SOUTH AUS­TRALIA

Na­ture lover and tele­vi­sion star Nick Baker ex­plores Ade­laide and South Aus­tralia, en­coun­ter­ing its weird and won­der­ful wildlife

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Vis­i­tors will quickly dis­cover why it’s in­cred­i­bly easy to fall for Ade­laide. South Aus­tralia’s vi­brant cap­i­tal is the kind of city that trav­ellers Down Un­der might de­sign them­selves if given free rein: there’s a world-class food scene, a mag­nif­i­cent choice of city beaches and su­perb wildlife and winer­ies on your doorstep. And a cul­ture-savvy, mil­lion-plus pop­u­la­tion means there’s a buzz about the place year-round.

That’s not all. The city is straight­for­ward to reach from the UK, has a show-stop­ping moun­tain range a few hours’ drive away and hosts some of the big­gest fes­ti­vals in the south­ern hemi­sphere. It’s also blessed with the kind of cli­mate that makes hav­ing sun­glasses es­sen­tial. In short, even if it’s your first time in Aus­tralia, you needn’t look any fur­ther for your gate­way city.

An awe­some ar­rival

For TV pre­sen­ter and nat­u­ral­ist Nick Baker – a man who knows a thing or two about en­coun­ter­ing spe­cial des­ti­na­tions – Ade­laide ticks all the right boxes. “It’s a won­der­ful, won­der­ful place,” he says. “It’s got a re­ally eclec­tic feel to it and the street at­mos­phere is bril­liant. But the first thing you need to know is how con­ve­nient the air­port is.”

He’s right. It’s sim­ple not just to reach Ade­laide – there are reg­u­lar one-stop ser­vices from the UK with award-win­ning air­lines such as Qatar Air­ways – but to also get into the city once you’re on the ground. Ade­laide Air­port is a breeze to get through and sits just 20 min­utes from the cen­tre.

Be­sides, the city’s warm, re­laxed vibe could have been cus­tom-made for sooth­ing any lin­ger­ing jet­lag. You’ll find friendly lo­cals wait­ing to wel­come you to their back­yard – and it’s some back­yard. So­phis­ti­cated and mul­ti­cul­tural, Ade­laide blends park­land, beaches and Vic­to­rian-era ar­chi­tec­ture with some hugely en­joy­able one-off at­trac­tions.

Aus­tralia’s food cap­i­tal

One of the best places to be­gin is in the foodie haven of Ade­laide Cen­tral Mar­ket, which has been sell­ing first-rate Aus­tralian pro­duce since 1869. Ex­pect ev­ery­thing from ar­ti­san cheeses and or­ganic meats to fresh sour­dough loaves and but­tery fudge. The city’s restau­rant scene is sim­i­larly strong. Home to Orana – de­scribed by many as the best restau­rant in Aus­tralia right now – as well as count­less other es­tab­lish­ments do­ing in­cred­i­ble things with qual­ity lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, Ade­laide has been dubbed the ‘new foodie cap­i­tal of Oz’.

Ade­laide also stands as the Vine­yard City of Aus­tralia and one of the wine cap­i­tals of the world. There are more than 200 cel­lar doors within an hour of the cen­tre, in­clud­ing, in the heart of the city, Pen­folds Mag­ill Es­tate, where grapes have been made into the multi-award-win­ning Pen­folds Grange wines since 1844. Tast­ings and tours are avail­able daily.

Ad­ven­ture on the doorstep

You don’t need to go far from the city to sam­ple the great Aus­tralian out­doors. Ade­laide beaches such as Brighton, Sem­a­phore and Hen­ley all com­bine soft sands and hand­some set­tings with wa­ter­sports and seafood restau­rants. Ever-pop­u­lar Glenelg is only a tram-ride from the cen­tre; backed by high trees and hip bou­tique stores, it’s where Ade­laide lets its hair down – and if your luck’s in, you might even spot dol­phins off­shore.

But then, in South Aus­tralia, wildlife and na­ture ex­pe­ri­ences come thick and fast. In the city it­self you can wan­der amid the leafy boughs, blooms and birdlife of Ade­laide Botanic Gar­den. Or, just ten kilo­me­tres north of the cen­tre, you can ex­plore the rugged ex­panse of the Mo­ri­alta Con­ser­va­tion Park, with its steep gul­lies, gnarled ridges and tum­bling wa­ter­falls. Keep your eyes peeled for ev­ery­thing from graz­ing mar­su­pi­als to tawny frog­mouths.

When peo­ple talk about Ade­laide’s ‘WOW fac­tor’, they’re re­fer­ring to more than just its good looks, its place-to-be feel and its cos­mopoli­tan buzz. It’s also the gate­way to the WOW (that’s Wine, Out­back, Wildlife) ex­pe­ri­ences of South Aus­tralia. Be­cause frankly, when you start in Ade­laide – one of the best na­ture cities in the world – the good stuff just keeps com­ing.

