The northern section of central Adelaide is based around North Terrace and Rundle Mall. North Terrace, a wide, tree-lined boulevard with a university located at either end, hosts three of South Australia’s most important cultural institutions: the state library, the museum and the art gallery. Rundle Mall lies one block south.
Rundle Mall was Australia’s first shopping mall and forms the city’s shopping heart, with major department stores, specialty clothing outlets, souvenir and craft stores, food outlets and music shops. Public sculptures dot the mall, including two silver balls colloquially known as the ‘Malls Balls’. While you’re here, visit Haigh’s Chocolates on historic Beehive Corner (you can also visit the Haigh’s factory in Parkside, see p. 217).
Rundle Mall runs parallel to Grenfell Street, and they are joined by two treasures of old Adelaide – Adelaide Arcade and Regent Arcade. Opened in 1885, Adelaide Arcade was the first retail establishment in the country to have electric lights. It is a thoroughly Victorian affair, lined with small shops of every kind on the ground floor and charming balcony level.
The east end of Rundle Mall, beyond the main shopping zone, is the hub of Adelaide’s nightlife. Friday and Saturday nights in the East End throb with longstanding pubs – such as the Austral and the Exeter – among newer bars and clubs, all of them bursting with revellers. With over 50 cafes and restaurants, this is also a superb place to come for food, and the shopping is great too. Mary Martin Bookshop, ‘purveyors of fine literature since 1945’, is Adelaide’s oldest bookseller. On Sundays Rundle Street is transformed into an exciting craft and fashion street market.
The Rundle Lantern, on the corner of Rundle and Pulteney streets, uses computer-controlled LEDs to deliver a platform for digital art. It operates each night from dusk until midnight, with extended hours for special events.
At the other end of Rundle Mall, Hindley Street, sometimes known as the West End, is another lively part of Adelaide. The ornate Wests Coffee Palace building, constructed in 1903 as the Austral Stores and serving as a coffee palace from 1908 onwards, is now the home of Arts SA.
Parliament House and Government House
These impressive buildings adorn the northern intersection of North Terrace and King William Road. Government House, the oldest in Australia, is set on a sweep of manicured lawns and was the meeting place of the first council of government. As the council expanded, new buildings were constructed, including what is now Old Parliament House. These buildings, along with several statues and monuments – including the War Memorial at the corner of Kintore Avenue – make for an interesting and informative walk. Government House normally has two open days a year; phone (08) 8203 9800 for details. Guided tours of Parliament House run on non-sitting days (Monday and Friday) at 10am and 2pm; sitting days are published on the website (www.parliament.sa.gov.au).
State Library of South Australia
The State Library complex is a wonderful blend of charming 19th-century buildings and modern technology, bringing the history of South Australian culture to the people, as well as showcasing the library’s collection. It also includes the Bradman Digital Library and Trail, based on the life of cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, who lived in Adelaide for much of his life. The archives are the ultimate research source covering his career. North Tce; open daily; admission free.
This museum details immigrant life from pioneering days up to today. The museum building was once Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum, where many of the city’s aged, homeless and underprivileged lived (and died). The stories of the women and children who lived there from the 1850s to 1918 are told in the ‘Behind the Wall’ exhibition. 82 Kintore Ave; open 10am–5pm Mon–Fri, 1–5pm Sat–Sun and public holidays; admission free.
South Australian Museum
For over a century, the South Australian Museum has played a crucial role in researching, documenting and exhibiting every facet of Aboriginal culture. The excellent Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery contains over 3000 objects and is the world’s most comprehensive Aboriginal cultural exhibition. In the Origin Energy Fossil Gallery is a fascinating collection of opalised fossils – look up to see the impressive model skeleton of the Addyman plesiosaur , a marine animal over 100 million years old. Australia’s richest natural history art exhibition, the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize is held each year in the ETSA Utilities Gallery at the museum from July to September. North Tce; open daily.
Art Gallery of South Australia
This gallery has grouped its permanent collection in three major categories. The Australian collection includes some fine works from distinguished South Australian artists Margaret Preston and Stella Bowen. An impressive display of contemporary British artwork is housed in the European collection, as is an array of major works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The Asian collection includes delicate Japanese artworks and South-East Asian ceramics. There is also a program of changing exhibitions. North Tce; open daily; general admission free.
