Adelaide, South Australia's capital, is a surprise package for all who visit. The city, west of Melbourne and east of Perth, was once described as the “City of Churches” after those living elsewhere described Adelaide as a city of “wowsers”. The term wowser was coined in the late 1800s or early 1900s to describe a person who was strict in moral and religious matters.
For many, weekends are for engaging in or watching sports — Australian Rules Football and cricket are the big spectator sports — traveling to the beach just south of the city, or heading to the stunning Barossa Valley, Australia's most celebrated winegrowing region. During February and March each year the city comes alive with the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the largest arts event in Australia, and rivaled in size only by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. This event celebrates art in all its forms — comedy, plays, musical shows, dance and less mainstream performances. Headline acts are often international performers, particularly in the comedic space.
With a mild year-round climate, anytime is a good time to be in Adelaide. During the summer months (December to February) temperatures average about 80 degrees, although it can certainly get a lot hotter. Thankfully, the water is warm and the beer cold. In winter (June to August) temperatures average 60 degrees, with significantly cooler cold snaps. This is why the Barossa Valley, with its winter frosts, produces some of the best red wines in the world.
The temperate climate and the design of the city itself make Adelaide a great place to explore on foot. The majority of its three-, four- and five-star accommodation is contained within the city limits between the Torrens River and South Terrace — interspersed between its five squares (Light Square, Hindmarsh Square, Victoria Square, Whitmore Square and Hurtle Square). Some accommodation is also located on the northern side of the Torrens River in North Adelaide, close to the historic Adelaide Oval and the Adelaide Zoo. The great thing about this city is that wherever you are, you're never too far from anywhere else.
At the upper echelon are the InterContinental Adelaide, the Hilton Adelaide, and the Sebel Playford Adelaide all located in the heart of the city. For the more budget-conscious traveler the BreakFree Director's Studios and Grand Chifley Hotel are good choices, and also near to Adelaide's premier attractions, including museums, shopping centers and restaurants.
If you are a connoisseur of fine wine, then Adelaide really is the place to be. The Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Clare Valleys are all easily accessible from the city and each offer world-class wines, particularly red wines. You can sip your way around the wineries and soak up some of Australia's most beautiful scenery in an afternoon or a day.
For those who like the feel of sand between their toes, there are beaches and cruises in nearby Glenelg and Kangaroo Island, described by locals as one of the most unspoilt islands in the world. Kangaroo Island is chock-full of native Australian wildlife and stunning natural wonders, like the Remarkable Rocks.
Adelaide is also a great place to take off into the great Australian outback. From Adelaide you can catch The Ghan train right up through central Australia to Alice Springs and all the way to Darwin. So bring your walking shoes to Adelaide, bring your sense of good fun, and don't forget your camera. You're in for the time of your life in a city that loves a party.
ADELAIDE ITINERARY: DAY 1
You would be hard-pressed to find a better hotel than the InterContinental Adelaide, located in the heart of the city in North Terrace. The property, about five-and-a-half miles from the airport (15 minutes in a cab), is located right on the River Torrens and offers spacious and comfortable rooms with large marble bathrooms.
From the Hyatt, take a short stroll to the east along North Terrace, turn right into Victoria Street and head for Short Black Espresso at the next intersection (87 Hindley St.). This tiny café is a hot spot for local artists and students, and has great coffee and light snacks. When you've had your fill, head back to North Terrace and turn left, passing the Adelaide Railway Station with its grand façade (now full of boutiques and the SKYCITY Adelaide Casino) and Parliament House, at the South Australian Museum. For a better understanding of Australia's indigenous culture, visit the museum's collection of Aboriginal artifacts. From the museum, head south down King William Street to Grote Street. A few blocks from here is the Adelaide Central Market, a bustling center that is the heart and soul of the capital. The markets are open Tuesday through Saturday, but the restaurants are open every day. Graze through the myriad food stalls for a traditional market lunch. You can sample home-grown olives and olive oil, and crispy damper — a simple yet tasty bread that was once the staple diet of Australian stockmen when they "went bush" for long periods of time with their cattle. As well as traditional Australian fare, the Central Market is a melting pot of exotic foods from around the world — drinkable yoghurt (kefir) with its origins in the Middle East, Korean delicacies, Indian curries, European cheeses and Italian pizzas and pasta.
Opposite the market, at 32 Grote St., visit "Antique Market" which has bric-a-brac of all shapes and sizes. Vintage toys, old recipe books, silverware and much more can be found here. If you didn't get your fill at the Central Market, meander from here into Chinatown opposite and slip into one of the authentic Asian restaurants.
If you can still walk after all that great food, back-track to North Terrace and onto the Botanic Gardens. The rose garden is spectacular, as is the Bicentennial Conservatory built in 1988 (Australia's bicentennial year). It is the largest single span conservatory in the southern hemisphere. Nearby to the rose garden is Palm House, Australia's oldest glass house, full of exotic flora.
Just to the east of the Botanic Gardens is the Australian National Wine Centre. This architectural icon houses a café, wine store, and a fantastic interactive museum that tells the story of the history of wine in Australia. The center employs some state-of-the-art tools to help visitors understand the intricacies of winemaking, and an interactive display that helps you make your own virtual wine. If you're in the mood to sample some wines — and who isn't — you can also do that here.
If you plan explore the Australian outback at some stage a quick shopping trip to R.M. Williams is a must-do for any budding cowboy and cowgirl. It's a five to ten minute walk from the wine center back towards the Hyatt Hotel. R.M. Williams is an Australian institution, stocking a huge range of coats, boots, jackets, and of course hats, that are favored by many of Australia's true cowboys. For a more traditional shopping experience head for Rundle Mall, located south of R.M. Williams. Definitely a place to find a bargain or two.
Dinner this evening is in the rambling seaside village of Glenelg. You can walk to Victoria Square from most hotels and take a tram to Glenelg for under $5 per person. It's a leisurely way to see the city and outer suburbs. Once you've alighted at Glenelg walk along the boardwalk to Sammy's on the Marina, one of Adelaide's most popular fresh seafood restaurants. If fish isn't to your liking try Durhams, a sophisticated restaurant with excellent modern fare. Stroll through historic Glenelg to work off dinner, and head back to Adelaide by tram or taxi (about $20) for a good night's sleep.
For those who want to kick on after dinner, take a taxi to the Largs Pier Hotel at Largs Bay (about 20 miles and 30 minutes from Glenelg). The Largs Pier Hotel has legendary status as it was one of the first pubs in Australia where ACDC played. It has been refurbished to its former glory and offers a wonderful bar, evening entertainment, a restaurant and accommodation.
(Updated: 09/10/12 CT)