Lonely Planet Local Charles Rawlings-Way moved to Adelaide a decade ago, thinking he’d give it a year to see how things panned out. Within six months this sunny southern city had its hooks into him, exploding the myth of the ‘City of Churches’ moniker and exposing its arty underbelly of bars, pubs, festivals and wine-soaked surrounds.
When I have friends in town… we usually find ourselves at the Exeter Hotel at some point. Staunchly resistant to the high-rent boutiques closing in on all sides, Adelaide’s best pub remains a quirky, ebullient and endearing spot for a beer. A few lazy hours spent watching Australian Rules football or cricket at the recently vamped-up Adelaide Oval is also an essential Adelaide experience.
A typical Adelaide weekend involves... coffee, and plenty of it. Every Adelaide neighbourhood has its fave caffeine haunts from busy bacon-and-egg nooks to leafy backstreet breakfast bars. Most places are child-friendly, high chairs clattering amid the morning conversation and coffee machine steam. Argo on the Parade in affluent Norwood, and urban-hippie Café Troppo in the city are two of Adelaide’s best.
I have four kids… – yes, four – so many of my Adelaide experiences these days involve prams and kid-tolerant venues. We love the South Australian Museum (don’t miss the giant squid, and watch for the lion’s twitchy tail) and the Art Gallery of South Australia, which has a crafty kids’ studio and runs a kids’ program called START on the first Sunday of every month. Catching the tram to the beach at Glenelg for fish and chips, gelati and a splash in the sea is also a winner.
For cheap eats… you can’t beat Central Market, one of Australia’s best foodie markets. Explore the maze of produce-stuffed aisles and see what grabs you by the appetite: whiffy cheeses, wonderful wine and divine deli options, yogurt, pasta and pastries, all laced with European influences. Right next door is Adelaide’s Chinatown, with myriad noodle and dumpling diners. Try Ying Chow for a late-night budget feed: service here is quick-fire and famously brusque.
When I want to get out of the city for the day… I head for the Adelaide Hills. Sure, the more famous McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley wine regions are both just an hour away, but the Hills are just 15 minutes up the freeway from the city centre.
Topping-out at 727m above sea level, the climate here is chilly: perfect for growing cool-climate grapes (sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, especially). Lasso someone else to drive and swing into some Hills cellar doors for wine tastings: The Lane on a hilltop behind Hahndorf has a slick restaurant and the best views in the business, while super-cute Deviation Road in a valley behind Stirling seems worlds away from the sprawling city below.
When I’m itching to hear some live music… I head to the Wheatsheaf pub in grungy Thebarton. The ‘Wheaty’ is a charmer, with dozens of craft beers on tap, a mixed crowd of students, punks and musicians, and a ramshackle music room out the back. On stage, expect anything from jazz ensembles to country-and-western guitar twangers. Not far away in the West End area is the Grace Emily pub, host to touring alt-rock and indie bands playing in the retro-rockabilly back room. In fact, Adelaide’s live-music scene is booming, to such an extent that in 2015 it was named a UNESCO ‘City of Music’.
For an offbeat Adelaide experience… try Port Adelaide. Blue-collar to the core and forever derided by the upper echelons of Adelaide society, the Port has got SOUL! Raffish old pubs, derelict warehouses, persistent light industry and a handful of hipster venues imbue the Port with an alternative, offbeat, creative vibe. Don’t miss the excellent South Australian Maritime Museum and dinner at Low & Slow American BBQ (lowandslowamericanbbq.com).
I know I’m an Adelaidean because… I get annoyed when I can’t park directly out the front of the cafe/restaurant/pub I’m going to, or have to queue for anything whatsoever. Adelaide prides itself on its ‘ease’ of life – anything that smacks of big-city pressure is anathema to locals.
Need more city travel inspiration? Check out The Cities Book, a celebration of 200 of the world’s great cities, beautifully photographed and packed with trip advice and recommendations.