I like Adelaide. I know, it’s not regional Australia and I have sworn to forever dislike cities. (Though I think, like Perth, Adelaide might be considered regional as far as the Federal Government is concerned, eg for migration?)
Anyway, Adelaide has much to recommend it – especially for someone like me who enjoys the outdoors, cycling, history, arts and grand old architecture. Oh, and did I mention the National Wine Centre of Australia? 🙂
Within my first week of being there, I heard three times about South Australia being the only state that was settled without the presence of convicts. They’re pretty proud of that! And they credit all sorts of things to that happy occurrence of history – like the fact that the botanic garden was established so soon (in the 1850’s), and the fact the settlement had a library collection growing in England before people even arrived here! (it took some time to get a building to house them in though). That’s some foresight! Ironically enough, the concept for the free settlement of Adelaide was hatched whilst the thinking man involved languished in prison in England … I think that’s pretty funny. It was also notable that the original city planners didn’t build a gaol as they figured they wouldn’t need to – didn’t they find out they were wrong!
Adelaide, like our national capital, was a carefully planned city – albeit much earlier. Colonel Light was the surveyor charged with setting out the city, beginning his mission in the 1830’s and dying way too young and before it was all complete. Someone told me that as he was a military man the city is planned on military principals – apparently because of the threat of invasion by the Russians and French: the ring of parklands that still surrounds the CBD was a defensive move – easier to see the enemy advancing through open parkland than dense city blocks; the squares that dot the CBD are strategically sized to enable gun placements; Victoria Square – right in the centre of the CBD – affords great visibility down the four widest approaches to the city. Even the alignment of the streets was apparently carefully managed so as to take advantage of prevailing winds that would blow away the unpleasant smells that inevitably emerged from mid 19th century life. Fascinating. However my own research turned up none of the compelling military facts related! What I did find out is that the parklands were designed to ensure better health of the settlement and its citizens. Clever man.
Whatever the true backstory to the parklands is – wow, what a difference they make! I think the parks, more than any other aspect, makes Adelaide feel less of a big nasty city and a whole lot more civilised. Not only do you have the ring of parklands surrounding the CBD and North Adelaide, making the CBD more palatable, Linear Park is a bit of a marvel. This is continuous parkland that runs the whole length of the River Torrens from its source in the Adelaide Hills right down through the suburbs and CBD to West Beach. Along it’s length, a continuous dual use pathway winds it’s way through the city, often running both sides of the river with lots of little bridges allowing for crossings.
I have really enjoyed cycling, jogging and walking along nearly 9kms of the river and Linear Park so far – between the CBD and the caravan park where I’m staying, and a little further along to the east. And there were always other people out being active too, that always helps. One morning I saw a koala clambering about on a bank up from the path less than one km from the caravan park. I’d never seen one in the wild before, so that was quite exciting for me! I went back later to see if it was ok – I don’t believe it’s normal for them to be on the ground! – and it was happily back up in the tree, snoozing. (they sleep 18-21 hours of every day!). I suspect maybe he fell out of the tree? I did find droppings and a wet patch on the path below where I saw him. The drop-bear indeed!
From the CBD inland, the river and parkland is also criss-crossed by the O-Bahn Busway. This is a fascinating piece of public transport engineering that had me staring in wonderment when I first happened upon it – I wonder if the many drivers who saw me standing transfixed just outside the barrier fences that day wondered if I was mad! I had asked a friend about how it worked, an Adelaidean, and didn’t get much clarity – only that it wasn’t a train, and it wasn’t a tram, but it was more than a normal bus.
Google helped me to learn that it’s a dedicated bus track that allows fast public transport (up to 100kph) using specially adapted buses that have guide wheels just in front of the normal front wheels. These keep the bus in the groove and on track, and protect the main tyres from rubbing along the edges. The driver effectively doesn’t have to do much once the bus is on the busway as it is self-guiding, but of course stays alert to ensure slowing in time for the stations and interchanges along the way (there are only 3).
Then there’s the tram of course to Glenelg – not as picturesque as I remembered from when I visited here with my family in 1980! It was still the traditional old tram then. Glenelg itself I’m not overly keen on – all the new development along the foreshore – the new marina and all the high rise apartments etc – just feels a bit bland and could-be-anywhere. (pretty as the beach itself is). I much prefer Semaphore as a seaside town – the relatively untouched beachfrontage stretching for kilometres there is so welcoming and unassuming.
What else can I say to recommend the place? The Central Markets? Awesome. When I visited Melbourne earlier this year the Queen Vic Markets left me a little cold, but the Central Markets in Adelaide captured my heart almost immediately. Excellent arts and cultural offerings – I was so lucky to catch a Newton Faulkner gig at Fowlers Live. Awesome. What a man. Fantastic and historic state cultural institutions like the Museum, the Art Gallery, Botanic Gardens and the State Library. A bustling outdoor beach volleyball centre in the centre of the CBD, complete with blond and bronzed bikini clad umpire girl on a day when it definitely wasn’t warm enough to be wearing only a bikini… Japanese garden, historic cemetery with interpreted walk trails, a car dealership building with real cars parked in the window of the second and third stories.
Yep, I’m a country girl, impressed by the oddest of things.