Nestled between the verdant Adelaide Hills and 40 kilometres of sandy suburban beaches, the traditional lands of the Kaurna people have long been a natural meeting place.
Nature is always close at hand and South Australia’s capital strikes a balance between big city culture and opportunities to ‘get away from it all’ when you need to. A year round calendar of world-class festivals keeps crowds entertained and dozens of innovative restaurants celebrate the abundant fresh produce drawn from the surrounding regions. When the sun goes down, bustling laneways explode into life and dozens of hidden cocktail bars throw open their doors.
Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Adelaide. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
8am: Feast on baked delights and cheesy treats
Tucked away on a side street, Market Street is a bakery, cheese shop and café that utilises every aspect of the business. Wake up with a hot or cold brew then peruse the cabinet of fluffy croissants and delectable fresh tarts. If you’re after something more substantial, the bruschetta of the week is always a favourite and the triple cheese toastie is rightfully legendary.
9:30am: Discover a food lovers’ paradise
For over 150 years the Adelaide Central Market has been feeding locals and visitors alike, and today you can still find more than 70 vendors hawking fresh fruit and veg, seafood, cheese and much more. Dive straight in on the small group Discovery Tour that lets you meet the stallholders, sample the produce, and hear the stories behind this foodie hub.
11:30am: Be taken for a ride
Thanks to its grid layout, Adelaide’s CBD is simple to navigate but it’s even easier to enjoy from the back of EcoCaddy’s bamboo pedicabs. Let a friendly local guide pedal you through the city’s bustling laneways and abundant green spaces, exploring cultural institutions old and new and discovering back alleys full of vibrant street art along the way.
1pm: Dine on flamboyant Indian-inspired cuisine
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, wander past the boutiques behind Rundle Street’s heritage facades, then drop into Daughter In Law for lunch. The boldly flavoured dishes and drinks at this playful Indian-inspired restaurant match the tropical colour scheme. If you’re lucky enough to have gregarious owner Jessi in the house, make space for him to pull up a seat and explain the origins of each dish.
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2pm: Uncork a world of wine
If you don’t have time to tour the wine regions encircling Adelaide, let them come to you at the National Wine Centre of Australia. Interactive exhibits explain what makes every wine region special, but the real fun is downstairs where more than 120 wines are on pour. If you’re up for it, the staff can arrange a blind tasting to test your knowledge.
More: Things to do and see in Adelaide
6pm: Nab the best seat in town for sunset
High above the heritage sandstone railway station, rooftop bar and restaurant Sol offers spectacular views of the city and surrounding region. Watch the sun set behind the hills and turn St Vincent Gulf into a shimmering lake of gold, then turn your attention to the thoughtful menu that takes ‘nose to tail’ dining a step further with a ‘root to bloom’ philosophy. The kitchen team includes an inhouse forager, cheesemaker and sourdough baker.
8pm: Explore Adelaide after dark
If you’re interested in a nightcap, take your pick from the dozens of cocktail bars lining Peel Street and the adjacent laneways in the city’s West End. Choose between an Alpine chalet, an exquisite underground speakeasy and a breezy Mediterranean cantina. Alternatively, let Adelaide Bar Boys guide you around with stops for drinks and bar snacks at six of the best hidden hotspots.
8am: Have breakfast in the historic port
Eye-catching murals adorn the sides of buildings in the old industrial hub of Port Adelaide, thanks to the annual Wonderwalls festival. The all-day brunches at The Banksia Tree Cafe are just as colourful, and there’s a strong emphasis on native and locally sourced ingredients – right down to the Adelaide Hills red gum firing the grill.
9am: Paddle through a dolphin sanctuary
Despite its proximity to the city, the Port River is home to a community of 30 resident bottlenose dolphins (and more than 400 others that visit regularly). You can often spot them from the shore, but the best way to see them is on a guided kayak tour. It will take you through 10,000 year old mangrove forests and past a graveyard of rusting ships beached in the shallows.
12:30pm: Grab a burger and a beer
Reward yourself for all that hard work with a cheeky schooner (285 millilitres) or pint (425 millilitres) at Pirate Life Brewing’s giant taphouse. With 24 taps covering everything from easy drinking lagers to highly experimental beers (Dilmah Tea and Biccies Brown Ale, anyone?), the hardest part might be choosing the perfect pairing for a burger from the food truck out back.
2pm: Stroll through a piece of paradise
Head back to the city through the parklands that ring the CBD, then stop in the most beautiful green space of all. Walking trails meander past massive Moreton Bay figs, through fragrant rose gardens and around lily ponds that decorate the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, and it’s worth stopping to check out the intriguing Museum Of Economic Botany dedicated to the many uses of the plants growing on the grounds.
3pm: Get a fix of culture
Adelaide’s main cultural institutions are housed in grand sandstone buildings along a broad boulevard, but don’t be intimidated by the imposing facades. Step through a mesmerising web constructed from 180 kilometres of red wool before exploring the extensive collection of First Nations works and contemporary art at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Then explore the South Australian Museum next door, where a giant sperm whale skeleton shares space with the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal cultural material and a stunning display of opalised fossils.
6pm: Book ahead for dinner
Though it’s located in suburban Torrensville (a ten minute drive from the city), you’ll want to make a reservation at Parwana: even a New York Times food reviewer was turned away when she arrived without a booking. But it’s worth planning ahead for the warm Afghani hospitality and elegantly spiced comfort food, including mounds of glistening jewelled rice and legendary plates of succulent braised eggplant.
Need a place to stay?
Stay in the heart of the city at the Quality Apartments Adelaide Central, which occupies the newly refurbished T&G Building. The hotel offers 72 generously sized one and two-bedroom apartments, each with an open plan layout and kitchen facilities. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided.
The Soho Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection is also located in the Adelaide CBD and makes the perfect base from which to explore everything the city has to offer. Choose from thirty chic and contemporary rooms and suites, including luxury spa suites. The hotel is within easy walking distance of the city’s shopping and dining precincts. Onsite restaurant The Little Soho does traditional tapas with a modern twist and is open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, and Friday for lunch.
For those looking to base themselves in the city’s leafy north, the Quality Inn O’Connell is a fabulous option. This boutique hotel has 24 spacious rooms and is ideal for business or leisure travellers.
Find more accommodation options around Adelaide
About the writer
After spending years as a music journalist and beer taster, Alexis Buxton-Collins sold everything he owned and spent three years travelling the world. He now writes about his experiences on the road, both abroad and at home in Adelaide. Alexis has written for Australian Traveller, Qantas, Virgin, Lonely Planet, Wild, and many other publications. He’s currently undertaking a comprehensive search for McLaren Vale’s best value bottle of wine.