Adelaide lies on a major T-junction of the big round-Australia route, meaning you’ll end up there at some point for a few days down-time. But to treat Adelaide as a mere stopover is a big mistake – the city and its surrounding areas are South Australia’s most scenic, historic and, erm, alcoholic. If you can bear to tear yourself away from central Adelaide’s many bars, highbrow culture, grand old buildings and sunny parks for a day, you might just unearth a few treasures.

Among the wide open parks, Victorian boulevards and orderly seafront promenades, people walk slowly here.

In the CBD, though glass skyscrapers are slowly beginning to encroach, the boulevards are still lined with churches, old banks and municipal buildings dating from the 1840s and ‘50s. The entire CBD is surrounded by a green belt separating it from the suburbs, and around the perimeter run West Terrace, East Terrace, South Terrace and, you guessed it, North Terrace.

The latter is a long, wide boulevard and is home to Adelaide’s major cultural attractions. Here you’ll find the Zoo, Government House, the stunning Botanic Gardens, plus a number of galleries and museums. Adelaide is a town where opera performs to the masses in the parks at night, where live jazz emanates from summer houses, where people play the piano, go to the ballet and know their art and literature. And North Terrace is where it’s all at.

In the CBD, Rundle Mall is the best place to find a bargain. Rundle St is also the focus of Adelaide’s urban culture – slick bars, cool pubs, funky boutiques, arthouse cinemas, hippy jewellers, and imaginative cafes.

Pay a visit to Glenelg, the Bondi Beach of Adelaide, just 10km from the city centre. The best way to get there is on one of the historic 1920s Glenelg trams which run from Victoria Square. Here you’ll find a long, straight strip of golden sand, sheltered waters, cafes, a raucous nightlife and lots of things to see and do.


No visit to Adelaide is complete without taking a trip to the Barossa Valley. This area is the wine capital of Australia, and produces 60 per cent of Australia’s wine, including the famous Jacob’s Creek label.

Fascinating as the undulating countryside and historic Lutheran churches were, they weren’t my real motivation. I was here for the liquid. Sparkling semillons, woody reds, viscous dessert wines and Christmassy tawny ports were the order of the day.

On the way we stopped at the famous Whispering Wall, a huge dam where you can have a whispered conversation with someone standing on the other side of the valley, and had a mosey around the actual creek of Jacobs Creek fame, the banks of which were colonised by Australia’s first vines. By late morning we’d arrived at the Orlando vineyards, where the famous tipple is made.

There was enough good wine here to keep an entire city intoxicated for months. Needless to say, despite the time of morning, I was eager to make a dent in this huge stash and spent the next hour or so standing at the bar having my glass refilled over and over with a succession of wines, each complementing the last.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, but somehow I managed to make it back to my hostel in one piece with a couple of bottles stashed in my pack.


This wild, beautiful island really deserves much more than one day – two or three are needed to really do it justice. But if you’re pushed for time and a day is all you can spare, make sure you don’t miss it. I would put it up there with Fraser and the Whitsundays as a “must-do” Aussie island.

Unlike its tropical cousins, “KI” is rocky, windswept and full of magical, Wuthering Heights-esque vistas. But quite aside from the silver sandy beaches, spiky pom-pom plants and quaint villages, the best thing of all about Kangaroo Island is the wildlife. It’s everywhere. Cute caramel-coloured sea lions bounded up to me on the beach. Koalas peered down from every tree. A snuffling wild echidna walked over my toes and didn’t bat a furry eyelid when I bent down to touch it. Chocolate-brown kangaroos came up to shake hands, fur seals chased each other through rockpools left, right and centre, and as it gets dark the air is filled with bizarre burbling noises as the little fairy penguins argue over who gets the top bunk.

The wildlife was plentiful enough to keep me in awe, let alone the scenery, sunsets and groovy plants. But Kangaroo Island’s most famous inanimate attraction is the set of bizarrely-eroded boulders known as the Remarkable Rocks, and these were a great grand finale.

From a distance these Tolkien-esque, volcanic globules didn’t look like much; just a pile of boulders on the edge of a cliff. But up close, they took the form of giant eagles, elephants, armchairs and ruined cottages. You can sit in curvy hollows, stick your head through holes, lie underneath drippy bits… it’s amazing what fun you can have with rocks, eh?


While many travellers skip through the Flinders Ranges on their way to Adelaide, a stop-off here promises a landscape of jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery – rugged gorges, gum-lined creeks and a cloudless blue sky.

At 1622 metres, St Mary’s Peak is the highest in the Flinders Ranges and the panorama from the top is unbeatable.

Looking down over Wilpena Pound, you’ll see a 35km ringed circumference of jagged outcrops forming the geological phenomenon that once had scientists thinking it was the site of a meteorite crater. I spent two happy days bushwalking in and around this amazing natural formation, spotting roos and wallabies and checking out ancient Aboriginal art.

The national park is fabulous walking territory, with a network of trails weaving through steep cliffs and gullies.


There was something about this bizarre Mad Max town – which dangles loosely from the nether regions of the term “civilisation” – that made me want to investigate further.

Its existence, in fact, owes itself to opal mining. Opal was discovered here quite by accident by a 14-year-old boy in 1915. When word got out there were seams of the finest opal ever seen midway between Alice and Adelaide, miners arrived in droves. Local Aborigines spotted the bizarre spectacle of dozens of men digging holes, and named the site “Kupa Piti,” meaning “White man in a burrow,” giving the town its present name.

Opals are still the town’s lifeblood, and pretty much every local has a finger in the opal pie.

Today the town has a permanent population of around 4,000, most of whom live underground to escape the hot-and-cold desert extremes.

Coober Pedy’s dusty, unsealed streets have seen some real characters, but I’d never have heard any of the local tales had I not booked onto a half-day tour. A few hours on a bus and I was getting a much better feel for the town.

We rumbled through extensive suburbs, which was pretty weird because there were no streets, no buildings, and you could walk right through it and never know you were anywhere near other people. It just looks like a bunch of dusty rubble, but when you look closely you can see doorways cut into the side of them like little Narnian gnome-homes.

If you’ve seen Red Planet, Siam Sunset, Ground Zero, Pitch Black, Priscilla Queen of the Desert or Mad Max III: Beyond the Thunderdome, you’ll have seen a bit of the Coober Pedy area. Strange legacies from the making of these films litter the suburbs – a spaceship here, a moon buggy there, a gloopy alien’s nest propped up against a wall… it all adds up to the conviction that this is as far away from Planet Earth as you can feel on Planet Earth. This place is totally insane.

December 12th, 2007