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9 Impressions of Adelaide After Dark

Home > Adelaide > Architecture | Fun Things To Do | Places of Interest | Sport | Walks | Lists
by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published September 13th 2018
Lighting up the night
The city of Adelaide, as most of us would know is both a well-laid out city as well as being very walkable. I was amazed recently to discover that the going down of the sun brings with it a whole new perspective to the look and feel of the CBD. Artificial light appears to create varying shadows and dimensions on some of our well-known buildings which you certainly don't get during daylight hours.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Statue of Mary MacKillop

Here are 9 which I came across during my wanderings through the city:-

1. Adelaide Oval

The roof and outline of Adelaide Oval looms in the darkness, lit up by varying colours dependent upon factors such as sporting teams playing or significant local, national or global events. For example, when Breast Cancer Awareness Month occurs during October of each year, the roof and structure light up pink.

The Oval's humble beginnings stem right back to 1871 when the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) was formed, leading to 12 acres being leased from Adelaide City Council. Footy soon also was played at Adelaide Oval from 1877, and in the early years, tennis was also played, before Memorial Drive was imagined.

Around 1903 bicycle racing also took place at the oval, with the first world champion black athlete, "Major" Taylor racing there, winning 11 races. I'm sure there may have been some people waiting for the oval to be filled with water for boat racing such was the diversity of its use in the early years, however, that, of course, did not eventuate.

Following major redevelopment at the site over the years, the most recent being 2013/2014, South Australians can now hold their head high and categorically state we have a world class stadium.

Today the venue is well utilised for Cricket, Australian Rules Football, and from time to time Rugby and national and international concerts. If you are a sports nut or even if you have a high appreciation of what has gone into building and maintaining a world-class stadium such as this one, then the Adelaide Oval tours are a great way to experience and get a feel for the icon. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and have a passion for what they do, and you are given the opportunity to visit some of the stands, plant feet on the hallowed turf and go up and behind the heritage scoreboard built in 1911.

You will also see some of the historic memorabilia relating both to cricket and football, see the change rooms and function rooms. To round it off, there is an opportunity to view the free Don Bradman Museum, which showcases the story of Australia's most skilled and revered cricketer, with collection pieces donated by his family, permanently on loan from the State Library of South Australia. The cost for the tour is $25 for adults, $20 concession and children 5 - 15 years, $15. Bookings can be made online or by phoning during business hours (08) 8205 4700.

If adrenalin is more your thing, you might want to try the roof climb at the oval. Experienced guides prepare you for a mouth gaping 2 hour experience over the top of some of the stands, with enviable views of the city, and surrounds. Full training is provided for donning of harnesses and associated attachments, including an earpiece which you are able to listen with clarity to the knowledgeable guide about Adelaide. For that extra energy rush, you have an option of leaning out over one of the stands and have your photo taken.

A whole new perspective of Adelaide awaits if you undertake the climb. Prices range between $104 for a roof climb during the day right up to Game experiences (incorporating the opportunity to catch part of a footy or cricket match) for $235. Bookings can be made via the website.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Adelaide Oval

2. Adelaide Convention Centre

The Adelaide Convention Centre originally started life back in 1987, with the original building housing conventions being classified as the first purpose-built convention centre to be built in Australia.

Since that time (three major extensions over the past three decades), Adelaide is now regarded as one of the top convention locations in Australia and as a great destination appeal, Adelaide recently ranked in the world's top 10 "most friendly and most livable" cities.

With the ongoing development of the Biomed precinct, which currently includes SAHRMI 1, and University of South Australia's Cancer Research Institute, there are also future completions of other bio-medical facilities including SAHRMI 2, expected to be finished by 2022.

Free tours of the entire facilities are available by applying online, including the most recent eastern addition to the complex (completed in August 2017)

Each year approximately 700 individual events are run at the Convention Centre, hosting approximately 200,000 delegates, serviced by over 400 employees. Certainly a lucrative market for Adelaide and South Australia.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Adelaide Convention Centre

3. Parliament House

You can't help but be in awe of the imposing architecture and positioning of Parliament House on the corner of King William Road and North Terrace in the city. Amazing to think the building of this structure almost sent the State bankrupt over its 50 years of being built, having been initiated back in 1889, finally being completed in 1939.

In fact, if it hadn't been for one of our wealthy business families, the Bonythons, we may still have had an unfinished Parliament House. Sir Langdon Bonython donated monies to have the eastern end finally erected. The elaborate Kapunda marble and West Island (near Victor Harbor) granite used certainly didn't help keep down costs at the time and there was originally even plans to have a large dome on the top of the building, which never eventuated.

Having gained self-government and a representative government in 1857 in South Australia, it is interesting to learn that right up until 1986 the British Government retained the right to veto South Australian legislation, although that power was rarely used. Today the east wing houses the Legislative Council and the west, the House of Assembly.

