Adelaide, Australia: A local guide on where to eat, shop, stay, and bliss out
Adelaide's heritage elegance and oh-so-sensible 1.7 million population make it Sydney and Melbourne's smart, chilled out sister. The urban bells and whistles are there — an annual arts festival, hipsters, craft cocktails — but without the rush-hour traffic. Encircled by picturesque beauty instead of sprawl, Adelaide's surrounding beaches, valleys and hillsides are a mere half hour's drive away.
The coastal towns and stretch of white lunar beaches on the Fleurieu Peninsula are Adelaide's aquatic playground; the rural hillside inland is dotted with ghostly bush landscapes and honey-coloured historic towns crisscrossed with the country's oldest vines. Food and wine is the beating heart of the Adelaide Hills, fostered by a German pioneer past and Mediterranean climate.
Today's hungry travellers follow the Adelaide Hills farmgate trail designed to bring this local patchwork of green and wheat-coloured hills to lip-licking life. Adelaide prides itself on its long-held epicurean traditions — German streuselkuchen, rote grütze and soft triple cream brie, cut through by the snap of a riesling; breathtakingly bold shirazes born of old-growth vineyards.
The pleasantly sleepy city's colonial town squares and postcard-pretty River Torrens come alive each festival season as dance, music and theatre fans flock to enjoy global performances, filling the al fresco cafes and bars.
Take it from us — Adelaide is your next foodie, heritage and arts haven, ready to be 'uncorked'.
Your experience begins on the country lane drive through the breathtaking Handhorf locale. The winery is slickly modern and perched atop a hill 450 metres above sea level, with stunning views of the surrounding sloping vineyards, whose rich, red soil produces the very cabernets that diners enjoy as they survey the property.
The airy ambience and stunning views are an invitation to set aside the afternoon and toast the day with the crisp apple zing of the Cuvee Helen Blanc de Blanc, while soaking in the main-event artistry of swoonworthy fine dining. There is a local story behind each ingredient, from succulent pork jowl and velvety scallops to sweetened goats' cheese. Wine pairing showcases the vineyard's lesser-known grape varietal like Nebbiolo or signature drops, such as John Crighton Shiraz Cabernet. Twirling a glass of full-bodied local red as it starts to brick after a langourous day by the vines — well, nothing could be more Adelaide.
The heritage charm of this wood oven wine lounge is anything but twee, as this converted church has been transformed into a house-of-carb-worship with a cheeky wink. Wittily named gourmet pizzas come flying out of the domed oven: 'Praise Cheesus' and 'Swineapple' (roasted bacon spiced up with rum) are heaped with ingredients farmed nearby.
Diners can try locavore ciders under the stunning vaulted ceiling, surrounded by boldly graphic art, or spill out onto the lawn to picnic on barrels, embracing the playful but hearty rustic menu on the church lawn amongst the birdsong. The lively local ambience — with plenty of big parties gathered to make merry — proves how springy, piping hot pizza drizzled with powerful flavours is a temptation most mortals cannot resist.
The grand dame of the Adelaide Hills, Mount Lofty House was located amongst the cooling treetops as a summer residence for 19th Century colonial high society. The old-school pleasures of heritage stone architecture and thickly carpeted luxury conjure a spell at Hardy's. Diners can relish the stone fruit finish of a 2015 Centra Abbatiello, gazing at the panorama of Piccadilly Valley as it becomes washed over by golden twilight.
The European formality of the service is echoed by Korean-Australian chef Jon Choi's menu that riffs on old-world classic with an Asian grace note. Star produce such as quail or venison followed by whipped chocolate reflects the 'valley to verandah' philosophy; exquisite plating adds a gladdening sense of occasion. Glory in the heavily local wine list that showcases the region's benchmark cool climate wines and the boundary-pushing skill and passion of local winemakers.
As retro office blocks in urban centres are reimagined as entertainment precincts, inner city Adelaide joins the party. Locals venture up to the 8th floor atop CBD offices to this vibrant rooftop bar and restaurant for a bird's eye view over North Terrace, curling up in cabanas for pomegranate-flavoured 'Donny's Pink Pants' cocktails on the leafy, sun-drenched terrace.
Modern Australian share plates showcase the bounty of South Australian seafood and produce, from Salt Lake pork spare ribs to Kangaroo Island honey — just remember, the signature fresh crayfish requires 48 hours notice. Loose tapas style dining suits the celebratory social ambience, with ultimate people-pleasers like triple-cooked salt and vinegar potatoes that are well worth fighting over.
The pilgrimage for pinot gris will take you through the Onkaparinga Valley, a picturesque idyll of undulating hills, historic homesteads and winding roads fringed by apple orchards. The contemporary spatial dynamics of Pike and Joyce's cellar door and dining room — all tilted angles, glass and concrete — are temple-like; after all wine is a serious, if enjoyable, business.
The patio terrace is built for sunken afternoons grazing on the Regional Platter, glossy with olives, gamey wurst and cloud-like chicken liver parfait, all perfect wine-tasting fare. It is a farm gate trail of the surrounding properties on a plate, as almost every producer is a neighbour, friend or both. This is also your chance to try the crisp, bright pear flavour of rarer Austrian grape varietal Gruner Veltliner, the vineyard's passion project.
The refurbished 1930s heritage listed Colonial Mutual Life building, where hatted executives once plied their trade, is now a plush cocoon of deco-influenced five star luxury. This brilliantly located urban base, with a knowingly chic bitter chocolate and white palette, bridges pedestrian Rundle Mall and Rundle Street nightlife.
