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Adelaide, Australia

10 things you didn’t know about Adelaide

Explore South Australia's cosmopolitan capital

Published on 18 Oct 2023

Famous for its exceptional coffee, artisan produce and beautiful parkland, it’s little wonder why Adelaide has been in the travel spotlight lately. While many often think of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Adelaide is fast becoming one of Australia’s most exciting and dynamic cruise destinations.

Caz and Craig from y Travel fell in love with Adelaide when they visited the country during an 18-month road trip. With extensive travel experience in the area, we asked the couple for their thoughts on South Australia’s cosmopolitan capital, “Adelaide is one of the most exciting cities in Australia at the moment. It’s emerging as a hip and vibrant city, while still retaining its slow-paced, friendly atmosphere.

“If you’re looking for amazing food and wine then Adelaide is the place to come. South Australia is the food bowl of the country. The restaurants place an emphasis on innovative dishes sourced from local produce. A short drive from Adelaide is incredible destinations such as Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley, which has to be Australia’s best wine region.

“Adelaide and its surrounding areas also do natural beauty really well. Close by are plenty of untouched beaches, mountains and lots of Australian wildlife. Look up when exploring the Adelaide Hills, there’s a high chance you’ll see a koala in the trees.

“Besides eating lots and checking out the small bars of Adelaide, one thing you don’t want to miss is to jump on a free city bike and ride along the River Torrens. Don’t forget to detour through the Botanical Gardens and the stately avenue of trees.”

If you’re soon setting sail on a cruise to Australia and want to know more, read on as we reveal 10 things you didn’t know about Adelaide:

Things to know about Adelaide

It’s a UNESCO City of Music

Adelaide is the first and only UNESCO City of Music in Australia. The city was given its status in December 2015 and forms part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Adelaide holds a huge amount of arts and music festivals throughout the year, contributing greatly to the economy. When you’re visiting on your cruise, it’s highly likely that you’ll find a concert taking place somewhere.

So, what does all this mean? UNESCO explains on its website, “Adelaide stands out for many reasons but none more so than its creative culture. Being the capital of South Australia and 5th largest city of the country with 1.3 million inhabitants, music is at its core and an essential component of its cultural policies.”

It has many independent markets

Adelaide prides itself on its volume of quality independent businesses. As well as being one of the best places in the world to get coffee, Adelaide has an abundance of boutiques, relaxed pubs and contemporary restaurants. If you’re eager to explore the local scene, head to Ebenezer Place. Dubbed ‘Adelaide’s artisan oasis,’ this is where you’ll find unique, local products and discover some of the city’s most exciting new businesses.

For a bigger selection of retailers, head to Adelaide Central Market. Although it’s more of a tourist hotspot, you’ll find there’s plenty of delicious artisan produce to choose from. Adelaide Arcade is another excellent choice, with more than 70 speciality shops in a beautiful old building. Those with a sweet tooth should visit South Australia’s renowned chocolate maker, Haigh’s.

It’s a wine capital of the world

Adelaide is recognised as one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World, alongside Bordeaux, Porto and Verona. South Australia produces more than half of all the wine in the country. According to Great Wine Capitals, Adelaide is the gateway to 18 distinctive, world-renowned wine regions which are diverse in climate, topography, rainfall and terrain, meaning a great variety of wines are produced. Great Wine Capitals explains the broad range of wines on its website, “Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc thrive along the ridges and valleys of the cool Adelaide Hills. The Clare Valley produces pristine, crisp, dry Riesling and 300km to the south, the Coonawarra grows exceptional Cabernet and Merlot.”

If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or if you’re merely an enthusiast, you may wish to visit the National Wine Centre of Australia (NWC). Here, you can learn all about the industry and enjoy a tasting of authentic Australian wines. The team at NWC told us more about the centre and why you should stop by on your Australian cruise, “Situated on the edge of Adelaide’s stunning Botanic Gardens, the NWC combines eye-catching architecture with smooth functionality to create an exciting tourism attraction showcasing the Australian wine industry.

“The centre offers a range of tourism initiatives to educate locals and interstate and international visitors about Australia’s wine industry. This includes guided tours, an interactive educational space known as the Wine Discovery Journey, and the largest wine tasting experience in Australia in the centre’s Wined Bar.”

The Wine Discovery Journey has a series of interactive and virtual exhibits, demonstrating the winemaking process from vine to bottle. According to the team at NWC, the experience helps visitors to understand the role wine has played in history and to recognise the position of Australian wine in today’s international market.

