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Friday, 06 February 2009

South Australia Will Win Over Your Heart

Written by Kristen Hamill
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South Australia will win over your heart, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Daly Head, Cleland Conservation Park, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, beaches of Yorke Peninsula, Murray River in Renmark, Kristen HamillMentioning my year abroad in Adelaide has elicited more than a groan or two from Australians that are not native to South Australia.

Adelaide,” whined a Sydney woman I met while she visited Boston, “is our most embarrassing city. It’s so tiny. Why would you have gone there when you could have gone to Sydney or Melbourne? Or up north to Queensland?”

South Australia’s neighbors to the east might have the upper hand when it comes to attracting tourists with iconic destinations like the Sydney Opera House, Whitsunday Islands, and Great Barrier Reef, but conveniently enough, the lack of tourists is part of what makes South Australia as beautiful and unique as it is. Sure, Adelaide’s club scene looks pretty tame compared to Sydney’s or Melbourne’s, and you won’t find too many celebrities jetting to the city for a weekend shopping spree, but there is something about the city, and the rest of the state for that matter, that you can relate to personally. There’s not a lot of glitz, the locals aren’t scrambling to cater to tourists in search of a cheap “Australian experience,” and it’s not a major hit on the backpacker route, which means what you get, for the most part, is the pure, unfiltered, Australian lifestyle.

South Australia will win over your heart, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Daly Head, Cleland Conservation Park, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, beaches of Yorke Peninsula, Murray River in Renmark, Kristen HamillIt’s certainly the type of place you could fall in love with, or if you are lucky enough as I was, fall in love in. I’d like to think the laid-back atmosphere and picturesque backdrop of South Australia played a role in the romance between me and my Canadian boyfriend, whom I met while we were both studying at the University of Adelaide.

So every time I hear an Aussie quipping about South Australia’s reputation for being the boring state, I can’t help but ask, “I guess you’ve never actually visited then, have you?”

Adelaide is fairly small, but is extremely accessible and inviting. The city is surrounded by parks on all four sides and is a host to hundreds of restaurants, outdoor cafes and wine bars. A day or two is all you need to stroll down Rundle Mall, the main shopping area, to get a fruit smoothie and take a picture in front of Adelaide’s iconic silver “balls;” have Thai noodles or a slow roasted steak on Gouger Street; walk the Torrens River running behind the University; catch a footy or cricket match, and clean the loose change from your wallet on dollar beer and champagne nights at the Duke of York Hotel on Currie Street.


South Australia will win over your heart, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Daly Head, Cleland Conservation Park, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, beaches of Yorke Peninsula, Murray River in Renmark, Kristen Hamill

 

Once you’ve had your fill of the city, hop on one of the buses that will take you north through the Adelaide Hills. One of the first stops is at the base of Mt. Lofty, where an hour’s hike through the botanical gardens will take you to the summit restaurant where you can complete the day with lunch, a cappuccino, or if you are in desperate need of it, a glass of wine or Coopers Sparkling Ale. South Australia will win over your heart, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Daly Head, Cleland Conservation Park, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, beaches of Yorke Peninsula, Murray River in Renmark, Kristen HamillStay on the bus longer to visit Cleland Conservation Park where you can get up close with kangaroos, wombats, emus, koalas, and many more of Australia’s beloved creatures.

South Australia is most well known for its wine country, the McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley, home to many of the world’s major wine producers. Nothing could be more romantic than a long weekend sampling wines, dining out, and sleeping in at one of the small hotels or B&Bs in the Barossa or McLaren Vale. There are even a number of bicycling tours that take you from vineyard to vineyard. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling are the valleys’ specialties, but there is no shortage of Chardonnay, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, and other varieties. For a different twist on the celebratory flute of champagne, pick up a bottle of sparkling Shiraz, another specialty of the region.

If adventure is more your style, you might want to consider heading even further outside the city to camp alongside the Murray River in Renmark. Canoeing, kayaking, and renting houseboats are all great ways to enjoy Australia’s second-longest river. Don’t let Aussies’ stories about drop-bears scare you away from enjoying a night out underneath the stars. There’s no such thing as a carnivorous koala waiting to drop from above while you sleep. It’s just local lore used to spook Yanks and other tourists, so don’t be the guy or girl who gets caught spreading Vegemite behind your ears to keep bears away.

The wine is delicious, the countryside gorgeous, but absolutely nothing compares to the beaches of Yorke Peninsula. I had the opportunity to visit the area twice, which is just a few hours drive west of Adelaide, and was blown away by the beauty of such pristine, untouched land. South Australia will win over your heart, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Daly Head, Cleland Conservation Park, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, beaches of Yorke Peninsula, Murray River in Renmark, Kristen HamillIt amazed me how beaches that beautiful could have been so empty both times I visited. In the U.S., beach-goers pack themselves like sardines on any available patch of sand, but in Yorke you could walk for hours along the ocean on a sunny day without seeing another soul.

While there are a number of beaches to explore, sandy and rocky, some great for swimming, others for surfing, the most breathtaking was Daly Head. Set back beyond the dunes, a steep staircase leads down from the parking area to a wide sandy beach that stretches into the distance. Rip tides can be an issue at this location, and since there is no lifeguard on duty, it’s wise to stay close to shore. Other beaches worth mentioning are Dolphin Head, where the water is Caribbean blue, and Marion Bay where you’ll often find a flock of pelicans or group of dolphins bobbing along the shore.


Beaches like these lead you to believe that Australians either have enough to go around or that out-of-state tourists haven’t caught on to South Australia’s secret. There are plenty of areas to camp, set up an RV, rent a small cabin, trailer, or beach house. The only downside to the Peninsula is that the flies can get particularly vicious once the weather gets warmer. Put your dignity aside and invest in a hat with a built-in screen, you’ll be thankful you did once your arm grows tired of the “Australian Salute.”

South Australia will win over your heart, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, Daly Head, Cleland Conservation Park, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, beaches of Yorke Peninsula, Murray River in Renmark, Kristen Hamill

When planning a trip down under, whether you are traveling with your significant other or going solo and hoping to find love along the way, consider adding South Australia to your itinerary. The Opera House and the Reef are sights to see, but make sure to get a taste of the real Australia before you leave the country.

Without a doubt, South Australia will win over your heart.

©Kristen Hamill

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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