Adelaide

South Australia is a great State to explore. Within its borders is a compact version of everything Australia has to offer – stunning coastlines, a rugged outback, rolling farmlands, history and heritage, limestone caves, wonderful wineries and native wildlife. Throw in a relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals and excellent restaurants, and it really is a terrific destination.

First, a bit of housekeeping. There are a number of attractions outlined shortly that offer wheelchairs for loan or hire but if you would like to have a wheelchair or scooter for the duration of your stay, Walk on Wheels can assist – for a manual chair it is $35 a week ($95 per month) and $80 per week for an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter. Phone 61 8 8293 5444 or email Darrin – dfield@walkonwheels.com.au.

So, let’s venture out and see what Adelaide has to offer!

A Vision of Light

Colonel William Light chose the site for Adelaide in 1836 with a vision for a well-ordered garden city. He got his way as parklands surround the central city with wide streets and spacious squares. It’s a conservative, graceful city with a progressive buzz, and the churches seem to look down on naughty Hindley Street with a pointed finger.

Adelaide is laid out in an easy to navigate grid pattern, surrounded by a green ribbon of parklands with the River Torrens running through the city.

It has a very ‘civilised’ atmosphere, thanks to its colonial stone architecture, sense of space and focus on food and wine.

It is also known as the ‘Festival City’, and hosts many cultural and sporting events throughout the year.

The city is flat and compact, making it easy to explore on foot or by wheelchair, and it’s less than half an hour from the beaches and the hills.

North Terrace is a good place to start exploring as many of the city’s cultural institutions are found on this tree-lined boulevard.

The former National Party leader, Tim Fischer, once said that the best way to quickly get a feel for a city and its people, head to the railway station, so let’s…

The Adelaide Casino is in what was once the main railway station. Beautifully restored, it has a number of restaurants, bars, and free live entertainment in the Skycity complex. Even if you don’t have a flutter, it is worth a visit… and if you do have a bet, there are worse surrounding to lose a few dollars.

Disabled facilities in the Casino: Ramp entry at North Terrace entrance with automatic doors. Ramp entry at Valet Parking station to Station Road entrance. Gaming and North Restaurant on ground floor level, including Chandelier Bar (ramp entry).

Customer lifts near the Rewards Station, ground floor to: 1st floor (VIP Grange & Platinum Rooms, Café Restaurant, Grandstand Bar, Balcony Bar, gaming areas), and 2nd floor (Signals Bistro, Casino Buffet Restaurant, gaming). Customer lift from Ground floor to The Loft, The Boardroom (private function areas at mezzanine level). Disabled toilets on all floors. All bars with the exception of Express Bar on the ground floor– steps only to access this bars.

Strolling east, you can’t miss Parliament House. It’s a grand, imposing building and the public gallery is open when parliament is sitting.

The house is granite and marble and it took 65 years to build (1874 to 1939) – this was due to financial constraints, not bone-lazy labourers.

Head across King William Street, past Government House and nip down Kintore Avenue for the Migration Museum, which documents the history of the migrants who settled in South Australia. The buildings that now house the museum were once Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum. In one of these buildings an exhibition titled Behind the Wall tells the stories of the women and children who lived and sometimes died here.

The Migration Museum has wheelchair access to the exhibition galleries and the Chapel (pictured), a wheelchair that can be used if needed (no hire fee) but the bathroom facilities only partly meet disability access standards. With groups, bus drivers arrange to drop the visitors at the gate where there is a 15 minute loading zone. The bus can then park on the Torrens Parade Ground.

Adjacent is the State Library, a rich resource, and home to the Bradman Collection, the Don’s personal cricketing memorabilia.

My surname, Heydon, featured prominently twice in the career of Australia’s greatest batsman.

My late, great-uncle Harold was secretary of the New South Wales Cricket Association and, in 1926, he wrote to the 18-year-old Donald to invite the country lad to attend practice in Sydney.

As his notoriety grew, Bradman was the primary reason for growing gate attendances, but he was paid a pittance. Offers to play for more money from other clubs came; Harold decided that loyalty would keep Bradman in New South Wales.

This decision must be up there with the guy who turned down the Beatles, because the Don packed his kitbag and headed to Adelaide in 1934. Incidentally, in his last game for NSW, The Don made a fine 128, scoring the last 118 in just 58 minutes, including three uncustomary sixes. Do you think he was making a statement?