As well as being an educational experience, the centre also offers visitors the chance to sample some exceptional wines. “The NWC proudly boasts the largest wine tasting experience in Australia with its economic wine dispensing system in Wined Bar. The Italian-designed system allows visitors to sample from a range of up to 120 wines by simply swiping a card and selecting their wine of choice, poured as either a 25ml taste, 75ml half glass or 150ml full glass.

“The self-serving system encourages consumers to interact directly with the brand as they would at a cellar door, unlike a traditional retail experience, with all wines for tastings also available to buy by the bottle to take home.”

It’s nicknamed the ‘20 minutes city’

Adelaide is renowned for its excellent transport links. Locals will tell you that you can reach any point in the city within 20 minutes, hence its nickname. When you visit on your cruise, you’ll have plenty of time to explore Adelaide. These short travelling distances mean you can cram in everything the city has to offer during your stopover. Visit the tourism website South Australia for all the information on Adelaide’s transport system.

It is one of the best places in the world to buy opals

Australia is widely credited with producing around 95% of the world’s supply of precious opal, with South Australia accounting for 80%. The world’s largest and most valuable gem opal named ‘Olympic Australis’ was discovered in 1956 in Coober Pedy, South Australia. It weighed 3.4kg. If you’re looking for a unique gift to take home, there are plenty of shops selling opal jewellery. Unique Opal Mine is the largest opal manufacturing jewellers and opal cutters in Adelaide. Here, you can not only browse and purchase beautiful opal gifts but you can also head underground to explore the mine.

It is built on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people

The Kaurna people are a community of indigenous Australians whose traditional lands include the Adelaide Plains. Within a few decades of the European Settlement of South Australia in 1836, the Kaurna culture and language were almost completely eradicated. Thankfully, extensive documentation by early missionaries and thorough research has enabled a revival of the Kaurna culture. Many locations around Adelaide have names either directly or partially derived from Kaurna place names and some were the names of the Kaurna bands (family groups) who lived there.

Coffee is a pretty big deal

Locals know that coffee is now among the finest in the country, so it’s about time you discovered what all the fuss is about on your cruise holiday. As the city has quickly become popular among the younger generation, an increasing amount of new and exciting coffee shops are appearing all over Adelaide. Elementary Coffee, a wholesale coffee roaster and cafe in Adelaide, supplies some of the city’s best cafes, restaurants and wineries. We caught up with director Brad Nixon to find out more about their business and how the demand for coffee has grown in the city:

“After 14 years in the coffee industry and a 5-year stint in Melbourne, I decided to come back to my home town of Adelaide to set up a wholesale coffee business and cafe. In the cafe, we wanted to bring the level of service seen in Melbourne’s top cafes and pair it with locally sourced ingredients for a solid brunch offering. Sourcing ethical and sustainably farmed coffee is at the forefront of what we do at Elementary Coffee which the Adelaide coffee scene is slowly but surely willing to pay a higher price for.

“In the last 2 years, Adelaide has really been pushed to offer a higher quality coffee matched with exceptional service. It has always been hard for Adelaide people to line up for a cup of coffee but as the market becomes more educated to speciality coffee and the higher quality taste, people are more willing to wait a short period for a better coffee experience.

“Cafes in Adelaide are also becoming the champions for locally grown produce. As Adelaide has such an abundance of locally grown high-quality fruit and vegetables, it is extremely easy for the local cafes to offer seasonal menus.”

Adelaide's Botanic Gardens are spectacular

Escape the city for an afternoon of tranquillity at Adelaide Botanic Garden. Its spectacular Palm House, built in 1877, is one of the last remaining of its kind in the world. This incredible structure is reason enough to visit these gardens. Architecture plays a huge role in the popularity of Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Its Bicentennial Conservatory, Amazon Waterlily Pavillion and Santos Museum of Economic Botany are all masterpieces in their own right. Step inside each of these buildings to discover endangered rainforest plants and exotic flowers, as well as learn about the unique history of the gardens.

There are lots of ship graveyards

Adelaide has a rich maritime history and evidence of it can be found all along the coast at the region’s many ship graveyards. If you’re interested in abandoned places, there are 19 ship graveyards on the coast of South Australia and the biggest concentration of sites is near Adelaide. Look out for the creepy vessels in muddy banks, tidal creeks or nestled between the mangroves. Many of the ships are permanently exposed or revealed at low tide.

Adelaide is a city within a park

More than 760 hectares of parklands ring the city and North Adelaide. When the city was founded in 1836, the parklands provided a boundary to the new area and gave value to the land within it. Today, the green areas contribute to Adelaide’s comforting sense of space. As far as cities go, this one is pretty easy to walk around and there are plenty of areas to stop for a picnic, which is handy as you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to street food.

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