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8 of the best: Adelaide

Adelaide is often overlooked. But the South Australian capital is having her day in the sun that shines on wine-producing hills, golden beaches and a lifestyle that Australia’s bigger cities have long had to surrender.

By Max Anderson
Published 14 Jun 2019, 10:40 BST, Updated 22 Jul 2021, 15:53 BST

Adelaide Central Market
Head to the city’s food hub for the finest dishes and ingredients — fresh fish, spices, olive oils, artisan cheeses, palpitation-inducing espresso coffee, bowls of laksa and great pans of paella. Pull up a stool at any of 80 stalls and surrender to the old-school market ambience and rich flavours. Alternatively, take a guided walking tour with Mark Gleeson, of Central Market Tours, to learn about its history, dating back to 1869.

Festival season
Every summer Adelaide’s world-renowned celebration of the arts takes over the city’s squares, bars and venues. The main Adelaide Festival, incorporating Writer’s Week, takes top billing alongside the month-long Adelaide Fringe and WOMADelaide, a three-day showcase of world music and dance. Running through February and March, with over 600,000 visitors attending, it’s best to book early.

Adelaide hills
Like many of Adelaide’s surrounding attractions, Mount Lofty Summit is just a 20-minute drive from the city centre. Yet it feels a world away, perched at 2,385ft and offering views over huge eucalypt forests towards the metropolis. You can see the inner city ringed by parklands, a feature designed by Colonel William Light in his original city plan; to the west lies the glittering Gulf St Vincent with its beachy suburbs; and to the south the Adelaide Hills, one of the country’s finest wine regions.

Adelaide Oval
The city’s venerated 19th-century cricket ground was transformed into a modern, 53,000-seat stadium in 2014 — the first ever Ashes day-night test will take place in December. Surrounded by parklands and fronted by the River Torrens, it was named in honour of the Oval in Kennington, south London.

Swim with dolphins at Glenelg
This beachside suburb is where Colonel William Light arrived to found Australia’s first free settled colony in 1836. The beach is usually empty by European standards and the town is well served by pubs, cafes and the city tram (which takes just 20 minutes from the city centre). The gulf is home to common and bottlenose dolphins; set sail with Temptation Sailing and be ready to hop overboard on a specially adapted floatation line.

The Laneways
Adelaide has seen an explosion of small-bar action focused on a string of hitherto sleepy alleyways. It all started with Leigh Street and Peel Street, but adjoining urban rat runs are now blossoming with vodka bars, gin joints, cocktail shacks and a rather good micro-brewery, Lady Burra Brewhouse. There’s plenty of fun to be had exploring the red brick nooks and concrete crannies; try newcomers like Gondola Gondola and Pink Moon Saloon. 

North Terrace
Dubbed Adelaide’s cultural boulevard, this handsome line of heritage buildings comprises the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, the State Library of South Australia and the Migration Museum, just down from North Terrace on Kintore Avenue. Go west along North Terrace to the Parliament of South Australia; or head east for the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and Adelaide Zoo.

Penfolds Magill Estate
South Australia produces more than half of the country’s wine — and most is produced within 100 miles of Adelaide. Penfolds Magill Estate is an urban vineyard on the edge of the city. Take a tour of the winery and pay a premium to taste the heritage-listed Grange; and if the credit card will stand it, book a table at the superb Magill Estate Restaurant, one of the city’s great dining experiences. 

Published in the Australia 2017 guide, distributed with the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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