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:
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.
What to do in Adelaide
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re serious about a jaunt to South Australian wine land, which you bloody well should be, the following is essential further reading:
- 48 hours in the Barossa: where to stay, what to do, where to eat
- 6 of South Australia’s best winery lunch spots
- Adelaide Hills’ Winter Reds Weekend: 7 reasons why you must go
- 4 of my favourite things to do in McLaren Vale
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.
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.
- North Terrace – this elegant boulevard is home to Adelaide’s cultural institutions: the South Australian Museum, State Library of South Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Parliament House (and also the less cultural Adelaide Casino and Adelaide Convention Centre). It’s all full stopped by the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, which is as lush as you get in a desert state.
- Visit the Adelaide Hills – an area so magical it’s clearly been torn straight from the spine of a kids’ fairytale book. Here’s 19 of the best things to do in the Adelaide Hills (one of which is to drink wine like it’s your job).
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:
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.
A Betty Crocker mix of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, Peel St (found weirdly enough on Peel Street) is fresh, relaxed and damn good.
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.
More places to eat in Adelaide…
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:
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.
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.
Perched on top of the newish Mayfair Hotel, decadence drips from the chandeliers and Tudor-style roof panelling of this ultra-luxurious champagne bar.
More places to drink in Adelaide…
For more comprehensive studies in bar trawling, the following posts are also required reading:
- 5 of Adelaide’s best new bars in 2016
- 6 of Adelaide’s best new wine bars in 2015
- And if you’re after a serious dance floor burn, these are the places you want to visit
Any Adelaide tips I’ve forgotten? Share below.