Adelaide has funny habit of surprising people.
It’s not a big city and it’s tucked away on the southern coast of Australia far from many places on the planet. It doesn’t often make the news and other Australians have a weird habit of knocking it. Their disparaging comments frequently suggest that Adelaide is just a big country town, by which they mean there is nothing to do and no one would want to live here. (Annoyingly, these comments typically come from people who have never been to Adelaide or haven’t been in at least 10 years.)
Adelaide is a laid-back, friendly place. It does have a bit of country charm, but it also has a lot of culture, an excellent food and wine scene, and beautiful, uncrowded beaches. There’s a reason Adelaide has continued to rank as one of the top ten most liveable cities in the world since 2015. Living in Adelaide means having an excellent quality of life.
Adelaide is just my kind of place, and I love it.
10 Reasons I Love Adelaide
1. It is a Big Country Town
Yep, while some people (mostly people from Sydney or Melbourne) seem to think this is a put down, Adelaide does feels like a small town that got bigger and it is one of my favourite things about the city. It manages to keep a relaxed, country charm while still providing everything you need or want from a big city; culture, education, shopping, good food, and entertainment, etc.
It is a small city – the metropolitan area is currently home to 1.3 million, and if you can’t connect to someone by three degrees of separation or less, well you probably aren’t from here. The population is big enough that you can keep your business to yourself (unlike a true country town) and you can go to the shopping centre anonymously, but it is still small enough that you will probably see someone you know walking down Rundle Mall. If you go to a festival and don’t run into someone you know, well you probably don’t live here.
Adelaide moves a slower, more relaxed pace than bigger, more hectic cities. It’s the kind of place where people say thank you to the bus driver when they get off, and when they meet up for business they spend more time catching up over coffee than discussing work (it gets mixed into the middle somewhere). If you want to jump straight to business because you don’t have a lot of time, you’re probably an outsider and don’t expect to have a productive meeting.
Adelaide has a sense of community; buying local is a point of pride and locals have their own sense of humour. In all those ways, yes, Adelaide is like a big country town.
2. Excellent Weather
Adelaide might not get snow, but I do appreciate that I can run year-round.
Adelaide has a Mediterranean climate, which means warm dry summers and mild, wet winters. The majority of the year the temperature is very comfortable, between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius (60 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit).
While Adelaide is jeans and t-shirt weather most of the year, the middle of winter will dip below 15 and the middle of summer will climb well above 35. In the winter, it is cold enough to wear comfy winter clothes and warm up next to an outdoor fire (usually with friends at a winery with a nice red in hand). In the summer, the weather is perfect for a cooling dip at the beach but on the few weeks when it gets really hot – 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) plus – most people leave the beach until later in the day. The sun doesn’t set till after 9, so we cool off at the beach after dinner while grabbing some dessert and watching the sun set.
Adelaide has the lowest humidity of any Australian city; in fact, South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent on Earth. It rarely rains in the summer; it sometimes (hopefully) rains in the winter. The lack of humidity means the summer nights are calm and still, and in the daytime it is actually cooler in the shade.
3. Location, Location, Location
Adelaide sits on the plains between the ocean to the west, the hills to the east, and two major wine regions to the north and south. The city centre is 20 minutes from both the beach and the Adelaide Hills, and 50 minutes from the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions.
Adelaide’s size is partially limited by its surrounds, so everything is close by and easy to get to. I have ridden my bike past the beach, through the hills, and stopped in the city for breakfast all in one morning ride. If you want to experience a bit of nature or quiet away from the city, there are plenty of walking trails around and country towns nearby.
Adelaide sits on the Gulf of St Vincent, so the water is usually very calm. You are more likely to see Stand Up Paddlers than surfers in the metropolitan waters. (If you do want to surf the surf beaches are just a short drive south of the metro area.) The calm waters mean it is common to see dolphins just off the shore. I see them often when I run, usually following closely behind a kayaker.
Adelaide’s location also makes it safe from most natural disasters. We are not in a cyclone area, there’s no tornadoes, and strong storms are fairly rare. The biggest concern is bushfires, which can be devastating and residents in the hills need to have a bushfire plan. However, the bushfires don’t often encroach on the major metropolitan area.
4. City Layout
The City of Adelaide is easy to navigate thanks to its clearly defined grid. The city centre is ringed by North, South, East and West Terraces with all streets running north-south or east-west. If you need to orientate yourself, the hills are to the east and can be seen from much of the city.
