Forget the “City of Churches”. Why Adelaide should be known as the “City of Festivals”

Last year when I visited South Australia I completely bypassed the city and went straight to coastal town Middleton. While Middleton was stunning and reminded me a lot of Perth, I was very eager this time around to unveil the mystery around the city of Adelaide itself. Mad March has become nationally recognised as the time to travel to this great city and everyone who knows me, knows I love a good festival experience.

When planning for a weekend trip over this season, a central and convenient location to all festival hubs is paramount. I stayed at the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel which really was smack-bang in the centre of Adelaide’s CBD. Not only were the staff friendly and helpful – shout out to Shaun at concierge (we bonded over all things Fringe and comedy) – the hotel itself was gorgeous. The room was generous in size and the fact I got to indulge in a king size bed all too myself was the icing on the cake. While I didn’t spend much time in the hotel, except for a quick brekkie in the morning and to sleep, it was the perfect place to call home for the weekend. Hot tip: at this time of year a lot of the comedians actually stay there too! So seeing Tommy Little, Judith Lucy and Denise Scott just casually in the hotel lobby and walking to the Fringe Festival Hub was pretty exciting, and definitely added to the hype of Mad March.

Before arriving to Adelaide I was told everything is in in close enough proximity to walk to and from shows and venues. Admittedly, I was a little bit sceptical but seriously, we walked everywhere. It was as if everything was a five minute walk from each other, and you know what, it was another great way to immerse yourself in the bustle of Adelaide’s cityscape and observe the happenings all around you. Rundle Mall was buzzing with buskers and Fringe performers, as city slickers perused the stores. And yes, while I may have done a spot of shopping, my aim for the trip was a full immersive experience in all things arts and culture.

Let the adventure begin.

Adelaide Festival

Over two and a half weeks, Adelaide Festival offers a programme glittering with local and international works. The beauty of this time of year is the ability to catch multiple shows a day, which for any theatre lover, is a dream day out. Amazingly, I was able to see two incredible works both differing in subject matter and location. What turned out to be one of the most unique and gobsmacking theatre experiences of my life was seeing Simon McBurney in The Encounter. This totally bonkers work pushed the technical boundaries of any sensory show I’d seen, forcing a full body readjustment and an open mind. If ever you see this UK actor on a line-up of any form, you must book tickets because his creativity will leave you spellbound.

The Encounter at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival

Probably my stand out moment from this trip though had to be seeing The Secret River at The Quarry. What an absolute dreamscape it was. It’s so rare to see performances in an outdoor setting these days, or perhaps that’s just because I live in Melbourne and we have four seasons in one day? Either way, for a show that covers subject matter as fragile as our Australian settlement, this was the perfect way to lose yourself in the story. There were so many chilling moments throughout the piece, but the tenderness of song and the beauty of our natural Australian landscape enriched the experience and lifted the storyline to new heights. It was an absolute privilege to see this show. I just hope many more Australians get to feel what I felt.

The Secret River at The Quarry, Adelaide Festival

If you’re looking for something fun and a little bit different to do at Adelaide Festival, why not sign up for one of their Long Lunch Series down at The Riverbank Palais? It features a rotation of local chefs who create a menu inspired by their times in Adelaide; a fantastic way to showcase Adelaide’s food and wine region I say. I was delighted to enjoy the creations of Mark Best, whose hearty and wholesome meal saw me rolling out of there, ready to burn off the calories at WOMADelaide. The overall decor and set up was simple and clean with music setting the mood, but what I loved most about this experience was dining with and meeting new people, and discussing other things they’ve done during the festival or what else they have planned.

Smoked Angus Brisket with potato salad and cauliflower pickle, Long Lunch Series Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Fringe Festival

I’d heard about the Fringe of all Fringe’s for years but was never able to get myself to Adelaide for the godfather of all events. All I can say is, I’ll be back. This is what a festival and it’s line-up should embody; artists who are entertaining, daring and fearless. Having seen friends of mine go nuts on social media about The Garden of Unearthly Delights I was more than excited to see this twinkling pop-up in all its glory, and I can assure you, it lived up to every expectation I had. I felt like a kid all over again, but also a vixen of the night.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Adelaide Fringe Festival

There’s something alluring about this Fringe hot spot – it’s playful yet somewhat outlandish. It  is the perfect setting to bring the family and enjoy a selection of foods from local vendors, perhaps have a drink from one of the many bars or, get along to a few of the shows. Naturally, I did all of the above! Fringe is all about having fun and shows that will have you either think outside the square or just plain laugh. It was a jam-packed night for my friends and I as we watched Kevin Quantum: IlluminationsBlanc de Blanc and Betty Grumble in Sex Clown Saves The WorldThree shows in one night all covering a variety of themes; I’d say that’s money well spent and a good time all round.

