Insider Secrets: What the Locals Love in Adelaide
As someone who grew up in Adelaide, I have watched it transform from a once sleepy town to a confident and energetic tourist destination. You can fly into Adelaide on a number of airlines from the UK or reach it as a reward at the end of the Great Ocean Road road trip from Melbourne, Adelaide's popularity has blossomed in recent years thanks to it's laissez-faire lifestyle, penchant for paddock-to-plate dining, and easy access to some of Australia's best wineries. While my love for the south Australian capital as a local may be skewed, don't just take my word for it – even the New York Times tipped it as one of the best places to visit in 2015.
Sydney may have the icons and Melbourne, the artistic culture, but in my view Adelaide's laid-back atmosphere invites you to slow down and sample life as a local. With that in mind, I’ve created a guide to just a few of my favourite places to eat, drink, day trip and hang out.
Adelaide's best eats
Culinary culture is kind of a big deal in Adelaide. While the city is essentially one big farmer’s market, and the surrounds offer a bacchanalian bevy of artisan cheese, wine, and produce – what’s most appealing about Adelaide eating is the sheer diversity. Bringing together an artful mix of Asian delicacies, German-style small-goods and easy-going Aussie al fresco, Adelaide offers up a gastronomic world map – all with a focus on local produce.
For cheap eats, I recommend heading to Adelaide’s Chinatown, conveniently situated beside the ever-popular Adelaide Central Market, which (FACT ALERT) happens to be the largest undercover market in the southern hemisphere. My favourite time to head to the market is late on a Saturday morning, where the sounds of fruit hawkers and smell of freshly roasted coffee welcomes you. Your reward is a lazy yum cha that will barely break the bank. For my money you can’t go past the bustling atmosphere and steamed-fresh dumplings of the Central Market’s own Seng Kee.
Afterwards, stop off for a sugary dessert at the so-twee-it’s-awesome Hello Kitty Café. The cutesy, Japanese-themed patisserie serves a range of over the top desserts and drinks that are almost too good to actually eat. Almost.
For a fun albeit more costly meal, I love the newly-established Africola, and I'm nowhere near alone in my adoration. With a grand-standing riot of colour, and tables spilling over into humming East Terrace, it’s hard to miss and easy to love. While I personally can’t go past the seasonal spit and roasted cauliflower, the easiest way to dine is to let the team serve you with the kitchen menu, an expert pick of the best bits from the meat-heavy South African barbecue menu. Not a spot for when you’re watching you’re dollars – grab an outdoor table, maybe order an entire cow’s head (yes, for real), and have a blast.
Adelaide's best bars
Adelaide’s pop-up bar scene has blossomed with guerilla gusto in recent times, and you won’t be stuck for options that extend beyond the much-lauded vino.
If you can’t go past the old-world charm of a whiskey and a Whitman, Bibliotheca Bar & Book Exchange is the place for you. The unassuming façade hides a cosy, welcoming interior and the classic cocktail list of your dreams. The book-lined walls and bankers’ lamps lend the space a gentlemen’s club atmosphere (tres Sherlock), and while you ponder the local beer and wine-list, you can browse the bookshelves, swapping an old novel for some new holiday reading.
If you can quantify a place by “vibe” alone, Ebenezer Place is the vibiest of all on a Friday night. I also love to stop for a drink or two at Hey Jupiter. Tiny and perfectly formed, the French-style venue transforms from daytime café (offering arguably the city’s best coffee and almond croissants); to a lively locale to drink, talk, and create world master-plans on napkins. Just off the main drag, the ambiance is distinctly social, with carafes of Bloody Marys made to be shared. If you can, go in summer when the Ebenezer Night Market fills the street with pop-up stalls, offering everything from vintage fashion to home-made lemonade, all with a chilled market feel.
The best places to spend a sunny day
If I need to pick a place to meet up with friends, I usually opt for The Exeter. On the corner of Rundle and Vaughn Streets, the Exxy has a soft spot in most Adelaidean’s hearts, partly because it’s been around forever, partly because its unpretentious charms never fade. Big and busy, precisely as shabby as a pub should be – let’s call it Bohemian – the beer is cheap and somehow there is always a table free for you and your friends. Come for the local atmosphere, stay for the beer-in-hand conversations; it’s also within close proximity of Rundle Street’s abundance of restaurants, shops and bars for when the night beckons.
More botanical than barfly? The Botanic Gardens of South Australia are a natural delight, and an easy stroll from the city. Central but secluded, large but navigable, the gardens are the perfect place for a lunch-break wander, a lazy picnic, or a scenic site to soak up the city’s plentiful sunshine. Lush, lovely, and worth a visit come rain or shine.
The best spot for a day trip
Adelaide’s viticulture may be the star in its crown, but when it comes to day tripping local style, there are many more options than the wine-soaked Barossa and McLaren Vale. For sheer beauty and ambiance, rent a car and drive to the nearby Adelaide Hills. A 25-minute drive from the city, you’ll be transported to a different world of quaint villages and stunning natural scenery. From German small-goods in Hahndorf, to an open-fire pub lunch in Stirling, the choices are endless – but for my money, you can’t beat the majestic views of Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens any time of the year.