For many, Adelaide is that place you’ve always thought about visiting but went somewhere else instead. That’s a mistake. Far from being a perpetual “also-ran,” Adelaide is home to a host of places, spaces, people and events that makes it one of the best places to visit in Australia. What’s best, the trip from Melbourne or Sydney can be dirt-cheap, according to Cheapflights.
So don’t take Adelaide for granted. She might surprise you. For example …
1. IT’S INCREDIBLY FOODY
You may have already heard of Adelaide Central Market, the century-and-a-half old wet and dry market that calls to mind all the best parts of exploring food kiosks in Southeast Asia without all the crushing heat and possibility of stomach troubles. But that’s just the beginning of Adelaide’s culinary options. The city boasts everything from fine dining to food trucks, and more than 100 pubs along her lanes and streets. You’ll find everything from French food, Australian classics, to something from every port in Asia and South America.
While you’re at it, explore what makes Adelaide’s outskirts the wine capital of Australia. You’ll find exquisite local Shiraz, of course, but brands like Yalumba, Wolf Blass and Penfolds are all part of the local wine scene. As for pairing choices, you could spend an entire trip just on that.
2. GLENELG BEACH
Fifteen minutes or so from the city you’ll find Adelaide’s main tourist beach, but you’ll miss it if you’re looking for the kinds of crowds and activities typical to the shore in Sydney. It’s not deserted by any means, but the atmosphere is more sedate and secluded. Wildlife like seals, dolphins and all manner of fish cavort in the surf within just a few meters of the shoreline. You can swim, snorkel, sun or rent various kinds of floating objects to take you out into the water; or just lounge on the coast and sip a bottle of whatever you prefer.
Around the beach proper, you’ll find a wealth of walking and biking trails to take you through the scenery on the other side of the sand. Don’t miss the opportunity for exploration or a little romantic time off the beaten path.
3. NO CARS NEEDED
Though it has a population of just over one million, many call Adelaide the Twenty Minute City because it takes about that long to get anywhere in the city proper. Better yet, it has some of the best trams and bus systems in the country, plus miles of bike-friendly lanes and paths. Everything is within walking distance in Adelaide, and charter or city buses to the outlying attractions are cheap and easy to find. You’ll have no need of a car during your time there.
4. KANGAROO ISLAND
It’s a bit of a trip from Adelaide’s centre, but the boat ride to Kangaroo Island is one of the few “Absolutely Must Dos” in this laid-back corner of Australia. It’s Australia’s third largest island, and home to blue seas, white cliffs, black caves and green hills. More than a third of the island is protected as national parks and game preserves, and inside or outside you’ll have an eyeful of birds and smaller critters wherever you look.
In the “It’s exactly what it sounds like” department, the island is home to a ridiculous number of roos, plus seals, sea lions, koalas and dolphins. Lodgings are plentiful (and reasonably priced, considering) so come for a night or two nights to make the most of your visit.
5. SHIPWRECK GROVE, GARDEN ISLAND
Another entry in our “It’s exactly what it sounds like” list, Shipwreck Grove spent a few decades as a dumping ground for decommissioned ocean vessels. This slightly desolate saltmarsh lies about thirty minutes outside of Adelaide, and is home to 25 known shipwrecks. Not a national park or reserve, the Grove is surrounded by industrial sprawl. However, Garden Island is surrounded by enough mangrove trees to both block out the Mordor background and give your shipwreck photos that creepy Lost World vibe.
6. GLASSHOUSES, OPALS AND ART, OH MY!
Sure, every city worth visiting has art museums and galleries simply leaking from its pores. Adelaide is special though, with three kinds of arts and crafts you won’t find elsewhere on the continent. Adelaide is the centre of opal trade for all of Australia, with plenty of stalls and kiosks to pick up the stones themselves or any number of art and jewellery pieces incorporating them. You’ll find old, enormous glasshouses near the Botanic Garden (another must-see, though not spelled out here because it’s not terribly surprising). They’re the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere and definitely worth a look-see. Finally, the collections of Aboriginal art here are second to none, fit for a peek whether or not you’re passionate about the form.
7. THE GREEN SPACES
Perhaps because it’s slightly off the beaten path, the metropolis of Adelaide feels far more open than the east coast cities like Sydney. The streets are wide, rural spaces near, and big parks and gardens are almost as plentiful as building blocks. The result is long, luxurious sight lines and skies that seem enormous. The whole thing lends a laid-back vibe to your visit, just the right frame of mind for exploring the city’s other charms.
This article originally appeared on Cheapflights and was republished with permission.