Sophisticated, cultured, neat casual − this is the self-image Adelaide projects, a nod to the days of free colonisation without the 'penal colony' taint. Adelaidians may remind you of their convict-free status, but the city's stuffy, affluent origins did more to inhibit development than promote it. Bogged down in the old-school doldrums and painfully short on charisma, this was a pious, introspective place.
But these days things are different. Multicultural flavours infuse Adelaide's restaurants; there's a pumping pub, arts and live-music scene; and the city's festival calendar has vanquished dull Saturday nights. And, of course, there's the local wine. Residents flush with hedonism at the prospect of a punchy McLaren Vale shiraz or summer-scented Clare riesling.
That said, a subtle conservatism remains. 'What school did you go to?' is a common salvo from those unsure of your place in the social hierarchy, while countercultural urges bubble up through Adelaide's countless sex shops, kung-fu dojos and huge bottle shops.
Just down the tram tracks is beachy Glenelg, Adelaide with its guard down and boardshorts up; and Port Adelaide, a historic enclave slowly developing into SA's version of Fremantle. Inland, Adelaide's winking plains rise to the Adelaide Hills, just 12 minutes up the freeway. The Hills' gorgeous valley folds, old-fangled towns and cool-climate vineyards are all close at hand.