Betty Grumble in ‘Sex Clown Saves The World’, Adelaide Fringe Festival

WOMADelaide

I cannot express to you how much music is a part of my every fibre. I live and breathe it every day, so to be able to exist in a space where world music is a universal language had me feeling all sorts of elation. Just a mere 10-minute walk from the CBD is an oasis of musical splendour where families, hippies, young lovers and grandparents can all share in what is a truly special festival. Having won the Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Festival and getting to be a part of it made me realise how deserving it was of the top honour. Surprisingly,  I only knew two artists on the Sunday line-up, but I honestly believe that the objective of such a festival is to wander around the gardens and allow yourself to be pulled in every which direction your ears are pricked. I’ve been to a lot of festivals over the years but this hands down has been the most culturally enriching, and I think everyone has to experience it at least once in their life. It is a worldwide festival too, so you could catch it on your travels somewhere. That would be epic!

Sinkane at WOMADelaide 2017

Adelaide Hills

It’s always nice to get out of the city and there really are a number of destinations in South Australia to explore. On my adventure, I experienced a snippet of the Adelaide Hills starting at Mount Lofty, which has a picturesque lookout from the top of Adelaide’s highest peak. The panoramic view was stunning especially seeing how green Adelaide is, and learning about the history of the area was really quite insightful. The main destination of the trip though was Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German town dating back to 1839. I definitely had a Toto we’re not in Kansas any more moment. The main street is lined with cafes, shops and accommodation hot spots with people strolling along soaking up the other worldly little town. Amazingly, all of the architecture remains true to the German styling, which is definitely one of the key factors to visiting this place.

An idea of the German architecture in Hahndorf

Oh, and the fact that they have a famous chocolate shop at which I spent $72! Easter came early in my life what can I say. Be sure to check out Chocolate @ No 5 and go nuts. They’ve won gold numerous times and are renowned for their salted caramel.

Where to buy the best chocolate in South Australia

Where to eat?

1. A trip to the famous Adelaide Central Market is essential, what with all the fresh produce and cute eateries. So, for a rustic, home-cooked Italian lunch you must check out Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar. The servings are generous, the pasta sauce is rich and the price is just right.

Another busy lunch service at Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar, Adelaide Central Market

2. For a chic night out in the city Osteria Oggi will have your sophisticated palate satisfied. Order a range of starters to share, but make the cured swordfish a non negotiable. It will melt on your tongue and set you up for your main, which of course has to be a pasta considering this is a pasta bar. While all of the pastas look and sound delicious, you can’t go past their most popular blue swimmer crab tagliatelle. It was out of this world amazing!

Cured Swordfish, Osteria Oggi
Blue Swimmer Crab Tagliatelle, Osteria Oggi

3. While exploring the Adelaide Hills, new kid on the block The Summertown Aristologist in Summertown is the latest go-to for wining and dining. The seasonal menu speaks of the local produce and matched with the local wines, you really could be there all afternoon. Aaron Fenwick is the mastermind behind this new venture and has already set the bar high for quality food and service. They already grow their own veggies, mill their own flower, grind their own coffee and make their own cheese, but Fenwick has a lot of vibrant ideas for further growing the business.

Smoked Carrots, The Summertown Aristologist
Wine o’clock at The Summertown Aristologist

What else to do?

If all of this isn’t adventure-filled enough, and you’re looking for something a little more daring and thrill-seeking, then you definitely need to book in for the Adelaide Oval Roof Climb. Surprisingly, this is the first of its kind in Australia, other than the Harbour Bridge, but to be able to have panoramic views of Adelaide’s CBD and beyond is just mesmerising. I also got very lucky on this day because they were setting up all the staging and lighting for Adele‘s concert. Insane how detailed it was. At the half way point of the climb there is a point where you can lean out over the edge and test your fears. At first, you’ll be fearing the worst but once you settle in, it really is quite a liberating moment. Hot tip: BREATHE!!

Life’s too short to play it safe, Adelaide Oval Roof Climb

I really can’t speak highly enough of my time in Adelaide and since I’ve been back, I’ve been telling my friends, colleagues and family that it is a must add to their travel itinerary. Whether you’re a couple looking for a weekend out of the big city, a young family taking your first holiday or a solo traveller making the most of life, Adelaide has a bit if everything for everyone. Mad March is a crazy time to go, but who ever said crazy was a bad thing!? I’ll be returning as often as I can to experience new things and relive some fond memories.

Clearly I dressed for the occasion at the Adelaide Festival

The writer visited Adelaide as a guest of SA Tourism Commission