The Upper House or Legislative Council over the years has been occupied by well-known household South Australian figures including Angas, Ayers, Bagot, Morphett, Fisher, Davenport etc, whilst the Lower House of Assembly has boasted figures such as Torrens, Hanson, Dutton, Kingston, Playford, Downer etc.

As most of us would know, in the early years of our colony, South Australia was very progressive towards women, and SA was only the second place in the world to grant women the vote, as well as the first place in the world to allow women to stand and represent in parliament. Certainly, some ground-breaking and progressive legislation has come out of Parliament House, such as the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1970's.

Another early break-through was the legalising of trade unions in 1876, SA becoming the first part of the British Empire to do so.

Public guided tours of Parliament House are available when Parliament is not sitting, on weekdays at either 10 am or 2 pm.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Parliament House

4. Mayfair Hotel

The Mayfair Hotel is one of those locations around Adelaide which has managed extremely successfully to retain a beautiful heritage style building and re-develop it into a modern state-of-the-art facility. Located on the corner of King William Street and Hindley Street in the city, the location offers 5-star facilities, including the Hennessy Rooftop bar, named after the building's original architects, Hennessy and Co.

The building was originally built as the Adelaide office of Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited in two stages, the first facing King William Street in 1934 and the adjoining building facing Hindley Street two years later. The architectural style of the structure was seen as quite unique in that the company originally wanted the building to be recognised as a society building wherever it was situated in the world. Hence similar structures were erected in South Africa, New Zealand and other parts of Australia.

Described as a colourfulinterpretation of the "Romanesque" style, it was constructed of a stone called Benedict (artificial stone) from Queensland. Other unique features include deeply pitched roman tiled mansard roofs, an ornately detailed lift tower, parapeted facades and projecting gargoyles and flagpoles.

Added to the State Heritage Register in 1984, the complex was re-opened as the Mayfair Hotel in January 2015, with the rooftop bar opened at the end of that year.

The luxury beds are renowned, in fact, they have won an award this year for the "Best Hotel Bed" in the 2018 Australian Gourmet Traveller Hotel Awards. These beds are made locally in South Australia by A H Beard. If you stay at the hotel and really like the comfort of the beds, you can inquire about purchasing a similar design for yourself.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Mayfair Hotel

5. Beehive Corner

Beehive Corner has been a prominent landmark in Adelaide even from its early beginnings, although the building on the site now only dates from 1896. The most restoration work took place in the late 1990's complete with a new designed bee, weighing in at 45 kilograms made of aluminium gilded with gold. The design of the bee was seen as controversial upon its completion as it was said that the bee resembled more like a European Wasp.

Documents and old photographs show the same site back in the early 1840's referred to as "The Beehive", in relation to a new drapery establishment with the same name. One time prominent architect, Edmund Wright occupied an office within the building complex.

Today the focus business within the building is Haigh's Chocolates, having operated on the site since 1915.

In fact, the site has had a "sweet tooth" focus even prior to Haigh's when a confectioner by the name of L Cook operated from 1900 and then another chocolate confectionery store around 1913 was operated by a German chocolatier by the name of Carl Stratmann. The outbreak of the first World War together with anti-German sentiment at the time led to Stratmann selling to Haigh. The rest is history.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Beehive Corner

6. Adina Apartment Hotel

In 2002, a sum of around $20 million was spent to re-develop/renovate the old Treasury Building and transform it into an apartment style hotel, comprising 79 guest rooms made up of 2 bedroom, 1 bedroom and studio apartments as well as The Treasury 1860 bar and restaurant.

The original building on the site dated back to 1839, designed by George Strickland Kingston, deputy surveyor-general to Colonel William Light and parts of the original exterior wall of that building still feature in the hotel structure today.

By the 1850's it was seen that the building was not suitable enough for government purposes, so the existing structure was constructed, over time demanding 7 major extensions, bringing the current size into play, completed by the early 1900's.

The prominent building on the corner of Flinders Street and King William Street was the home of varying government departments for many years including Land Registry, Treasury and Finance, Government Printing, Premier and Cabinet, Surveyor-Generals such as John MacDouall Stuart, Charles Sturt and George Goyder and even the Governor had an office in the building at one time.

The historic cabinet room was used by Premier and Cabinet from the 1870's right through to 1968, after which they all moved out of the building across Victoria Square to the newly completed State Administration Centre.

Believed to be the only intact piece of tunnel you can walk down into in Adelaide, the building boasts these structures originally built in the early 1850's to store coal.

National Trust SA through Ayers House Museum run public tours of this iconic building each Sunday at 11 am and 1 pm, at a cost of $15 for adults, and $13 for concession. Bookings can be made through Ayers House Museum either online or by phoning 08 8223 1234.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Adina Apartment Hotel

7. Torrens Building

Another imposing ex-government building on the corner of Wakefield Street and Victoria Square is the Torrens Building , and was built at a boom time in South Australia's economy, the 1880's as the result of a competition held for the best design, with the winner receiving prize money. The winner was Michael Egan, a Melbourne based architect, who had been famous for many of his designs of public buildings in New South Wales. Egan was originally planning to design a "Norman-French-Gothic style" building for the University of Adelaide but this never eventuated.

