When I returned from Tasmania in March last year, I announced to my husband that I would like to go to Adelaide in early May. I had no particular reason – I’d never seen the city of churches and I thought it would make a lovely before-baby trip. Husband gave an approving nod and discussed some potential dates with me, but we never moved beyond that conversation. Soon enough, work got in the way for him, and as we moved forward with our house building plans and pram-buying excursions (they are not fun), conversations about holidays fell by the wayside.

But life and its strikes of serendipity had other plans, and a couple of weeks into April, I was approached by the editor of Project Sweet Stuff who asked if I could be their Tasting Australia correspondent in where-else-but Adelaide! So it was with much enthusiasm that I packed my checkered carry-on, kissed my husband goodbye, and headed off to celebrate four days of food and culinary festivities that showcased South Australia’s finest fare.

In between assignments, I made the most of my free time, and happily discovered that Adelaide – although so much quieter than my Sydney home – was definitely not just about old, towering churches. Sure, there were old buildings and turrets and sand stone, but it was also bursting with odd gems everywhere I went: wonderful cafes, great little boutiques, a bustling China Town, and vintage stores and chocolate shops galore.

I loved checking out the markets in the morning, shopping/exploring during the day (with pit-stops for grilled cheese jaffles from the kombi in the middle of Rundle St Mall) and enjoying lovely dinners in the evening. Sure, it was quieter than most other city escapes, but the definite highlight was the realisation that Adelaide boasted a thriving foodie scene that had extended into the city from its famed regional districts. It’s rad for a reason: a place on the map for anyone looking for a getaway that ticks all the boxes. And the best part? It’s just a stone’s throw away from the amazing Barossa Valley and the wonderful Lime Cave Dining Experience at McLaren Vale.

  1. Andre’s Cucina: My highlight for a dinner venue thanks to its shared plates, busy atmosphere and extensive bar, Andre’s Cucina and Polenta Bar (94 Frome St) was established by former Masterchef contestant Andre Ursini. The bustling restaurant serves up so many variations of classic polenta in addition to a selection of delicious Italian fare, and if you have trouble deciding, you can opt for their Menu Fisso and let the kitchen feed you. Andre’s also stocks a selection of Italian goods, so you can shop from your restaurant table. Don’t leave without trying the Olives All’ascolana: herbed green olives stuffed with ricotta, then crumbed & lightly fried with salsa piccante & parmigiano. I thought I had died and gone to foodie heaven.
  2. Rundle St East Shopping Strip: Bypass the main block of Rundle St with its usual chain stores and head straight for the East side, where you’ll find cool boutiques stocking a variety of labels. I loved Tu Yu (230 Rundle St) and Naked (238 Rundle St), but my absolute highlight was Bauhaus (257 Rundle St) which boasted such an amazing collection of fashion accessories, jewellery and homewares that I couldn’t bring myself to leave.
  3. Adelaide Central Market: This was so much more than a food/grocery hub – inside this expansive venue were the usual providores, but it also boasted juice bars and health food stalls, flower markets, decades-old specialty candy and pastry shops (like Blackebey’s Old Sweet Shop and The Carousel), a huge gourmet cheese stall, and Lucia’s – a Spaghetti and Pizza Bar with adjacent Italian food store. You can also shop products from Barossa Fine Foods there.
  4. Antique Market (32 Grote St): This deceptively small shopfront houses what could possibly be Adelaide’s biggest collection of antique and vintage goods. Sprawled across two levels and a back garage, you can find home wares, knick knacks and old books, furniture and appliances, as well as a huge selection of clothing, shoes and accessories from eras across the 20th century.
  5. Arcades and Laneways: Don’t be afraid to let your wanderlust take charge and lead you into unchartered territory: While they’re not as numerous as Melbourne’s counterparts, Adelaide’s laneways and arcades will surprise you. You’ll stumble across vintage stores, quirky boutiques and gift shops (like Rosa House and Presence in the Adelaide Arcade) and lovely cafes and pubs on your journey. Definitely make time in your itinerary for a stop at Hey Jupiter (11 Ebenezer Place), a cute cafe plating up delicious breakfasts, lunches, juices and French pastries. Feeling extravagant? Treat yourself to their Champagne Breakfast for Two ($105), which offers eggs, pastries and breads, cultured butter, ham, jams, salmon and a 375 ml bottle of champagne, plus coffee or tea. Fuel for exploring definitely.

Got any other travel tips for Adelaide? Share them below!