Our long weekend to Adelaide & surrounds had begun inauspiciously, collecting a kangaroo on our way to the airport for the early morning flight. However the car was still driveable, we made the flight and after all, that’s what insurance is for, right?
We flew into Adelaide airport just after 7.30 a.m. on Friday for a 3 day weekend and picked up our hire car. Everything was looking very wet – I gather they had a lot of rain in Adelaide overnight with some local flooding. The forecast was mixed and we planned to just make the best of it.
We had brought our SatNav and old street directory (1996 edition), so headed into the city to find a parking spot before going to say hello to the pandas at the zoo. Traffic was remarkably light (compared with almost anywhere else) when we got on the road shortly after 8 a.m. We got an all day parking at an early bird rate in Gawler Place for $13 which we thought was very reasonable. We had a leisurely cooked breakfast and coffee for $10 each on the pedestrian mall then walked slowly down to the zoo, getting there about 10 minutes ahead of the 9.30 opening time. There were maybe 6 other people waiting. The pandas officially opened at 9.45 but they opened early and we were the first in there and they were active (as predicted on TA) and have a definite cuteness. Things were extremely quiet for around half an hour before the first school group descended, at which time we moved on. I hadn’t been to Adelaide zoo before & I must admit it was quieter, smaller and had less exhibits than I expected. The flamingos are unusual in an Australian zoo, but as they point out, the birds are getting old and probably won’t be able to be replaced. Without the pandas I don’t think I’d bother. But the pandas were our reason to visit and they didn’t disappoint – last time I saw some was at Taronga back in 1988. We had morning tea in the zoo cafe during a brief shower then walked back into town through the botanical gardens – it was almost deserted except for staff. We had a look at the Amazon lilies and the palm house – both quite interesting.
We decided to have a look at the Art Gallery – unfortunately a lot of the halls are undergoing renovation so what was open was quite limited – I particularly liked the room with the Lalique,Tiffany & stained glass windows. We had a light lunch in the gallery cafe, which was in the process of closing down, so a very limited menu. Not bad though. Then we went to the (entry fee) exhibit of Colonial South Australia art & silver. The art in particular was extremely interesting, with lots of views of the early colony and insights into colonial life – they accomplished a lot in the first few years.
By this stage it was close to 3 pm so we picked up the car and drove to Glenelg where we were staying (Oaks Liberty Towers). Very light traffic again. After checking in & getting some supplies at the nearby Coles supermarket we went for a walk along the Esplanade (a cool day for it) and down Jetty Road. Getting close to 5 pm on a Friday and the whole place was like a ghost town! We checked out restaurants, then walked back to the apartment and on the way spotted Seasons by the Bay, which looked interesting so we went back there at 6 and had a really nice meal. A stroll after dinner was cut short by a squall, so it was back to the apartment for some Olympics on TV.
It was raining steadily when we first got up on Saturday but cleared shortly afterwards. We had a slow start before heading off down Brighton Rd in the general direction of McLaren Vale. Extremely light traffic (is Adelaide always like that?) On a whim we dropped in to Port Noarlunga (I’d seen some early paintings in the Art Gallery). It was very pretty and almost a ghost town apart from a dozen hardy fisher folk on the jetty and some hardier surf-skiers. We had a nice morning tea at a cafe near the surf life saving club (Teal Turtle I think).
Afterwards we went to visit our favourite winery in the McLaren Vale – d’Arenburg. McLaren Vale is the most photogenic wine area in Australia in my opinion and d’Arenburg is our favourite mainly for the spectacular views from the tasting room – the wines aren’t too shabby either! They've recently put a sculpture at their front gate which is a bit different. We dropped into several other wineries ‘on spec’ and sampled their wares before driving over to Willunga where we’d seen they were having the Almond Blossom Festival and Saturday Farmers’ Market. From what we could see the festival seemed to be mainly a sideshow alley in the showgrounds, so we didn’t go in, but the market was interesting & we picked up some dried fruit & a strudel & were tempted by lots more. The market was the first well attended thing in our visit.
We went to Victor Harbour for lunch – ate at a nice cafe (Nino’s) and went for a walk around the town and a look through the National Trust museum (a convenient stop to avoid a rain squall). The museum was quite interesting and the old harbour master’s residence had some excellent period furnishings. Showers were keeping the tourists in door – all the eateries were quite busy, even though there were only a few out and about. Too much rain in the area to chance going out to Granite Island so no penguins or horse-drawn trams this trip and in any case, we have been to Victor Harbour on many occasions and are sure to be back. We dropped back to Nino’s for a gelato before heading out of town.
Rather than just head back toward Adelaide the way we had come we decided to drive back via Yankalilla. The countryside is extremely pretty – nice old trees along the side of the road and everything very lush at the moment. We stopped briefly to have a look at Glacier Rock (an exposed slab in a creek bed that shows glacial striations). Only a 5 minute stop and interesting enough. We detoured to Myponga Reservoir and it was very pretty with the lookout giving a good view over the water and spillway. Getting there involved a couple of km of dirt road, but it was good road. Shortly after leaving the lookout and just before rejoining the Main South Road the view up along the coast through a gap in the hills is quite special – had to stop for a photo! We got back to Glenelg around 5 p.m. Traffic had been very light the whole day. I suppose the locals stayed indoors, but apart from a few showers it was a reasonable day.
Saturday night we were feeling lazy so walked across the road to the marina to see where we would eat. We chose the Lido, at the end of the row of restaurants based on the menu choices. We had a great experience and I was surprised to read the mixed reviews on TA. Watched a bit more Olympics when we got back.
Sunday morning we packed and checked out at around 9.30. We drove up to Port Adelaide in almost non-existent traffic to have a look at the markets on Fishermen’s Wharf. It was very lightly attended and I my memory of it was both busier and more varied. The whole Port area seems to have become progressively more run-down since I first visited back in the early 90’s – it is starting to get quite sad looking in places. Apart from a couple of pubs, there was very little else open and almost nobody on the street. We had a coffee in a pub then decided to drive to Semaphore where we remembered some more Sunday activity from the last time we visited. There was a lot more open there and we had a good walk around before having lunch at a pub on the seafront. From there we drove to the airport for our flight back to Canberra.
We had a great time, very relaxing and some excellent meals. Things were incredibly quiet, both on the roads and in the attractions which made them all the more enjoyable and remarkable. Sure, it was cool and a little showery at times, but easy enough to dress for the temperature & avoid the showers. I know we’ll be back again, probably taking the time to drive over so we can be more leisurely about looking around more of the Adelaide surrounds.