The South Australian Museum has five floors with excellent exhibits on geology, natural history and anthropology with the new Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery being the largest in the world. There is full wheelchair access and a wheelchair if required, but you will need to book in advance on 08 82077368.

There is one disabled parking spot behind the museum that is shared with the art gallery. It can’t be booked but is a bit of a well-kept secret so you should be okay. You need to enter Morgan Thomas Lane from Kintore Avenue, and speak to the operator at the boom gate.

A fine collection of Australian, European and Asian art along with temporary exhibitions can be seen at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Admission is free and hours are 10:00am to 5:00pm every day but December 25.

The painting right is part of the permanent gallery. I’m not sure of the title – perhaps “Pigeons Entertain at the Osteoporosis Convention”?

Wheelchair access is available to all areas of the Gallery. Just ask at the Information Desks for assistance. Wheelchairs can also be borrowed while visiting the Art Gallery and are available from the North Terrace Desk. Please telephone 08 8207 7000 in advance of your visit for more information or to reserve a wheelchair. Apart from the shared one mentioned above, there are a number of parking spaces reserved for the disabled within proximity to the Gallery in the North Terrace precinct.

At the eastern end of North Terrace are the Botanic Gardens featuring heritage buildings, flora from the Asia-Pacific regions, a tropical rainforest display in the Bicentennial Conservatory and grand 150-year-old Moreton Bay fig trees. The restaurant has lovely 180 degree garden views and serves local produce on a Modern Australian cuisine menu.

Also located in the gardens, the National Wine Centre showcases the diversity and excellence of the Australian wine industry through an interactive exhibition, display vineyard, educational facilities and a quality restaurant. You can sample wine from 50 different regions and buy wine from the retail outlet. Some locals think it was a waste of money, having such a huge facility promoting South Australian wines when the actual wineries are at the doorstep. They would rather it be somewhere like Sydney – you can’t please some people. The National Wine Centre of Australia complies with regulations regarding public buildings and offers disabled access and facilities for visitors.

Cross the road and head up East Terrace to the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute (Tandanya) for displays of indigenous art, culture, visual and performing arts.

Tandanya is a Kaurna word for Red Kangaroo place. The land on which the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute sits on Kaurna land and the site for the Red Kangaroo Ceremony connected to Red Kangaroo Dreaming (hence their logo).

Access is available to all venues for people with disabilities.

Back on North Terrace, Ayers House recreates 19th century living in Adelaide. Built in 1845, the house was once home to Sir Henry Ayers, Premier of South Australia (seven times!). He liked entertaining. He kept an old clock on the mantel piece, and according to his daughter’s diary: “…my Father always had the hands pointing to midnight, so our guests would not go away too soon”.

At the western end of you’ll find the Jam Factory Craft and Design Centre. It’s a large arts centre with free, guided tours to see artists working in glass, ceramics, jewellery, textiles, wood and metal. For almost 40 years JamFactory has been presenting outstanding exhibitions and public programs and nurturing the careers of talented artists, craftspeople and designers.

The Lion’s Art Centre, of which JamFactory is a part of, has two disabled parking spaces at the front of the JamFactory shop in the slip way next to the Morphett St bridge. There is full disabled access within JamFactory including ramps, a lift and bathrooms.

At King William Street, heading towards the Torrens, you pass the Adelaide Festival Centre, the city’s premier artistic venue and heart of the famous Adelaide Arts Festival. There are a number of theatre spaces and the Centre hosts plays, ballet, opera and concerts (classical and rock).

There are also a number of wine and dine options including a la carte in Bistro by the Food Business, casual dining in Lyrics restaurant or quick snacks from the Foyer Cafe or Elder Park Cafe. The Foyer Bars open 90 minutes prior to performances.

The Centre has nine disability spaces that can be pre-booked (131 246). There is a lift to both levels. The Festival Theatre, Stalls Row W has removable seats to accommodate patrons who wish to remain in their wheelchair or to allow ease of access to transfer to a theatre seat. Dunstan Playhouse Theatre: Boxes 1 and 6 have the same set up. In the Space Theatre, patrons with a wheelchair and those unable to manage stairs can be seated on balcony or floor level dependant on venue configuration.

In Her Majesty’s Theatre, patrons who can remain in their wheelchair or transfer to a theatre seat in the Stalls at the end of Rows C or K. Access to the auditorium is via Stage Door off Pitt Street (this is where the disability toilet is located). Just contact Stage Door on 8216 8724 if you need to borrow a wheelchair (free of charge).

There are various ways to travel along the River Torrens.

