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Urban getaways

Adelaide’s precincts: from beachside dining to shopping, we explore what makes the city's different neighbourhoods tick

The tram to Glenelg stops just metres from the 19th century Town Hall buiding.
Photo: South Australian Tourism Commission
by Max Anderson

Most visitors to Adelaide stay in the centre of town, but there’s more to the city than the Central Markets and the attractions of North Terrace. Here are six suburbs with plenty to recommend them.

North Adelaide

Where:500 metres north of the CBD

How:Walk from North Terrace across the Parklands.

Why:This leafy quarter is probably one of Adelaide’s wealthiest suburbs and a treasure chest of history. The trick is to wander, inspecting plaques outside humble servants’ cottages as well as homes of the copper and wheat barons. You’ll encounter a litany of churches behoving the state that espoused freedom of worship, and just as many pubs, with the Queen’s Head and The British (both beautiful) among Adelaide’s oldest hotels.

For a slice of folly and fortune, take a stroll along Pennington Terrace: start at the imposing St Peter’s Cathedral (it has regular tours) but be sure to visit the little timber church in its shadows. This Meeting House was shipped in 1839 from Britain in 69 crates; Quakers still meet here on Sundays to sit in silence for an hour (you can, too). Two doors up is Downer House, now St Mark’s College – a grand residence and no less than the place where plans for a newly federated Australia were drawn up. Walk up to Montefiore Hill for more mansions including Carclew with its gables, turret and brilliant views over Adelaide.

When you feel the need, head down Melbourne Street for a colourful thoroughfare of good food. The Lion Hotel, The Store and Cibo Espresso make for a crossroads of pavement eating and drinking.

Hyde Park

Where:3 kilometres south of the CBD

How:Take the tram from Victoria Square to alight at the northern tip (Greenhill Road stop) or catch a cab for under $10.

Why:Hyde Park is really about King William Road, a distinctive cobbled strip lined with fashion boutiques and cafes. It’s all low rise, with plenty of late-19th century cottages tastefully made over to retail space – perhaps Adelaide’s version of Sydney's Paddington, albeit a little smaller. Fashionistas favour it for funky lines, smooth labels and one-off designs. Favourites include: Denim Iniquity (Aussie labels sold out of an ex-sex shop), Wildchild Style Lab (LBDs, cocktail frocks, full-blown ball gowns), and Muse Boutique for national and international designer labels.

Other upmarket outlets setting the pace include SA-based skin care company Janesce, local fashion designer Liza Emanuele and jewellery emporiums Pure Envy Jewellery and Casa D’oro.

There’s plenty of food accompanying the fashion: the likes of Colin & Co and The Pot make great use of pavements for sunny people watching; for fine dining try Parisi’s, and Assaggio.

Croydon

Where:5 kilometres out of town

How:Take the Grange Line train from the Railway Station on North Terrace. Two stops, 15 minutes.

Why:A robust community feel (helped by street mosaics and restored vintage advertising) together with a string of retro/vintage shops have helped put Croydon’s Queen Street on the map.

Hype and Seek calls itself a repository ‘vintage, mid-century, industrial and space age furniture’ (which covers just about everything). One Small Room started out as just that – a room furnished with special objects that went together; the idea has been so appreciated that it’s now three small rooms. Azalia Boutique does vintage and contemporary clothing, with an in-house jewellery line by the owner, Azadeh Afzal. Industrial Revolution deals in tres desirable industrial furnishings – check out online what he’s working on in his Croydon workshop then call to inspect.

As urban professionals have moved into the area, so the strip’s cafe scene become more polished. The Queen Street Cafe is a relaxed affair. Let Them Eat is a vegetarian cafe so good that meat-eaters love it too, while The Croydon Store is a sophisticated deli prized for its breakfasts.

Glenelg

Where:10 kilometres from the CBD

How:Take the tram from Victoria Square to Glenelg – a 20-minute ride that’s as South Australian as Balfours frog cakes.

Why:The tram stops a matter of metres from the beachfront to offer your first glimpse of what makes Glenelg special: a lovely 19th century Town Hall, a generous civic square planted with date palms, white sand and a long jetty going out into pale blue seas.

