Adelaide is South Australia’s relaxed and surprisingly cheap state capital. It’s also a city that should feature high on the vacation must-see list for wine and food lovers, as well as adventure travel enthusiasts. That’s because Australia’s best wine region – the Barossa Valley – is so near you could travel there on a one-day tour, plus it’s the gateway city to some of the country’s best Outback landscapes, as well as the Nullarbor Plain, Kangaroo Island and great white shark cage diving. Adelaide is also the home of both the Indian Pacific and The Ghan, Australia’s two iconic train journeys.
The city centre
Adelaide probably has one of the least inspiring centres of Australian cities, with many tourists being quick to label it boring, but it always rates very highly on global liveability indexes, thanks in part to feeling more like a big country town. The compact centre, based around Victoria Square and the main shopping mall on Rundle Mall, is easy to see on foot or by taking the free loop bus.
However, despite feeling low-key, Adelaide’s attractive Victorian architecture and plentiful parklands does mean there is plenty to keep you interested. Also, quite surprisingly due to its conservative convict-free history, Adelaide is a remarkably liberal place. There are less strict drug laws, relaxed licensing (which has helped foster a thriving live music scene), plus Australia’s first nudist beach.
One of the most popular things to do, especially for families, is to visit Adelaide Zoo, which is home to the only pandas in Australia.
The South Australian capital is also home to two of the country’s biggest festivals – Womadelaide and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (the world’s biggest fringe festival after Edinburgh) – in March. Book accommodation well in advance if you’re planning to travel then.
The more luxury hotels can generally be found along North Terrace, which is also where most of Adelaide’s best museums and art galleries are located (cricket fans should check out the Bradman Collection). If you’re looking for cheap accommodation, head to Hindley Street, the city’s main nightlife district and the nearest Adelaide has to a red light district. Another option for budget hotels is the south-west of Adelaide, mainly along Gilles and Carrington streets, while the area around Waymouth Street and Light Square is home to a cluster of cheap hostels and backpacker travel agents.
Eating and Restaurants in Adelaide
Despite its traditional nickname the City of Churches (and there definitely are a lot of churches), Adelaide it now much better known for its gastronomic spoils. Thanks to a dedication to quality and surprisingly cheap prices, Adelaide is one of the best places to eat out in Australia. Indeed, somewhat unbelievably, locals claim there is one restaurant for every 30 people. If you’re self-catering or looking for a quick snack, the Central Market is an excellent place to start. Many of the busiest restaurants are along Gouger Street and in Chinatown. Hutt Street, in eastern Adelaide, is also good. Rundle Street is best for cafes, plus Italian and Thai restaurants. Wherever you eat, make sure you wash your meal down with one of South Australia’s many excellent wines, or a Coopers Ale, a local institution which is one of the few genuinely good Australian beers.
A bit like Fremantle in Perth, Glenelg is Adelaide’s chilled-out beach suburb. After travelling from the city on the tram and strolling through the historic buildings, you can go swimming with dolphins, take a camel ride tour along the beach or simply admire the sunset from the pier. It’s also good for a night out, thanks to plenty of bars and restaurants.
Getting to Adelaide
Adelaide’s international airport is small but still serviced by flights from around the world and Australia. Located just 7km south-west of the city, it’s easy to get a bus or train into the centre. Adelaide is also where Great Southern Rail is based. This makes it very easy to take one of Australia’s iconic train journeys – the Indian Pacific to Perth or Sydney, The Ghan to Darwin, or The Overlander to Melbourne.