With bustling beaches, endless art festivals and a thriving dining and bar scene, seeing the suburbs is the way to the heart of Adelaide.
Adelaide is home to more than three-quarters of South Australia’s population, but you would never know it. The city has maintained its small-town feel with plenty of transport options that make it one of the easiest places to get around. Take advantage of this accessibility and see some of the suburban hubs in and around the city. From the beachside suburbs of Glenelg and Semaphore to the bustling streets of the northern suburbs and the up and coming area of Port Adelaide, we’ve put together a guide to the coolest suburbs of Adelaide.
Port Adelaide is still a working seaport, just 14 kilometres (9 miles) north-west of Adelaide's city centre, but it has also become quite the hipster hotspot. Visitors pour into the neighbourhood for its incredible street art, history and fantastic foodie haunts.
The food and drink scene in Port Adelaide is a great place to start your explorations. Have your first coffee at Folklore, which is built on stilts overlooking the Port River. People from all over Adelaide travel to La Popular Taqueria for their authentic menu of Mexican favourites, while the recently refurbished Port Admiral Hotel serves up a classic Aussie menu of fish and chips using only the freshest seafood. Book ahead to try Low & Slow American BBQ, an authentic southern style banquet of smoked and slow-cooked finger-licking meats, and then grab a takeaway Nutella-filled mini croissant from Mayfair Bakery, established back in 1870, while you take in the sites of the Port. The Wild at Hart Fresh Food Market also attracts a regular crowd and is open every Sunday from 9am, offering a huge range of organic produce, baked goods and specialty artisan foods.
For a hit of culture, stop by Cult & Harper, an art gallery, studio space and retail store located on St Vincent Street, and Fontanelle, a historic space showcasing contemporary art exhibitions. If you’re visiting in March, don’t miss the Wonderwalls Street Art Festival to see local and international artists create inspired murals in the neighbourhood’s laneways.
History buffs will also love Port Adelaide. Since 1837 it has played an important role in connecting South Australia to the rest of the world, so it's fitting that the South Australian Maritime Museum is located here. There are plenty of watercraft to explore, including sailing vessels from different eras, and a diesel-powered schooner built in 1883. The National Railway Museum is one of Australia’s largest with more than 100 exhibits to explore. Adelaide's Haunted Horizons offers spooky ghost tours of the museum most Friday evenings. And for the aviation enthusiasts, the South Australian Aviation Museum showcases a range of aircraft, engines, propellers and memorabilia.
Finally, no trip to Port Adelaide is complete without a visit to the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, home to about 30 bottlenose dolphins, and another 400 who visit the area regularly. Spot them playing, socialising and nursing their calves with a kayak tour. Finish off your Port Adelaide adventure with a much needed cool beverage at Pirate Life Tap-House, a converted wool-store in the heritage maritime precinct. This 300-seat brewery has been decked out with murals, a bar the length of a cricket pitch, a tasting room and 24-taps providing raw and rustic ambience with an edge.
Semaphore is a charming beachside suburb 14 kilometres (9 miles) from central Adelaide, with plenty of seaside character. The simplest place to start would be Semaphore Road, one of Adelaide's widest boulevards and home to heritage buildings, funky boutiques, antique shops, café, restaurants and pubs.
Hire one of the city’s free bikes (pick it up from Discovery Parks Caravan Park) and explore the foreshore for a good overview of the area. This forms part of the Coast Park Path, a 70-kilometre (44-mile) walking and cycling track along Adelaide's metropolitan coastline.
Catch your breath and refuel at Ink Espresso with a coffee and one of their delicious pancake stacks, served with your choice of fresh berries, maple syrup, lemon and sugar, or Nutella. Enjoy the beer garden at the Sweet Amber Brew Café, which serves brews from micro-breweries and showcases some of South Australia's best cheeses, cured meats and artisan bread. Barry’s Burgers are notoriously the best in Semaphore, using the highest quality preservative-free grass-fed beef and daily baked buns. And if you’re after some good old "pub grub" (Australian slang for pub food), swing past historic The Fed on Semaphore, built in 1865, with live music on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
Semaphore Road ends at the grassy Semaphore Foreshore Reserve, where you'll find the beach, and beyond that, the emerald green sea. Head to Sotos Fish Shop for award-winning fish and chips. It’s a hotspot for landmarks like the Semaphore Jetty, built in 1860, and the stone Time Ball Tower, constructed in 1875 to enable ships at sea to align their navigation instruments. The foreshore also has a mini-golf course, a 70-metre (230-foot) water slide, and the largest operating carousel in Australia, built in 1928.
Semaphore is buzzing during the summer months with a constantly rotating schedule of events, including the Semaphore Summer Carnival, the Semaphore Music Festival held on the beach and Foreshore Reserve. Be sure to check out the Adelaide International Kite Festival and the Semaphore Street Fair at the end of November.
Adelaide's West End
Adelaide’s West End is a bustling entertainment hub and home to some of Adelaide’s hottest bars and restaurants. You’ll find it all happening just a 10-minute walk from the city centre.
Start at Peel Street, a laneway that’s bursting at the seams with delicious restaurants, bistros and cafes, like La Moka, a hole-in-the-wall eatery that serves a traditional Italian breakfast of brioche and coffee. Pop into Bread & Bone Wood Grill on Peel Street, for gourmet burgers and hotdogs, local wines and beers from boutique breweries. Or, for a mix of Asian, Middle Eastern and European flavours, try the aptly named Peel Street restaurant. If you fancy something more traditional, turn into Leigh Street and drop into Rigoni’s Bistro. It's an Adelaide institution that excels in old school Italian classics, like risotto and osso buco.
