Most Indian travellers would associate a vacation to Australia with a long flight. Interestingly enough, I arrive into Adelaide Airport far less exhausted than I expected. That’s probably because the journey isn’t that long. A quick 4.5 hour hop from Mumbai to Singapore and a 90-minute transfer later, I am on a flight from Singapore to Adelaide, clocking a flight time of no more than 6 hours.
My first impressions of Adelaide, as I drive to my hotel, barely after sunrise, is just how quaint and charming the city is. Within 15 minutes, I find myself in downtown Adelaide, where everything seems visibly slower and smaller in scale than the larger, more bustling Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Later that morning, and a couple of flat whites down, I find myself walking through downtown Adelaide. What strikes me first is just how architecturally rich and well-laid-out this city is. On probing further, I learn that this, the fifth most populous city in Australia, was established by the British in 1836. It was planned with precision and its grid-like design is visible even today. It’s virtually impossible to get lost in Adelaide, given its geometric maze of boulevards and lanes. Adelaide’s central business district (CBD) is an architectural delight — stand in the midst of the vast sprawl of Victoria Square. This square is lined with old buildings that now house government offices, beautifully juxtaposed with new glass towers, a testimony of Adelaide’s dynamic culture and mix of old and new.
I start my discovery of Adelaide at one of its most iconic spots — Adelaide Central Market — which dates back to 1869. I find myself in the company of local insider Mark Gleeson, who runs Food Tours Australia, which provides excellent experiential walking tours of South Australia’s capital city. With the characteristic Aussie cheerfulness and endearing casual vibe, Mark Gleeson ushers me into the labyrinthine alleys of the market, home to some of Australia’s finest produce —meats, wine, cheese, vegetables and things as outlandish as ants. The best way to discover this market and all the fresh Australian produce that it stocks, it is recommended to book yourself onto one of Gleeson’s interactive tours (ausfoodtours.com) Amble through the market’s alleys, chat with the shopkeepers and farmers, buy a pastry at Providore patisserie or lunch at the generations-old Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar.
Following this, I decided to see the bylanes of Adelaide — and some snippets of graffiti and street art — in an EcoCaddy. This three-seater eco-friendly vehicle sees your caddy-driver pedal his way through Adelaide’s narrow alleys on this vehicle, and attract quite a few amused glances from the locals, in the bargain. The EcoCaddy tour of Adelaide is a great way to catch a quick glimpse of the city, especially if you are short on time.
My next stop is another Adelaide icon, which needs no introduction among cricket lovers. One of the world’s most historic cricket grounds, Adelaide Oval has seen many unforgettable cricketing moments. Dating back to 1871, the venue has seen many reinventions and an entirely new stadium construction, but its old historic wing still remains, along with the historic scoreboard that dates back to 1911. While the Adelaide Oval offers insider tours, which are all good, I highly recommend the RoofClimb, a rather unusual and adrenaline-packed experience. As its name suggests, when you sign up for the RoofClimb, you climb all the way up and walk across the massive elliptical roof of the Adelaide Oval, towering over the turf and the stands. This guided tour usually lasts two hours and operates through the day. Interesting to note, though, that the RoofClimb tours don’t stop if there is a match in the stadium, so, if you’re lucky, you could be climbing the roof, with thousands of spectators below you, watching an ongoing game. Needless to say, you are securely strapped onto a railing and your guide will walk you through the trail, which includes steep climbs, steps and narrow gangways.