North Terrace was the home of wealthy and prestigious figures such as Premier Henry Ayers, whose name identified the country’s most recognisable landmark (Ayers Rock) until it was changed back to its Indigenous name, Uluru. After years in the hands of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the original decorations of the building have now been painstakingly restored, and one wing has been transformed into a luxurious restaurant. 288 North Tce; open 10am–4pm Tues–Fri, 1–4pm Sat–Sun.
Tandanya – National Aboriginal Cultural Institute
This is a vibrant meeting place of cultures with a strong emphasis on the culture of the Kaurna people, the traditional owners of the land on which Adelaide stands. In the gallery, see the exciting work of emerging artists, or taste modern versions of traditional bush tucker in the cafe. Indigenous tours are also offered, encompassing both the centre and the grounds. 253 Grenfell St; open daily.
Botanic Gardens of Adelaide
The gardens were laid out in the mid-1800s and retain a northern-European style. The Palm House, imported in 1875, is a fine example of German engineering. The impressive Bicentennial Conservatory is considered to be the largest singlespan conservatory in the Southern Hemisphere. Inside, walkways guide visitors through a lush rainforest environment, past endangered native and exotic plant species. Amazon Waterlily Pavilion is the most recent addition, opened in 2007. The fully licensed restaurant overlooking the Main Lake serves some of South Australia’s finest wines and innovative cuisine. North Tce; open daily, guided walks 10.30am.
National Wine Centre of Australia
Here visitors can take a Wine Discovery Journey through the different stages of wine-production, meet winemakers and try winemaking – all through virtual technology. The centre has its own vineyard and a retail centre for wine-tasting. Cnr Botanic and Hackney rds; open daily; admission free.
The preservation of the zoo’s 19th-century buildings and landscaped gardens has led many to call it the most attractive zoo in Australia. The Elephant House is a highlight of 1900s architecture – the enclosure’s design was based on an Indian temple, and is now classifi ed by the National Trust. The zoo’s newest residents – giant pandas Wang Wang and Funi – are also very popular. Frome Rd; open daily.
The River Torrens
The river provides a scenic setting for a host of leisure activities including enjoying a ride on Adelaide’s Popeye cruises and motor launches. From the Elder Park Wharf, Popeye cruises operate every hour, on the hour, on weekdays, and every 20 minutes on weekends. Paddleboats can be hired on weekends from Jolleys Boathouse under the Adelaide Bridge on King William Road. You can also take a romantic Venetian gondola ride from Red Ochre restaurant day or night. Alternatively, enjoy good food and lovely views at the boathouse restaurant.
Adelaide Festival Centre
In the 1970s, South Australia had a premier who was determined to turn the arts into a viable industry rather than just a pastime. Don Dunstan’s accomplishments include developing the South Australian Film Corporation and increasing support for the state’s other major arts groups. Overlooking Elder Park and the River Torrens, his Festival Centre consists of four theatres and is an architectural landmark. Visitors can take in a show or wander through the foyer to view the centre’s collection of artworks as well as the changing displays of the Performing Arts Collection of South Australia, with its costumes, props and photographs. Visit the website (www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au) to find out what’s on.
JamFactory – Contemporary Craft and Design
Each year a rigorous application process sifts through hopefuls keen on becoming a Design Associate of the JamFactory. The pieces produced here are said to be some of the most innovative and impressive craft designs on the Australian market. Changing exhibits of international and JamFactory works are showcased in the gallery, and many one-off designs are available for purchase in the store. Nearby is another Adelaide arts institution, the Experimental Art Foundation at the Lion Arts Centre. This centre has some of the best in new media, such as video and installation art. JamFactory: 19 Morphett St; open daily; admission free. There is also a JamFactory outlet in Rundle Plaza, open Mon–Fri.
Historic Adelaide Gaol
Today you can tour the cells and yards of this complex – which operated as a gaol from 1841 to 1988 – and imagine the days when Sister Mary MacKillop visited the prisoners, or take a night tour (bookings required) or a Ghost Tour. Gaol Rd; tour bookings (08) 8231 4062; open 11am–4pm Mon–Fri and Sun.