After a few years of being scornful of my Victorian colleagues heading for the Gold Coast for their summer holidays, telling them that I was glad to be away from the horrible heat and humidity, not to mention crowds, I guess a few people were surprised to hear that we our summer holiday destination this year was not another mountain hide-out with lots of healthy bush walks and quite afternoons reading and enjoying the peaceful surrounds, but… Adelaide.
Yes, Adelaide – the capital city of South Australia. The city that has a deserved reputation of getting extremely hot in summer and most Adeladians would probably tell you there’s not much on there.
However. We were banking on the fact that, like Melbourne, the unrelenting, sweltering (but dry) heat wouldn’t set in until mid-January, and in that optimistic frame of mind we both packed light-weight long pants and a pair of jeans and rugby tops – just incase.
As for boring… I come from Brisbane, which a lot of people (not me) describe as a large country town, and since I’d never been to Adelaide before I had a whole city to discover! And given our previous summer holiday locations – take last year at Walhalla for example – Adelaide was going to be packed full of things to see and do – as you will see.
(P.S. If you do prefer heading to the beach for your summer holiday, keep in mind there’s so much more to the Gold Coast than just Surfer’s Paradise and theme parks.)
Don’t be surprised to hear that we drove to Adelaide. It’s only about 8hrs or so. A good holiday is one where we can take the Mini with us. This time we even managed to pack lightly! Although, had we added the hiking boots and backpacks (etc) it would have been noticeably fuller, I suspect.
I hadn’t realised the towns around the northern Grampians weren’t actually in the mountains. I’d imagined that Stawell (pronounced ‘stall’) and Horsham would be nestled at the foot of the ranges, much like Dunkeld and Halls Gap are. (Mental note: stick with holidaying at Dunkeld for the Grampians.)
After passing the Grampians you’re in the region known as The Wimmera, and it does become a lot flatter. And drier. Some of that is because the majority of fields are of wheat about to be, or recently, harvested at this time of the year. There’s a of hay bales in the fields, too. The colour palette of the countryside is the gold of wheat, dark green of trees that line the roads and dot the fields, and the washed-out blue of the sky. Thank goodness it was only 24oC and there was sunscreen lotion handy, because the sun through the windscreen felt pretty strong.
We saw our first salt lake not far past Horsham (still in Victoria). A number of cars had pulled up at the stop beside it, for the drivers to get out and stretch their legs and take a look. As we’d just had a break in Horsham, we kept going.
Like a string that was pulled taut then gently released, the road makes its way across the landscape in mostly straight lines. The railway follows beside, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. You can spot the next town from a few kilometres away because the gain silos are the only things that stand out on the horizon – aside from communication towers, but they’re not necessarily based in town.
As you approach the border from the Victorian side, there are warnings (reminders) that you are not allowed to take any fruit or vegetables (plant matter) into South Australia, and if you’re carrying anything of the sort to use the bins provided ahead to dispose of it. As we passed the bins, I noticed that of the two, one was closed off and had a sign indicating it was ‘FULL’. I wonder why the person who was authorised to come and check and declare the bin full, wasn’t provided with the means of emptying it?
Somehow we missed the sign saying ‘Welcome to South Australia’ – maybe because I was more than half expecting a check point where we’d be stopped and asked if we were carrying fruit or vegetables illegally (which we were not). But it soon became clear that we had crossed the imaginary line because:
– the road grade is definitely better
– the speed limit increases to 110kph
– the lines in the middle of the road are separated to keep traffic travelling in different directions just that little bit further apart although they’re sharing the same strip of bitumen
– overtaking lanes become more frequent
– rest stops also seem to become more frequent
– the power poles are Stobie Poles: invented by James Cyril Stobie who worked for the Adelaide Electrical Supply Company, they’re made of steel, sometimes filled with concrete (which makes crashing into them even more terrible than a regular pole or tree, so don’t do anything stupid on the road).
It’s all pretty plain sailing (driving) until you come to Tailem Bend, where the Princes Highway (A8) meets the Murray River. The first sign you’ll see that you’re approaching town are the pelicans drifting on the thermals above the river. Soon you realise it’s not just a couple of pelicans, but dozens of them, all along the river. Keep scanning the skies (if you’re a passenger) and you can spot various raptors. We saw three Wedge-tailed Eagles and I believe I even spotted a Black Kite.
As you cross the Murray Bridge, you’ll appreciate the true meaning of flood plain. This fertile area reminds me of the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane, or Bacchus Marsh west of Melbourne.
‘Hill’ has now returned to the vocabulary, and it’s not really all that long before you find yourself winding up into the dark green Adelaide Hills. The tall pine trees mixed in with the eucalypts help make the hills feel cooler, and it’s with a sense of anticipation that you’re close to the end of the journey that you sit up and look ahead.
There are a number of signs warning that the decent from the hills is steep, and so it proved to be. Long and steep. What fun it would be on a bike, but it would take a significant effort to ride up in the first place. It rather reminds me of the approach into Wellington from the north… or was it Dunedin? There was one town that has an impressive drive in – this is longer and more impressive, even though there’s only just a glimpse of the city through a gap in the hills. It even has short-ish (500m) twin tunnels. And emergency stopping gravel banks for trucks, who aren’t allowed to go faster than 40kph on the decline.
Once you’ve passed by The Glen Osmond Tollgate (the link takes you to a short clip about the history of the tollhouse by SA Life), you’re in Adelaide! As in Victoria, it appears that ‘greater Adelaide’ is made up of dozens of little local councils. It’s one notion I still think is pretty silly – you can tell I grew up in Brisbane! ‘Greater’ Adelaide is not big, and the drive into town doesn’t take long and is quite pleasant.
