How to Have the Best Day in Adelaide, Ever!

I've lived here most of my life and criticised it continuously, but I don't really know why. What would happen if I gave Adelaide a chance?

by Mat Drogemuller
12 October 2016, 12:00am

Skyline of dreams. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Adelaide is like the cappuccino of Australian cities. Maybe it was cool for a couple of years in the mid-2000s, but tastes have changed. I can say that because I've lived here for most of my life. And because I'm a long time Adelaidean, people are always asking whether or not the city is worth a visit. Just for one day, they say, like David Bowie.

My usual response is a flat no. I think of Adelaide as a city run by old people, a place with zero nightlife. Sure we have Foodland—a supermarket you don't—but that's not enough of a reason to cross state lines.

Lately though I've started wondering whether I'm being too harsh on my hometown. You probably can't see the place you grow up for what it really is. What if I actually tried with Adelaide? With a pair of fresh eyes and an open heart, the Malls Balls might have some charm. Would I find our beaches really are better than the rest of Australia, like our tourism brochures always claim?

TripAdvisor offered up tonnes of those top 10 to-do lists, which users inexplicably spend serious time writing up. So I decided to give an entire day to the City of Churches—okay internet, make me love Adelaide again.

Glenelg Beach

Adelaide has a vibrant culture of coloured bricks

TripAdvisor rates the Glenelg Tram as the fifth most popular attraction in Adelaide, which I find mildly offensive. Once a seaside spot for daytripping families—kind of our version of Coney Island—Glenelg is now mostly a public transport interchange between the CBD and the Eastern beaches. This makes it a pretty shit tourist attraction.

It's just a beach, really. Sure, there are palm trees and a large body of (probably shark-infested) water. There's also plenty of sand, some shops, a playground, and a jetty. It's a beach in every way, but that doesn't mean it's worth the airfare from Sydney or Melbourne. Especially when Bali has knock-off Nikes delivered to your towel.

But there is one thing that's awesome about Glenelg, and it's something TripAdvisor doesn't mention. In 1978, a young clairvoyant and old-school homophobe named John Nash predicted a tidal wave from the almighty would roll out of the ocean and obliterate Adelaide—all because the city was leading the nation on homosexual law reform.

The state Premier at the time, Don Dunston, headed down to Glenelg and promised to hold the tsunami back. It never came, and this kooky story is without doubt the most interesting thing that's ever happened at Glenelg.

The Central Market

Imagine laying in this bain-marie fridge thing. Falling asleep, tightly clutching a gouda. Beautiful.

I headed back into town to the Central Markets for an injection of life and caffeine. While a lot of people like to shit on Adelaide, the markets are genuinely unshittable. Local cheap-as produce, vendors yelling—a dollar, a dollar, a dollar cucumbers—and some fine lunch options for less than $10.

The Central Markets are unanimously agreed to be one of Adelaide's best assets. In a city where we are forever being compared to (and comparing ourselves to) our edgy, already-dating older sister city Melbourne, it's nice to have this one thing that we, without a doubt, do better. I'm also pretty chuffed that TV chef and certified national treasure Poh Ling Yeow lives here.

Haigh's Chocolate Factory

Mmm, you big yummy cappuccino.

Things looked up at my next stop. As I walked into Haighs, I found packs of tourists enjoying the free tour. I wasn't allowed into the velvet roped "viewing area," so I could only assume a pack of families just watched Augustus Gloop die in a sea of chocolate.

I then ate frogs, which was what I'd really come for. Notably Haighs' chocolate amphibians are the Minister for International Development and the Pacific's favourite. It's that allure that makes me feel like spending $1.50 milk chocolate frog is a veritable bargain.

As I chewed on my frog I got to thinking about Adelaide's obsession with gimmicky capitalism. The most famous example was when we all lost our shit about getting a Krispy Kreme, back in 2014. Hundreds of people lined up. There were traffic jams and fights and the whole affair grabbed national headlines. Sure this was an embarrassing story, but there was also something in there that made me like Adelaide.

We are a pretty quiet place, a lot of young people leave town the first chance they get. See, the best bits about Adelaide are lame and boring—the house prices, the cost of living, easy parking in the city, easy to navigate grid-like city planning, lots of trees. I love all of these things, but they're kind of hard to brag about without sounding like a huge homebody weirdo.

Rundle Mall

Hello, I'm the pigeon in the sun beam. I'm warm and famous

Rundle Mall is the epicentre of Adelaide shopping, which doesn't mean anything. Not many people outside of Adelaide have heard of Rundle Mall, and it's not something I would recommend to tourists, unless you're looking to buy a kitchen appliance. Our central shopping district is definitely an embarrassing wart on the face of our otherwise quite clean and tree-lined city.

Outside Harris Scarfe, a man told my partner to "live long and prosper," which she took seriously and ended up buying a Nutribullet. I tried to take a photo of those two silver balls stacked on top of each other but some guy in hi-vis got in the way. It was all quite perfect.

The Botanic Gardens

If Jurassic Park came out in the 1880s, this gate would've been siiiiiiiiiiiiick

Ah the Botanic Gardens—the place where school children yell for no reason and stoners protest unjust laws while enjoying over 50 hectares of solidly manicured plants. I have lived in Adelaide for, say, 25 years. I have been to the Botanic Gardens maybe 10 times. So I probably should have anticipated being locked out once the clock strikes 5 PM, but of course I didn't.

Here is a picture of me feeling that keen disappointment at not being able to admire lily pads. Not much to say here.

The Capri

That bright blob in the middle is a person playing an organ. In the industry we call them "organists"

Exhausted from the failure of trying to have a peek at some plants, I went somewhere that never fails: the organ show at the Capri. The Capri is a cinema that's been around since the 1920s but, ignoring that, this place has a one up on Hoyts. That's because every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday night there is an organ show. And get this, the organ rises up from the ground in front of the screen. This is the stuff of dreams, people. And without needing to, I can confirm that "Climb Every Mountain" was a highlight.


After drinking this I woke up naked in a field with a saxophone and bag of potting mix

Now onto the last ingredient of a perfect day: drinking. I walked to the sake bar a few blocks down from the Capri, ordered a miso soup, and some hakushika namacho sake. They were delicious and promptly guzzled.

Basically I'd learned that Adelaide has the same shit as everywhere elsemovies, food, booze, and internet (it's pretty fast now). We have great restaurants, great wine, and fittingly a shit tons of vineyards, if that's your thing.

Maybe our real problem is our low self-esteem and the way we shit all over ourselves in front of potential tourists. It's this kind of thinking that produced those t-shirts bearing the slogan "SA: heaps good state." I have one of those t-shirts.

Adelaide is what Melbourne was like in the early 1980s, or Sydney was like in a parallel universe. It's wholeheartedly Australian, but with something of a naive sweetness. It's slow and small, but I'm very proud of it. That's right. If I'm really honest, I'm proud of Adelaide.

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