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What to do in Adelaide

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Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, also known as “the festival state”, and is a busy city with a very relaxed atmosphere. We were lucky to visit when THE festival of the year, Adelaide Fringe, was in full swing. We stayed at Adelaide Caravan Park for four nights while exploring the city. In this blogpost we’ll share what you should definitely (not) do in Adelaide.

Attend Adelaide Fringe

Adelaide Fringe is a four-week cultural festival housing art, magic, comedy, music, and other shows. The festival takes place all over Adelaide and everyone seems to participate. The city is very alive and everyone is having fun. There are a bunch of free activities and shows, but a large part is paid. We got immersed in the world of virtual reality at the Digital Playground in the  State Library of South Australia, and enjoyed the Fringe Illuminations, transforming the historic buildings on the North Terrace into a “living canvas of light”. Both of these activities were free.

Each day there are half-priced tickets, the so called HalfTIX, on sale for a selection of shows that are on that night. We bought two HalfTIX ($13.50 each) for a magic show: “Matt Tarrant: Honestly Dishonest”, which was great. The next day we bought another two ($11.50 each) for a comedy show “Best of Adelaide Fringe: International Comedy Showcase”, hosting four international top comedians. We also went to an improv show called “Improv Against Humanity” ($18 per person), for which we bought FringeTIX at full price.

Art, Comedy & Magic at Adelaide Fringe
Mitchell Building at Fringe Illuminations

There are venues reminding us of the festival atmosphere back home, like  Gluttony and  Garden of Unearthly Delights, with different tents housing shows and tons of food stalls, all set up in a park. Other venues are cafés, like the Belgian Beer Bar Oostende or public buildings like  State Library of South Australia. Like I said, the whole city participates. You can read a more detailed report about our full Adelaide Fringe experience in another blogpost, but we assure you it’s definitely worth a visit!

Visit some museums in Adelaide

We visited two of Adelaide’s museums, one of them being the South Australian Museum. You can learn about Australia’s natural and cultural heritage here, and entrance is free. The most interesting parts are the 18m sperm whale and dolphin skeleton, and the World Mammals Gallery, displaying mounted mammals from different geographic regions. All of this is on the ground floor, and we admit we didn’t go any further into the museum, being a bit burnt out from all the museums we visited in Melbourne. Other galleries of the museum include a fossil collection, minerals and meteorites, and Aboriginal artefacts.

The other museum we visited in Adelaide is the Art Gallery of South Australia, which is free as well. The art collection on display consists mostly of paintings (which we’re not that into), but there are some cool and daring (read: weird) exhibitions as well. If you have a little time on your hands, take a stroll through the museum, and you’ll probably encounter one or two interesting pieces of art.

Go on a day trip to the Barossa Valley

You can’t say you properly visited Australia without tasting Australian wine. So after being over a month in Australia, it was past time to go on a wine tasting trip. The Barossa Valley is supposed to be one of Australia’s best wine regions and is only one hour north of Adelaide, perfect for a day trip. We drove up there in our campervan and took the Scenic Drive, a route taking us through the wine valley, along the different wineries and vineyards. Don’t forget to pull over at the Mangler Hill Lookout for a nice view over the valley.

On our way from Adelaide to the Barossa Valley, we took a small detour via  The Big Rocking Horse, one of the famous big things in Australia, situated at The Toy Factory. You can stop at The Whispering Wall as well, definitely worth a visit. The curved shape of the Barossa Dam and its quiet environment make it possible to carry your whispers over the entire length of the wall, which is 140m. Amazing!

Wine Tasting at Seppeltsfield Winery
Barossa Valley Vineyards

After a lunchtime picnic in Tanunda, we departed on a DIY wine tasting tour along the Scenic Drive in the Barossa Valley. If you’re interested in our experience at the wineries we visited, you can read another one of our blogposts. There, we also explain how a wine tasting in the Barossa Valley proceeds, if you want to go prepared. Enjoy!

Go on a day trip to Port Adelaide

Port Adelaide is a sea port city with lots of maritime history and historic buildings, less than 30 minutes from Adelaide. It’s perfect for a day trip, but if you just want to breathe fresh sea air and spot wild dolphins, you can easily do that in an hour or maybe two. That’s what we did: a short stop on our way from Adelaide to Port Augusta. We picked up a map about the Dolphin Trail at the  Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre, and the friendly lady provided us with some information about the city and its attractions.

