With thriving arts and dining scenes plus white-sand beaches and some of the country’s best wine regions on its doorstep, the South Australian capital has it all.
Occupying a middle ground between rolling green hills and white-sand beaches, Adelaide is a city of contrasts: where grand architecture and gracious parklands meet a proud Kaurna heritage, contemporary culture and a lively festival spirit.
And, building on a foundation first forged in the 1980s with the likes of Cheong Liew and Maggie Beer, the city has re-emerged in recent years with one of Australia’s most dynamic dining scenes: get a taste of it all at food and drink festival Tasting Australia (30 April – 9 May).
Adelaide’s compact city centre is easily explored on foot.
Art & Indigenous culture
Ground yourself in its grand civic architecture on tree-lined North Terrace, home to the city’s major cultural institutions including the Art Gallery Of South Australia, with its staggering collection of more than 38,000 artworks as well as a dedicated platform, Tarnanthi, for contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
Next-door, the South Australian Museum: home to the world’s largest collection of Australian Aboriginal cultural material as well as galleries dedicated to the Pacific cultures, megafauna and opalised fossils, Ancient Egypt and more.
Walk through vibrant gardens
Next, explore the nearby Botanic Garden and its beautiful landscaped grounds that are studded with stunning architecture – including the 1877-built Palm House – and reveal all manner of different habitats: from Australian forest to an international rose garden (also visit the cool-climate gardens and gullies of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden just out of town in the Adelaide Hills).
Check out the City
Then, launch yourself headfirst into the laneways of the CBD and West End that harbour a new wave of vibrant bars and chic restaurants that take advantage of the region’s abundant local produce.
And don’t miss a trip to the historic Adelaide Central Market, a bustling hub of more than 70 traders. Or, indeed, a tram trip all the way to the beach. Adelaide’s hotel scene is heating up too, with the recent opening of a slew of boutique and luxury hotels including Oval Hotel, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets, Eos By Skycity and Crowne Plaza Adelaide.
How to spend 72 hours in Adelaide
Penfolds Magill Estate
Eight kilometres from the CBD in the foothills of the Adelaide Hills is Penfolds’ first ever vineyard, Magill Estate, complete with cellar door and restaurant.
From here, continue on for an exploration of the Adelaide Hills: a country idyll of a cool-climate wine region that’s increasingly hip with its cafes, restaurants and converted heritage spaces.
Adelaide’s sandy suite of metropolitan beaches are easy to access and Glenelg, its most popular for good reason, is just a quick tram ride away from the CBD; enjoy a sundowner at The Moseley Beach Club.
Long, wide and bordered by sand dunes, Semaphore Beach feels a little more removed yet it’s still a quick hop from the city; plus – its foreshore and boulevard are dotted with Art Deco buildings.
Holden Street Theatres
This neighbourhood gem in the inner-west suburb of Hindmarsh presents high-quality Australian and international theatre in a heritage-listed church complex.
Check into Adabco Boutique Hotel for a charming stay in a Venetian Gothic-style building.
Glam new Crowne Plaza Adelaide is now open in the city’s East End cultural hub.
Eos By Skycity is a new luxury destination in the heart of town.
Starting on Adelaide’s East Terrace, fronting leafy Kadlitpina/Rundle Park (a festival hub during Fringe), Africola is one of the hottest tables in town. Here, in a riotous space full of noise and colour, Duncan Welgemoed interprets African dishes in a way unique to the here and now – try the Goolwa pipis with fermented chilli and short noodle.
And the West End is where you want to be in order to experience Adelaide’s flourishing laneway culture: starting with pioneers Peel and Leigh Streets, home to scene-staple Peel St; the smoky, steamy, fire-fuelled restaurant Shobosho (also try its eight-seater little sister yakitori, Sho); trendy drinking hole Pink Moon Saloon and natural wine bar and restaurant Leigh Street Wine Room.
Or head west out of the CBD along Henley Beach Road to the vibrant and family-run Parwana Afghan Kitchen for one of the best dining experiences Adelaide has to offer.
With its year-round roster of arts, music and cultural events, Adelaide is Australia’s unequivocal festival city. So it’s practically mandatory to attend a show or two while you’re in town.
Aim for ‘Mad March’, when the city thrums with the energy of the Adelaide Festival, world music festival WOMADelaide and Fringe – the largest open-access festival in the southern hemisphere that sees something happening on every street corner and the city’s parklands come alive with cabaret, comedy and colour.
And even a global pandemic can’t keep the city down, with live events going ahead this year with all the necessary precautions in place.
Best walks in Adelaide
The River Torrens Linear Trail begins in the foothills of the Adelaide Hills and journeys west through to the CBD all the way to the river mouth at Henley Beach.
Following the graceful river for about 30 kilometres, you’ll pass river red gums, reed beds, ducks, water wrens and black cockatoos, see landmarks aplenty, and have the chance to appreciate Adelaide from a different perspective.
Don’t miss: West End
It’s not just food and drink culture that’s alive and well in Adelaide’s West End: tap into its artistic pulse at jam factory, housing studios, galleries and a shop; live music and arts venue Lion Arts Factory; and by checking out the street art that brings the laneways to life.
Conscious Traveller tip:
Located on Kaurna land (pronounced Garna, meaning ‘place of the red kangaroo’), Tandanya is Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre; it has a vibrant program of visual and performing arts, talks, film screenings and more plus a store selling authentic and ethical art and artefacts.