Mount Lofty summit (710m) is about 15 km east of the centre of Adelaide and affords reasonable panoramic views of the city and the Adelaide plains and foothills. I say reasonable instead of good or great as 15kms is a little far (even on a clear day) to see things in a lot of detail.
On its own, I don’t think its worth the trip out of the city but if passing by anyway or when combined with a visit to the Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens and or Cleland Wildlife Park it certainly is well worth going to.
There is a restaurant/café – (breakfast and lunch daily and dinner Wed – Sun) and a very helpful souvenir shop / tourist information office (9am – 5 pm daily) at the summit. On my latest trip I was even able to secure the loan of a wheel chair for a fellow traveller from the tourist office.
In 1902 – the centenary of Flinders’ sighting and naming of Mt. Lofty – the white obelisk at the summit, a Trigonmetrical Survey Station, was dedicated to Matthew Flinders in a ceremony officiated by the then-Governor, Lord Tennyson.
On the ridge near the summit are three television transmission towers and the Mount Lofty Fire Tower. The area suffered severe damage in the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires.
Wrap up well as it can be very cold at the summit in winter. Snow is not unknown.
There are a number of walking options from or to the summit. You can walk down to the botanical gardens by joining the famous Heysen Trail . Alternatively take the popular walk down to Waterfall Gully (8 kms return – allow 2.5-3hrs), or take the walking trail through native bushland to nearby Cleland Wildlife Park.
Access is via car or bus.
By Car – from the city (20-30mins) take Glen Osmond Road to the South Eastern Freeway, take the Crafers turn off and head up Mount Lofty Summit Road, travelling past the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, until you reach the Summit.
By Bus - Adelaide bus(route number 823 from Crafters Ramp (stop 24/24A) noting very limited service for this bus). A number of buses from city stop at Crafters ramp eg 840, 860, 863 and 864. Refer http://www.adelaidemetro.com.au/ for route details. Allow an hour with a carefully timed connection - best connections with 864/864F (I understand but can't confirm, that the 823 waits for these if they are late).
Admission: Free but fee for car parking - A$3 all day.
Mt Lofty frankly has the best views of any lookout I've come across. I remember coming here in the mid 90's before it had been redeveloped, and it didn't strike me as more than a good vantage point. Perhaps it's the new platform, perhaps it's the lack of trees obstructing the view, maybe it was the cloudless weather, but the Mt Lofty vista this time around was brilliant (somewhat literally due to afternoon glare off the sea). Pretty much the entire settled area of Adelaide can be seen, from Aldinga Beach to the flat plain of the northern subrbs. I feel that the views would benefit locals the most, as they have better knowledge of what they're looking at. But for the visitor, there are photographic panels that highlight most of Adelaide's landmarks.
There is a short "discovery walk" that loops through some Hills nature with seats every 20m or so, for relaxing break from the relative hustle and bustle of the platform.
Car Parking costs A$1 for one hour, $2 for one day. There are gates that are closed between certain (night time) hours, but I didn't jot them down and not even the official Parks SA site mentions them. The visitor's centre is open from 9am-5pm.
For beautiful views over Adelaide go to Mt. Lofti. The 727m high mountain is easily reached by public transport in 30 minutes and on top you'll find a visitor's center and a restaurants.
Of course you can do a couple of nice walks from here.
Mt Lofty - well, it sounds impressive, but Mt Lofty is not particularly lofty *or* mountainous - more of a large hill, really. ^_^. At any rate, it's a place where people go to get a good view of the city of Adelaide and its surrounds.
When I went there as a kid there was nothing there whatsoever - except an ice cream van (which was the sole reason we kids wanted to go). Now there's a nice restaurant where people often have functions - wedding receptions and so on - and a gift shop and tourism office, and a nice viewing area, with explanations of what you're seeing when you look in certain directions.
There are also walking tracks nearby which take you through some typical Aussie bush.
It really is a good place to go to get a good idea of the whole Adelaide area. If you want a closer-up view, try also the lookout at Eagle on the Hill, which is about twenty minutes away.
If it's a bright day, I'd recommend you go in the morning, or at night if you want to see the city lights, because the sun in the afternoon sky can kind of obscure the view and it's harder to make things out. That's why I don't have any pictures of the city view but just the pretty Piccadilly Valley behind the main building; I went about three hours before sunset and it was kind of hazy.
Mt Lofty is free, but parking is a dollar or two.
Mt Lofty stands at 710.1 metres, which is the highest vantage point in Adelaide. When we arrived there on that chilly winter morning, the views were obscured by the mist and clouds (as you can see in the picture). What a real pity as I was looking forward to taking some great panoramic shots of the city!!
(Left: Students at Mount Lofty)