When someone mentions Australia, you probably immediately think of Sydney and it's Opera House. That's understandable since the city and the structure gets lots of exposure in the media. But you probably don't first think of Adelaide. Perhaps that's because it's Australia's best kept secret.
Adelaide doesn't have any world-renowned landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum. Instead, it's a beautiful, green city in which to live and to visit. And like a fine wine, it deserves to be sampled.
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the country's fifth-largest city, covering a metropolitan area of 340 square miles. Named in honor of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 as the planned capital for a freely settled British province in Australia. Colonel William Light, one of Adelaide's founding fathers, designed the city and chose its location close to the River Torrens. His designed Adelaide in a grid, with wide boulevards and large public squares, entirely surrounded by parkland. Religious freedom shaped the culture of early Adelaide, which led to it becoming known as the "City of Churches." Ironically, recent statistics show that it's one of the least religious of all Australia's cities. In fact, the locals contend that there are more pubs than churches.
Established as a planned colony of free immigrants, differentiating it from the penal colony settlements of Sydney and Brisbane, it promised civil liberties and freedom from religious persecution. Bush covered the land before the British arrived, except for the swamps and marshlands along the coast. Today, much of the original vegetation has been cleared. Cleland Conservation Park and Belair National Park preserve what little is left.
Adelaide offers more points for panoramic viewing than probably any other Australian city. Montefiore Hill, in North Adelaide provides a spectacular view of the city, especially at night. Adelaide Hills, including the Mt Lofty Summit provides spectacular views of the Adelaide plains, Adelaide metropolitan area, and Adelaide's business district. There's a restaurant at the summit, accessible by road only during daylight hours. Other lookouts include Windy Point along Belair Road, and Skye at the end of Kensington Road.
Rent a car and drive along North Terrace. You'll pass Parliament House, Government House, and the State Library as you head to the Migration Museum, just off the boulevard, where you can learn about the history of different migrants across the centuries and South Australia's heritage and present as a state of migrants. Nearby stands the South Australian Museum, with a variety of exhibitions, including ones on South Australian biodiversity, animals, Antarctic explorers, ancient Egypt, and Pacific cultures.
And just beyond it on Fromme Road near the river is the Adelaide Zoo, the only place in Australia and one of only a few in the world where you can see giant pandas. It also features native animals, such as Kangaroos, Koalas and Wallabies. The Zoo contains an outside exhibition area, plus a bird aviary, reptile house, and nocturnal house which includes even more native Australian animals such as Bilbies.
To learn more about the flora of South Australia, visit the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, offering a quiet and relaxing oasis on Hackney Road in the heart of the city. The Gardens contain many large grassed areas ideal for relaxing, and just outside are the city parklands where you can stop for a picnic at one of the small parks. The Gardens also contain a café and the Bicentennial Conservatory, simulating a tropical rainforest with mist falling from the roof.
At Hahndorf, a German settlement, a short drive up the freeway, you'll find Haigh's Chocolate in Unley Park. Established in 1915 and one of the best chocolate makers in Australia, the factory tour will give you a glimpse into manufacturing process, plus you'll receive free samples. However, you'll need to make a reservation. Or you may prefer to take a shopping excursion to Westfield Tea Tree Plaza on the O-Bahn bus, which travels along guided tracks, out into the North East section of the city.
During the summer months head over to the other side of the river to Adelaide Oval for a cricket match. Australia plays host to a couple of touring nations each summer and they will play a few matches at this beautiful ground, minutes from the city center. Tickets for internationals tend to be snapped up quickly, but domestic matches are frequent and equally exciting.
Spend a day at Port Adelaide, Adelaide's historic harbor town with its many historical buildings, boat cruises, and dolphin watching. Located within Port Adelaide is the South Australian Maritime Museum, Australia's oldest maritime museum. Learn all about ships and wrecks and Port Adelaide's dolphins in an atmospheric historical building.
And before you leave Adelaide, be sure to take the tram to Glenelg along King William Road. Get off at Jetty Road and walk past all the great shops, to Adelaide's premier beach.