Sophisticated, cultured, neat-casual − the self-image Adelaide projects, a nod to the days of free colonisation without the ‘penal colony’ taint. Adelaidians may remind you of their convict-free status, but the stuffy, affluent origins of the ‘City of Churches’ did more to inhibit development than promote it. Bogged down in the old-school doldrums and painfully short on charisma, this was a pious, introspective place.
But these days things are different. Multicultural flavours infuse Adelaide’s restaurants; there’s a pumping arts and live-music scene; and the city’s festival calendar has vanquished dull Saturday nights. There are still plenty of church spires here, but they’re hopelessly outnumbered by pubs and a growing number of hip bars tucked away in lanes.
Just down the tram tracks is beachy Glenelg: Adelaide with its guard down and boardshorts up. Nearby Port Adelaide is slowly gentrifying but remains a raffish harbour ‘hood with buckets of soul.
Escape the frenzy of Australia’s east coast with a few days in gracious, relaxed South Australia, voted by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel as one of the Top 10 regions in the world to visit in 2017.
The driest state on the planet’s driest inhabited continent, South Australia beats the heat by celebrating life’s finer things: fine landscapes, fine festivals, fine food, and (…OK, forget the other three) fine wine.
It’s true – almost everywhere you go in SA you’ll find cellar doors vying for your attention. Succumb to temptation in SA’s famous wine regions: the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills. But don’t miss Kangaroo Island’s wildlife and seafood; big-sky, wild-west landscapes on the Yorke and Eyre peninsulas; the photogenic Flinders Ranges; the fertile terrain around the snaking Murray River; and the craggy limestone coast and caves in the beach-strewn southeast.
Australia is a wild and beautiful place, a land whose colour palette of red outback sands and Technicolor reefs frames sophisticated cities and soulful Indigenous stories.
Most Australians live along the coast, and most of these folks live in cities – 89% of Australians, in fact. It follows that cities here are a lot of fun. Sydney is the glamorous poster child with world-class beaches and an otherwise glorious setting. Melbourne is all arts, alleyways and a stellar food scene. Brisbane is a subtropical town on the way up, Adelaide has festive grace and pubby poise. Boomtown Perth breathes West Coast optimism and Canberra showcases so many cultural treasures, while the tropical northern frontier town of Darwin, and the chilly southern sandstone city of Hobart, couldn’t be more different.
Wild Lands & Wildlife
Australia is an extraordinarily beautiful place, as rich in rainforest (from Far North Queensland to far-south Tasmania) as it is in remote rocky outcrops like Uluru, Kakadu and the Kimberleys. The coastline, too, beset as it is with islands and deserted shores, is wild and wonderful. Animating these splendid places is wildlife like nowhere else on the planet, a place of kangaroos and crocodiles, of wombats and wallabies, platypus, crocodiles, dingoes and so much more. Tracking these, and Australia’s 700-plus bird species, is enough to unearth your inner David Attenborough, even if you didn’t until now know you had one.
Australia plates up a multicultural fusion of European techniques and fresh Pacific-rim ingredients – aka ‘Mod Oz’ (Modern Australian). Seafood plays a starring role − from succulent Moreton Bay bugs to delicate King George whiting. Of course, beer in hand, you’ll still find beef, lamb and chicken at Aussie barbecues. Don’t drink beer? Australian wines are world-beaters: punchy Barossa Valley shiraz, Hunter Valley semillon and cool-climate Tasmanian sauvignon blanc. Tasmania produces outstanding whisky too. Need a caffeine hit? You’ll find cafes everywhere, coffee machines in petrol stations, and baristas in downtown coffee carts.
The Open Road
There’s a lot of tarmac across this wide brown land. From Margaret River to Cooktown, Jabiru to Dover, the best way to appreciate Australia is to hit the road. Car hire is relatively affordable, road conditions are generally good, and beyond the big cities traffic fades away. If you’re driving a campervan, you’ll find well-appointed caravan parks in most sizable towns. If you’re feeling adventurous, hire a 4WD and go off-road: Australia’s national parks and secluded corners are custom-made for camping trips down the dirt road and classic desert tracks from Birdsville to Cape York have adventure written all over them.