As with every Australian city, the food and beverage scene in Adelaide is top-notch. Recommendations will come aplenty, and you will be spoilt for choice. Some of my highlight meals in Adelaide included a pasta and tiramisu lunch, followed by Italian espressos at the historic Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar in the Central Market. For a more eclectic experience, head to the quirky Golden Boy, with its pop-art inspired decor, serving up some Thai favourites paired with the best selection of South Australian wine. For a more upscale, wine and dine experience, I recommend booking a table (well in advance), at 2KW situated on the 8th floor of a historic building on King William Street. The restaurant boasts stunning views and offers an eclectic modern Australian menu in addition to a fantastic cocktail selection and wine list. Chef Trent Lymn partners with local Australian producers, to source sustainable ingredients — Fair Fish South Australia, Nature’s Chicken Lenswood, Bultarra Station Lamb and Mayura Station Wagyu, among others. In my quest for finding the most offbeat food experiences in Adelaide, I booked myself onto a Feast on Foot tour. This three-hour tour is a great way to interact with a local guide (and local restauranteurs) as you spend three hours, walking through the different neighbourhoods of the city and stopping at various establishments, as well as walking past some interesting street art. (feastonfoot.com)
No trip to Adelaide is complete without visiting its gorgeous hinterlands. Not only are the regions surrounding Adelaide breathtaking to look at, but they are also packed with things to do and experiences to be enjoyed. Wine lovers, in particular, will find more than enough to do in and around Adelaide, considered to be the wine capital of Australia. In fact, Adelaide is surrounded by three of South Australia’s most important wine producing regions — Adelaide Hills, Barossa and McLaren Vale. I set out from Adelaide early in the morning for the hour-long drive towards Handorf. This idyllic town, in the Adelaide Hills, is, as its name suggests, bathed in German influences, as it was once a German settlement. As you walk through the main street of Handorf, you will spot old German-style timbered houses, beer gardens and bakeries selling schnitzel and German bread. It is rather a surreal feeling to see signboards in German in the heart of South Australia. One of my Handorf highlights is the Seasonal Garden Cafe. This gorgeous space includes a restaurant, a coffee, a patisserie and a beer garden. Ingredients are sourced from local producers and there is also a garden where a lot of the vegetables and herbs on the menu are grown. (facebook.com/TheSeasonalGardenCafe)
Exploring McLaren Vale
While I do intend to spend the day “winery hopping” and soaking up the stunning landscapes that characterise this region, I am also on a mission to spot South Australia’s latest attraction, situated at the heart of McLaren Vale. The d’Arenberg Cube is a cube-shaped, surrealist structure rising above the d’Arenberg vineyards. Fourth-generation winemaker Chester Osborn’s wine brand, d’Arenberg, launched this Rubik’s cube-inspired building to be a perfect blend of winemaking, art and design. The cube is designed across five levels and houses, on each level, a museum, a wine boutique, a cellar door, a restaurant and even private tasting areas. Wine enthusiasts can now book themselves on a private sommelier session in the cube, overlooking the gorgeous undulating vineyards all around. While d’Arenberg Cube makes for a unique travel experience, it certainly makes for a beautiful photo-op, as it looks truly stunning — a geometric cube-like structure towering over the vineyards. Following this, you can drive around the region and stop at the different vineyards for a quick tasting. The region is also home to some interesting art galleries, restaurants and quaint cafés, that dot the area. (darenberg.com.au)
Cuddle a Koala
Spend an afternoon at Gorge Wildlife Park, a family-run sanctuary spread across 14 acres of land. Here, at designated times, you can grab a photo-op with a koala. In South Australia, under supervision, tourists are permitted to hold onto a koala and pose for a photograph. Following this, enter the kangaroo enclosure, where you can feed the friendly, and nosey kangaroos as they scurry around you. (gorgewildlifepark.com.au)
One of South Australia’s most picturesque destinations, Kangaroo Island is a short 15-minute flight from Adelaide (ferry options are also available). Most recommended is a two-night stay on the island, where you can self-drive through its vast national parks. Highlights include The Flinders Chase National Park with its curious rock formations — Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch — Seal Bay for some seal spotting and its many local farms dispensing glorious produce such as honey, cheese, preserves and even wine. Kangaroo Island is also a treat for animal lovers as the kangaroo population is estimated at 5 million, in addition to a thriving population of koalas and other endemic species.