For most travellers to Australia, the country famously boils down to three things: Sydney, Rock and Reef (the first and last need no introduction; the second, in case you missed the reference, is Uluru, or Ayers Rock, one of Australia’s most iconic attractions). It’s Australia’s equivalent of the Golden Triangle. Of course, it’s authentic, as Australian as kangaroo jerky, but it’s not everything that Australia has to offer. Travellers who choose to move beyond this holy triumvirate will be rewarded generously for their efforts.
Our bets are on Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia. Few cities is the world can claim such a scenic setting, with cool hills to the north, a pearly coastline in the south and rolling vineyards all around. Named in honour of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 as the capital for a freely-settled British province. Colonel William Light, one of its founding fathers, doubled up as designer, locating it close to the Torrens River. He conceived the city’s grid layout, punctuated by wide boulevards and large public squares, and completely surrounded by parklands. Here’s our list of the best this beautiful city has to offer.
If you’re a cricket buff, your Adelaide tour will beginand end at the Oval, widely regarded as the most picturesque Test ground in the world, with St Peter’s Cathedral rising behind an elegant Edwardian scoreboard and Moreton Bay fig trees at the northern end. The first international cricket match here was held on December 13, 1873. This is where Donald Bradman scored the ground’s highest Test score (299 not out) in 1931. And this is where, in 1932, the Bodyline affair reached its lowest point. Here, unlike other historic stadiums around the world, unless there’s a match on, you can just walk in and take a look. But, trust us, the view is much better from the rooftop, which is why you should opt for the Roof Climb.
The guided tour runs for about two hours and covers a distance of 1.2 kilometres in total, climbing up and down ladders and multiple flights of stairs, walking on open metal grate walkways and a stepped bridge. Climbers are harnessed and attached to the railing at all times, so it’s completely safe. It’s also a great way to get your first orientation of the city. The North Terrace cultural boulevard is in plain sight. The quite literally cutting-edge South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) will catch your eye, as will the woodlands that were planted around Adelaide as a protective measure and now are a green bounty enjoyed by its citizens. Locals never fail to point out the futuristic new Royal Adelaide Hospital (nRAH), pride mixed with disbelief: it’s the most expensive building ever built in Australia and the third most expensive in the world.
Even more fun is doing a rooftop climb during a match. This year, the Test match between India and Australia (Dec 6 to 10, 2018) will provide ample opportunities, although slots are going fast. From AUD 104; roofclimb.com.au.
Since 1869, the Central Market, which is set at one corner of the historic Victoria Square, has been the jewel in the crown of South Australian tourism experiences, a haven of premium food and wine products, and second home to chefs and food lovers. On offer are sensory and interactive gourmet walking tours with a local food expert. Participants enjoy a range of delicious samples that represent the multicultural community of South Australia, and the clean and green produce harvested from surrounding farms and oceans. The market is home to cafés, which are veritable local legends, to shops selling everything from vegan spreads to wild meats and green ants. Tours are offered by Indophile Mark Gleeson, who owns a delectable pastry shop here. See ausfoodtours.com for more information.
Now that you’ve had the bird’s-eye view of Adelaide, it’s time to hit the ground. If you’re feeling too lazy to walk, however, just book an EcoCaddy, a hybrid pedicab which provides eco-friendly transport around Adelaide. A 60-minute City Sights Experience costs AUD 120 and your driver will give you all the local perspective you could possibly want. They also offer longer rides and can throw in wine tours if you so wish.
The fact that this heritage shopping arcade in the heart of Adelaide is believed to be haunted by as many as three ghosts simply adds to its allure. Regent Arcade and Gay’s Arcade are two more noteworthy arcades right next door. These are set on Rundle Mall, a pedestrian mall which opened in 1976 and now boasts over 1,000 outlets. The Spheres, a stainless steel artwork comprising two large spheres (diameter: 2.15m each), balanced one on top of the other, is a popular meeting place and is popularly referred to as the Mall’s Balls.
Other notable sculptures in the mall include a group oflife-size bronze pigs—Horatio, Truffles, Augusta andOliver—rooting around a rubbish bin. See adelaidearcade.com.au and rundlemall.com.
A diverse patchwork of national parks, native animal refuges and heritage conservation areas intermingled with century-old market gardens, organic orchards, and beef and sheep enterprises make up the remarkable Adelaide Hills landscape.