Before you instinctively rush off to grab a spot on the beach, take a breath and relax – Adelaide’s beaches don’t suffer the people pressures of Sydney or Melbourne. Time instead to visit the Bay Discovery Centre in the beachside Town Hall which explains local history from the arrival of the first South Australian settlers through to the development of the new Holdfast Shores Marina next door. There are plenty of opportunities to get out on the Gulf St Vincent. Absolute Fishing Charter will have you hunting for snapper and King George Whiting; and Temptation Sailing runs regular 3.5 hour cruises to watch and swim with dolphins (participants hold onto ‘‘swimmer lines’’ and wait for dolphins to interact). For those wanting calmer waters, the same company does 1.5 hour evening cruises complete with champagne.

Kids of all ages love The Beach House – a fun parlour on steroids complete with indoor heated waterslide, video arcade and 120-year-old merry-go-round.

No shortage of eateries (or international cuisines) on kilometre-long Jetty Road and beyond: try Zest Cafe (Mediterranean), The Sabai Cafe (Thai), Kathmandu Palace (Nepalese), Yakumi (Japanese) -- or simply resort to The Dublin Hotel for a cold beer and platter of fish and chips.

Port Adelaide

Where:14 kilometres from the CBD

How:Take the Outer Harbor Line from Adelaide Railway Station to Port Adelaide Railway Station; walk 600 metres or take cab to Queen’s Wharf.

Why:Port Adelaide is a working port with plenty of maritime heritage including old warehouses and bond stores, but it’s also home to artists, bohemians and yuppies enjoying waterside living. The result is a diverse, often surprising suburb.

For instance, Port Adelaide is museum heaven – home to the excellent Maritime Museum (entry includes lighthouse tour), the National Railway Museum (Australia’s largest), and the South Australian Aviation Museum (home to a spitfire, an F-111 and RAAF retiree enthusiasts).

Wander the old back lanes around the Information Centre and you’ll find studios and galleries tucked into nooks and spaces. Try Better World Arts (Aboriginal art), Jackalope (collective studio) and Sea-Witch Images (historic photos).

Regular cruises leave Queen’s Wharf (try Dolphin Explorer Cruises) but one of the most rewarding – and surprising – attractions is the kayak tour of the backwaters. It’s your chance to paddle a ‘‘graveyard’’ of shipwrecks and encounter the Port River dolphins. Sometimes you get more than you expect: a dolphin introduced from captivity has taught the local animals how to tail-walk.

Food isn’t as good as it could be at the Port, though Cafe Foreyou in the old Lipson Tea Rooms, Pancakes at the Port and Red Lime Shack are reliable favourites. The Cellar and Brewery Tour of the Port Dock Brewery is recommended; but there are plenty of ‘‘old salt’’ pubs still serving – you can discover them on a self-guided Port Heritage Pub Trail, available from the Information Centre.

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The best urban getaways
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Stirling

Where:16 kilometres out of town

How:Take a 30-minute bus ride on the 864F Stop E1 Currie Street. A cab will cost around $40-$50. A hire car will give you the freedom to do some extra touring.

Why:Stirling is some 500 metres above sea level in the Adelaide Hills – a leafy township that’s still part of Adelaide in spite of being a (steep) 20-minute run up the South Eastern Freeway. Offering a change of pace (and temperature) Stirling is about kicking back with a glass of wine and plate of something good. The hippest hangout is Miss Perez, serving exciting food (king prawns and pineapple chilli jam) and cocktails. Across the road beneath the oaks is the Organic Cafe which is cheerful, rustic and crowded most days. Take drinks outside of the Stirling Hotel, or repair to the Bistro with its new woodfired pizza bar; at rear is Stirling Cellars, a gourmet café and wine shop. There’s no shortage of coffee shops but new Red Cacao is winning hearts and minds, mixing great coffee with the finest chocolates made on-site.

Shops of note include Wolfie’s Records, Simon Sturt-Bray Jewellery Design, Chapter Two for second hand books, and Three Birds and Maple (home furnishings); half a kilometre towards the village of Aldgate is the exceptionally good Aptos Cruz design and furnishings gallery in an old church.

Time a visit for the fourth Sunday of the month – the Druid’s Avenue market is magical.

1000 Step Discoveries: Art and Culture

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