Adelaide is truly the cultural heart of Australia.
Situated between the Gulf of St. Vincent and the Mount Lofty Ranges, it is a cosmopolitan and vibrant melting pot of art, literature, business and retail.
The city was planned in the best possible way, and it shows. It’s really easy to go wrong with this – just look at Lelystadt in the Netherlands or Eisenhüttenstadt in Germany.
Adelaide got everything right!
Originally designed and planned by Colonel William Light, a British Army surveyor, the city is unique in Australia. The streets are wide with multiple lanes, significantly aiding traffic flow. The layout of the city is also easily navigable, ensuring tourists don’t get lost. If that does happen, local Adelaideans are very down to earth, friendly, and highly approachable. The inner-city is a spectacular feat of planning – several rings of streets become enveloped by a swathe of beautiful parkland.
The great thing about Adelaide is its multi-faceted personality.
It’s up to the visitor to forge his or her own view. In one way, the city seems shy and conservative, but in another way, it feels like a provocative artist’s haven. Another wonderful feature is Adelaide’s unyielding positivity. Most of the year, the sky remains a stunning blue, generating a radiant, happy atmosphere. At Christmas, there’s nothing more Adelaideans love to do than throw some steaks on the barbie in 28C of heat.
If the sun gets too much, check out Adelaide’s vibrant Central Market.
Located between Gouger and Grote streets, the stalls are nestled inside a beautiful old redbrick building. You can find anything there, from kangaroo steak to fresh fruit and vegetables. You can pick up organic coffee there too, and it’s delicious. No wonder the market has been in continuous operation for 120 years.
Take a nice stroll down Rundle Street afterwards. It’s narrower than most streets in Adelaide, but thronged with pubs, cafés, shops, and atmosphere. There’s nothing more satisfying than a spot of people-watching while sipping a cold beer in the warm sunshine. You can eat here too. Piattos is an excellent Italian restaurant, serving delicious food at moderate prices, roughly $10 to $15 per meal.
Adelaide is full of impressive, older buildings. If you want to experience the very best of historic Adelaide, make sure you join a walking tour. Just off Rundle Street, you can find Beehive Corner, an impressive Gothic building dating from 1895. The State Library of South Australia is a stunning building as well, widely admired in Australia and home to Adelaide’s most important historic documents.
You can also find the oldest public building in South Australia nearby – the Adelaide Gaol Historic Site and Museum is well worth a visit. A working prison for 147 years, it was the site of corporal punishment, hard labour and execution. Today, it has been turned into a fascinating and successful institution. It’s very important to mention that Adelaide is nicknamed ‘The City of Churches’. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the spectacular St. Peter’s Cathedral to the majestic St. Francis Xavier Church.
If you’re hungry after a day’s sightseeing, and want to try something other than Rundle Street, make sure you visit internationally renowned Gouger Street for a bite to eat. It’s possible to find a tremendous variety of restaurants here: Thai, French, Italian, Argentinean, Malaysian, and many more. Once again, the street is very easy to locate – it can be found by walking through the southern entrance of the Central Market.
If you’re in the mood for Chinese cuisine and an even livelier atmosphere, head through the Paifang marking the entrance to the Moonta Street Chinatown. The entire district is bustling, and you can find plenty of interesting Chinese markets. If you want to eat here, try Ding Hao. This restaurant stays open late and serves large portions of exquisite food, from battered tofu to spicy green stir fries.
Apparently, Adelaide now plays host to the most delicious pies in all of Australia – make sure you stop by Red Door bakeries to pick up some dessert.
Outside the charming and elegant city centre, there is much to discover!
Adelaide’s beaches are spectacular, and easily reachable. You can even take the metro to the tourist beach and town of Glenelg, just 12 kilometres away from Adelaide. This little settlement is interesting in itself – the colony of South Australia was first created here and it’s even possible to visit a replica of HMS Buffalo, the ship that brought the colony’s first governor to Glenelg.
If it gets too crowded, it’s easy to find beaches elsewhere – they stretch all the way from North Haven to Sellicks Beach. At the latter, the Mount Lofty Ranges meet the sea, and the cliff faces are absolutely stunning. Sellicks Beach is a surfer’s paradise – brown hills and cliffs meet golden sand before giving way to crystal clear water.
You have to visit the wonderful wine region of McLaren Vale, roughly 35 km south of Adelaide. According to statistics on the U.S. wine market, Australian wine exports are booming, with the vineyards around Adelaide producing some delicious variations.
Settlers first planted grapes here in 1838 and the number of wineries has steadily increased since 1850. Today, you can find more than 85 wineries! That’s a lot of choice if you want to visit the McLaren Vale for a wine-tasting weekend. The Mediterranean climate which gives Adelaide that tremendous positivity has resulted in a thriving wine culture.
South Australians take their wine very seriously indeed, and Shiraz is by far the most popular grape. Why not treat yourself to an all day wine-tasting tour. Costing approximately $270, you’ll get personally chauffeured around the McLaren Vale, stopping at various wineries to sample their incredible variety. Tours can last several hours and result in an intense headache the following day, but it’s well worthwhile.
So how does one sum up Adelaide?
It’s a great Australian city, much different to Sydney, Perth or Melbourne. It’s a little bit more withdrawn than other places, and it feels much quieter. Laid back Adelaide doesn’t impose itself on travellers. Rather the opposite.
Delve deep underneath its quiet facade and you’ll discover a wealth of history, culture, and friendliness. You can eat wonderful Chinese food in lively Chinatown, enjoy the pubs on Rundle Street, and work on your tan at Glenelg beach, before taking off to the McLaren Vale for some delicious Shiraz.
You won’t find that variety in too many other cities worldwide. When most people plan a trip to Australia, they make a note of the party hotspots. If you really want to relax and experience the true spirit of Australia, go to Adelaide instead.
You might just want to stay there forever.
Imagenote: Adam J.W.C./Wikimedia/CC