This article is written in partnership with Travelbag who I travelled to Australia with, from the bottom (Kangaroo Island) to the top (Darwin) by plane, train and automobile. This view of Australia is very much through my lens, supported by the Travelbag range of tours and products.
My first trip to Australia was 11 years ago on holiday with friends. Predictably, to Sydney, and I loved every minute. I was curious but as a professional contrarian I had avoided the year in Australia which most Irish people tend to do at some point. I never even planned to go to Australia, it seemed too close to home even though it is so far away. A friend moved there and another friend was keen to go so I decided I would try it. Australia proved to be surprising and exciting, and I have now been back 4 times. Each time I have experienced something completely different.
Australia is a place that I have developed a deep affection for. The lifestyle is gorgeous, people are very friendly, and there is a very laid back air there and a general joie de vivre. It is a fun place to visit. The food and drink scene is vibrant, Australians know and love their food and have high expectations of every eatery who usually deliver.
Australia is enormous and there is so much to explore, on this trip I went to two new areas as I travelled from the southern tip to the north: South Australia and the Northern Territory stopping in the red centre on the way from Kangaroo Island to Darwin via Adelaide. It was an excellent trip and I am excited to share my stories and experiences from there.
Adelaide – Capital of South Australia
Adelaide is an underrated city. Not by Australians, who call it Radelaide after a recent renaissance, but by travellers. Outshone somewhat by Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide surprises and is more than worth your attention. I want to go back and explore further, there is so much to see and do. It is also an excellent place to start a trip, being big enough to provide lots of interest, but small enough to be gentle and manageable for those keen on a gentle start to ease out of jet lag.
Nestled in the hills surrounding and on the sea, Adelaide has lots of charm. There are 18 wine regions to explore, beaches, art galleries and many day trip opportunities to surrounding South Australia. Kangaroo Island is nearby, a must for wildlife obsessives and those seeking to slow down for a little while. Within the surrounding wine regions are some of Australias best (Barossa and Adelaide Hills just to start). In total there are 200 cellar doors, all a relatively short drive from the CBD downtown (and if you haven’t been to Australia before, get to know the term CBD, the Central Business District aka downtown). The surrounding wine regions have different microclimates and very different wines, making each glass interesting.
In terms of eating and drinking, Adelaide is quite exciting. A diverse range of local wines from those 18 wine regions, lots of small producers that you would never find at home, and very interesting spirits. Green Ant Gin, a product of a collaboration between Something Wild in Adelaide Central Market and Adelaide Hills Distillery is one of the most interesting gins that I have tasted (and I brought a bottle home). The gin is infused with green ants, who with bright green abdomens also taste of lime sherbet, surprising and sublime.
There is plenty of choice in terms of restaurants. Adelaide’s Orana was named Australia’s Restaurant of the Year by Gourmet Traveller just recently. I was overwhelmed by choice for my 5 day visit there, leaving with a list of restaurants to return to, and return I will.
Where to Eat and Drink in Adelaide
If you love coffee, Australian coffee culture is exciting and there are some great options in Adelaide. I went to Exchange Speciality Coffee almost every day. Super friendly service, great coffee and good food. Sit in the window for some people watching. My Kingdom for a Horse is also gorgeous, great coffee and fermented drinks like kombucha, with a lovely food menu too.
Exchange Speciality Coffee, 1-3/12-18 Vardon Ave, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
My Kingdom for a Horse, 191 Wright St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
A slice of Tokyo in downtown Adelaide, Shobosho serves terrific food. I loved the Kingfish tataki, the pork and cabbage dumplings and the Mayura station wagyu kushiyaki. On the side some lovely local wines by the glass, a Pet Nat from Riverland in SA and a Carignan from the Barossa.
Shobosho, 17 Leigh St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
I went to Peel St for breakfast and loved everything on the plate, but I adored the 80s playlist. Treat yourself to a seat in the window with one of Adelaide’s best fry ups (I particularly loved the watercress and sumac on top which brightened everything). The menu otherwise looks terrific also.
Peel St, 9 Peel St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
Press Food and Wine
Head to Press to explore local food and drinks. I ate downstairs which is walk in only. I loved the coffin bay oysters and the crispy pigs ears (if you ever se these on a menu, order them immediately). Beautiful food that is very well presented.
