLSA), namely the Spence Wing, the historic Mortlock Chamber dating from 1884 (named as one of the top 20 beautiful libraries in the world) and the Institute Building. The general tour is badged "Make Yourself at Home" and in addition various themed tours are run regularly.

State Library of South Australia
Institute Building

4. Parliament House

If you fancy a look inside the halls of political power and hear about its history, then a visit to Parliament House is a must. The impressive building almost sent South Australia bankrupt with its sheer size and quality of materials used, and took 50 years from the time it was commenced to its finish date in 1939.

Momentous decisions have been made within its walls over the years including the move towards Federation in 1901 and granting women the vote in 1894, the first place in the world to do so after New Zealand. Free tours run at 10 am and 2 pm on weekdays subject to whether parliament is sitting or not.

Parliament House
Parliament House Exterior

5. Freemason's Lodge

Further east on North Terrace lies an amazing building built in 1925 and officially opened two years later, Freemason's Lodge which has always oozed mystery, particularly surrounding the whole concept of Freemasonry, which is an ancient order with many complex rules and disciplines.

A free tour is available each Thursday at 2pm and part of the tour not only gives you the opportunity to see inside the building but also gain a better insight into Freemasonry.

Freemason's Lodge
Symbol to Freemasonry

6. Adelaide Town Hall

This year is a significant year for Adelaide Town Hall as it is commemorating its 150th year, with several celebrations planned by Adelaide City Council. Regular free tours through our civic institution tell stories of Queen Adelaide and Colonel William Light, our first Surveyor-General and are available on selected Mondays at 10 am.

General viewing of the building can also be made anytime between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday, where you can see the bronze statue of Queen Adelaide and upstairs excellent art exhibitions and displays.

Adelaide Town Hall
Albert Tower

7. Botanic Gardens

For all you green thumbs and those that appreciate stunning gardens, free guided walks are available around the Botanic Gardens all year round apart from Good Friday, Christmas Day and days forecast over 36 degrees C.

They depart from the Visitor Information Centre at the Schomburgk Pavilion and last for around one and a half hours, departing at 10.30 am.

Botanic Gardens
Display of Nature

8. St Peter's Cathedral

The magnificent spires of St Peter's Cathedral can easily be seen as you look north up King William Road and is the main Anglican cathedral in the City of Adelaide up at North Adelaide. To think it was almost built in Victoria Square but lost out to the Catholics, who won the right to have religious presence in the form of St Francis Xavier Cathedral.

Apart from being open to visitors generally for viewing, free guided tours are also run at the site each Sunday at 12.30 pm and on Wednesdays at 11 am. The tours generally take around 45 minutes focussing on the history and the religious significance as well as the beautiful art works.

St Peter's Cathedral
Imposing Spires

So much to learn about Adelaide's history and development and it's all free - how spoilt are we?
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Why? A chance to see inside some of Adelaide's well known institutions for free
When: At times listed on websites
Phone: 1300 588 140
Where: Adelaide SA
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great article. I walked along North Terrace many years ago on my way to work and loved the old buildings. Have been in them all except the Freemasons. I love Adelaide and its history. I miss my old stamping ground.
by Di Hill (score: 2|716) 2599 days ago
I can agree with your number one choice. The volunteer tour guides at the Art Gallery tell fascinating stories and really bring the exhibits alive. I was very impressed with their knowledge and skill in sharing stories with adults and children.
by Jenny Prior (score: 3|4274) 2598 days ago
This is an excellent article Graeme. I feel inspired to have a holiday in the city and see all the insides of buildings that I am not familiar with. Some, I have been inside, but from reading your article I can tell that there is much more waiting to be discovered by learning from the tour guides.

And they are all free. You are right, how lucky are we!
by Jenny Prior (score: 3|4274) 2598 days ago
Congratulations on having been an 'Article of the Week' selection.
by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (score: 4|10580) 2570 days ago
Hi Graeme this was a great article. Very informative and wonderful photos. My favourite photo is the Botanic Gardens with the water in the foreground. I didn't know you could take so many free tours in Adelaide. This will have to be one of my destinations for my road trips.
by CassandraJoy (score: 3|1021) 2594 days ago
Don't forget SAHMRI aka 'Adelaide's Cheesegrater'. Tours run 1400 Friday, but you need to book via the website.
by Bebe (score: 1|26) 2586 days ago
Great article. I was in Adelaide for a few days last October and did my own walking tour of this fabulous city. It is gorgeous. Then went to Hahndorf and Barossa Valley. It was a great holiday.
by Janice Williams (score: 3|1223) 2598 days ago
Hi Graeme, Cool. I like your FB page too, very informative.
by J.D.Wen (score: 2|368) 2598 days ago
Beautiful Adelaide. I haven't been for a long time but this article really makes me want to see it again soon. Thanks for some great 'free' tips, cheers Marie.
by Maria-MPG Narratives (score: 3|1028) 2598 days ago
Wow! So cool! I love the city but have never been on any tours. Maybe I need to try being a tourist in my own town
by Samantha Jeffree (score: 2|306) 1269 days ago
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