A walk around Central Adelaide
A day-long walk
If you choose to do this entire walk, and see all the sights, it could easily last you a whole day. The main stretch of the walk covers 4 km.
Start plumb in the middle of the city centre at Victoria Square. This has a fountain, and is a popular meeting place for local Aborigines. At the southern corner of the square is The Supreme Court of South Australia is housed.
From Victoria Square head south-west down Grote Street and on your left you’ll come to the Adelaide Central Market (see www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au for its variable opening times). Besides the usual ripe fruit and riper language of any city produce market, you’ll also find some particularly good Malaysian and Chinese takeaways, if you fancy a snack before setting out on the main section of your walk. To do this, return to Victoria Square.
At the northern corner of the square is the Telecommunications Museum, which includes some quaint relics from the Pre-information Super-highway Era.
From here leave Victoria Square by taking the road that leads north: King William Street. This is Adelaide’s main street. As you enter the street you will see the former Building on your right, and the GPO on your left. A short distance further on you will see the Town Hall on your right. This neo-Renaissance building dates from 1866, and is said to be modelled on a palace in Florence – which presumably did not incorporate the faces of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on its facade.
Continue across the junction with Grenfell Street, and on your left, at the corner with Hindley Street, you will see Edmund Wright House. This also is in the ornate Neo-Renaissance style, and was built in 1876 by the same man as was responsible for the Town Hall: Edmund Wright. It was intended as the residence of the Bishop of South Australia. The inside of this building is almost as uninteresting as its outside, but if you’re passing by around Wednesday midday you might like to call in here for one of their excellent lunchtime concerts.
From here, cross over to the other side of King William Street and continue north-east down Rundle Mall. This is central Adelaide’s main shopping area, and has a number of pleasant cafés and arcades. It’s also where Adelaide keeps its ‘Balls’: a shiny silver sculpture of two suitably enlarged balls, one perched on top of the other. Beyond Rundle Mall you come to lively Rundle Street. This area is even better for open air cafés, and also has a number of smart yuppie bar-restaurants. Here you’re liable to be served minimal designer cuisine as minimal as that eaten by designers anywhere, with no expense spared (for you). Non-sophisticates who aren’t on expense accounts should head for 205 Rundle Street, the home of the justly famous Austral Hotel (www.theaustral.com.au). This is popular with students from the nearby university and serves some of the best counter meals you’ll find in Australia. (Oh yes, and they also serve beer.)
Rundle Street is also famous for its Market (Sun only). This sells everything from alternative nonsense to pure commercial tat, and some quite worthwhile stuff in between. It is great for the sort of outrageous fashion that it’s always so reassuring to see someone else wearing.
Retrace your footsteps back-up Rundle Mall to the crossing with Pulteney Street, and here turn right. This quickly brings you to the T-junction with North Terrace. Across the street is the University of Adelaide, which opened in 1874. The entire university was originally housed in the neo-Gothic Mitchell building, on whose first floor is the Museum of Classical Archaeology (www.hss.adelaide.edu.au/classics/museum). This isn’t even as interesting as it sounds, and you’re much better off continuing west along North Terrace to the superb Art Gallery of South Australia (www.artgallery.sa.gov.au).
This is one of the best public galleries in Australia, with a collection ranging from Aborigine and early colonial art to 20thC works. The colonial art may not be world class, but many canvases convey the atmosphere of early Australia in highly evocative fashion. The 20thC collection is world class – and there’s more here than Sidney Nolan. They even have works by some of the British Bloomsbury Group, and a cast of the Eros statue which stands in London’s Piccadilly Circus.
Next door to the Art Gallery, west along North Terrace, you come to the South Australian Museum (www.samuseum.sa.gov.au ). This has the famous whale skeleton, as well as a collection of extremely interesting Aborigine artefacts. It is the largest collection of its kind in Australia (and, indeed, in the world). Alas for us, but fortunately for the Aborigines, some of the prize exhibits (such as those of religious significance) have now been returned to their rightful owners. But to make up for this there’s an interesting video which features the Ngarrindjeri people and their dreamtime story.
By now you might feel in need of a rest, and next door in the State Library (www.slsa.sa.gov.au) there’s a pleasant magazine room where you can leaf through all the latest Australian magazines and pretend you’re doing some important historical research. If you fancy doing some real research here you can look up old papers in the archives.
After your well-earned rest, take a detour right off North Terrace up Kintore Avenue, and on your right you’ll see the Migration Museum, www.migration.history.sa.gov.au. This museum is unique in Australia, and tells the sad and often bad story of the European settlement of the continent. It is housed in the building which used to be Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum, where the immigrants who fell on hard times were forced to lodge. The guided tour is particularly informative.
Retrace your steps back to North Terrace, and turn right (west).
At the junction with King William Street, you will see ahead to your right the classical columned facade of Parliament House. This took an astonishing 50 years to build, because no one could agree on whether it should have a dome or not. (The noes won by default, when the building was declared finished in 1939.)
Just beyond this building on North Terrace is the much more interesting Old Parliament House, whose interior has now been completely restored (www.adelaidia.sa.gov.au/places/old-parliament-house). Don’t miss the Assembly Chamber where they debated and voted on the issues of the day, and the Kingston Room where they actually decided who was going to win the vote.
Now retrace your footsteps to the King William Street junction, and turn left (north) up King William Road (the extension of king William Street). Down here on your left you will see the arty slab of the Festival Centre, which contains several theatres and auditoriums for stage and musical productions. On the right of King William Road is Government House.
Continue up King William Road and you come to Elder Park. Ahead is the Adelaide Bridge across the Torrens River. Down by the river’s edge on your right is Popeye Wharf. Here you can take a half-hour boat cruise up the river, which takes you to Adelaide Zoo (www.adelaidezoo.com.au). Those who prefer to watch others paddling should cross King William Road to Jolleys Boathouse Restaurant, which looks down on the river.