By Mark Chipperfield
A 7am heart starter matched with a toastie while gazing out the window at a neighbourhood slowly waking is in many ways an ideal start to any city day. For a non-local, Josh Baker’s still funky four-years young Coffee Branch on Adelaide’s Leigh Street is an early morning must-do.
Baker is one of numerous local operators who have been at the forefront of the city’s hipster awakening in recent years. His bars Clever Little Tailor and Pink Moon Saloon typify the laneway renaissance centred on Leigh and Peel Streets.
His early morning demeanour is just the right amount of barista cool matched with friendliness as he expounds on Adelaide’s bounty of small bars and restaurants. Moreover, he’s keen to lead an intrepid group of us on a nighttime trawl through some of the city’s smaller speak-easy style venues after our daylight meanderings are over.
Often called the ‘20-minute city’ because of its compact size, lack of congestion and excellent public transport, Adelaide conceals a wealth of things to do and see.
From grand 19th century squares to funky retail outlets, many of Adelaide’s major attractions lie within the central business district, while others are easily accessible on foot or by using the city’s free bike hire scheme.
From sporting icons to indigenous art and the latest fashion trends, Adelaide has it covered.
Cricket lovers regard the Adelaide Oval as one of the prettiest Test grounds in the world and a place associated with some of the legends of the game from Sir Donald Bradman to home-grown stars Victor Richardson and his three test playing grandsons, the Chappell brothers as well as Darren Lehmann more recently.
But this famous ground, with its antique scoreboard and much-loved Moreton Bay Fig Trees is also an essential part of the city’s fabric.
Fresh from a major refurbishment, the Oval is now more impressive than ever.
Guided tours of the ground are available; visitors can also visit the popular Bradman Collection to get a more detailed understanding of the man acknowledged as the greatest cricketer of all time.
A curved pedestrian bridge now links the city and Oval, follow this back to North Terrace and walk along King William St to Victoria Square, which has also undergone an extensive makeover.
The square, also known as Tarndanyangga (its Aboriginal name), is surrounded by some of Adelaide’s most important public buildings, such as the General Post Office, the Supreme Court and the former State Treasury Building (now the Adina hotel).
If you look closely you will find a spruced up statue of Queen Victoria, which dates from 1894.
City turf to surf
Although better known for its elegant boulevards, parklands and grand squares, Adelaide also offers a good selection of family-friendly beaches.
Glenelg is the obvious choice since there’s a regular tram service from the city centre.
The English-style beach suburb offers safe swimming, a funfair and plenty of pavement cafes and take-aways.
From Glenelg, wend your way along the coast to Henley and Grange if you’re searching for something a little less frenetic – there’s a handy coastal cycle path linking all three.
But no visit to Adelaide is complete without taking a stroll in the Botanic Gardens on North Terrace.
This gem of Victorian horticulture includes well-established lawns and ponds, a rose garden, an Australian Native Garden, a Garden of Health and wetland containing over 60,000 plants.
A highlight is the Museum of Economic Botany, which explains how plants have influenced our lives over the past 130 years.
Museums & Galleries on your tour of Adelaide
For a city of around 1.3 million people Adelaide is well served by museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions – many of them are clustered along North Terrace.
Dating from 1881, the Art Gallery of South Australia holds 38,000 works of art from Australia, Europe, North America and Asia.
Apart from significant paintings from the Renaissance, the gallery has an important collection of Australian art – from the early 19th century to the present day.
Many visitors will be interested in the comprehensive collection of Australian Aboriginal dot paintings from Central Australia.
Nearby is the equally surprising South Australian Museum, a compact building which is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Aboriginal artifacts, with over 3000 items on display.
The museum has a number of other rooms devoted to fossils, minerals, megafauna, ancient Egypt and a wonderful Pacific Cultures gallery packed with canoes, clubs and other weapons.
The museum also hosts a vibrant program of temporary exhibitions.
To learn more about how migration from Britain, Europe and elsewhere has shaped the state’s identity walk around the corner to the Migration Museum in Kintore Ave.
The museum contains a large number of historic artifacts, including costumes, weapons and relics.
With its close links to desert communities of Central Australia, Adelaide also provides a natural platform for contemporary indigenous art.
Make sure you visit Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute on Grenfell St.
Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed cultural centre, Tandanya exhibits the work of many talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
JamFactory, in Adelaide’s West End Arts precinct, provides a different type of interactive cultural experience.
Here visitors can watch artists of all types at work in their studios.
The building houses four studios producing ceramics, furniture, metal and glass.
The gallery showcases contemporary Australian craft practice, while the two shops offer a wide range of high quality and collectable craft and design pieces.
A sister gallery now operates at the historic Seppeltsfield winery in the Barossa and is also worth visiting.
Thanks to a lengthy makeover the city’s Rundle Mall has regained its place as Adelaide’s preeminent shopping precinct.
Mobile food stores, flower sellers and street performers complement the funky, new-look mall. Apart from department stores, Rundle Mall is home to a number of international fashion brands, specialty electronic stories, up-market jewellers, pavement cafes, food courts and several popular arcades, including the ornate Adelaide Arcade.
Searching for something a little quirkier?
Then walk further along Rundle Street to the city’s East End which offers an impressive range of small fashion boutiques, funky home wares stores, gift shops, chocolate makers, hipster cafes, old school pubs and art house cinemas.
Make sure you wander down Ebenezer Place. Once part of the original fruit and vegetable markets, this pedestrian walkway now contains an intriguing mix of retailers (everything from jewellery to Western clothes), food outlets, bars, cafes and wine merchants.
Dedicated fashionistas will also want to explore King William Road in the leafy suburb of Hyde Park – a 10-minute bus ride from the city centre.
With its cobbled road, vine covered awnings, dinky little cafes and up market dress shops, King William Road is Adelaide’s most exclusive shopping precinct.
Local designer Liza Emanuele is a long-term resident, while Wildchild Stylelab appeals to younger demographic. Denim Iniquity stocks a wide range of on-trend designer labels.
And anyone with a sweet tooth will definitely want to include a visit to Haigh’s Chocolates in Parkside, a short drive from Hyde Park, where you can take a tour of the factory, enjoy a structured chocolate tasting, order a coffee or tea and buy something from the retail store.
Haigh’s is Australia’s oldest independent chocolate maker and produces a huge range of truffles, fruit centres, fudges, bars and novelty items. There are regular tours.
Adelaide is also the birthplace of Aussie clothing brand R.M. Williams and you can see where it all started – in a modest saddle workshop in the northern suburb of Prospect.
Today, the building contains a museum which tells the story of Reginald Murray Williams and a thriving retail store selling saddles, hand-plaited bridles, whips, clothing, kangaroo hide belts, cowboy hats and his famous elastic sided boots.
For more information on Adelaide visit South Australia.
International carriers fly direct into Adelaide, including Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Malaysian Airlines. Qatar Airways will begin daily flights into Adelaide from May 2016. Virgin Australia and Qantas fly to Adelaide from all major Australian cities (flights from Sydney and Melbourne are under two hours).
Major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.