Australia’s most underrated city also happens to be my new favourite. A victim of its nickname, perhaps, the City of Churches is often dismissed by Aussies as boring. But after a weekend getaway with my significant other to celebrate our three year anniversary, I beg to differ.
We arrived in Adelaide on a Saturday evening, ready for a night on the town. After freshening up, we made our way to Peel Street, a pretty laneway, for dinner and drinks. With buzzing bars and restaurants spilling onto the street, bathed in a warm glow from the string lights above, it was as charming and picturesque as laneways come.
First thing I love about Adelaide: It has laneways!
Like Melbourne, Adelaide has a number of these laneways that house some great culinary options. Wander down one and you’ll feel like you’ve left the city and entered a whole other world. Our two Peel Street destinations – Bread and Bone, a wood-grilled gourmet burger place, and Clever Little Tailor, a cozy cocktail bar — were phenomenal. Both were stylish, played good tunes and had even better food and drink.
The next day, we left the city and ventured an hour north to the Barossa Valley. Famed primarily for its shiraz, this region produces some of Australia’s best wines. We did tastings at a couple of wineries, with the highlight being Seppeltsfield — the grounds were beautiful, the staff were knowledgable and all of the wines we sampled were great.
Second thing I love: the proximity to such a renowned wine region.
After we had our fill of wine, we headed back south to immerse ourselves in the old world charm of Hahndorf, the third thing I love about Adelaide.
Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, Hahndorf is essentially one main street, but it sure is stunning. The trees that line it were in full fall glory when we visited, arching over the road in brilliant shades of yellow, amber and red. Quaint shops in traditional buildings are filled with German treats, eats and wares. We stopped by a cafe — whose walls were completely covered in German plates, beer steins and cuckoo clocks — for a slice of the most delicious apple strudel (with cream, of course) before perusing some of Hahndorf’s other offerings.
Our day ended at a fantastic Peruvian restaurant called Mestizo Cocina Peruana in Glenelg (a popular seaside suburb for kids looking to party). As is tradition, we always try to incorporate something South American into our anniversary to commemorate where we met, so this place fit the bill nicely. We ordered Pisco Sours and opted for the five-course tasting menu. Each course was so well prepared and presented. Our waiter was the nicest guy, even accommodating our request to play “Bare Bare Bere Bere” by Alex Ferrari, the theme-song of the Contiki we met on. It was the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary.
This experience solidified the fourth thing I love about Adelaide: the hospitality and quality of the bars and restaurants.
We only had half a day on Monday to explore before making the long drive back home, but we made sure to fit in as much as we could during that time.
First on the itinerary was a visit to the Himeji Gardens. Gifted to Adelaide by their sister city, the gardens were a wonderful, serene Japanese retreat in the city. I’ve got to hand it to whoever was responsible for Adelaide’s city planning though — the Himeji Gardens is just one of many gardens in Adelaide as the entire rectangular-shaped CBD is surrounded by green space and parks!
Next, we drove north to Port Adelaide as I had read that it is home to about 40 dolphins that you can often see from the shore.
Dolphins! So close to the city! This is obviously the sixth thing I love about Adelaide (the fifth being the aforementioned parks).
Sceptical, but hopeful, my significant other and I drove to Garden Island to take a look for ourselves. We arrived to find a long pier that went out over the water, and what did we find at the end of it? Dolphins! Five or six of them swimming around right below us! It was the most beautiful, calming, magical sight to see. We were mesmerized by them. They stayed near the pier for quite awhile, but eventually started swimming further and further away. Eventually, we realized they weren’t coming back and it was time to head home.
A couple of other observations about my new favourite city:
- Adelaide is also sometimes referred to as the 20-Minute City — meaning nothing is ever more than 20 minutes away from where you are. From my experience, this reputation holds true. Part of this is due to its minimal traffic (also a huge plus!) and part is because of the easy-to-navigate grid pattern to the streets.
- Adelaide distinctly lacks the graffiti and grime of Melbourne, making it feel much safer and nicer.
- Adelaide has amazing wildlife! We spotted one lonely alpaca, as well as a group of kangaroos while driving through the Barossa Valley, and hundreds, if not thousands of sheep during the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. (Fun fact: Australia actually has more sheep than New Zealand.)
Amazing food. Amazing hospitality. Laneways. Wine. German charm. And dolphins!
Adelaide, I think I love you.