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48 Hours In

48 Hours In: Adelaide

New flights are set to bring the capital of South Australia within easier reach of British travellers, says Anthony Lambert. And with summer just beginning, now’s the perfect time to plan a visit

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Travel essentials

Why go now?

The relaxed and friendly capital of South Australia is about to become far easier to reach from the UK, thanks to a new non-stop link from Dubai on Emirates – offering one-stop connections from six British airports. The move coincides with early summer in Adelaide, showing the city as its best as life moves outside – with citizens taking advantage of the city’s parkland, pavement cafes and the long beach that fringes the west of the city.

And when the New Year begins, Australia’s equivalent of the Tour de France takes place around Adelaide. The Santos Tour Down Under (20-27 January 2013; tourdownunder.com.au) is the first step in the UCI WorldTour world cycling calendar.

Touch down

From 1 November, Emirates (0844 800 2777; emirates.com) operates four flights a week from Dubai to Adelaide, with connections from Birmingham, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Manchester and Newcastle. The service will run daily from 1 February 2013. The airport lies just 6km south-west of the city centre; the 15-minute journey by taxi costs about A$20 (£13) and the fare on JetBus routes J1 and J2 is A$4.40 (£3).

Get your bearings

The central area is easy to navigate thanks to its grid layout; it’s separated by the River Torrens from the largely 1880s residential district of North Adelaide, an astonishing swathe of pretty single-storey houses with lots of frilly ironwork and verandas. Both areas are surrounded by loops of green belt, giving Adelaide the atmosphere of a garden city.

Verdant Victoria Square is the planned heart, and the quadrant to its north east is the principal shopping district, surrounding pedestrianised Rundle Mall. At its west end is the main tourist information centre (1) (00 61 8 8203 7611; southaustralia.com). The city has excellent public transport; Adelaide Metro buses and trams within the central area are free. The city’s single tram line runs the length of King William Street between the city’s main concert stage at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre (2), and the railway station (3), before connecting to the coastal resort of Glenelg, which draws weekenders from the city.

Check in

Almost on Victoria Square, the Medina Grand Adelaide Treasury (4) at 2 Flinders Street (00 61 8 8112 0000; medina.com.au) occupies the former 19th-century Treasury and Mint building, and has doubles from A$200 (£133) including breakfast. Overlooking Victoria Square, the Hilton Adelaide (5) (00 61 8 8217 2000; hilton.com) is a few minutes’ walk from Chinatown and the colourful covered Central Market, with dozens of artisan food producers.

The hotel has an outdoor heated pool, tennis court and sauna. Doubles from A$164 (£110), B&B. The modern Adelaide Central YHA (6) at 135 Waymouth Street (00 61 8 8414 3010; yha.com.au) is regarded as one of Australia’s best youth hostels and has double rooms with private bathroom from A$88 (£59), excluding breakfast.

Day one

Take a view

The Adelaide Oval (7) is one of the most attractive cricket grounds in the world and the scene of epic Ashes battles, most recently during England’s victorious tour in 2010–11. Just to the north of the ground is a statue of Colonel William Light known as Light’s Vision (8). Light was the first surveyor-general of Adelaide, laying out the city in 1836 to a regimented pattern and surrounding it with parklands, with the objective of creating a southern Utopia. It was on this rise, known as Montefiore Hill that Light is thought to have surveyed the terrain.

Take a hike

Continue from Light’s Vision (8) up Jeffcott Street to reach Wellington Square, at the heart of a grid of tree-lined streets fringed by a homogeneous collection of buildings dating back to the 1880s, pre-dating England’s Garden City movement by almost two decades. The tree-filled centre of the square is overlooked by the Wellington Hotel (9) (00 61 8 8267 1322; wellingtonhotel.com.au), now a fine restaurant and pub with half a dozen beers on the pump. Many of the buildings are of such historical and architectural interest that they have a discreet blue plaque giving a brief description.

Nearby is the former Primitive Methodist Church of 1881–2. Built in an exuberant classical style, it’s a complete contrast to the austere style favoured in England and Wales. Turn east off the square along Tynte Street, more than twice as broad as other streets so that a wagon and team could turn.

Along the street are the buildings that would have fostered the civic life of the new colonists fresh out from Britain: the Friendly Society Hall of 1879, the North Adelaide Hotel of 1881 and now an Irish pub, the 1884 North Adelaide Institute, and the Rechabite Hall built for the undoubtedly optimistic South Australian Total Abstinence Society in 1858.

Lunch on the run

On the corner of Tynte Street and O’Connell Street is a popular neighbourhood café, Scuzzi (10) (00 61 8 8239 2233), which serves a variety of Italian dishes and pizza from A$13 (£8.50). A smoked salmon bruschetta with cream cheese, lettuce and pepper is A$8 (£5) and a warm chicken salad is A$16.50 (£11).

