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Looking West Along Flinders Street in City Centre, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
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Sunset, Brighton Beach, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
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Adelaide. From city of churches to a hotbed of attractions  by Matthew Lawson

It doesn't have an Opera House, but it has the legendary Ghan railway. It doesn't have a world famous horse race, but it has an internationally renowned arts festival. It doesn't have a Grand Prix, but it has the grand Barossa valley wine region.

The city is Adelaide, capital of South Australia, with a population of over 1 million people. While not being as big and brash as Sydney or Melbourne, Adelaide has its own definite charm and style, a placed to be savoured and enjoyed at your pace.

Over the past few years, Adelaide has been quietly shaking off its rather staid, monastic image of "city of churches" as a holiday destination to rival the more popular capitals of the east coast of Australia. It's undergoing a tourism renaissance, with new state-of-the-art facilities at the international airport, excellent shopping and plenty of unique home grown attractions like Kangaroo Island and picturesque town of Hahndorf in the Adelaide hills.

No convicts here.
Unlike some other Australian cities, Adelaide was founded by free settlers. The site was actually chosen in 1836 by Surveyor-General, Colonel William Light, who created its classic grid-like design. Following tradition, the city was named after British royalty, namely Queen Adelaide, wife of the King William IV.

When early colonists established the city, pale sandstone was used, constructing a solid, dignified cityscape. The solidity goes further than architecture for Adelaide was once regarded as a city of puritanical spoilsports, with an incredibly large number of churches. There is no denying that the city has a superb setting. It's surrounded by lush green parkland, and the metropolitan area is bound by the hills of the Mt Lofty Ranges and the waters of the Gulf St Vincent.

Where to stay.

If you're organizing accommodation, Adelaide can offer you every type to match your budget, from glamorous 5 star names to smaller boutique hotels, with plenty in the mid-price range. Check out websites online  for ideas, value and instant booking. You can make savings by booking online - giving you more to spend on sight seeing.

Skyline of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
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Retail buzz.

Today, the churches are outnumbered by pubs, cafes and nightclubs. The city hums with energy from day to night. Being quite a flat city, put on your walking shoes. Start with a touch of retail therapy in Rundle Mall with its heady mix of boutiques and major department stores. Enjoy a stroll around the Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens followed by a leisurely lunch by the River Torrens.

Very Adelaide.

The city itself boasts many interesting and quirky shops. Take O'Connell's Book Store in Hindley Street, Adelaide's oldest antiquarian and pre-loved book store. You can browse for hours amongst first editions and unusual collectibles, with prices from just a few dollars. Who knows what rare treasure lost in time you'll spy on a shelf! Haigh's Chocolates is another classic haunt, established in 1915. Just look for Beehive Corner building on the corner of Rundle Mall and King William Street - and follow that sweet smell!

R.M.Williams, the man behind the legendary retail empire, started off crafting leather saddles around a camp fire in The Gammon Ranges, South Australia. Nowadays, his fashionable work gear, jeans, boots and classic Drizabones, are spied on the hip streets of London and boulevards of Paris. You can buy the latest styles to wear back home. What's more, you can even visit the unique Outback Heritage Museum on the site of the company's original factory/workshop at 5 Percy Street, Prospect, it's just a short taxi ride from town.
Glenelg Beach, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
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Opal. A fiery souvenir.

If you're looking for more than a cuddly toy koala or boomerang souvenirs, consider this. Adelaide is the centre of the world's opal industry, offering beautifully coloured opals often called "fire in the stone". 

The mines can be found in several South Australian outback desert towns including Coober Pedy, Andamooka and Mintabie. If you have time, you can make a short trip outback to explore the mines, the history of the areas and underground houses. Andamooka is 592 km (or 367 miles) by road from Adelaide.

A slice of heaven. Central Market.

The foodies paradise. Like most cosmopolitan cities, there's a major market. The one in Adelaide is called Central Market and dates back to 1869.

It's a real institution and the largest fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere. With over 80 specialist stalls, it's no wonder it attracts thousands of visitors each week. Alive with colour, noise, aromatic smells and delicious temptation. From Camembert to cray fish, nuts to nachos, it's a must-see experience. On Friday night, all of Adelaide seems to be here, enjoying dinner in the family-run cafes. The market location couldn't be better - it's also right by Chinatown, so you can sample two gourmet destinations in one.

Wine buffs...head for the Hills.

The Barossa, Australia's famed wine region, is a mere hour from the CBD and another world away. (You can't visit Adelaide without at least a day or weekend up here, sampling different vintages and taking in the scenery.) More than 20 per cent of Australia's wine is produced in the Barossa.

If you're a wine aficionado, you'll probably know that the Barossa boasts the world's oldest Shiraz vineyards, some dating back to the 1840s. They produce complex, rich and full bodied wines. Think of the iconic Penfolds Grange, eagerly sought by collectors and cellars around the world. In addition to sampling premium wines, there's more to see than you imagine. You can visit clusters of villages with fine restaurants, magnificent old churches, country cottages and see traditional crafts you thought long gone. With more than 100 producers and 70 cellar doors spread across the Barossa region, there's plenty to discover, delight and digest.

The Adelaide Festival of Arts, one of the world's great arts Festivals.

Every two years, the cultural curtain goes up on Adelaide. The Adelaide Festival showcases a lavish, diverse programme, covering music, theatre and performing arts, featuring the best of Australian and international talent. Established in 1960, it's known for being innovative and sometimes, controversial. Held every "even" year in autumn (that's fall - around March - this is the southern hemisphere remember) it's one large scale arts event that attracts audiences right across Australia and the region. If you're planning a trip, the next Adelaide Festival runs from 29 February to 16 March 2008.

The natural beauty of Kangaroo Island.

A hop, skip and a ferry trip from Adelaide. Just110 kilometres south of Adelaide (68 miles or so) and 16 kilometres (10 miles) from the coast, you'll find one of Australia's best kept nature secrets, Kangaroo Island. Half the native bushland is still as it was back in 1802, when British navigator Matthew Flinders named the wilderness. Today, over one-third of Kangaroo Island remains National or Conservation Park.

It's unspoilt, unhurried, and unbelievably beautiful. Surrounded by pristine beaches, white sand and sapphire blue waters, you'll find fauna and flora seldom found elsewhere - all doing what comes naturally. The koalas aren't being cuddled for some contrived photo opportunity - they're relaxing in native trees. The seals aren't performing through hoops - they're lazing on the beach. Get the picture? You'll see echidnas, platypi, goannas, wallabies and kangaroos. All mesmerising. All for you.

Adelaide. Offering you a brilliant blend of experiences and excitement. It may not have a Harbour Bridge, but it has plenty going for it.


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