South Australia prides itself on the fact that, unlike some of the other Australian colonies such as New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, it was not initially settled by convicts. Instead, it was settled by free, mostly middle-class merchants and farmers from England as well as other countries. South Australia is probably one of the more unsung regions of Australia for tourism, although its praises should be sung more often. On this day, I got to explore more of this fascinating state including its capital city of Adelaide.
Our group left Mount Gambier in the morning and drove up through the wine country around the Limestone Coast. We whizzed past vast vineyards, small copses of eucalyptus trees, and flocks of grazing sheep.
We made a brief stop in Hahndorf, a charming German town, settled by Lutherans fleeing persecution in Prussia in the 1830s. During the First World War, the South Australian government changed the name of the town to Ambleside. The town isn’t overly tacky like similar “German” towns I have seen in the United States. I really wish we could have spent more time there.
We continued the drive through more wine country in the Adelaide Hills and then down a steep grade into the city of Adelaide.
Adelaide was founded in 1836 and named after the wife of King William IV of England. Colonel William Light planned the city in a grid pattern, so it is very easy to find your way around.
I really enjoyed exploring Adelaide. After checking into our hostel, I rented a bicycle and rode up Hutt Street, admiring the Victorian buildings and their wrought iron balconies along the way. Because South Australia is famed for its wines, I stopped at the National Wine Centre of Australia for a wine tasting.
I tried five different wines: the Pike & Joyce Pinot Gris (grapefruit, fresh hint of sweetness, loved it), the Peter Lehmann Semillon (not too sweet, understated, grassy, would probably go well with seafood), the Riposte Pinot Noir (smooth and easy, cherries), the Kilakanoun Grenache (cherry pie, liked it a lot); and the Yelland & Papps shiraz (kind of bitter, just okay). The wine centre had actually gone through a bankruptcy in 2003 and was taken over by the University of Adelaide. To help profits, the centre offers its space for weddings and oenology courses. Some residents of Adelaide told me that they believed the financial troubles with the wine centre location, which is in the city rather than out in the countryside where people are actually out sampling wines at vineyard’s cellar doors.
The wine centre provides a great access point for exploring the Adelaide Botanic Garden, not quite as large as those in Sydney and Melbourne, but blissfully beautiful as well. Highlights include the Bicentennial Conservatory, with a variety of rainforest plants and the Palm House.
I rode my bicycle through parkland along the River Torrens until I got to King William Street, from there I rode past Parliament and walked it along the Rundle Street Mall, one of Australia’s first planned outdoor shopping centers. There are really interesting architectural styles along Rundle Street, old Victorian, art deco, and old arcades. Much of the mall is also lined with public art sculptures.
I found Adelaide to be a charming, safe, interesting place that I would really like to return to if I have a chance. Australians tell me that Adelaide is definitely an “up and coming city.” Food, wine, music and architecture enthusiasts should be drawn to this city. It certainly isn’t on the radar for most foreign tourists, but it definitely deserves to be.