We both had an amazing train journey from Sydney to Adelaide and arranged to have a three night stopover in Adelaide on our Australia trip.
Our first impressions of the small city of Adelaide weren’t great. On arrival we took a taxi to our hotel AUS$10 (this is the first time we’ve taken a taxis the entire month we’ve been in Australia – but we had no option). Our hotel was only about a ten minute car ride from the train station, just about within walking distance, but there was no way we wanted to walk in the 30+ degree heat of the midday sun dragging our rucksacks.
Compared to Melbourne, Sydney and all the other places we’d visited Adelaide seemed to be a bit lifeless as we wandered on our first night. There were people around, but those that were tended to be travelling in cars, along the very long and wide roads. The only thing that provided a splash of colour was the cyclists and cycle cars for the Santos bike rally which was taking place. We thought it ironic to call this place the ‘Festival State’, given our first impressions. The place seemed to lack a bit of soul, as there wasn’t much of a buzz or any easily recognisable character, except for that of churches, more of that later.
We had a delightful and professional check in at our hotel by the owner. We didn’t get what sometimes happens, “you do know it’s a double bed, I can offer you two singles if you prefer” which is people trying to be helpful I know, but it can sometimes, if you’re really tired get a tiny bit irritating.
Adelaide Eating On The Cheap
Walking round Adelaide is very easy and quick given the now familiar grid system. Many of the restaurants in Adelaide are centred round Rundle Street, but nothing really grabbed our attention, and as our Australian budget is well spent (and a little bit more) , we went for cheap eats. We found our way to Chinatown, near the Gouger Street Precinct. As we discovered this provides really good value and tasty food. If you’re Australian, or you’re lucky enough to be working in Australia, then things aren’t really that expensive here (except for food) as wages are very good. However, for us Europeans who aren’t working in the country it hurts real bad!!
Located nearby to the small Chinatown is the Adelaide Central Market which still has its original facade, and thankfully has a great atmosphere, now I know where everybody was. The market isn’t daily so, if you can, arrange your trip when it is on. You can get great seafood, fruit, breads and dips, and loads of German style cooked meats, great for those flashpacking picnics and a lot cheaper than any supermarkets we found. This place is really popular with the locals, and if you like people watching and interacting this is the place to come and sit with a coffee at one of the reasonably priced speciality coffee shops or food stalls.
Another thing about Adelaide is, I’ve never visited a place with so few places to purchase take away alcohol from within the CBD, I jest not. We succeeded in the end, but it wasn’t easy (its a BWS near South Terrace in case you are searching)!!
Adelaide is a bit Churchy
I can’t recall ever seeing so many churches and religious/charitable organisations so densely situated in a city. Churches of every description and domination housed in contemporary offices or historic buildings. There isn’t a street that doesn’t have a church on it. Adelaide is known as the ‘City of Churches’, but not for this reason, it is because of the religious freedom when colonised in the 19th century with those fleeing religious persecution in Europe.
So if you’re religious, especially of the Christian faith, check out your church in Adelaide. I’m pretty sure they’ll have a place of worship here for you.
The Barossa Valley Wine Tasting
I really wanted to visit the Barossa valley, as I learned in catering college well over 20 years ago, nothing compares to tasting a wine where it is grown (well that was my excuse). The Barossa valley is approximately 70km northeast of Adelaide and has over 150 wineries. We booked the cheapest tour with availability for that day, Groovy Grapes for AUS$85 and it was absolutely brilliant.
One of the best things about the tour is that we were only one of a few tourists, the majority of the group were all from Adelaide, as there’d been a promotion on Groupon for the tour locally.
Before the tour started everyone was in high spirits, one party celebrating their friends birthday, others just out for the party and wine. One of the great things about the day is that we we’re able to chat with loads of locals and find out a bit more about life in South Australia, and we learned loads of advice and tips. One of the guys was a ‘Techhy’ too but he and Craig managed to wait till the journey home before they were doing incomprehensible tech talk.
We visited four different wineries, tasted over 20 wines and a good few Tawny and ports, and had pleasant company all day. To see all the wineries to name just a few such as Penfolds, Seppetsfield, Peter Lehman, and actually visit and stand on Jacobs Creek was pretty awesome. I created a technique whereby I would invent an invisible friend who had a real glass so managed in most places to get two tasting portions of each of the samples. Well they don’t give you much to taste do they, but you do manage to end the day very ‘happy’.
Most of the vineyards have cellar doors, so you can purchase your favourite vintage.
The Barossa is famed for its gourmet food and there are plenty of villages and shops to stop off and grab a bite to eat. The area is renowned for specialty meats, cheeses and chutneys etc some of the villages and recipes dating back from the 1800s when European settlers came to the region.
Other things to do in Adelaide
There are things to do in Adelaide but we didn’t partake. Mainly Adelaide Zoo and it’s Giant Pandas (the only ones in the Southern Hemisphere – apparently) The other main thing is the Casino which is housed in a beautiful building near the train station. Or things like visiting the Haigh’s chocolate factory, which has been making chocolate in Adelaide since 1915, if you don’t fancy visiting just pop into one of the elegant shops around town for the full “chocoholic” experience.
The city is very family friendly with loads of things to do with kids such as boating down the river or visit the free and excellent Royal Botanical Gardens where we spent quite a bit of time wandering and picnicking. The Art Gallery of New South Wales was also a surprising pleasure. It seemed small from the outside, but housed quite a few interesting exhibits on the inside and had a particularly good South East Asian and indigenous art collections.
One really cool thing the local council does is provide free cycle hire, including helmets for visitors to the city, which if you’re a bit fitter than us is an excellent way to travel and sightsee.
Adelaide is really popular with German visitors as there is a large expat German community here dating back hundreds of years, which I’m very thankful of as these Lutheran brothers bought the Riesling grape and established the first vineyards in the world-famous Barossa Valley.
There is a place called Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills about 20-30mins from the centre of town which is Australia’s oldest surviving German village and is very quaint and idyllic.
Will we be Back?
We personally wouldn’t live here, but it is a thriving city with plenty of opportunities for those looking for work, especially in mining and building trades according to a recruitment consultant we met. There’s also temporary work grape picking – go figure.
What makes Adelaide is the people of South Australia, they are very friendly, fiercely proud and a tenacious bunch, who differ from other Australians we’ve met. They seem more eager to enter into lengthy discussions. There is a strong sense of community here. The ones we spoke with (and it was quite a few) seem to think they’re getting a bit of a raw deal compared to other states across Australia. The South Australians we met have a great sense of humour, gently mocking their neighbouring territories, in that charismatic Australian way that you can’t fail to laugh with.