You can take a cruise, a paddleboat or even a gondola from below the Festival Centre. Or sit on the bank, enjoy a picnic and feed the ducks and swans. It is a very pleasant and peaceful stretch of water.

Recreational swimming is not advised as there can be a fair amount of algae (and other stuff that isn’t algae) but it is used for recreational boating. There are a number of rowing regattas each year and you will often see fours and eights in training cutting across the surface.

You can also hop a boat to the Adelaide Zoo. It’s compact but extremely rewarding with more than 1400 exotic and native mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. There are penguin, sea lion and pelican feedings, guided tours twice daily and a ‘free flight’ macaw show. And everyone loves a panda! If you’re driving, enter on Frome Road.

The Zoo provides ramps and railings for disability access. Wheelchair hire is $15 (includes $10 deposit, pre-booking recommended as numbers are limited – 08 8267 3255.

Cross Adelaide Bridge to get to the Adelaide Oval. There are tours and a museum and the oval’s personality says a lot about Adelaide. It’s small, intimate, polite, green and relaxing. The Melbourne Cricket Ground, in contrast, is busy and imposing, and the Sydney Cricket Ground has a party atmosphere with a sneaky pitch that can turn on the last day.

Overlooking the oval and Adelaide is Light’s Vision, the historic monument to Colonel Light. Light was born in Malaysia in 1786, the illegitimate second son of Captain Francis Light (Superintendent of Penang) and Martina Rozells – at age six he was sent to England for an education and he joined the Royal Navy at age 13. He also fought with honour in the British Army against Napoleon’s forces. He died in 1839 and is the only perdon to be (legally) buried within the City Square.

Back in town, the Central Market is colourful and full of unique, lively stalls with an amazing range of fresh food produce. Tours include samples of fruits, chocolate and seafood.

Rundle Mall is the place to start for shoppers. There are 700 retail shops and 3000 seats upon which to park your bottom in a food court so naturally they have thought about wheelchair access and disability bathrooms.

The four metres stainless steel sculpture in the photo is officially known as The Spheres (sculptor Bert Flugelman) but the common name is the ‘Mall’s Balls’. Erected in 1977 it has a functional use – if meeting someone in the city, simple to make the Mall’s Balls the designated spot.

The IMAX Theatre is in Rundle East. For more traditional movies there are a number of cinema complexes nearby.

For nightlife and entertainment, check out the Advertiser’s Saturday magazine or ‘Arts Monday’. There’s also a free monthly newspaper, Adelaide Review which can be found in cafes and bookshops. For inner city pubs and nightclubs, head to Rundle Mall, East End and Hindley Street.

For quieter relaxation, 45 per cent of the city is devoted to parklands, many with the latest play equipment for children in safe playgrounds.

The parks are also home to archery, petanque and other sports and, on the weekends, you’ll spot brides being photographed in the lush, green settings.

Further along, on the coast, is Glenelg. The suburb’s name, like the tram, looks the same way back as forward, and no trip to Adelaide would be complete without this tram ride to the sea. There’s the beach (albeit with a shortage of sand at the time of writing), the pier, terrific al fresco dining and The Beach House for rides, games, dodgem cars etc. There is a giant Ferris wheel that is very popular.

Before demolition in 2004, the giant Ferris wheel was part of Magic Mountain for the kids. When I visited, the guy running the place was very accommodating. We arrived at the theme park an hour before it opened and breathed a sigh of relief. My then small son wanted to ride what was dubbed the ‘biggest Ferris wheel in the Southern Hemisphere’ and I hate Ferris wheels. It’s not so much the height as the thought that a man with one eyebrow, a beanie and a spanner may have erected it. Anyway, the owner of the park opened just for us, and round and round and round we went with the man waving back with a smile every time I waved down to say we’d had enough. Nearby Henley Beach also has some fine restaurants.

The Adelaide Hills are classified as a region but they’re an easy 20-minute drive from the centre of the city. Look for the signs to Mount Lofty, Stirling, Hahndorf and Mount Barker. The Hills are full of quaint villages, wildlife sanctuaries, parks and gardens, cellars, art and craft galleries, and antique shops.

The galleries in larger towns like Hahndorf and Mount Barker are open seven days a week. There’s also a strong pub culture, with many offering excellent meals and weekend jazz.

For native fauna, visit Cleland Wildlife Park where koalas, kangaroos, wombats, emus, dingoes and many reptile and bird species can be seen. Aboriginal tours and nightwalks are also available.

