Newly retired Andrew Morris has dragged his wife Gill with him to Australia for 5 weeks. The main, wholly selfish, reason is to complete the tennis Grand Slam – sadly as a spectator, rather than as a player. Wimbledon, New York and Paris were conquered over the last four decades, the Australian Open in Melbourne will complete the set.
It’s a long way to go for a game of tennis, so they are also visiting Adelaide and Tasmania.
Part 1 – Adelaide, South Australia
In Adelaide, we can highly recommend staying in the Playford, a boutique-style hotel situated on the city’s North Terrace and from where you can walk to most places in the city. But if you’re not completely mobile, the free central bus and tram systems run from the station, just a few yards away from the Playford.
The service at the hotel was outstanding, the room large and well-equipped – though sadly ours had a view of a dingy alleyway – and the gym and spa let us work off some of the effects of all the bonzer Aussie tucker we consumed every day.
North Terrace is one of the main streets enclosing the central city, designed as a grid system by Colonel William Light in the 1830s. On this one, albeit long, street you can explore the iconic station building, the Casino complex, the South Australia Museum, and the SA Art Gallery. The Casino will give a good insight into Aussie culture, the “pokies” – slang for poker machines – as ubiquitous as vegemite on toast.
A couple of minutes outside the city grid you’ll find the meandering Torrens River, with a beautifully landscaped riverside path and now linked more immediately to the city by the Riverbank Footbridge. This was part of a controversial plan that also updated the iconic Adelaide Oval, one of the prettiest sporting arenas in the world.
Take the official tour (90 minutes/A$20) to understand how this magnificent stadium has thrillingly combined its history, including the famous heritage-listed 1911 scoreboard, with ultra modern technology. Even for non-sports fans the Oval tour is a real treat, but for cricket followers this will feel like a pilgrimage, as painful as it is to witness in the flesh the scene of so many English defeats.
The Sir Donald Bradman museum, currently housed in the stadium, gives a fascinating insight into the humble man who became the world’s greatest cricketer and who broke so many English hearts.
One of the many good things about Adelaide is its free inner-city bus and tram system. Hop on a bus to north Adelaide to witness some of the city’s heritage Victorian buildings, happily nudging up against contemporary houses and funky cafes in what feels like their moneyed Beverley Hills suburb.
Back on North Terrace, almost where it joins Hackney Road, take time to visit the beautifully serene Botanic Gardens. A green oasis on the edge of a vibrant metropolis, explore the various al fresco garden areas, and then enter the magical ark-like structure that houses an Australian rainforest, with elevated walkways hoisting you into its humnid heart.
As luck would have it, you can access the National Wine Centre direct from the Botanic Gardens. Australia is at the forefront of New World Wines. Enjoy the history of its growth in this country, develop your own “virtual vintage” (ours was apparently unfit to drink), and then slurp and suck some wines to accompany a huge platter of Barossa Valley sourced charcuterie.
Talking of food, don’t miss the city’s Central Market (open every day except Sunday and Monday but check opening times as they vary). With over 250 stalls in the covered market between Grote and Gouger (pronounced “Goojer” if you don’t want to stick out like a sore Pom), here is the city’s beating foodie heart. Indulge in a strong, long black espresso coffee with your breakfast at bustling Zuma’s, drool over the endless varieties of fresh fruit, veg, cheeses, meats and fish, and gather together your own picnic to eat at one of the city’s many parklands.
Return to this area later for dinner on Gouger Street, Adelaide’s Chinatown. We enjoyed authentic Vietnamese cooking here at Little NNQ, washed down with 333 Viet beers. That’s the name, not the number we drank….
There are some excellent restaurants and bars spread around the city. We particularly enjoyed those in the atmospheric “laneways” of Peel St and Leigh St, between the main thoroughfares of Hindley Street and Currie Street, feeling for all the world like a miniature version of London’s Soho. Only warmer.
You must have to swear to be friendly and helpful if you live in Australia, as part of your citizenship qualification. On our first night in Adelaide, we enjoyed a few cold beers on the Deck at the Convention Centre, chatting to a couple of expat German girls as we looked down at the sparkling Torrens River in late afternoon sunshine, eclectic music and alcohol diffusing the stress of the locals at the end of the working week.
They were embracing the laid-back Aussie lifestyle and clearly didn’t miss the more strait-jacketed European culture. They recommended several things for us to do and see in Adelaide, one of which was to go to the Rocket Rooftop Cinema on Hindley Street. Several days later we hesitantly climbed the narrow, dingy stairs of what was surely a local drug den. A few flights later, our heads popped out into the sunny uplands of a buzzy bar, bean bags strewn around the floor in front of a movie screen, barbecue sizzling with Oriental pork buns, and well-stocked bar serving up exotic cocktails and cold beers.
The free film, Two Hands, was perfect for a couple of middle-aged Poms…a comedic crime caper poking gentle fun at Australia’s soft cultural underbelly.
If you can’t survive a holiday without some retail therapy, head to Rundle Street for the city’s main shopping artery. At stores like K-Mart you can pick up clothes very cheaply and if you prefer to travel; light, it might make sense to wait until arriving in Adelaide to furnish your holiday wardrobe.
The city’s attractions should keep you fully engaged for a while, but if you want to explore further afield and if you’re a oenophile, there are three world-class wine districts within easy reach of Adelaide – the Barossa and Clare Valleys to the north, Adelaide Hills to the east and McLaren Vale to the south.
We headed south for a memorable lunch at the D’Arenberg Winery, recommended by an Aussie mate. We pushed the boat out and went for the 8 course degustation menu (pronounced “degger-stashun” by the Aussies!), with two estate wines accompanying each course. We didn’t drive afterwards.
From there we went further south to brash Victor Harbour , quieter Goolwa – near the mouth of the mighty Murray River – before heading back up the west coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, dipping our pale Pom toes in the dazzling water off unspoilt and almost deserted beaches.
The most accessible beach from Adelaide is Glenelg, a charming seaside community just 30 minutes away by trundling tram and costing A$5.20 each way ($3.20 on Sundays and holidays). Grab a coffee, a cold beer or an Aussie wine in one of the many cafes in vibrant Moseley Square, and then stroll a few kilometres along the beach or promenade to Brighton.
Adelaide is a great destination for Silver Travellers. Whether you’re active or passive, there is a lot to do in this compact, well-designed city, and many more options within easy reach of the city, either under your own steam or on organised excursions. You can experience world-class sports, food, wine and beaches…and then retire to comfortable hotels with good communications, including free broadband in most places.
Adelaide was a great first leg of our Grand Slam tour…now to Melbourne for the Australian Open and more Aussie excitement.