The 10 best things to do in Adelaide
Adventures abound in South Australia’s capital .
Adelaide isn’t like the rest of Australia. History books will tell you it’s because the city wasn’t dreamt up as a place to dump convicts. The ‘Festival State’ number plates suggest it’s the colourful calendar of arts events. Every Christmas, your red-cheeked uncle swears by the wine. Maybe it’s the isolation, or that combination of hunger and pride you find in smaller cities, but Adelaide does things differently.
Compared to those sprawling eastern metropolises, Adelaide’s square mile has all the artfully composed symmetry of a Wes Anderson shot. But don’t let the quietly ordered streets or the single tramline that bisects its tidy grid fool you: the place is teeming with adventures to lose yourself in for a day, a week or more.
Slideshow images: Parwana Afghan Kitchen and Imogen Czuwolski at work in Africola's open kitchen.
Now more than ever the city’s laneways and side streets hum with a world-class food and bar culture. Chief among them must be Africola, a colourfully decorated room right on the cusp of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, where you’ll find head chef Imogen Czulowski holding court. “We’ve always done whole animals since day one, but now we’re doing whole fish and breaking it down into cuts. Obviously using the whole animal is really important – no wastage, but also it educates people,” Imogen says of Africola’s holistic approach. This includes vegetables and lamb sourced from Ngeringa – a biodynamic vineyard and farm in nearby Mount Barker – and fish from Port Lincoln.
At the other end of town, the simple ritual of beer and pizza gets a slick makeover at Sunny’s Pizza. Just around the corner from Hindley Street, the city’s occasionally notorious late-night strip, this narrow slice of a former tractor warehouse is a timber-panelled cross between casual diner and cool bar – a self-described “clubstaurant”. A black-and-white portrait of Gough Whitlam looks over you as you eat house-made pasta and sip locally brewed Pirate Life craft beer. Kick on next door at newly opened neighbour Cry Baby
Heading beyond the parklands to the suburbs also reaps rewards, none more so than the delicious, and eye-catching, family traditions of Parwana Afghan Kitchen . Led by chef and matriarch Farida Ayubi, husband Zelmi and their five daughters, Parwana has grown from catering weddings for the Afghan community to a beloved institution, almost entirely by word of mouth. Try the eggplant-based banjan borani and beefy mantu dumplings, with Farida’s palaw rice on the side.
A walk in the woods
Adelaide’s CBD is encircled by parkland, which hosts music festivals, pop-up clubs and more delightful afternoon strolls than you can count. For more of a hike, the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden or Anstey Hill Recreation Park are a short drive from the city and offer spectacular views.
A new crop of creatively minded young people are plying their trades in Adelaide. One of them is Beccy Bromilow, who makes shoes from kangaroo leather in a shared studio and retail space called Ensemble , part of a growing movement of makers in the city with a focus on sustainable consumption. She makes every pair of BB Shoemaker shoes herself. “People really like the fact that they know who made their shoes,” she says. “It’s something that’s a bit lost now, you go to a shop but you don’t know the actual person who sewed it at all. So to know is really nice, and to appreciate the work and love that’s gone into a handcrafted item.”
Port Willunga is a favourite beach retreat for Adelaide folk.
One must never say “Coopers Green” or “Coopers Red” at an Adelaide bar. So ubiquitous is the iconic beer that just saying “pale” will make a pint appear. Just don’t ask for a “pot”. You can drop into Coopers HQ in Regency Park for a brewery tour .
Adelaide’s ‘Mad March’ is massive: The Fringe Festival , Adelaide Festival and WOMADelaide all run concurrently, and there’s even a V8 race in the middle of town if your favourite performance artists are named Holden and Ford. Whether you love theatre, music or comedy, you’ll find something to make you laugh, cry and completely write off the next morning.
State of the arts
Festivals aside, take in the Art Gallery of South Australia and ACE Open in the West End the beating heart of contemporary and experimental art in the city, with exhibitions that are colourful, weird, iconoclastic and, importantly, fun. Recent exhibitions have ranged from photographer Hoda Afshar’s playfully vivid pop art portraits of Muslim women, to a room of intricately decorated ceramic tiles, handmade and fired by former Mambo artist Gerry Wedd.
Life’s a beach
For decades the seaside delights of Port Willunga and Aldinga have been the go-to summer retreats for Adelaide residents. Take a detour via McLaren Vale to stock up on some vino and settle in for a beachside sunset.
In any other state apricots and chocolate don’t necessarily mix, but in South Australia the FruChoc – made by Adelaide’s own Robern Menz company since 1948 – has a cult-like status rivalled only by Farmers Union Iced Coffee. Demand for this milky treat makes SA one of the few places in the world where a dairy beverage outsells soft drinks, so pack your lactase tablets.