Everything you need to know about holidaying in Adelaide

Adelaide city skyline, South Australia

Image credit: SATC

Regular EPLT lovers will know that I grew up in Adelaide. Yes, that means I have a weird accent (or so I’m told), I’m slightly odd and could be a serial killer. It also means that I’m forever asked by non-Adelaideans for advice on things to do when holidaying in the city of churches. (This also means that they’ve holidayed in every other Australian capital city).

This question often results in me crafting a carefully curated email that’s longer than the Great Wall of China. I do this because I believe fearlessly that Adelaide is a wonderful city that gets an unfair wrap – it at least deserves to be favoured above Canberra – and I want to prove everyone wrong. It’s wine and food is legendary, the small bar scene impressive and the pace relaxing (not boring). The city is dead-set experiencing a culinary and cultural renaissance.

Lonely Planet named South Australia as one of the world’s top 10 regions to visit in 2017.

So I sit there and write these textbook-length emails time and time again. I’m not too sure why I haven’t saved myself the time and written this post before now but alas here it is…

Ta da! What you must see, where you must stay and, most importantly, where you must eat and drink on an Adelaide holiday:

Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, South Australia

Image credit: Adelaide Convention Centre

Where to stay in Adelaide

Before we progress to recommendations on actual chains of sleep, you definitely want a hotel or Airbnb in either the East End of the city near Rundle Street, or the West End near Peel and Leigh streets. This is where all the good bits are. If you stay in the south of the city, it’s snoozy, you’ll end up having to catch an uber everywhere and will inevitably come home telling me Adelaide was boring. I don’t want to hear it.

If you’re into raving until 10am, wearing minimal clothing and insist on sporting shoes that skirt the line of stilts, you’ll want to stay on Hindley Street – Adelaide’s version of Kings Cross.

With plenty of hotels and the tram running direct into the city, Glenelg is another option. Yet, in my opinion, there’s way nicer beaches in Adelaide than Glenelg Beach. But the locale is great for backpackers, brunch, a bit of shopping and nightlife (it is where I fast-planted on the dance floor and had to be carted off by ambulance…). It’s essentially a genetic copy of Melbourne’s St Kilda.

Now hotels. I love the Mayfair Hotel – it’s luxurious, a lesson in Art Deco and has a rooftop champagne bar. SOLD! The Majestic Roof Garden Hotel, Crowne Plaza Adelaide and The Playford M Gallery by Sofitel are also pretty reliable options.

Then there’s Mum and Dad’s house. They do a mean five-star stay, including the pre-heating of beds, free airport transfers, the sewing and general fixing of things that I’ve broken since I last saw them and 24-hour room service. The homemade spring rolls are to die for.

Bathroom, Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide, South Australia

Image credit: Mayfair Hotel

What to do in Adelaide

Adelaide Fringe

Running mid-February to mid-March each year, Fringe time is epically fun. It’s the second largest fringe festival outside of Edinburgh, with cabaret and comedy, acrobats and dance. During this time, thousands of artists descend on Adelaide, performing at hundreds of shows, in venues that include big, small, random and wacky, it’s crazy. Then there’s the pop-up bars and random acts in the free-to-enter Garden of Unearthly Delights, along with the giant pop-up bar Royal Croquet Club that takes over the banks of the River Torrens. It’s all fabulous.

Limbo, Adelaide Fringe, Garden of Unearthly Delights, South Australia

Image credit: SATC

A visit during Mad March in general

The term ‘Mad March’, referring to Adelaide, was coined for a reason. March is truly mad in Adelaide, as is late February (the Adelaide Fringe officially cuts the ribbon on festival season). There’s the Fringe, Adelaide Cup, WOMADelaide, Clipsal 500 (for those who like drinking beer out of a can) and the Adelaide Festival of Arts. For one month of the year, everything is happening. The city is electric – it’s clearly stolen energy from SA Power Networks, who need to be careful because they don’t have a lot of the stuff to start with. Finally, the weather is just splendid.

WOMADelaide, South Australia

Image credit: Arts Projects Australia

Day trip to South Australia’s wine country

You CANNOT come to Adelaide without visiting at least one of South Australia’s wine regions. That would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. South Australian wine is from another planet and the closest wine region is only 20 minutes away from the city (Adelaide Hills), with lots of bus tours at the ready to help you get there. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to visiting South Australia’s different wine regions:

McLaren Vale – my personal favourite. It’s super relaxed, they do a bold red and it’s only 50 minutes from Adelaide. Where else can you chat to the winemaker or pat the vineyard dog? My favourite wineries are d’Arenberg, Alpha Box & Dice and S.C. Pannel.

Angove Winemakers, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Image credit: SATC/Adam Bruzzone

Adelaide Hills – the Adelaide Hills is my second-favourite South Australian wine region (by a nose hair after McLaren Vale). Their cool-climate whites are the shirt. Artwine (Woodside), The Lane Vineyard (Hahndorf), Barristers Block (Woodside) and Howard Vineyard (Nairne) are all favourite children.

