Adelaide – The City of Churches

Named after the wife of King William IV, Adelaide sits on the bottom coast of Australia.  In the state of South Australia, some 2 hours flight from Sydney, it has the unusual quirk of being half an hour behind Sydney.  Where else in the world do we get increments of 30 minutes between time zones?  Just for clarity, this is rhetoric. I’m sure it happens elsewhere in the globe, I just didn’t have the time to Google it.  My free 30 minutes wifi allowance was quickly running out.

If you are wondering, as I was, how the city gained the nickname “ city of churches”, it may be linked to that fact that there are over 700 of them, in a small, very compact city. Only outnumbered by pubs, it feels as though there are multiple churches on every street.  Well, thinking about it, there probably are.

Europeans first settled in Adelaide in 1836 as a place for ships that were sailing around the coast of Australia to stop and replenish their stocks of food and grog. Over 200 years later it is still an excellent place to do the very same.  Interestingly, Adelaide was different to Sydney, and Melbourne, in that no convicts were shipped here. It was a place for free immigrants to settle, and work.

Beautiful cottages of Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, and the 5th most populous city in Australia. With a population of only some 1.3million. The city straddles the River Torrens, with the very impressive (now that it has had a multi million dollar facelift) Adelaide Oval on the north side, and the CBD on the other. And all across the city remain pristine examples of the architecture dating back to the first settlements. The cottages you see everywhere are very distinctive, and very Adelaide.

On the banks of the River Torrens

Our Jetstar flight from Sydney landed on time at 11.40am, after accounting for that spurious 30 minutes, and being only about 6kms from the city centre, we were in our cosy, no frills Air BnB a short time later.

Nothing much is far from anything in Adelaide, and although our accommodation was on the outskirts of the CBD (city centre for readers from the UK) we were still only a flat 20 minute walk away.  The city is bounded by North Terrace and South Terrace, the latter of which is where we are staying for the 3 nights we were there.

The first thing that you notice when in Adelaide, when you come from Sydney at least, is the lack of traffic.  Then you notice how wide and expansive the roads are. Set out by Colonel Light, one of Adelaide’s founding fathers, in a perfect grid pattern, there are five squares in the city centre, and a ring of parks surrounding it. This gives Adelaide a very green, leafy feel. Not something you immediately associate with cities.

Looking down the roads, east to west, you feel you can see all the way to the horizon. In the distance loom the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale.  And despite the lack of traffic, people appear to not be in a rush, actually waiting for the green man. How very novel. It took some getting used to. Slowing down to this place of life. But when you do, you feel a sense of calm, and a wish that only every day could be like this.

Talking to people from Sydney you would think that Adelaide was some long forgotten backwater.  
That could not be further from the truth.  You may be aware I have an obsession with quality coffee. Maybe I have mentioned it in previous blogs. Or perhaps you have seen my Instagram posts. Adelaide maintains the very high standards you can rely on in Australia, and that I have become accustomed to in Sydney.

Keeping the coffee warm at Fawn cafe

The same goes for breakfast and brunch.  And it is not all smashed avo and vegemite. Two highly recommended options are “Coffylosophy” on Hutt Street, and “Fawn” on nearby Gilles Street.  Great food continues into the evening.  I would give a nod to “The Greek” on Halifax Street, where else for a boy from Halifax?, and the many options around Leigh Street and Peel Street.  I would highly recommend pre dinner drinks at “Clever Little Tailor”.   Or an afternoon sharpener at “Proof”. Both great bars.

In the Barossa

I have got all this way without mentioning one of the main draws of a visit to Adelaide.  The world class wineries.  We took a full day trip to one of them, the Barossa Valley, with Taste the Barossa. The full day trip starts from your pick up in the city and ends approx 5pm back in the same place. The drive takes you up through hills, and into the valley, where you visit some great wineries, and have a fabulous antipasto board lunch. All in, a wonderful day.

And what is a place in Australia without a beach?  Well, Adelaide has you covered on this front too, with a long, wide beach at Glenelg, which you can easily reach in less than 30 minutes, on one of the many trams trundling between the city and the beach.

Although it wasn’t beach weather the day we were there, we still had a wind blown walk along the front, before decamping to the very imposing “Grand” pub fish and chips.  Some traditions just refuse to die.

Adelaide is a small city with a big personality. It has everything you need for either a visit, or for those looking to settle somewhere a little more personable than one of the bigger cities in Australia.

I’m looking forward to returning already.