Ever felt like you’re really late to a party? Well, Adelaide is that party for me. Until last week, when my husband and I chugged into Adelaide on board The Ghan, I had never been to South Australia. Aside from Tasmania (which I’ll get to soon, I promise) South Australia was the only Aussie state I’d never visited and Adelaide the only major city which (to be frightfully honest) never featured on my wish list.
But last week’s train trip offered the opportunity to reconsider. Admittedly I didn’t give myself long (we extended our trip by a day in order to stay in Adelaide) but it was long enough for me to realise I’d been missing out on something pretty special.
Adelaide’s quite compact. The CBD is a neat rectangle surrounded on all sides by parkland and Rundle Mall, a pedestrianized shopping street, extends through the middle of it. For a first time visitor with limited time this easy to digest layout is perfect.
The first thing I did after dropping our bags at the hotel was head to Rundle Mall in order to get my bearings and a cup of coffee. Lined with the likes of glitzy stores like David Jones and Myer as well as historical arcades like (erm) Adelaide Arcade, Rundle Mall reminded me of Sydney’s Pitt Street but with far less power-walking . Dotted along the mall were various sculptures and a few alleyways decorated with urban art; I loved the opportunity to stop and stare at these works in-between the retail therapy.
Next, I turned to Twitter to help. My plan had been to simply wander the CBD and see what I could uncover but with a rumbling belly I turned to Twitter for some local direction. That came in the form of a Tweet from a South Australian journo who said Adelaide Central Market was the place to be for snacks on a Friday arvo. 10 minutes later I stood in the market and was inclined to agree with him. (Cheers Malcolm!)
Adelaide Central Market has been around since the 1800s but, much like Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market, has undergone a renaissance in recent years and won a South Australian Tourism Award for its efforts earlier in 2016. Today, it hosts over 80 stalls selling a variety of fresh, local produce, as well speciality foods and baked delights, in a mixture of modern and historical buildings decorated by street artists.
A number of the stalls have a handful of seats and liquor licenses; we were torn between tucking into pizza at Lucia’s or paella at Comida. Eventually we settled on some tapas and sangria, followed by a salted caramel cronut. We may also have pocketed some treats to bring home with us from Barossa Fine Foods.
This was just the start of our foodie adventure in Adelaide. From there we wandered the laneways of Leigh and Peel; one hosting a wine tasting event, the other home to Bread & Bone Wood Grill, where the smell of the burgers reeled us in. We ordered a Coopers Ale for him and a Barossa Cider for me; keeping the drinks local just like the meat.
More good food awaited at breakfast the next morning. We spent the night in North Adelaide at The Watson, our room on the 8th floor offering splendid views of the Adelaide Hills and a storm that appeared over them. A search on Instagram led us to Coffee Institute and the towering plates of food we ordered for brunch were simply perfect.
We did consider doing more than eating. I’d love to have visited the Art Gallery Of South Australia but I’m told this required at least a day. Also on my radar was a visit to the Haigh’s Chocolate Visitor Centre (sign up for free tours here) but this would definitely have involved more eating and even I can’t handle that much sweet stuff in 24 hours!
Our accommodation offered a chance to get arty though. The Art Series Hotel Group are a collection of boutique hotels dedicated to different Australian artists. Their property in Adelaide, The Watson, is splashed with the vibrant artwork of indigenous artist Tommy Watson. Watson’s work is inspired by his semi-nomadic upbringing in outback WA and uses an abstract method of indigenous painting – it’s important to him that he avoids depicting any sacred stories or symbols. Our 2 bedroom balcony suite contained 6 canvases alone, the black corridor outside lined with even more, and the rich colours of Watson’s contemporary work make you feel brighter just looking at them.
Having made these discoveries I now realise it was a shame to spend less than 30 hours in Adelaide but it’s a short flight from Sydney so I’m sure I’ll be back sometime.
But let’s keep how awesome Adelaide is just between us – we don’t want to ruin the surprise for any other new visitors!
The Watson kindly hosted us for the night. All burgers, Barossa ciders and cronuts were self-funded.