Galleries and gardens
Adelaide is ideal for strolling, cycling and history hunting
1. Art Gallery of South Australia: This handsome stalwart of Adelaide’s North Terrace cultural precinct is feeling the winds of change under Nick Mitzevich, the gallery’s youngest director in 130 years.
The Elder Wing, repository for an impressive collection of colonial art, has a bold new look, while the Melrose Wing has been invaded by Saatchi’s YBAs (young British artists). In the Elder, elegant chambers are painted in striking colours to highlight their architectural features while indigenous art from the colonial period now hangs alongside the oils. So we have Margaret Preston and Tiwi grave poles in one corner while a portrait of Captain James Cook hangs next to a bark painting depicting Macassan traders.
All the well-loved treasures are here — including Australia’s earliest known oil painting, John Lewin’s 1813 Fish Catch and Dawes Point, Sydney Harbour — as well as early 20th-century art and some 20 new works presented to the gallery to commemorate this year’s 130th anniversary. Mitzevich’s energy for change will be fully evident this month when he launches The Saatchi Gallery in Adelaide: British Art Now, your only chance to catch the YBAs in Australia.
The exhibition features 122 works by 42 artists, including Tracey Emin’s famous ( or infamous) My Bed. The exhibition runs until October 23. More: artgallery.sa.gov.au. 2. Breakfast at Central Market: OK, so it’s no real secret. Adelaide’s 142-year-old Central Market is South Australia’s most visited tourist site, notching up about 1.3 million visitors a month. This old-fashioned produce market, housing more than 80 speciality stores, is the largest in the southern hemisphere. International and interstate visitors adore it and most locals would rather shop here than at a supermarket.
Go behind the scenes with Mark Gleeson, stall-holder, slow food devotee, olive oil judge and all-round bon vivant. Together with a coterie of dedicated foodies, he operates a series of gourmet walking tours of this lively precinct. The early-riser tour is popular: breakfast followed by a 90-minute ramble, tasting olive oil with home-baked sourdough bread, sampling French cheeses, scoffing divine lemon curd tart, downing Smoky Bay oysters and ending with a restorative coffee.
‘‘Multigenerational families are the bedrock of this place,’’ says Gleeson, who introduces tour members to long-time stallholders — people such as Nicci and Maria (whose Lucia’s Pizzeria & Spaghetti Bar is an Adelaide institution) and the Marino family, who’ve been making world-class smallgoods here for more than five decades.
Gleeson also offers private morning tours of the wider market precinct, visiting artists’ studios, stallholders and restaurateurs. More: centralmarkettour.com.au. 3. Downhill from Mt Lofty: Home to the annual Santos Tour Down Under (the first pro cycle touring race outside Europe), Adelaide has gone a little cycle crazy in recent years. One of the city’s best pedals is run by Escapegoat, downhill from Mt Lofty in the Adelaide Hills via winding mountain bike trails and bush tracks, with a chance to have morning tea with the kangaroos en route at Cleland Conservation Park.
This great little tour promises panoramic city views from the summit of Mt Lofty (at 710m, the highest point in the ranges). The all-downhill ride is fun, sometimes a little hair-raising for mountain bike novices ( never fear, the tuition is outstanding), and affords a chance to enjoy great bush scenery. You’re quite likely to see koalas and kangaroos in the wild and are guaranteed a one-on-one in the conservation park. More: escapegoat.com.au.
If you simply want to pedal around town (Adelaide is custommade for biking, with wide, flat streets, 760ha of parklands and a growing network of cycle lanes), free bikes are available from locations around the city. All you need is photo ID. More: adelaidecitycouncil.com. 4. Grave matters: Exploring history via cemeteries is a growing tourism niche and at Adelaide’s West End, one of the oldest working cemeteries in the country, farsighted custodians have launched what they believe to be an Australian first — a comprehensive and often intriguing interpretative trail. Site of Australia’s first crematorium and final home to about 150,000 souls, the 27.6ha grounds were zoned by Adelaide’s town planner extraordinaire Colonel William Light and date from 1837.
