Tours and Travels Adelaide South Australia

It is a good thing I can do mornings.

I may not be a morning person, per se, but I can get up and function. I say this as my trip to Adelaide requires early starts. The first one being a 530 alarm in order to catch my flight from my current home, Melbourne, to South Australia’s capital Adelaide, some 725km away. Not for me, the nine-hour drive, or even the scenic route via the stunning Great Ocean Road, which to an extent connects the two very different Australian dwellings. My early start is to ensure my safe arrival at Tullamarine airport for my check-in.

A late-night packing (yes, I know, I should have been more prepared), means that as the alarm bell sounds for its third time, I reluctantly rise and hit the shower. As the warm water hits my face, it dawns on me that the day I have been so looking forward to has arrived. I shall be discovering another part of Australia.  Somewhere so close to my adopted home city, but yet far enough that this trip has to date not taken place.

My friends have prepared me to not expect too much. In their eyes, even those who hail from the not so widely celebrated city, Adelaide is no Melbourne. I should not be expecting the cultural hubbub that they also call home. However, as I board the small(ish) plane, I am sat next to a lovely lady in her sixties, who though now calls Tasmania home, is brimming with pride of the her birthplace.

Via a suggestion of a few fine fillies she could introduce me to in Melbourne, she fills me with excitement as my eyes get wider with the hunger to discover what she fondly refers to as ‘a big country town with a lot of heart’.

Soon enough it is touch down. It doesn’t take long in Adelaide’s super-efficient, newly renovated and imaginatively named Adelaide Airport to collect my minimal luggage, before cabbing it to my hotel for the night.

While Tullamarine is arguably close to Melbourne, Adelaide Airport is a mere fifteen-minute drive from my hotel in North Adelaide.

With the taxi driver kindly taking me via King William Street to point of places of interest (disappointingly Rundle Mall and its numerous shops is his personal highlight), I soon enough find myself at the slick Melbourne Street, my home for the night. Melbourne Street is at the heart of North Adelaide, just a 15 minute walk through parkland from the heart of
Adelaide. While many locals will advise the use of a tram or bus to shorten the distance, my personal advice is to walk as by the time you have waited for the transport to arrive, you will be halfway to North Terrace and lost in your thoughts as you walk along the River Torrens.

While the parklands in themselves are pretty enough, what is immediately evident is that Adelaide excels in memorials.

While War Memorial Drive is on the border between North Adelaide and Adelaide CBD, there are more than a handful of simple memorial marks to take in on your amble.

While my quick stroll left me feeling awake on the cusp of North Terrace, a quick look at my watch made me realize that a walk back to my hotel was more pressing than a meander through the city, for it was nearly time for me to head off on a mountain bike ride of Mount Lofty in the Adelaide Hills. A quick stop for a coffee at one of Melbourne Street’s quirky little cafes and a quick change into something more comfortable and I was ready to ride for my life.

Now, before I tell you any more about the Lofty Descents Tour, I ought to share my initial response to the experience.

Okay, I am not adverse to a bit of exercise, I swim most days and enjoy a bit of a run occasionally, but though I enjoy cycling, I have never excelled. I would say I am not awful, but I am not much above average even if I am extremely enthusiastic.

Thus, when I read that I would be seeing Mount Lofty on the back of a bike, I was part excited and part pooing my pants.

A quick Google search informed me that Mount Lofty’s summit was 2,385 feet up and I imagined my hardened efforts to be of no avail as my bike slid from beneath me as I attempted the steep climb.

So, it was with quite a large sigh of relief that I met Ian Fehler of Escapegoat Adventures as he presented me with the news that we would drive up and cycle down.

Easy peasy, or so I thought. Ian informed me that he had three potential routes planned, an easy, an intermediate and a challenging. We would be taking the intermediate, the route he uses 99% of the time.

As we drove to the summit, passing cyclists four times my age effortlessly climbing the steep, a touch of mild shame came over me as I realised that really I am not as fit as I’d like to think.

But none of that was important as we took the winding, scenic road to the top and stopped briefly to take in the view.

From atop Mount Lofty, Adelaide’s petite presence becomes more apparent, adding only to the belief that maybe there wasn’t as much to Adelaide as met my eye on my brief drive through.

Maybe the taxi driver was right – Rundle Mall really is all Adelaide has to offer…

But with Adelaide to be discovered later that day, the descent on the bike began. With the insider knowledge that the first five minutes would be the hardest to undertake, I let my speed build and lost myself in the feeling of glee as Mount Lofty’s summit disappeared in the distance.

While Ian’s tours normally take in Cleland Conservation Park, our taster tour would be little more than a toilet stop and a visit to the kangaroos and koalas. With the quick break a welcome relief, part of me could not wait to get back on the bike and test my skills. I had passed the difficult terrain, or so I thought, and was ready for whatever lay ahead.

While I will by no means make out that the descent is in any way dangerous or difficult, I, as an average cyclist did have some troubles. But unashamed to dismount and walk the one sudden drop, the experience was everything an adrenaline rush should be.

Though not many koalas were spotted on the way down, at least not by me, I was concentrating too hard on staying on my occasionally flying bike, I do confess to nearly jumping out of my skin when a Red Bellied Black casually slithered across my path.

Thankfully breaking in time I avoided casualty and the fleeting meeting proved the perfect remedy to my occasionally shaky nerves as I continued my ride with a refreshed vigour.

Slightly muddy but feeling revitalized rather than exhausted, we reached the conveniently central Bicycle SA

where I said farewell to Ian and walked slowly back to my hotel for a shower.

Though Ian had given me very simple instructions to reach Melbourne Street, I soon discovered that they were needless as Adelaide is, without doubt, the easiest center I have had to traverse.

