Adelaide has spent decades standing in the shadow of eastern counterparts Sydney and Melbourne, but the small city is now emerging into the sunlight. Slowly, it is being recognised for what it does best – food, wine, nightlife, tight-knit communities, progressive art, innovation and coffee… lots of coffee.
As one of Australia’s only urban planned cities, it has a different feel – easier to navigate and more accessible – than other capitals. Different neighbourhoods hide different secrets and different gems, so read these pages and start exploring your local area.
City East (CBD)
The east of the city is ground zero for Adelaide’s latté-loving culture, but that’s certainly not all that can be found at this end of town. Amid the cafés and restaurants sit Adelaide’s oldest libraries, art galleries and buildings, a rambling 125-acre botanic garden and a number of retail shops. It is certainly the high-end of the city – both regarding pricing and the cultural experiences to be had there – but if you wander down a few back alleys, you’ll find a surprising amount of independent entrepreneurs and small businesses.
City West (CBD)
Adelaide’s West End has always been the nastier side of town, but during the last decade, it has been re-invented with investment from government, universities and business. While it was once the place to find fast-food shops and strip clubs you’re now more likely to come across an artist’s studio, independent café or small bar when wandering through this part of the city. An incredibly diverse area, the West has everything – from the natural beauty of the River Torrens to the late night noise of Hindley Street and the early morning activity of the Central Markets’ fruit and vegetable vendors.
The suburbs to the east of Adelaide have long been a popular home for students and young people. The last few years out east have seen a growing undercurrent of cool as architects and designers move their studios there, and good quality coffee and wine bars follow. Still retaining some traditionalist streaks, the modern eastern suburbs strike a careful balance between shops your mum will approve of and truly interesting and exciting ways to spend time with your friends.
To the south of the city is a big block of Parklands that draw a distinctive line between the CBD and the surrounding areas. Just peeking over that line is the inner south – perhaps the most developed of Adelaide’s suburban centres and a magnet for all that is civilised in cafés and shopping. Taking in Unley, Goodwood, Parkside and Hyde Park, the population of the area is almost evenly split between wealthy public servants, retirees, and students living in old miners’ cottages. Despite the vast differences between these groups, the region has a sleepy and peaceful air that is the perfect antidote to busy days spent at study and work in the city.
The well-to-do streets of North Adelaide are leafy and full of nice cars, nice houses and nice families that line the two main thoroughfares of O’Connell Street and Melbourne Street. The area is a traditional stronghold of old money1, but the bluestone mansions are broken up by blocks of apartments and units that come at student prices. The suburb itself, along with its nearby neighbour Prospect Road, runs in perfect rhythm with the student lifestyle – there are plenty of places to eat, vintage clothing shops and several late night coffee and dessert spots to recharge you after a night spent in front of the computer.
The inner west has an interesting feel – it’s close enough to the city to be accessible, but it’s also far enough away to avoid the high rents and mainstream tastes of city business. Little communities of cool twenty-somethings and hip young families have sprung up in pockets around this formerly industrial area. As the population grows, so too does the opportunity for start-up businesses. The West has proven to be the perfect testing ground for cafés, bakeries and retail stores that step a little outside the ordinary, which also makes it the great place to go and find your next favourite thing.