Press* Food and Wine, 40 Waymouth St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
Botanic Gardens Restaurant
There is so much to love about this restaurant. The walk there through the gorgeous Botanic Gardens, the circular glass walled room looking out at the lush greenery, and the menu. I went for lunch and did the a la carte, my table facing the window. As a solo diner this was a treat, I could do a whole treatise on awkward solo dining tables. The food was wonderful and the service charming. Lovely wine list too.
Botanic Gardens Restaurant, Plane Tree Dr, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
I didn’t make it to Orana this time as I can’t do a large tasting menu while really jet lagged at the start of a trip (this is something I have learned as I have travelled), instead I went to their sister restaurant downstairs, Bistro Blackwood, saving Orana for another time when my body can best appreciate it. A passion for local ingredients and drinks was matched with enthusiastic service. I had local oysters and an excellent tartare and a surprising young coconut curry which was divine (and vegan!).
Bistro Blackwood, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
Adelaide Central Market
See the Adelaide Central Market Tour below for more details.
Adelaide Central Market, 44/60 Gouger St, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia
Exploring In Around Adelaide including Barossa and Adelaide Hills
There are many Travelbag tours suitable for food and wine lovers. I chose the following four.
Afternoon Adelaide Highlights & River Cruise – Gray Line Adelaide
An introduction to Adelaide via this bus and river cruise tour starts the trip nicely. The river tour is relaxed and lovely, the Adelaide tour mainly takes you outside of Adelaide and introduces you to the views at Mount Lofty, followed by some time at Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German town. The tour includes an afternoon tea or beer tasting at the Hahndorf Inn. There is also free time to explore, I would highly recommend visiting the Hersey cellar door and the Adelaide Hills Wine Centre both of which offer tastings.
Barossa Food & Wine Experience – Adelaide Sightseeing
The tour starts at Tearo Estate tasting room , a cute family run winery. Their Pruners Reward’ Fortified wine is particularly good. A shiraz grenache blend, quite like a tawny port. On next to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. Set on a lake complete with turtles, this is a gorgeous space where you can relax over a coffee or wine, or stock up on some of Maggie’s produce including a delicious passion fruit curd and Pheasant Farm Wines and Beer Brothers Wines. For lunch we headed to Lambert Estate where we started with a lovely mixed platter followed by pasta and dessert, accompanied by a wine tasting. Our final stop at Pindarie (part sheep farm and part winery) followed a gorgeous drive and scenic stop with some lovely wines (and tasting) in a beautiful setting and time to sit back and enjoy it.
Adelaide Hills & Hahndorf Hideaway – Adelaide’s Top Food and Wine Tours
Starting at the Mount Lofty lookout with views over Adelaide and the sea, this intimate small group tour takes you to Woodside Cheese, Melba’s Chocolate Factory and Beerenberg Strawberry Farm where in season you can pick strawberries, or indulge in their produce in their farm shop. Then on to explore the Adelaide Hills wine region with two cellar doors, Bird in Hand and Sidewood where I especially loved the basket pressed ciders. Lunch is at a German beer hall, The German Arms, in Australia’s oldest German town, Hahndorf. Followed by time to explore before heading back to Adelaide.
Adelaide Central Market Tour
Adelaide Central Market is an essential stop with 80 specialist food and drink stalls. A perfect way to explore it is the gourmet walking tour established by Mark Gleeson of the largest fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere visited by over 1.2 million people per month.The tour starts with breakfast at old school Italian Lucia’s (where I had eggs poached in chilli tomato sauce) followed by a 2 hour tour and tasting. Highlights were the Something Wild stall featuring native and wild foods where I had my first taste of green ants (they taste like lime sherbet), the Kangaroo Island stall which stocks everything from Kangaroo Island from their Ligurian honey to gin to wine and soap, wonderful home cooked Ukrainian food (and handmade flower crowns) and local and international cheeses at the Smelly Cheese Shop. Try the bum burner from the Mettwurst stall also (surely only in Australia?!) and the awesome Russian savoury yeasted bread stuffed with beef and rice. Go hungry.
Next in the series: Kangaroo Island, coming soon! For more information on travelling to South Australia with Travelbag head over to the South Australia section on their website.