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