Trail maps are available at the main entrance and about 50 noteworthy graves are marked with small plaques that tell a colourful tale of the state’s history. There’s the tragic death of dancer Madeleine Parker, visiting with the Ballet Russe in 1936, or Henry Holbrook, one of 89 to perish with the SS Admella in 1859. There’s also the chance to commune with Adelaide’s great and good, including former premier Charles Cameron Kingston (his ministry is credited with giving women the vote), who served the equivalent of a good behaviour bond after challenging a political opponent to a pistol duel in Victoria Square. Those were the good old days. The cemetery opens at 6am daily, closing at 6.30pm in winter and 8.30pm in summer. More: aca.sa.gov.au. 6. Museum of Economic Botany: Deep within Adelaide’s lovely Botanic Gardens on North Terrace, this architectural gem is one of the world’s last remaining museums of economic botany, a seemingly archaic repository for weird seed pods and sundry grains and nuts. But don’t let that deter you, as this charming museum is quite unlike any other. It was reopened in 2009 following a year-long restoration; the original display cabinets and ornate ceiling are now complemented by pieces courtesy of Adelaide contemporary designer Khai Liew. The museum hosts touring exhibitions and an intriguing permanent collection of plant material and botanical art. Modelled on a similar museum at London’s Kew, the Greek revival building was opened in 1881 to hoard seeds and other plant material essential to a colony dependent on agriculture. (Plant hunting was all the rage in the late 19th century and the gardens’ greatest prize from that era, the gigantic Victoria amazonica waterlily, can be viewed in a nearby pavilion.)
Given diminishing biodiversity and the creation of the Millennium Seed Bank, this beguiling museum is once again astonishingly relevant. Open Wednesday- Friday, 10am-4pm; daily during exhibitions. And don’t forget to check out the Garden of Health. More: botanicgardens.sa.gov.au. 7. House and garden: Capture a whiff of Agatha Christie-era glamour at the wonderful Carrick Hill, one of the few grand period homes in Australia to survive with its furniture, impressive art collection and rambling English gardens intact.
Located on 40ha in the upscale suburb of Springfield, 15 minutes from the CBD, and affording farreaching city and sea views, the house was bequeathed, lock, stock and barrel, to the people of South Australia in 1986 by Edward and Ursula Hayward.
The Haywards were great collectors and it’s worth coming here just to see the art (William Dobell, Hans Heysen, Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale are all represented). And although it dates from the 1930s, the house’s grand proportions are built around an impressive staircase and acres of wood panelling from an old Staffordshire Tudor country house, picked up at a 1935 demolition sale. The familyfriendly gardens include a cafe and Storybook Trail. More: carrickhill.sa.gov.au.
southaustralia.com Next week in our Secret Seven series: Hobart. 5. City cellar doors: Adelaide is cuffed by vines but you don’t need to leave town to visit a cellar door. The family-run Tomich Wines is the latest company to open in the city. It’s only five minutes from the CBD in an upscale shopping strip on King William Road and housed in an elegant bluestone villa.
Tomich offers tutored tastings of flights of single-vineyard Adelaide Hills wines. More: tomichhill.com.au.
After a tasting, take a stroll to Mantra or Assaggio for lunch. The McLaren Vale-based Aramis Vineyards has opened a new cellar door en route to the airport (29 Sir Donald Bradman Drive; open Monday-Friday, 11am to 4pm). Adelaide’s most famous cellar door (and home to Grange), the historic Magill Estate, is a 15-minute cab ride from the CBD. At this Aussie treasure you can sample Penfolds wines or take a tour through the underground tunnels and heritage-listed cellars. The two-hour Great Grange Tour offers the chance to sample Grange and five other premium wines and operates by appointment on Sundays; $150. More: penfolds.com.au.
The South Australian capital is ideal for biking, with wide and flat streets, a growing network of cycle lanes and 760ha of parklands
Art Gallery of South Australia’s new-look Elder Wing
Mark Gleeson operates walking tours of Central Market