Adelaide Travel Guide

Once known as the puritan capital of Australia, Adelaide was the first free settlement in the Australian colonies. The first residents made the city famous for its magnificent churches but these days the religion is festivals, football and beer.

History of Adelaide

Early 19th century British property developers dreamt up this city after hearing explorers rave about the fertile soil along the banks of the River Torrens. Adelaide was carved up and sold off to an enthusiastic English (and German) public before a single street had been surveyed. Settlers were promised grand avenues, lush gardens, religious freedom and financial backing from the Colonial Office. The complete lack of convicts was also a strong selling point. The new settlers had no idea how isolated and dry the area surrounding Adelaide was at the time.

The city was officially founded in 1836 after surveyor Colonel William Light won an extended argument with the first governor of South Australia (John Hindmarsh) over whether to put the city on high ground up near the foothills of a mountain range, or on low ground near the ocean (and closer to a port). No time was wasted laying out two beautiful street systems on either side of the river, based around no less than six town squares and surrounded by parkland big enough to fit a small European country (a couple of Vatican Cities at least). Government offices and residences were built, grand churches were planned, but with no real industry to support the new city and almost nothing but desert in the rest of South Australia, Adelaide quickly went bankrupt and by 1842 a third of the city had been abandoned.

A series of droughts, floods, violent storms, and inept officials hampered the city's growth until after World War I, when the city came into its own as a port for ore coming from the New South Wales mining township of Broken Hill. Agriculture from the surrounding farmland also helped to strengthen the local economy, and after the great depression ended, the city started attracting car factories and other more modern industries.

In the decades after World War II 215,000 immigrants arrived from various European and other countries, significantly boosting the city's population. Adelaide remained a relatively conservative community up until the 1970s when successive governments started to develop the city's cultural esteem. By the 1980s Adelaide was known as the festival city, and was host to a round of the Formula 1 racing championships, and many other internationally acclaimed events. The fact that it was only an hour drive from the country's best wine regions (established in the Barossa Valley by Lutheran immigrants from Germany back in the 1830s) helped things along a great deal. The advent of cheap air travel in the 1990s meant Sydneysiders and Melbournians could affordably jump on a plane to Adelaide and spend the weekend wine tasting in the various regions nearby.

What's Adelaide like now?

What was once a fairly backward, conservative city has blossomed into a vibrant, modern, multi-cultural piece of Australia. There is a great live music scene (hip-hop has particularly strong following) and the food is great. There are far more pubs than churches now and the place has a distinctly friendly vibe about it.

How to get to Adelaide

You can get there by car in a day or two from Melbourne (the Great Ocean Road is one of the world's great drives and well worth the extra distance), or if you're adventurous you could drive from Sydney across the New South Wales outback in a few days, but you'd have to really, really want to. If you're travelling right across the country in a car then Adelaide is a must-see stop along the way (you will have earned a break, no matter which way you're coming from).

The Indian Pacific and The Ghan trains are both based in Adelaide, so if you want to cross the outback on rails, Adelaide is an ideal first or last port of call (or you can spend an afternoon there in the middle of the trip between Sydney and Perth).

If you want to get there in a hurry, a plane is your only real choice. Virgin Blue, Qantas and Jet Star all fly between Adelaide. Tickets from the east coast can get as low as $160 (each way) depending on when you book.

Getting around Adelaide

It's not a big place, so you can easily see everything in the main part of the city on foot in a couple of days (or less if you have nice shoes and strong feet). Trams and busses run regularly and if you've found yourself on the other side of the city at the end of the day and can't be bothered trying to find a cheaper way to get home, taxis are plentiful.

Things to Do in and around Adelaide

  • Hope you like looking at churches
  • Check out the markets on a Friday night
  • River Murray cruises
  • Visit Adelaide Zoo and the giant pandas
  • Barossa and Hahndorf wine experiences
  • Find more things to do in Adelaide

Adelaide Restaurant Areas

  • Rundle Street in the city
  • Gouger Street has a variety of Asian and seafood restaurants.
  • The Parade in Norwood (catch a 122-124 bus)
  • Melbourne Street, North Adelaide has a mix of cafés and upmarket restaurants.

Adelaide Bars

Adelaide Accommodation

Five Star

  • Adelaide Hilton, 233 Victoria Square, Adelaide
  • Adelaide Meridien  , 21-39 Melbourne St, North Adelaide

Middle Range

  • Jacksons Motor Inn, 373 Glen Osmond Road, Adelaide
  • Country Comfort Adelaide, 215 South Terrace, Adelaide


  • My Place Adelaide Backpackers Hostel, 257 Waymouth St, Adelaide
  • Annie's Place Adelaide, 239 Franklin St, Adelaide

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