With a central area designed as square, King William Street runs right through the centre. It is the only road you really need to know in relation to where you are staying, as long as you find King William Street, the rest is beyond easy.

Once again, I found myself strolling through the parklands and lost in my own thoughts. Another coffee beckoned before the hotel (blame the lovely coffee shops found along Melbourne Street and not my own weakness for caffeine), a brief shower and a catnap later and I was ready to see what Adelaide at night had to offer. Rather inevitably I found myself heading straight for the Rundle Street Mall. All my taxi driver had said about the famed mall made it irresistible.

While I concede that the amount of high street stores that fill Adelaide’s small centre is somewhat astounding, retail therapy was far from on the cards, though I was more than happy to bump into Rundle’s resident pigs (Horatio, Truffles, Augusta and Oliver) rumbling through the rubbish. Luckily, as I walk from one end of Rundle Street to the other, I stumble across Adelaide’s foodie quarter.

A walk back and forth whilst deciding made it clear that Adelaide could more than compete in terms of gastronomic dynamism before I plumped for an Italian.

Eating alone in a restaurant is never my favourite past-time, as a social being I find myself listening too intently to the conversation of others and accidentally interrupting, but in Adelaide it appears that this social intrusion is acceptable and soon enough I had made some new friends.

An enjoyable but at times awkward conversation later and I was once again wandering the streets alone.  Now, it may be deceptive, but Adelaide’s welcoming demeanor makes solo street scouring at night feel secure.

A few hours soon disappeared and my night time stroll back to my bed made me miss a hand to hold in what is a seemingly romantic setting.

After waking alone in my more than a generous double bed, a brief look out the window made it immediately apparent that my morning swim with the dolphins would be rained off.

Somewhat dismayed, I decide the brave the adverse weather and head out to the Central Market for some breakfast.

An initial hesitation sees me wait a couple of minutes for a bus, but by that time I am already wet through and so end up walking through the now muddy park instead.

I reach the Central Market, located off the other end of King William Street to my hotel, I decide to dry myself out before quenching my ever-growing hunger. The warmth of the busy marketplace proves a perfect distraction from the day’s disappointment. While Australia seems particularly market heavy, Central Market’s relaxed, open approach makes it a close contender for the jewel in the crown. Brimming with fresh produce, cheap goods and cafes, it is hard to resist spending at each stop. Only just able to resist, I cave in to the
hunger and sit down for a feast.

Feeling replenished, I check the time and decide to brave the rain once again to head to the only place that had come highly recommended by my Melbourne buddies – the Gallery of South Australia. Adelaide may be known as the city of churches, but I would say it should be equally prominent for its artistic prowess.  While the Adelaide Fringe and WOMAdelaide are celebrated global events, Adelaide is clearly brimming with
artistic drive.

I am not denying that other cities in Australia have equal artistic interest, but the elegant Gallery Of South Australia fuses classic and contemporary seamlessly and stylishly.

In fact, as the rest of my unscheduled free day would soon proves, museums are something Adelaide excels at. With the elegant North Terrace host to the core exhibitions, my personal highlights, aside from the aforementioned, are without hesitation, the Adelaide Jewish Museum and the aboriginal exhibition at the South Australian Museum. It is just a shame that I didn’t make it along to the Haigh’s Factory for a guided tour as I have no doubt that it would have effortlessly topped the list (especially if they gave me some
tasters!)

Lucky for me, my day would be ended by the opening of the Adelaide Fringe. Still unperturbed by the rainfall, I decide to start my evening at the highly recommended Dumpling King in Chinatown, alongside the Central Market. While their dumplings are supreme, a heads up to any fellow veggies, make sure you specify clearly that vegetarian means the lack of presence of any meat or fish in your food!

With my stomach satisfied, a slow walk to the other side of the centre, to Rundle Street, the heart of the Fringe Parade proves eye-opening as I discover the stunning Himeji Gardens on South Terrace. Yet with the rainfall unrelenting in its presence, my arrival at Rundle Street is met with the news that the parade has been postponed due to adverse weather. Disheartened I hear my stomach calling for some sweetness and treat myself to a slice of cake at the charming Chocolate Bean before heading home to rest my feet.

Having stumbled through the majority of Adelaide’s innards the day prior, I decided that despite the grey skies overhead, a visit to the allegedly trendy beach suburb Glenelg would more than satisfy my lazy Saturday.  While the clouds in the sky may have been doing the locale an injustice, I am forced to say that Glenelg is closer akin to Melbourne’s St Kilda than any of the golden beaches on the east coast.

More a beach for tourism than for natural beauty, Glenelg is packed to the brim with cafes and cool boutiques, which on an overcast day prove more of a draw than the beach itself. Though easy to picture Glenelg on a gloriously sunny day, I would say it is safe to say that Glenelg is more a daytime escape than a picturesque setting.

Having wasted a few hours needlessly on the beach, the time to say goodbye to Adelaide is drawing ever closer. But before I say farewell to this quaint, charming country-esque city, I have to enjoy the Garden Of Unearthly Delights and the accompanying fringe festivities. To say Adelaide takes the fringe to the heart is an unfair understatement.

When the fringe is in town, Adelaide is the fringe. Every nook and cranny is pouring performance from its core. With a queue to enter the Garden lasting longer than 2 hours, I chance my luck on a ticket to see British hip hop comedy duo Phlip Phlop (yes, I know they aren’t an Australian act but I did need a key to the gate) and am immediately allowed in to play. The Garden Of Unearthly Delights is beyond a child’s dream and a theatre lovers heaven. To end my days in Adelaide on this high note is more than I could ask for.

A lacklustre show later, my high spirits are far from dampened as I head back to the hotel to pack. My brief trip to Adelaide has more than altered my attitude to this haven in the heart of Australia.