To digest all of that delicious food, take a stroll up to Morphett Street and visit the JamFactory. No, this isn’t a condiment shop, this is a not-for-profit centre for the arts. It has four purpose-built studios that cater to students working with ceramics, furniture, metal and glass, and smaller studios for local artists too, with much of this work available to buy at their retail shop on site. Next, visit the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art on North Terrace, where contemporary art exhibitions are displayed over two floors in the architecturally unique Hawke Building.
Once evening comes, you can return to the intimate laneway bars on Peel and Leigh streets, like Clever Little Tailor, a cool buzzing bar with a speakeasy feel. Mellow out at the Art Deco-inspired Maybe Mae, an opulent basement bar with leather booths and mirrored walls. Or hit up the Pink Moon Saloon, a tiny, triangle-shaped venue that’s sandwiched between two towers on Leigh Street. When you’re ready for something a little more substantial to eat, try the sustainably-sourced Mediterranean menu at Paloma Bar, or some traditional Spanish tapas at Udaberri on Leigh Street, and at La Rambla Tapas Bar. Finish your West End adventure with a drink at the slick Hennessey Rooftop Bar on top of the Mayfair Hotel, or at 2KW Bar and Restaurant, both conveniently located on the same street with the very best views of the city.
When the mercury rises, you can guarantee that a large portion of the city population migrates to the beaches. Glenelg is a bustling beach-adjacent neighbourhood that happens to be just a 25-minute tram ride from the city centre.
Arrive early to secure your day bed at the Moseley Beach Club, Adelaide’s coolest summer venue. It has a kid’s zone so you can bring the whole family and be sure to book ahead for a table at their al fresco restaurant. Or pop into The Organik Store & Café for a green breakky bowl that’ll make you feel more wholesome for just ordering it.
A trip to Glenelg is not complete without a famous dolphin swim. Reserve a spot with Temptation Sailing for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, swimming alongside the incredible local dolphin population. Alternatively, if you’re visiting in the wintertime, visit the Glenelg Winter Wonderland, with an ice-skating ring that will keep the kids entertained for hours. After all these activities you’ll be wanting a snack, and Oyster Bar will supply the goods. A household name to locals, you’ll be presented with a collection of South Australian oysters prepared with innovative dressing or simply ‘as is’, served perfectly matched with top wines.
Finish your day with a stroll on the coastal trail along the picturesque South Esplanade or hit the boutiques on Jetty Road. Don’t miss the giant Ferris Wheel located right on the foreshore, for spectacular views of the whole suburb and beyond. Time your loop with the sunset, then follow this up with a walk through the Glenelg Sunset Markets. With over 40 amazing stalls, including local food, makers and creatives set to a backdrop of live music, you could easily pass hours here. End your Glenelg visit with a cocktail at the Marina Sunset Bar, and a grilled seafood feast at The Wharf.
A short 15-minute drive from the city will get you to the iconic seaside neighbourhood of Henley Beach. A pristine stretch of coast spans the entire length of the suburb, so it’s only fitting that most activities tend to revolve around the beach and being outdoors.
Start your day with a coffee and a delicious breakfast bowl from 303 by the Sea, before you hit the sand. Or if you want something to go, pick up a traditional German pastry from the Bakers of Henley, baked fresh each morning. If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday, drop into the Organic & Sustainable Market, held every week at Henley Beach Primary School, regarded by many as the best in the city. Or, if you’re travelling on the last Sunday of the month, the Henley Square Market features specialty arts and craft stalls, food, fashion and live music, as well as activities and rides for children.
When lunchtime looms, make your way to the Ramsgate Hotel, a much-loved local institution known for its vibrant vibe, live entertainment, and classic pub menu. It’s bustling at all hours of the day and night, as is the Henley Beach Hotel, another casual establishment located right on the foreshore. Finish your lunch on a sweet note with a creamy gelato from Bottega Italiana. All of their flavours are made fresh on site each day, and you can watch the gelato masters at work behind the counter.
The best way to pass an afternoon is on the pier, be it fishing, sunbathing, or people watching, it is the heart of Henley Beach. Walk up and down the esplanade and be sure to grab a seat at the Surf Life Saving Club in time to watch the sunset. For dinner, Mia Margarita serves a menu of Mexican-fusion almost as colourful as its pastel-coloured walls. Order their famous trash can tacos, and sip on a margarita while watching the waves crash down. Or for something a little more refined, Secrets by the Sea is a family-owned seafood restaurant with a dedicated menu of all things seafood.
Perched on high ground, with grand historic homes and picturesque views over downtown Adelaide, North Adelaide is a secluded neighbourhood in the heart of the city. Getting there is as simple as following King William Road (which transitions into O’Connell Street) from Rundle Mall, which will take no more than 30 minutes by foot. This walking tour will take you over the meandering River Torrens, past the famous Adelaide Oval, and through some of the lush greenery that circles the suburb.
Start your day with a freshly baked apple turnover from Perryman’s Artisan Bakery, who has been baking on-site for over 80 years. Then make your way down O’Connell Street, the main vein of North Adelaide, where you’ll pass plenty of places to eat, shop, and drink. Melbourne Street is another bustling thoroughfare, and here you can find Coco Flamingo, a vegan eatery that could easily be in Byron Bay, serving kombucha and nourish bowls made to be ’grammed. If meat is more your motto, than head nearby to Burgastronomy, who make some of the best burgers in town. The street signage says all it needs to: burgers, beer, cider.
Before you go, be sure to spend at least one evening doing as the locals do and enjoying the afternoon watching the local Adelaide Crows play a game of AFL (Australian Football League) at their home ground, the Adelaide Oval. The season runs from March to September, and locals will generally head to the Queens Head Hotel – in operation since 1838 – after a match to either commiserate or celebrate with a beer.