After checking in and dumping our bags in our room, we wandered down the Rundle Mall, which started very conveniently about 50m from our hotel on Hindley Street. Being late-ish of a Sunday afternoon, none of the shops were open, but I assure you all the usual suspects were there. Quite surprisingly they have a very large Apple Store. Much bigger than the one we’ve been needing to visit (regrettably frequently of late) at Doncaster. And, most significantly, there’s the Haigh’s chocolate shop in the Beehive building at the corner of Rundle Mall and King William Street. The Haigh’s shop has been there since 1922!
I can’t believe that neither of us took a photo of the Beehive building. Stephen probably – quite plausibly – thought I’d be sure to take a photo of it… but alas I’ve come back without one. So here’s a photo from rundlemall.com.au. You can’t see it here, but there’s even a large bee at the top of the spike on the corner turret.
Past the end of the mall are the restaurants and cafes. Fish n chips, a cold beer, and a seat in the cool breeze was just the ticket to round out the day, and the pub at the end of Rundle St, car East Terrace, fitted the bill dry nicely. There was a surprising number of people out and about, for a Sunday night.
We walked off dinner by trying to find a supermarket open after 7pm, but it seems 5pm is closing time in the CBD. Fortunately there was one IGA that was open at 8pm on North Terrace, so we at least had breakfast supplies for the week.
Unlike the Brisbane City Council, who were dismantling their Christmas Tree in King Gorge Square as early as 27 December (they’re getting pretty grinchy in good ol’ Brissie), Adelaide’s Christmas tree in Victoria Square tree looked pretty plain during the day, but was very brightly lit with LEDs of a nighttime. Really lovely! I just wish I could find even one photo of it, however far away I was at the time. Damn. Instead here’s a link to Xenian’s webpage showing a short video of the Adelaide Christmas Tree at night in all it’s glory. They did a really top job! I’m so glad Adelaide City Council didn’t dismantle their Christmas Tree before we arrived.
After a late start (I was tired – and I wasn’t even the driver yesterday!) we walked a couple of blocks over to the Adelaide Central Market for breakfast and fresh food shopping.
The Market is not usually open of a Monday, but since they’ll be closed for New Years Day on Wednesday, a good number were open for business. There were plenty of fresh fruit & veg sellers, a few butchers, a couple of cheese stalls and a couple of fresh seafood places. Around the main fresh food market are permanent shops, but the majority of these were closed.
I can happily confirm that the cherries from the Adelaide hills are just as good as Victorian cherries, and cost the same price. The pink lady apples I bought, however, were definitely better.
Adelaide Zoo was our main destination for today. It was a warm day and we decided to walk along the river to get there. To get to the river we went through the Adelaide Railway Station. I learnt that it doesn’t have a name like Central Station, or North Terrace Station, because it is the only station in the city. It has 9 platforms and is the terminus for all incoming lines. The actual railway station part is below street level. When we walked down into the hallway I looked around and asked Stephen where the rest of the station was – but that’s all there is; basically just the hall and the platforms. The rest of the building that you see from street level is occupied by Adelaide Casino. Wow. What a shame. It is a lovely building though.
We could have caught one of the (3) Popeye ferries that travel between Elder Park and the Zoo, but it was faster to walk there and there was plenty of shade along the path.
The River Torrens isn’t very wide, and doesn’t flow very much. In fact, there are fountains along the river just to keep the water aerated. There are plenty of waterfowl around; Australian Wood Ducks by the score, probably at least half as many Pacific Black Ducks for good measure, numerous Dusky Moorhens and Eurasian Coots, although surprisingly few Purple Swamphens (or Pukeko, as the Maori call them). In this hot weather the ducks sit in the share of the trees along the grassy banks of the river. You can get quite close to them… don’t think I wasn’t tempted to trying catching one, but I behaved myself.
I’ve been to a few zoos (ok, so who hasn’t?) but must say I really enjoyed Adelaide Zoo. It seemed every time I turned around there was another enclosure, or it was only a short walk to the next lot – but mostly I think it was the grounds keeping that was the standout feature. Having beautiful tall trees and lots of plants everywhere – plenty of shade, especially on a hot day – is just heaven! (A couple of shared frozen drinks went down well, too.)
Of course, having lots of enclosures close together is one of the realities of keeping animals in captivity. How zoos deals with their limited space is interesting. One slightly puzzling example here is that recently one reasonable-sized corner of the grounds has been given over to robotic dinosaurs. Yes, I know there’s a link between extinction and conservation, but still, I would have thought the museum would have been better suited for this role? Or is that old-fashioned thinking now? Is this really the best use of that space?
Funi and Wang Wang, the giant pandas who are the zoo’s newest (living) star attractions have the largest and most luxurious enclosures. At the moment they don’t share quarters – there’s his side and her side, and pandas need quite a bit of room. You get treated to all manner of things when you’re representatives of an endangered species, popular with the public, and strongly encouraged to breed.
But I was pretty stoked to see some of our own native animals that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies, for instance. Much smaller than what I thought they were, and so cute. And speaking of cute, I can now say I’ve seen a living Fat-tailed Dunnart and two Bilbies in the Nocturnal House. The Ghost Bats were interesting to see up close too. There were plenty of Australian birds to admire in a number of averies around, including a 2-part walk-through avery.
Of the exotic animal enclosures I think my favourite was that of the Dusky Langurs. Imagine – using a real tree in an enclosure! Brilliant!
We really enjoyed our day at Adelaide Zoo.
> Adelaide Part 2: Harndorf, Mt Lofty, SA Museum, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Glenelg
> Adelaide Part 3: National Motor Museum, Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, SA State Library, Haigh’s Chocolate Factory Tour, Jolley’s Boathouse Restaurant