Uniquely Adelaide: Around the South Australian Capital

Travelling Well | Jeremy Bourke | Posted on 19 September 2017

The attractions that make Adelaide one-of-a-kind

Find yourself in a group of passionate South Australians – especially at an AFL game – and you soon realise they are like no other. This is also true of their capital, which embraces its icons with unmatched fervor. Here are a few aspects unique to Adelaide.

The Oval

When Adelaide Oval was redeveloped to 21st-century stadium standard, some features couldn’t be touched: The ‘hill’, the 1911-vintage scoreboard and a bank of heritage-listed Moreton Bay fig trees planted in the 1890s. 

Magically, Adelaide was able to boast it still had Australia’s prettiest stadium while catering to the modern needs of AFL and cricket and their fans. The view past the scoreboard to St Peter’s Cathedral, and with planes coming to land at the airport almost hovering over the ground, is pure Adelaide.

Brighton Jetty with sunset admirers.

Brighton Jetty with sunset admirers. 

man playing saxaphone at womadelaide


And in the modern tradition of if they build it we will climb it, Adelaide Oval now has roof-top tours ($99/$69), which can uniquely include watching test cricket or footy from the roof ($225). roofclimb.com.au

The Floater

Gastronomes may scoff, but Adelaideans scoff it down guilt-free, because the floater – a meat pie in pea soup with gravy – is an official South Australian Heritage icon. It’s available 24 hours a day at either Vili’s cafe in Mile End or Bakery On O’Connell in North Adelaide.

The Don

The Bradman legend was born in New South Wales, but Australia’s most famous sportsman lived and worked most of his adult life in Adelaide, where they pay homage in several ways. You’ll come in from Adelaide Airport on Sir Donald Bradman Drive, but more tangible is the Bradman Collection at the Adelaide Oval (free entry) featuring footage, memorabilia and hands-on displays. 

The frogs

Who invented the chocolate frog? Some say it was MacRobertson’s Freddo in 1930, but in Adelaide there is only one and that is Haigh’s. Both the frog and its creator are institutions that have grown to a national company, although still owned by the Haigh family.

Haigh’s flagship store has been on the Beehive Corner (King William Street and Rundle Mall) since 1922. Free 20-minute tours of the factory (154 Greenhill Road, Parkside) run Monday to Saturday. 

The festival

WOMADelaide has broken out of the biannual Adelaide Festival of Arts to present its heady mix of local and world music and dance as a stand-alone annual event.

Without ignoring contemporary sounds and movement, WOMADelaide’s emphasis is on traditional culture, and you might see Australia’s Dan Sultan preceded by the likes of an exiled Tibetan folk singer and followed by a drumming troupe from Burundi.

aerial shot of adelaide oval at night

Adelaide Oval.

sculpture of don bradman in adelaide

Don Bradman lived most of his adult life in Adelaide.

The poles

Who else would claim a power pole as an icon? The stobie, steel joists sandwiching a concrete centre, was invented by engineer James Stobie in 1924 to get around a shortage of suitable timber and is still manufactured today.

Stobies have in later decades attracted the eye of renowned artists plus schoolchildren brightening up the poles outside their schools, and you will find many decorated examples around the suburbs.    

The pandas

If you want to see pandas in Australia, the only place is Adelaide Zoo. Wang Wang and Fu Ni are the only pair of giant pandas in the southern hemisphere and as such are part of an international research, conservation and breeding program.

A behind-the-scenes encounter ($500) is available Wednesdays and Sundays.

The stone

Each state capital has its distinctive architectural texture, and for Adelaide it’s sandstone. Even working-class weatherboard cottages present a front wall of golden stone.

The most complete examples are found in the tree-lined avenues of North Adelaide, which is dripping with immaculate stone mansions, terraces and pubs. Check out Wellington Square and Stanley Street. 

Get self-guided historic walk guides from cityofadelaide.com.au

Giant Panda, (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), adult, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

See Australia’s only pandas at Adelaide Zoo.

close-up of coopers pale ale in bottle and glass

Home town brew Coopers.

The nuts

A Ditters Gourmet Cake is a misnomer; the cake is no more than the flimsiest cement that holds together a magnificent melding of nuts and fruit. Think of it as an edible stained glass window. Unique to South Australia, it can be found at the factory in Stepney and at a handful of Adelaide retailers, as well as online. 

The jetties

The long, straight shoreline of Adelaide’s western suburbs is interrupted only by a collection of beautiful historic jetties poking into long St Vincent Gulf, luring fisherfolk, divers, amblers and sunset admirers. The most admirable are at Grange, Henley Beach, Glenelg and Brighton.

The race

Without going as loopy as the French do for their cycle race, Australia’s biggest two-wheel event, the Tour Down Under, still manages to hold the attention of a lot of South Australians each January. The first race outside Europe to become part of the UCI World Tour, it regularly attracts a world-class field. Next year’s event is on 13 to 21 January. 

The beer

South Australia’s lauded brewery has remained in the Cooper family for 150 years. There are several Coopers Alehouses around the city. You can take a tour (1pm, Tuesday to Friday, with most of the fee going to charity) at the brewery in Regency Park. 

Photos: Getty Images, SATC, Alamy