As Victoria Square was and still is the central square of Adelaide, it was originally planned to have the majority of government buildings facing the square, and a lot of money was spent to ensure these buildings reflected the high period of growth going on in South Australia at the time. It would give business people the confidence to invest and set up business in our thriving economy at that time.

The Torrens Building blew out the budget with the final cost being almost 68,000 pounds. Initial occupants included the Public Works Department, the Registrar General, the Architect-in-Chief and his department, Engineering as well as Water Works. The building was named in honour of Robert Richard Torrens, who had instigated what is still believed to be one of the best land title systems in the world - the Torrens Land Title System.

The building closed for around 4 years in the early 1990's with complete renovation and re-development carried out, re-opening in 1997. Various foreign universities established branches within the building including Carnegie Mellon and the University of London (the latter which is no longer operating on the site). Today also Torrens University operates from the historic building.

The building has several similarities to the Treasury Building in that they both boast an internal courtyard, an unusual feature of early government buildings which supposedly offered privacy and security. The other common connection between the Torrens Building and the Treasury is one of the tunnels which runs between them, however, these days all is blocked off either end. A testament to a time when government buildings in Adelaide were connected via underground spaces.

Upon entering the building, it is great to see a welcome in both English language as well as Kaurna language, but the most outstanding feature upon entry is the folios or land registry deed pigeon holes which have been re-displayed along the walls and further into the building up on the ceilings.

There are boards showing the history of the building, its architect, a chronology timeline of its use over the years as well as some information about Robert Richard Torrens.

The sheer size of the building echoes how important it was for South Australia in another time.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Torrens Building

8. St Francis Xavier Cathedral

St Francis Xavier Cathedral is one of the very impressive religious structures located in Wakefield Street on the edge of Victoria Square. It was always intended for there to be a religious presence in the CBD near the central square of Adelaide. Originally the Anglicans had acquired a parcel of land to build their cathedral in the fledgeling years of our colony, however, the land deal fell through, and they eventually built St Peter's Cathedral out at North Adelaide, where it still stands today.

The Catholics, however, did manage to acquire land successfully and build an imposing cathedral which was commenced in the early 1850's. Not long after it was begun to be built, the gold rush occurred in Victoria, and South Australia went through a large labour shortage, due to the builders of many buildings around South Australia, downing tools and heading off to the goldfields to make their fortunes.

The cathedral's tower was finally completed in 1996, a real work in progress. The number 7 has been used in the architecture of the cathedral, as 7 has a religious significance for purity and perfection. Therefore it is easily observed that there are 7 gables and 7 external doors in the structure.

Bishop Francis Murphy who was Adelaide's first Catholic bishop is buried in the grounds, only the second person to be buried within the square mile of the city - the other is Colonel William Light.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
St Francis Xavier Cathedral

9. Magistrates Court

The original plan of the City of Adelaide, as laid out by Colonel William Light included provision for the majority of government buildings to face the central square (Victoria Square). This is still evident today in the GPO and Law Courts in the southern section.

Since Edward Gibbon Wakefield's systematic colonisation scheme purported free settlement as well as a utopian dream of no crime and no poverty, it was originally envisaged that South Australia would not need a police force, a gaol nor a justice system. As we all know that all fell apart rather rapidly, with the whole gamut of crime occurring, including escaped convicts from the eastern colonies, bushrangers, tension between white European settlers and Aboriginals and plain old human nature committing crime.

Hence a well-organised police force (now believed to be one of the oldest organised police forces in the world here in SA), a gaol and a justice system developed.

The Magistrates Court is one of the oldest public buildings in Adelaide, originally dating from 1847 when construction began. The building was originally the Supreme Court premises right up until 1873, and then from 1891 the Local and Insolvency Courts, eventually becoming the Police Court. The original Magistrates Court was on the site of the current Supreme Court.

The current facade of the building dates back to the 1930's when a doric portico made of yellowed sandstone (from Murray Bridge) was added.

Entering the Magistrates Court you will notice a viewing circle in the flooring which indicates that at one time, there was a tunnel under this building, which is rumoured to have been used to transport prisoners underground between gaol cells and court.

9 Impressions of Adelaide after dark
Magistrates Court

The lights shining on some of these Adelaide icons at night highlight their importance and standing in our city and community. Without them, we would lack soul.

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Your Comment
Thanks Graeme,

A very different view of Adelaide after dark, instead of the usual ghosts and ghouls tours on offer.
Well done!
by Philippa (score: 1|81) 765 days ago
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