There are four main quadrants, with a green square in the middle of each, and Victoria Square in the centre of the city. Encircling the whole grid is the Adelaide Park Lands – 760,000 square metres of green space and the largest inner-city park system in Australia.
The only thing that might confuse a visitor navigating the city are the changing street names. King William Street is the main road running north-south through the centre of the city grid and all streets running east-west (except the terraces) change names when crossing King William – apparently this has something to do with never crossing the king’s path.
Okay, so a lot of places in Australia have really nice beaches. This is a country that loves the beach and has plenty of it to go around. That said, Adelaide’s are pretty dang awesome. They are clean, the water is crystal-clear and they are never crowded.
I’ve seen St Kilda beach in Melbourne and Bondi Beach in Sydney on a hot day and can’t imagine why you would want to spend time on such a crowded beach where you can barely find a small plot of sand.
With nearly 70 km of metropolitan coastline there is a lot of beach to choose from in Adelaide, and with a smaller population there’s plenty of space to spread out. If the closest person to you on the beach in Adelaide is less than 20 m away, it’s probably by choice not from lack of space.
6. Good Food
Adelaide is definitely a foodie place. There is a lot of choice when it comes to high-quality fresh food; evidence of which can be found at the Adelaide Central Market – the largest undercover fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere. It is also easy to find foods from all over the world, either at the Central Market, in China Town, or at several high quality locally-owned supermarkets throughout the metro area.
In addition, there are so many amazing restaurants to try. Many highlight local produce; share plates, which allow you to try multiple dishes with friends are common; and there are a lot of fusion restaurants, which combine more than one type of cuisine (like Asian/Mexican fusion).
7. Good Wine
If you like wine, Adelaide is the place to be. Even if you don’t know much about wine, but would love to learn more and see what the fuss is about, South Australia is the place to visit.
Adelaide is the wine capital of Australia and one of the nine Great Wine Capitals of the World.
There are more than 200 cellar doors within an hour’s drive of Adelaide, and many of them will allow you to try at least some of their wines for free. Yep, for free! (Although there’s a good chance you’ll end up buying a bottle.)
Visiting a cellar door is an excellent way to learn about wine. In addition to trying the wine, you can speak to the wine makers and sellers who are more than happy to talk about wine, the varieties in the region, what makes the region unique and what makes each wine different. Visiting cellar doors is a great day trip and long lunches at wineries are an awesome way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon with friends.
If you don’t feel up for a drive, the National Wine Centre is in the Adelaide CBD. There, you can try some of the best wines from around the country, and have some good food.
The Adelaide Fringe Festival is the second largest Fringe Festival in the world and it means that for one month the city is packed full of pop-up performing arts venues, buskers of all types (music, magic, comedy, circus, etc), new street art and a general sense of excitement. Fringe season means walking through the East End of Adelaide during a warm summer night with people eating at tables on the streets while buskers try to keep them company, carnival rides and street food under the fairy lights hanging from the stringy bark trees in the parklands, and deciding between seeing the Freak Show or taking a chance on an act at the $5 performance venue in The Garden of Unearthly Delights. The whole city comes out, along with thousands of visitors. Fringe is a great way to plan a date, catch up with old friends or make new ones.
Fringe is just one of the many festivals that fill Adelaide’s yearly calendar. South Australia is known as the Festival State; mainly because of the flagship event, the Adelaide Festival, which is one of the world’s best curated performing arts festivals and includes Writers’ Week. But these days, it is also because there are just so many festivals! Throughout the year there are food and wine festivals, beer festivals, sporting festivals, and heaps of performing arts festivals.
There are a lot crammed into March, a.k.a. “Mad March”, including the Festival, Adelaide 500 (a car race + festival), WOMADelaide, and the Adelaide Fringe. The combination of events in March creates a weird mix of hippies, arty folks and bogans all hanging out on the street together. I mean really, how could you not love Adelaide this time of year?
10. Street Art
It’s funny how you never really notice something at home until it’s pointed out to you. We went on a trip to Valparaiso, Chile where we did a street art tour – it’s all over the city. I was suitably impressed until I returned to Adelaide and realised how much street art we have, it’s everywhere! There is a range of artwork on the buildings and there is new stuff popping up all the time.
Some of the street art is a bit more abstract, some gets painted during a festival and sticks around, and some of the street art seems to pop up overnight. The street art ranges from huge pieces covering entire sides of a building to a small sticker or image on the bottom corner of a building.
The street art adds colour and vibrancy to the city, similar to lane-way eateries and city squares, which prove that while Adelaide might feel like a country town, it is very much a fun and modern place to live.