Window shopping

RM Williams (11) (00 61 8 8232 3611; rmwilliams.com.au) at 6 Gawler Place, specialises in durable Australian-made clothing, especially handcrafted boots. On the pedestrian part of Rundle Avenue is the ornate façade of the Adelaide Arcade (12) (00 61 8 8223 5522; adelaidearcade.com.au), lined with pendant globes and tiled floor. Besides an organic café, there is a host of small shops selling specialist items from pens, coins and militaria to penknives, banknotes and buttons. Scrumptious luxury chocolates made by the oldest family-owned chocolate maker in Australia, Haigh’s (13) (00 61 8 8231 2844; haighschocolates.com.au), can be found at 2 Rundle Mall.

An aperitif

The bar of the Lion Hotel (14) (00 61 8 8367 0222; thelionhotel.com) at 161 Melbourne Street serves a wide selection of wines by the glass from A$6.50 (£4.30). All cocktails are A$16 (£10.60); sample the Salivation of Pampero Rum, Cherry Bitters, mint and maraschino cherries.

Dining with the locals

For refined cuisine, try D’Artagnan’s (15) (00 61 8 8267 6688; dartagnan.net.au) at 26 O’Connell Street in North Adelaide. The cosy but stylish restaurant with dark grey and purple decor serves modern Australian cuisine, with Italian and French influences. Pheasant terrine with apple, celeriac remoulade, tempura onions, mustard cress and cider is A$17 (£11.30), and pan-fried “fish of the day” served with seafood tortellini and braised endive is A$36 (£24). Closed Sun-Mon.

Alternatively Bistro Dom (16) (00 61 8 8231 7000; bistrodom.com.au) at 24 Waymouth Street occupies a long-thin building in the heart of the central business district. Gilt mirrors line one wall, and the menu offers down-to-earth bistro fare, such as goat’s cheese salad for A$16 (£10.60) and wild mushroom risotto at A$27 (£18).

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

Prominent on the slope leading up to North Adelaide, the stone neo-Gothic St Peter’s Cathedral (17) was consecrated in 1878, though not completed until 1911. It was built partly to plans by William Butterfield, best known for Keble College, Oxford, and partly by the prominent Adelaide architect Edward John Woods. Symmetrical spired towers flank a rose window depicting scenes from Australian life and stories from the Bible. Sunday services are held at 8am and 10.30am.

Out to brunch

From 9am the National Wine Centre (18) (00 61 8 8303 3355; wineaustralia.com.au) serves brunch from the Concourse Café overlooking the Botanic Garden (19). On offer is are buttermilk pancakes A$10.50 (£7), eggs benedict A$12.5 (£8.75) or a “big breakfast” at A$18 (£12).

A walk in the park

The outstanding Botanic Garden (19) (00 61 8 8222 9311; environment.sa.gov.au) has trim lawns, trees, shrubs and water. The delicate iron Tropical House of 1877 with a grotto at one end contrasts with the rainforest Bicentennial Conservatory of 1988, taller than those at Kew.

The Santos Museum of Economic Botany is a splendid period piece of 1881 and is dedicated to the collection and interpretation of useful plants, displayed largely in wood showcases but subtly updated. It focuses on self-sufficiency and the need to grow plants appropriate to the climate. There is a fine shady walk between an avenue of Moreton Bay Figs.

Cultural afternoon

At 288 North Terrace is one of the city’s grandest houses, Ayers House (20) (00 61 8 8224 0666; ayershouse.com; 10am–4pm Tue–Fri, 1–4pm Sat–Sun; A$10/£6.60), looked after by the National Trust. Sir Henry Ayers was a beneficiary of the regional copper boom, and the great rock at Australia’s heart – now more correctly known as Uluru – was once named after him. He also holds the Australian record of having been Premier of South Australia seven times. His home from 1855 to 1897 was built for parliamentary dinners and grand balls with painted ceilings and chandeliers, but many of its 40 rooms have a domestic feel.

Take a ride

Board a tram bound for the sea at Glenelg to see the suburbs on the way to the city’s coastal resort. The 40-minute journey costs A$4.10 (£2.70) and ends almost at the beach, alongside the former Town Hall of 1877, which is now the Bay Discovery Centre (glenelgsa.com.au/baydiscover; 10am–5pm daily). It tells the story of South Australia’s colonisation, and describes the first royal visit, in 1867 when Prince Alfred landed at Glenelg pier. A walk along the front past a swimming pool with some impressive slides brings you to an exact replica of the original ship that sailed to South Australia in 1836, HMS Buffalo. There are miles of beaches for bathing – or you can join the locals diving off the pier.