In as lit­tle as two weeks you can en­joy an in­cred­i­ble hol­i­day in Oz. Many of Trail­find­ers’ itin­er­ar­ies be­gin in Ade­laide, in­clud­ing three nights in the vine­yard city it­self as well as two nights in the Ade­laide Hills, en­joy­ing the Mo­ri­alta Con­ser­va­tion Park and its won­der­ful winer­ies. Af­ter that, you’ll spend four nights on Kan­ga­roo Is­land dis­cov­er­ing the coun­try’s iconic wildlife and four nights in Syd­ney, cost­ing from £2,449 per per­son (based on two shar­ing).

The hol­i­day in­cludes 13 nights’ ac­com­mo­da­tion, six days’ Avis car hire with a free up­grade, flights with Qatar Air­ways from Lon­don to Ade­laide and Syd­ney to Lon­don and do­mes­tic flights within Aus­tralia.

Trail­find­ers can tai­lor­make wildlife and wine tour­ing op­tions to en­sure you en­joy the best of South Aus­tralia with pas­sion­ate lo­cal ex­perts. For more info, con­tact Trail­find­ers on 020 7368 1364 or visit www.trail­find­ers.com

Not all moun­tains are cre­ated equal, and the Flin­ders Ranges – the largest belt of moun­tains in the state – are as grand as they come. “They’re gor­geous,” says Nick Baker, who ex­plored them for him­self ear­lier this year. “The Flin­ders Ranges are a proper Out­back ex­pe­ri­ence – ex­actly how you imag­ine the Out­back is go­ing to be.”

Su­per-sized and craggy, the Ranges’ saw-toothed to­pog­ra­phy and red plateaus are the epit­ome of Aus­tralian wilder­ness. Given this, you’d ex­pect them to be re­mote – but they’re not. Just five hours of driv­ing, through the winer­ies of the Clare Val­ley, brings you from Ade­laide to the moun­tains.

A range of life

For those who think of Aus­tralia as a young coun­try, the Flin­ders Ranges are a vivid re­minder of its age­less­ness. The first hu­man habi­ta­tion in the area was around 49,000 years ago, while the land­scape it­self dates back no less than 600 mil­lion years. “One of the gorges here is where the old­est fos­sils on Earth that rep­re­sent multi-cel­lu­lar an­i­mals can be found,” says Nick. “But if ge­o­log­i­cal stuff like that isn’t your thing, it’s also home to an an­i­mal that’s alive and well today.”

He’s talk­ing about the yel­low-footed rock wal­la­bies, once on the verge of ex­tinc­tion but slowly re­cov­er­ing, and found amid the Ranges’ high slopes. But many more species also thrive here, in­clud­ing emus, kan­ga­roos, ea­gles, un­usual lizards such as the Lake Eyre dragon and rare birds such as the greyfronted hon­eyeater.

The Ranges’ in­dige­nous her­itage is an­other defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic, with de­scen­dants of the Ad­nya­math­anha peo­ple still liv­ing in the area. It gives an added layer of sig­nif­i­cance to dramatic nat­u­ral for­ma­tions such as the vast nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre of Wilpena Pound – or ‘place of bent fin­gers’ in the lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal di­alect, a ref­er­ence to its re­sem­blance to a pair of cupped hands. It’s one of many re­minders of a truly an­cient con­nec­tion.

Spe­cial stays

The Flin­ders Ranges have some re­mark­able ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. The Prairie Ho­tel is a true-blue Aussie Out­back prop­erty, with char­ac­ter in spades and a li­cense dat­ing back to 1876. Nick stayed at two other in­cred­i­ble places, both with their own ex­tra­or­di­nary sto­ries. Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion over­looks Wilpena Pound and has been wel­com­ing vis­i­tors to its beau­ti­ful, sheep-roamed plains for 50 years, while the Ark­aba Con­ser­vancy is a for­mer sheep ranch turned lux­ury wilder­ness lodge fo­cused on wildlife con­ser­va­tion. “Ark­aba’s idea of rewil­d­ing was lit­er­ally to take the sheep off the land and see what hap­pened,” says Nick. “What hap­pened was that ev­ery­thing has bounced back, quite lit­er­ally. The veg­e­ta­tion has sprung up, and when that hap­pens, in come the an­i­mals.”

We’ll leave the fi­nal word to Nick, who wasn’t just wowed by the Flin­ders Ranges, but by South Aus­tralia as a whole. “If you’re an ad­ven­turer and you want some­where a bit dif­fer­ent, some­where that feels a bit more real, it’s all there. You can have all your crea­ture com­forts and get a fix of the wilds at the same time. It’s the per­fect place to go.”

̏For those who think of Aus­tralia as a young coun­try, the Flin­ders Ranges are a re­minder of its age­less­ness˝

At home on the ranges ( clock­wise from this) Soak­ing up the scenery at Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion; hik­ing the Ark­aba Walk; emus in the Out­back

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