An over-performing breakfast buffet ensures you'll eat like a king. Make your own beeline to the breakfast 'Honeybar', where honeypots store the sticky liquid gold produced from thousands of Ligurian bees on the hotel's rooftop hive — the ultimate eco-hipster touch. Guests can also sample the hotel's very own honey in desserts at the excellent Mayflower Restaurant, where female chef Bethany Finn revives classic hotel cuisine, or toss down a Honey Trap Cocktail, served in the hotel's intimate glass-ceilinged rooftop bar with views all the way to the foothills. It's the stylish pied-à-terre that puts Adelaide at your fingertips.
Pioneer beauty brand Jurlique has built its homespun eco-conscious philosophy from a niche, grass roots business to a global brand on Fifth Avenue over three decades. Now visitors can stock up on bestsellers like rosewater mist and herbal recovery cream at Jurlique's new flagship store in pedestrian Rundle Mall, Adelaide retail's centre of gravity.
Jurlique's core ingredients are still sourced from the iconic biodynamic farm in the unspoilt Adelaide Hills, making the lotions and potions a must-try for those who want their beauty aid to come from the orchard and naturopathy practices, not lab-created chemicals.
Express 15-minute treatments showcase the power of pure, beautifully formulated botanicals like lemon, sage, geranium, rose — nature's healers — to help you take home the ultimate travel souvenir: glowing skin.
Rundle Street's cafés, pubs and unique shop fronts, where young designers launch their careers, add a welcome boutique flavour to the more commercial Rundle Mall. The iconic original Gladys Sym Choon store still lures lovers of unique shoes and accessories long after the real Gladys opened her first 'emporium' in 1928. Every Adelaide fashionista remembers becoming hooked on the imported and local treasures that line the shelves like gems. Bold colour, street style and originality are all celebrated in this treasure trove of cool brands, from David Bowie lightning bolt earrings to cult local leather shoes from Django & Juliette. Shoe addicts will love the range of unique fashion footwear curated from all over the world.
Culture vultures and performers from all over the world come to town for the 'Mad March' festival season, which kicks off each February. Adelaide's love of the arts explodes into a bursting calendar of opera, visual arts, music, theatre, comedy and performance art. Culinary events hold outdoor banquets; jaw dropping laser shows flood the heritage streetscape with dazzling visuals; international guest speakers at Womadelaide and Writers Week share their life wisdom; Fringe Festival unleashes international counter culture's most cutting edge cabaret and avant garde theatre performers. The whole city joins in, spilling out into alleyways, streets and by the river as Adelaide brims over with creativity, pop ups and things to see and do.
Long before the word 'foodie' was coined, Adelaide was obsessed with produce and food. The 1869 Central Market inspires almost religious devotion in the City Of Churches, with locals and chefs staying loyal to their favourite stall, developing a camaraderie that can go back decades. The specialty stalls have a marvellous retro feel, with jars stuffed with candy cane, nougat and colourful bags of old-fashioned lollies. The Market is an integral Adelaide ritual socially as well, with local friends or family often meeting there once a week to shop and eat.
Travellers are overwhelmed with choice. Where does one begin? The Mushroom Shop which only sells mushrooms and truffles (the only one of its kind in the world)? Or the cheesemonger who dedicates one entire store to just Aussie cheeses, including 'green ant cheese' covered in the crunchy insects, then sells oozing continental bries and blues next door.
To help you navigate amongst the prodigious amount of goodies from the surrounding oceans and farms amongst the catch cries and bustle, this interactive gourmet walking tour unlocks the mysteries of the market and takes you and your palate on a tour of the state, with artisan made dukka, locally distilled 'Budburst' gin made in the Barossa, SA oysters from Coffin Bay and roe from the Fleurieu Peninsula and Eastern European deli sandwiches to die for. Come hungry.
Hop on the famous Glenelg tram and clickety clack all the way to the calm waters and wide sands of Glenelg Beach. Endota Spa is a coolly calm oasis by the sea, amongst the coastal jollity, shops and restaurants of Adelaide's liveliest beach.
Endota treatments don't waste a minute: they layer in intense exfoliation, soothing rituals and high-tech skincare boosts that last long after your treatment — all in one session. The Intense Radiance Facial banishes layers of dirt and pollution with a glycolic peel and promotes your own collagen production with LED light therapy. Paired with a Deep Recovery Massage that melts away muscles and tension, this self-care afternoon is a traveller's best friend.
Stay on to walk along the shoreline past the piers and beach suburbs that fringe Holdfast Bay or watch a film by the quiet hiss of Adelaide surf at the Openair Cinema.
This adorable colonial-era gem in an intimate converted stable is the place to take tea and unwind after a country drive in Adelaide's lushly beautiful hillside garden suburbs. Their signature Red Velvet Cupcake chocolate tea, made by a local herbologist, lulls you into the mood of organic luxury that the warmth of natural stone helps create. A deeply hypnotic and hydrating facial with Waterlily products leaves skin wafting with the scent of goodies like spiced maple and forest floor woods, seeds and oils as hummingbird hands work on facial muscles or soothe with a hand massage.
About Cleo Glyde
After growing up in Adelaide, Cleo Glyde passed her gleefully misspent youth as a couture model for Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and a DJ in New York's infamous clubkid nightlife scene before becoming a full-time journalist. Her work has been published in Vogue Australia, GQ USA and Australia, Marie Claire Australia, and Buro 24/7 Australia. Cleo was previously a style director at Marie Claire US in New York, a GQ columnist, TV presenter and radio host. Now, Cleo has fulfilled her wish to run away with the circus and become a fulltime gypsy and travel writer. Fun fact: she is learning Irish Gaelic and ocean swims all through winter because it builds character.