We skipped the historic part: the museums, the lighthouse, and the DIY Heritage Walking Tour through Port Adelaide. We were there for the all year round dolphin spotting. About 30 wild Bottlenose Dolphins (The Port River Dolphins) are known to live in the Port River estuary, and some even have names. You can choose to spot them from the shore or from the water. We decided to drive the (free) Dolphin Trail, following the map we picked up at the Visitor Information Centre.

Sailing Ship in Port Adelaide

We started at the  Port Adelaide Lighthouse and walked along the water, constantly keeping an eye out for dolphins. We passed a nice old sailing ship called Falie in the port, before reaching the Clipper Ship called City of Adelaide in Dock 1. This ship is one of only two surviving clipper ships, very fast sailing ships, in the world. It was built to carry passengers (immigrants) and cargo from and to the city of Adelaide. For 23 years it made annual returning voyages between Adelaide and London, playing an important role in Australia’s economic and social development. It’s said a quarter of a million Australians are descendants from its crew or passengers. At this very spot we saw our first two wild dolphins and watched them play around for a while.

Our next stop on the Dolphin Trail was  Snowden's Beach. There’s a sign explaining dolphin behavior, helping you determine if the dolphin you spot is resting, feeding or travelling for example. It’s a quiet place with industrial sites across the river, which makes for a strange backdrop when you spot some dolphins. We found the geocache hidden there as well.

Dolpin Spotting in Port Adelaide
No Dolphins at Largs Bay

At this point we seemed to have ran out of luck, as there were no dolphins playing around at Largs Bay. We did see some fishermen on the jetty and there’s a beach where you can take a stroll or swim. We headed over to  Garden Island for a picnic, but again no dolphins, just kayakers.

There are more dolphin hot spots in Port Adelaide than the ones we’ve visited and mentioned above, so if you’re patient and a bit lucky, you should be able to spot at least one or two wild dolphins. We didn’t have to wait very long, just concentrate on the water and keep your camera ready. Even though the lady at the Visitor Information Centre said almost every one gets to see at least one dolphin, Brecht tried to keep my expectations low to avoid too much disappointment. Imagine the thrill and excitement rushing through my body when I did spot one. It made me feel kind of special. Silly, right?

Explore Adelaide on foot

Geocaching is a great way to explore a city on foot. Most geocaches are hidden near a place that has a great view, a story, or is simply unique. Geocaching in Adelaide led us through parks, to statues, even across a public golf course, where signs were warning us “Enter at own risk” and “Beware stray golf balls”. We especially enjoyed the view at Colonel Light's Statue on Montefiore Hill, who since 2003 is pointing at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval, a stadium housing sports and rock concerts alike, instead of the city below. It made us wonder what the view before was like.

Colonel Light
Adelaide Central Market

One of Adelaide’s popular hangouts is Adelaide Central Market. This undercover market is the place to be for fresh produce, from fruit and vegetables to meat, cheeses, and wine. We took a look around, taking in all the delicious smells and displays, before deciding to have lunch at the Atlas Continental Café. We had a prosciutto sandwich ($7.90) and a hot spud ($6.90), which were both good but not exceptional.

The centre of Adelaide is surrounded by a green area known as the Park Lands. Adelaide Caravan Park, where we stayed during our visit, is just outside of that green belt. From there, it’s about a 20 minute walk to the centre of Adelaide, and one of the possible routes took us through the Adelaide Botanic Garden. We enjoyed the peace and quiet before getting to the vibrant city centre.

Adelaide Botanic Garden
State Library of South Australia
Rundle Mall in Adelaide

The Rundle Mall Precinct is definitely one of the most lively areas in Adelaide, being a major shopping hub. The walking street in the middle of this area is called Rundle Mall and houses a shopping mall, several department stores, classy boutiques, adventure equipment stores and plenty of cafés and food stalls as well. The atmosphere is relaxed and there’s even free WiFi in the area, perfect conditions to be spending some money on fashion, homewares or gifts.

There’s a lot more to discover in Adelaide, but if was simply not possible to cram everything in our short visit. We really recommend you to do some (window) shopping at the Rundle Mall Precinct, albeit just to experience the relaxed atmosphere. Take a stroll through one or more of the numerous parks surrounding the centre of Adelaide, and don’t miss out on its superb festival scene. If you like wine and great views, go on a day trip to the Barossa Valley, and if you’d love to spot a dolphin or two in the wild, stop by Port Adelaide. You’ll have a great time!