How often to you hear someone say 'I don't like this city or that city'. If you do not aimlessly walk the streets, going here and there, ask a local for directions, slip down a lane way or pop into an arcade; then you may have seen a city, but you will never know a city.
You're from Perth aren't you, was the response to the request for a Long Mac Topped Up, as the barista offered a choice of glass sizes. This particularly West Australian coffee not readily available elsewhere and indeed not consistent in WA was not bad.
Thus began our (My wife and I) accidental Adelaide adventure, not necessarily seen as a destination and often bypassed in favour of Melbourne and Sydney. Adelaide became the alternative when our original objective was not possible.
Our hotel view to the Adelaide Hills shows the wide streets and low city profile
We had no plans (except Maggie Beer's Farm Shop), deciding to free-range the city. On arriving, we caught public transport (bus) to our hotel, the airport being only seven kilometres from the city centre. The hills close to the airport give Adelaide a Perth like feel. After booking in (checking out the room and the view) and picking the brains of the excellent concierge, armed with a city map we headed for the Adelaide Central Markets with no expectations. We went back twice.
The Central Markets in Adelaide have an interesting and colourful history
It was an eye opener. The varied stalls, shops and food outlets were seemingly endless. Certainly, the best markets we have experienced. We enjoyed pizza and ravioli at Lucia's Pizza Bar, (a bit of an institution) and good coffee. Big Table dishes out an excellent and filling spinach and lentil soup. The Coffee Bean Shop with their bright yellow bean roster supplied my Long Mac Topped Up. We stuck with Cappuccino elsewhere after that incident to blend in with the locals. With 550 Speciality stores, representing over 60 nationalities, it is a real multinational Casbah. Later discovering it is the biggest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The markets seemed to morph into China Town and ending up in Gouger Street, another food Mecca.
Just keep walking
Get your bearing, then put the map away and follow your nose
Take heed of the saying 'not to scale'. As free-range walkers never knowing where we will end up, I suggest not using this article as an exact guide map. Like us, you may end up at the river by glorious accident.
Adelaide's cultural precinct along the Torrens River
Stumbling on the Casino and following directions from the doorman we found the Torrens River, though not as spectacular as the Swan River in Perth, it provided a relaxing time sitting across from the impressive Adelaide (walking distance from the city centre) Oval. Then engaging in a bit of free-range exploring. I defy anyone to get lost in this great walking city.
The Adelaide (Oval) Stadium is an impressive addition to the river bank
Well designed with parks defining its area, often called the 20-minute city, as everything is within walking distance. The inner and outer city merged effortlessly as we tramped our way around, turning here and there at will. There was little need for the city map due to its practical grid layout.
The sensibly placed tourist and bus centres give any information you may need, and most things are within walking distance or easy accessible public transport. If unsure about taking the first step, take one of the city walking tours to get your feet, and then improvise.
The very wide streets and lack of dense high-rise buildings give Adelaide an open uncluttered feel and look. Some say it is like a very large country town, which contributes to its person friendly appeal. However, do not be deceived, the history buff, coffee drinker (though we stuck to Cappuccino), shopper, entertainment and restaurant crowd will find plenty to do.
The Rundle Mall in the city centre is large and wide with many shops and arcades to explore. It has kept its historical feel with the newer buildings slotting in well. Packed on Friday night shopping with families, workers, street stalls and plenty of seating to people watch.
We explored the restaurant and café strips and interesting sights along Rundle, Hindly, North and East Terrace and King William Street. Not to mention Flinders, Pulteney and all points between.
A 10 to 15 minute walk from the city centre found us at the 100-year-old Haigh's Chocolate Factory. After doing the tour and receiving the obligatory free samples, the walk back produced a somewhat guilty sense of purpose. This local family business provides free chocolates to its staff, though most of them must chew and not swallow with very little physical evidence of it.
You don't have to walk it
By the number of cycleways, it appears the most cycle friendly of our cities. I found this odd, as Perth has the record of most cyclists, yet does not feel as bike friendly. There is even free bike hire to ride the 20 minutes from Adelaide to the seaside town of Glenelg. Make sure you leave enough time for a return ride by the end of business hours, as there is no bike depot at Glenelg.
We could not resist exploring a little further
The beautiful Glenelg forshore, war memorial, beach and impressive jetty, well worth a stroll
A spur of the moment, stop at the bus centre resulted in tickets and a tram ride to Glenelg about 25 minutes from the city centre. It had the feel of a very large Cottesloe (for the Perthites), with many food outlets and a nice beach and jetty. We checked out the town hall, which has a great history museum.
A walk along the beautiful and historical main street of Hahndorf is not to be missed
Another impulsive decision found us on a bus to Hahndorf about 40 minutes from the city centre where Otto's Bakery provided us with the tastiest pasties in living memory. The shops, food outlets in a long street full of historical buildings, are a must see experience. Walk a little further and discover the Beerinberg Farm Shop. A more direct route back via a double-decker bus was about 25 minutes.
A day in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills
Hankering to check out the Barossa Valley and more of the Adelaide Hills, we found the day tours not to our liking (not being wine buffs), so our hotel concierge suggested a taxi (a mate) for the day. For less cost than a guided tour, we had eight hours to free-range the area going wherever we wished. Yes, we could have hired a car, but a GPS is no substitute for local knowledge.
Maggie Beer's Farm Shop was our first destination, among too many to mention. Maggie was in residence, but in lock down with her chefs concocting more delicacies. We could not wait for her cooking demonstration at 2.30pm. Just note, if you take a bus tour you will miss any demonstration as they are only allowed from 12.00 noon until 2.00pm.
The Big Rocking Horse and The Toy Factory at Gumeracha, is a fantastic destination for kids and adults alike. Through the viewing window, you can see Santa's helpers at work; they even recycle rocking horse pooh.
Ending our day with spectacular views from Mount Lofty, somewhat competing with the roller coaster scenic drive down. According to our taxi driver of 20 years, the legal speed limit is a little generous.
Experience a city by foot
If your main city experience is a dash from the hotel to the tourist bus or commute to the airport, then you are missing out. Experience cities at close hand and on foot, meander and become a free-range tourist. Start from where you are, experience the endless parade of faces, integrate with the city and don't forget to look up.
We saw and did much more, but unlike the Google car, precisely pinpointing every twist and turn is the last thing on the mind of a free-range walker. Interestingly, we took very few photos on our city walks, too busy blending in, I guess.
An open invitation to Adelaideans
We would love to visit, but, it is so far away was the common mantra, when told we come from Perth. Melbourne and Sydney may be closer, but give it a go, you will be as pleasantly surprised as we were with our unexpected Adelaide stopover.
Image of 'Feet Of The Pedestrians On City Street'. courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image of "Curling Paper With Free Text" courtesy of stock photos at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
City of Adelaide City map
Artwork and photographs by John F.