Disabled facilities and wheelchair accessible tracks are available at Cleland.

The Warrawong Earth Sanctuary (Stirling) is the State’s leading eco-tourism venue with wildlife including potoroos, platypus, bettongs, bandicoots, quolls, kangaroos and many endangered Australian species. There’s also comfortable bush cabin accommodation and a licensed restaurant.

The walking paths at Warrawong are not wheelchair friendly due to the gradient, but the cafe, outdoor dining area deck and animal show area are all wheelchair friendly.

In Hahndorf, Beerenberg Strawberry Farm dates back to the 1830’s German settlement and has been in the same family for six generations. From October to May visitors can pick their own strawberries along the rose-covered walkway and year round homemade jams, pickles, chutneys, sauces and marinades are for sale.

It will probably come as no surprise that Strawberry Jam has been the biggest selling product every year for the last forty years. In 2011 the farm was awarded Telstra South Australian Business of the Year.

Hahndorf Farm Barn is a hands-on farm experience with sheep shearing, cow milking and rabbit cuddling. You can also see chickens hatch and bees make honey. Take a picnic or have a BBQ.

Melba’s Chocolates and Confectionary in Woodside is an historic factory/shop that produces souvenirs, giftware and sweets. Entry and samples are free. Now, I understand chocolates, lollipops and licorice, but one of Melba’s products is the ‘cow pat’ – these come in milk and dark chocolate and in various varieties – Rocky Road, Fruit & Nut, Aprichoc and Coconut Rough – you probably don’t need a photo.

See wooden toys being made and purchase at factory prices at The Toy Factory in Gumeracha, which is also home to The Biggest Rocking Horse in the world! Apparently they hand out a certificate to people who climb to the top.

Hey, you can’t let a ‘Big’ thing in Australia go by without giving it a mention!

ACCOMMODATION

As with other cities, I like to stay in the heart of Adelaide, within close proximity to the sights, attractions and restaurants (unless, of course, I’m staying with my sister at Wynn Vale).

There are lots of accommodation options on North Terrace and some nice boutique options in North Adelaide but I really like Rydges South Park at 1 South Terrace. It’s handy to the city but a little quieter with the adjacent parklands. There are a variety of room types (including disabled access and facilities) and some terrific snack and dining options – thedeck is being a tad trendy making ‘the’ and ‘deck’ one word but it arguably serves the best coffee in town and the Skyline Restaurant (bottom pic) specialises in modern Australian cuisine (great steaks and seafood) with views over the city to the Adelaide Hills.

Rydges (as well as QT and Art Series Hotels) offer Priority Guest Rewards membership. It is totally free and one of the best loyalty rewards cards we have found – you get 10% off accommodation at more than 40 hotels around Australia and New Zealand plus 20% off food and beverages (that’s where the real value is). Cane & Able is happy to arrange this for you.

And finally, how do you know when you’re staying in a Port Adelaide hotel? When you call the front desk and say, “I gotta leak in my sink,” and the clerk replies, “Go ahead.”  Apologies to any Port Adelaide readers 🙂

Thanks to Chez for this review of some value accommodation in Adelaide…

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We stayed at The Arkaba Hotel on the corner of Glen Osmond & Fullarton Rds (abuts the South Parklands, 10km from the airport and about a 3km walk to Rundle Mall and the city centre). It is on the main road travelling in from Melbourne. It has plenty of parking, including designated disabled parks plus the use of undercover parks at the mall to the rear (about 15 metres from the rear ramp entrance).  It has 6 floors and an elevator.  There are 3 special access rooms with wheel-in showers, lower light switches etc.  Shower chairs and toilet raisers are available from reception.

Arkaba Hotel Room with SpaWe did not have an accessible room, but a ‘spa-suite’ (sounds fancy but was quite cheap, around $600 for 5 nights).  The spa bath was massive, and after I figured out how to get in and out, actually enjoyed a few. The room itself was extremely large and as well as the King bed, had a couch, armchair and coffee table. The small fridge that wasn’t already full of expensive grog was very handy.

The hotel offers live entertainment and several eating areas, sports bars & the blessed pokies (like every pub in Adelaide!).  There was a shopping mall right behind with wheelchair access and it had a supermarket, newsagency, coffee shop, pharmacy, greengrocer and bakery. There was a taxi rank right in front of the hotel plus a bus stop about five metres away.

It was a last minute booking for us and we were pleasantly surprised with the rooms and the helpful staff.