Winter Reds Wine Festival, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Nepenthe. Image credit: SATC

Barossa – considered one of the best wine regions in the woooorld, the Barossa needs no introduction. The big boy in town is just over an hour to drive to and is known for its reds, mostly. My picks are Yelland and Papps, Seppeltsfield and Rockford.

saltram, Barossa, South Australia

Saltram. Image credit: SATC/Sven Kovac

Clare Valley – this lesser known wine region is two hours from Adelaide and produces some of the best Rieslings in the land, not to mention has some of the most beautiful golden countryside you’ll ever see.

Skillogalee Winery, Clare Valley, South Australia

Skillogalee Winery. Image credit: John Montesi

Langhorne Creek – this small exclusive wine region, an hour south of Adelaide, do some killer reds and fortifieds. First stop has to be The Winehouse – this house of wine stocks five award-winning boutique labels from the area, so is a great Langhorne Creek taster.

Langhorne Creek Vineyards, South Australia

Image credit: FPT/Adam Bruzzone

If you’re serious about a jaunt to South Australian wine land, which you bloody well should be, the following is essential further reading:

Adelaide beaches

While I may have bagged Glenelg, I lurve all of Adelaide’s other beaches. They’re quiet (compared to my battles at Bronte), pristine (in the wanky sense of the word) and just insanely beautiful.

Aldinga, Moana, Brighton, Semaphore, Sellicks – you can’t go wrong. Port Noarlunga Beach has a reef making it super sheltered and great for snorkelling, while Maslin Beach has a bare bum policy – you only go here if you’re an exhibiting exhibitionist.

Snorkelling, Port Noarlunga Beach, South Australia

Image credit: SATC/Adam Bruzzone

More things to do in Adelaide…

  • See an AFL game at the ultra pretty, newly-revamped Adelaide Oval – it’s super intimate and super electric. And, of course, that game has to be an Adelaide Crows match. But if you’re anti-AFL, there’s always cricket, music and other stuff going on here too.
  • Scour the Adelaide Central Market for farm-fresh fruit and vegetables and gorgeous cheeses and meats. It’s the Southern Hemisphere’s largest undercover market and an adult’s candy store.
Adelaide Central Market, South Australia

Adelaide Central Market. Image credit: SATC

Adelaide Oval, South Australia

Adelaide Oval. Image credit: Hirokazu Ishino

Where to eat in Adelaide

With its super fresh produce, Adelaide is a delicious, delectable city with too many culinary exploits to list – but there are a few I will write home about:

Sean’s Kitchen

This New York-style brassiere, found at the base of the Adelaide Casino, is all class (a contradictory sentence if I’ve ever read one). The duck fat chips are compulsory.

Sean's Kitchen, Adelaide Casino, Adelaide, South Australia

Image credit: SATC/Adelaide Casino

Peel St

A Betty Crocker mix of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, Peel St (found weirdly enough on Peel Street) is fresh, relaxed and damn good.

Peel St, Adelaide, South Australia

Image credit: SATC

Press* Food and Wine

Religiously starring in the ‘best Adelaide restaurants’ lists, Press* Food and Wine serves up the best seasonal produce, which is sourced locally. They also have a penchant for offal and suckling pig, and a shit-load of sass (picture exposed wooden truss ceilings, industrial bulbs and lemon-coloured chairs). It’s also where we had our wedding, so I’m totally biased.

Here’s a full review, which will make you salivate. 

Press Food and Wine, Adelaide. Credit: Kerin Burford Photography

More places to eat in Adelaide…

Gondola Gondola, Orana and Shobosho also come highly recommended.

Where to drink in Adelaide

Adelaide’s small bar scene is seriously legit, with Peel Street, Leigh Street and Rundle Street the epicentres. You can’t visit Adelaide without checking out these cool cats:

Maybe Mae

There’s something inextricably exciting about a hidden bar. This one’s accessed via a carefully disguised, wood-panelled door, which makes you feel like you’re a character out of a Bond movie. Once inside, Maybe Mae oozes opulence of a bygone Art Deco era, with wall-to-wall gold-panelled mirrors, plush green leather booths and green glass pendant lights.

Small Bar, Maybe Mae, Peel Street, Adelaide, South Australia

Image credit: Australian Bartender

BRKLYN

Throw a barber shop, sound studio, delicatessen and bar in a blender and you get the uber cool, New York-inspired BRKLYN. Expect plenty of cocktails that pay homage to NYC, but also lots of international beers and South Australian wines, which naturally makes my heart tweet like a bird.

BRKLYN, Rundle Street, Adelaide, South Australia

Image credit: Proams

Hennessy Rooftop Bar

Perched on top of the newish Mayfair Hotel, decadence drips from the chandeliers and Tudor-style roof panelling of this ultra-luxurious champagne bar.

Hennessy Rooftop, Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide

Image credit: Mayfair Hotel

More places to drink in Adelaide…

So, you’re a boozo and want more bars? Here they are: Bank Street Social, 2KW, Clever Little Tailor, Pink Moon Saloon. All great!

For more comprehensive studies in bar trawling, the following posts are also required reading:

Bar, Clever Little Tailor, Adelaide, South Australia

Clever Little Tailor. Image credit: SATC

Any Adelaide tips I’ve forgotten? Share below.

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