In a town nicknamed the “Twenty-minute City” you can easily pack a week’s worth of fun into three days. Consistently named one of the world’s top five most-livable cities, as well as “one of the places to visit in 2017” by everyone from Gourmet Traveller to National Geographic, Adelaide is a boutique city that locals are fond of saying “punches well above its weight.”

Words/images: Jim Plouffe

But timing is everything. South Australia’s capital city of 1.2 million comes alive in mid-January for the Tour Down Under and the party continues through a “Mad March” with big events such as the Clipsal 500, Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival and WomAdelaide. The hangover cure begins in May with the Tasting Australia food festival—and the partying starts again in June with the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Other cities boast packed social calendars, of course, but the events are often impossible to attend because of gridlocked roads. Not a problem in Adelaide. The fun is contained within the Square Mile, an ingenious city center surveyed by Colonel William Light in 1837 that follows a strict grid framed by grand terraces (conveniently named North, East, South and West).

The ease of navigation starts as soon as you step off the plane and zip through the award-winning Adelaide International Airport into a cab or city-bound bus and arrive at your central business district hotel in less than 15 minutes. Pick from any of the international hotel chains—from the Hilton to the Crowne Plaza to the Intercontinental—or opt for a boutique establishment like the Franklin Hotel.

RIVER TORRENS

Time starts now.

For a place to eat the first night, head straight to any of the three eating districts: Rundle Street in the northeast of the grid, Peel Street in the northwest or Gouger Street in the center. There is something for everyone, with Gouger having Asian cuisines, Rundle more European and Peel the small hipster joints. A nightcap at the 2KW rooftop bar ends the day on a high with views of the entire city, including the famous Adelaide Oval stadium.

DAY 1: CITY ATTRACTIONS & WINE
To smash the jetlag or that one-too-many cocktail, jump on the free tram and head to the Adelaide Central Markets for a massive breakfast. The coffee at Lucia’s is a highlight and the produce is grown at farms surrounding the city. Now that the cobwebs are blown away, head to North Terrace for some compulsory culture.

This grand boulevard is home to the stately library, art gallery and museums as well as the South Australian Medical Research Institute and its architectural wonders (tours on Thursdays). From here walk east along the Torrens Riverbank past the convention center and Festival Centre to the State Library of South Australia. A peek into the Mortlock wing is a must—it’s the closest thing you’ll come to Hogwarts. The neighboring art gallery and museum have shops that offer better souvenirs than the ubiquitous plush koala toys.

The prize is at the east end of North Terrace. Nestled in the Botanic Gardens is the National Wine Center. The research center has a café and, more importantly, a wine-dispensing unit that allows you to taste hundreds of local wines by the glass—including Grange, which is listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. You can also join a wine tour to the surrounding wine regions—the Barrossa, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale are all less than an hour away.

CENTRAL MARKET

Book dinner at the famous Penfolds Magill Estate restaurant, or try your luck at Restaurant Orana, the award-winning restaurant serving chef Jock Zonfrillo’s take on traditional Aboriginal foods.

DAY 2: MARSUPIALS & MTBS
Find breakfast at any of the corner cafés—Hey Jupiter in Ebenezer Place is a good bet. Since no trip Down Under is complete without seeing a kangaroo or koala, today is time to scout some wildlife. The Adelaide Zoo has a good collection but Cleland Wildlife Park ($25 entry) is better and is an excuse to jump on a bike to conquer Mount Lofty. You’ll probably spy just as much wildlife on the way up but inside the reserve you are guaranteed marsupials. The park sits along the west face of the Adelaide Hills and is part of a massive mountain biking network. Rental bikes are available from numerous outlets and will be delivered to your hotel; it’s an easy-ish ride up to the trails from the city.

Once back in town, head to a live show or see if there is a cricket game on at the Adelaide Oval. Grab dinner at Madame Hanoi or Sean’s Kitchen. After the show check out the small bar scene around Peel Street, starting at Haines & Co with some Kangaroo Island Gin.

DAY 3: BEACHES & BIKES
It’s easy to forget that Adelaide is a coastal city but don’t leave without exploring some of its 40 kilometers of suburban beaches. There’s no surf—that’s an hour south—but the sand stretches forever and the flat water is great for paddle boarding.

The easiest option is to take the 30-minute tram ride to the touristy suburb of Glenelg. Another choice is to grab a Free City Bike and ride down the Linear Park that links the city to the coast. The 12-kilometer ride brings you to Henley Beach and a bike path that stretches the entire coast. Have a dip and stop at any of the Surf Lifesaving Clubs (Henley is the oldest and grandest) for refreshments.

Head back to the city in time for a late checkout and the quick ride to the airport—a week’s activities completed in 72 hours!

From issue 63.