Friday, December 12, 2014

Every-day-is-Friday five: adventures in Adelaide.

Adelaide is the fifth largest city in Australia and the capital of the South Australia province. It was the first colony based on free settlement rather than convict labour (yes, "labour" with a "u" - we are in Australia, after all).

Of course, the "settlers" who had been here for hundreds of years before the British invasion - errr, colonization - were also "free settlers"... But we'll save that rant for another day.

Like many other capital cities in Australia, Adelaide has excellent public transportation and a free bus that will take you around city center. Like many other capital cities, it's new(ish) and shiny(ish) and reminded us of some weird mash-up of Annapolis and San Francisco. Like many other capital cities, the central business district is quite compact and offers a lot in the way of dining and shopping as well as parks and museums. And unlike many other capital cities, it's next to the Mount Lofty Ranges and near the Flinders Ranges which makes for pretty views.

Blah blah blah. Suffice to say, as much as we can like cities, we liked Adelaide and we were happy to be able to spend about five days tooling around town and the surrounding countryside. Here are five suggestions for adventures in Adelaide if you happen to visit, in no particular order:

Adventure #1: Smell the flowers. We were totally train-lagged when we arrived around 7am Friday morning so we ditched our bags at the bus station, hopped on the free city bus, and headed straight for Adelaide's Botanic Gardens. Like every other public park in Australia, these gardens are truly stunning. It helped that it was a beautiful sunny day and early enough that it wasn't too crowded...

cactus and succulent garden

summer in bloom

things are looking up

Three hours and one tiny nap in the park later, we were ready to face the central business district again.

Adventure #2: Buy local. After visiting the gardens we were looking for a supermarket for lunch, so we asked a nice lady on the street for advice. (Everyone is nice in Australia... everyone.) She pointed us to Adelaide's Central Market - a giant indoor farmer's market with local and international cafes interspersed.

our kingdom for a kitchen

the best deals are Saturday just before closing time

We splurged on a falafel sandwich from a Moroccan stand and sat in nearby Victoria Square people-watching and wondering if Australian fashion was ahead of its time or still living in the '80s... The jury's still out on that one.

Adventure #3: Indulge a little. For our second weekend we were treated to a luxury stay at the Stamford Grand hotel in Glenelg, a seaside resort just outside of Adelaide city (and also the only palindrome city on our journey so far). For three glorious days we enjoyed beachside views from the dining room...

Glenelg beach


breakfast with a view

sunset with a view

In addition to admiring the outside view, we also enjoyed an "all you can watch" movie package including Guardians of the Galaxy, the Lego Movie, Snowpiercer, Chef, Captain America... (Current movies, unlike our movie binge on Cat Ba Island.) Our generous sponsor was either amused or dismayed that we opted to spend our luxury weekend watching movies instead of getting massages and ordering room service.

but really? this is what we call a vacation

Adventure #4: Learn some stuff. One day we visited the South Australian Museum and the Migration Museum. The former had a really impressive collection of Aboriginal artifacts as well as tribal artifacts from all around the Pacific cultures. Walls and walls of shields, spears and various examples of tribal rituals were an interesting contrast to the hundreds of Buddha statues and ancient ceramics we'd seen in SE Asia.

memorial effigy - a replica of the person's face
is molded onto their skull when they die

this mask was at least a meter tall

The compact but incredibly informative Migration Museum mostly told the story of British settlers in Australia, but it also featured stories of immigrants during and after WWII and gave the perspective of the Aboriginal tribes who were pushed out as a result of colonization. Both museums deserved more time than we were able to give.

Adventure #5: Get out of town. The first weekend we visited Adelaide we stayed with a lovely US expat family who lived on a small farm just outside of town. We were happy to help them test the HelpX concept by weeding their garden for a few hours; in exchange we enjoyed homemade meals, lots of good company, and a peek into local life in rural(ish) South Australia including ponies and a local community yard sale.

On Saturday afternoon they dropped us off at Mt. Lofty for a hike. The forest was gorgeous and the views from the top were lovely.

beautiful trees

Adelaide from the top of Mt. Lofty

(Kangaroo Island is also close to Adelaide, and it's supposed to be beautiful, but to do it right you seem to need money, a car, and a few days - we had none of this so we skipped it.)

BONUS adventure: If you're really lucky, you'll be in town for the annual Christmas parade.

because nothing says Christmas
like camels on 8 November

this parade is a HUGE deal

(the floats are also HUGE)


Food notes: we mostly ate homecooked meals or shopped at the grocery store, but we did manage a few treats in addition to the aforementioned falafel sandwich from the Central Market (which was gone before we could get a photo):

  • Beer from Prancing Pony, who have a brewshed up the street from our couchsurf-turned-HelpX hosts
cheers to veggies!

  • the "Aussie burger"
beef, tomato, lettuce, onion, cheese,
beetroot, fried egg, bacon, and pineapple...
yunno, the usual toppings

  • a nice meal at the hotel restaurant on our last night
pork belly and barramundi...
  • and of course Patrick's favorite new toy, the pancake-making machine at the hotel's buffet breakfast

Lodging notes:

couchsurfing RULES!

hotel rooms RULE!

Yep, all in all a good time was had in Adelaide. Luxury time is over though - one more train ride to Melbourne for a quick stop, and then it's back to WWOOFing... in Tasmania!

good on ya, Adelaide


  1. Love that we made the blog!

    1. But of course! Been keeping up with yours too... :)

  2. 2013 could be described as an "all you can watch movie package" for me