Just 30 minutes from Adelaide, postcard-pretty Hahndorf has come a long way since Captain Dirk Hahn helped to settle the region’s first European inhabitants here back in 1839, who were fleeing religious persecution in Prussia. Today, the heritage town retains a strong German vibe. You can spend a nice afternoon here, walking down the scenic main street, browsing the boutiques—which sell everything from artisanal knives to Fruchocs—admiring the Fachwerk buildings, tucking in at German pubs and bakeries, or enjoying a nice lunch made with produce fresh from the farm. Family activities include animal interaction at Hahndorf Farm Barn and strawberry picking at the world-famous Beerenberg Farm. The nearby Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offers numerous walking paths across 97 hectares; expect spectacular colour, rich aromas and amazing plant diversity.
The family-owned Gorge Wildlife Park, which opened in 1965, could teach a thing or two to our zoos. Situated on 14 acres of land, it is an immersive zoo with several open enclosures, where you can feed some quite greedy kangaroos and wallabies, and cuddle a koala (the latter at designated times through the day, at absolutely no extra charge). There aren’t too many experiences in the world that can compare to that. Admission: AUD 17 for adults, AUD 10 forchildren.
One of Australia’s premier food and wine regions, McLaren Vale is situated 38 kilometres south of Adelaide. The family-owned d’ Arenberg Winery here is set on top of a hill overlooking the district. The label is well known for distinctively flavoured wines with quirky names. With Chester Osborn, fourth-generation family winemaker, d’Arenberg offers a unique winetasting experience with over 60 wines made from over 25 grape varieties. The brand-new and mildly controversial d’Arenberg Cube—inspired by the complexities and puzzles of winemaking—has five levels, each carefully designed to entice the senses. There’s a lot of fun art, and the top level houses the d’Arenberg cellar door and private tasting areas, even offering the opportunity to blend and bottle your own wine. There are excellent restaurants and a tranquil sculpture garden as well. See mclarenvale.info.
Adelaide is spoilt for choice when it comes to beach activities. At Victor Harbour, you can board a horse-drawn tram along the causeway to picturesque Granite Island, the only such experience in Australia. Once on Granite Island, you can head to Oceanic Victor, an in-sea aquarium, where you are kitted out with warm wetsuits to swim with southern bluefin tuna. Should you not want to get wet, you can venture beneath the aquarium to the underwater viewing area, or feed the tuna on the feeding platform. But our money is on the Hallett Cove Boardwalk, which really is a local secret. A clifftop boardwalk along the rocky coastline between Marino and Hallett Cove, it’s all about the views. The waves have been crashing against the rugged cliffs here for millions of years, and it’s a great memory to end your Adelaide sojourn with.
Australia is neither as far nor as expensive to get to as you might think. There are convenient one-stop connections, with quite reasonable transit times, via Southeast Asian hubs like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The cheapest fares are on Scoot. Air India is the only airline to offer direct flights to Australia, but it flies to Sydney and Melbourne, not Adelaide.
Where to Stay
Indian travellers prefer the Hilton Adelaide for its central location. In fact, it’s bang next to Central Market, one of Adelaide’s most iconic attractions, and overlooks Victoria Square. This is right where the action is, in the heart of the city’s entertainment, shopping and dining precincts. Chinatown and Gouger Street, Adelaide’s most vibrant dining destinations, are minutes away (from AUD 199)
The Majestic Roof Garden Hotel is the flagship property of the family-owned Majestic Hotels group. The hotel enjoys a great location near popular Rundle Street with its array of restaurants, cafés and boutique shopping. Situated on the ground floor of the hotel is Culshaw’s Grill, which provides an intimate dining experience. Then, of course, there’s the signature garden on the hotel’s rooftop, a great place to unwind after a long day. There’s ample parking on the premises, and the hotel is within walking distance of many key attractions, including Rundle Mall, the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Zoo, National Wine Centre, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide Oval and the Botanic Gardens (from AUD 125).
Set in a heritage-listed Venetian Gothic style building, the Adabco Boutique Hotel offers a beautiful mix of old-world charm and modern sophistication. The hotel is nestled among the leafy plane trees of Wakefield Street in Adelaide’s east end, and just minutes from the city centre, cultural attractions, shopping and an array of restaurants and cafés (from AUD 99).