Adelaide is cool. If you’d said these words to anyone pre-2013, they’d most likely have thrown a meat pie in your face. South Australia’s “City of Churches” had little going for it, except maybe that it was the home of legendary cricketer Don Bradman.
But in the last two years, something’s changed. Adelaide has grown up. Hip restaurants, boutique hotels and offbeat bars are bringing fresh new energy to the city. Add to that a punchy arts scene (the Adelaide Fringe Festival is among the best in the world) and a freak-of-nature location that will see you pimping it up in some of Australia’s best wine country and then soaking up the sun on white-sand beaches in under an hour, and you have a city that really can be called cool.
The Franklin Boutique Hotel is typical of new Adelaide: in which the owners headed to antique auctions to pick up pieces for the seven funky, black-carpeted rooms that sit atop an indie pub, where you can munch on Jamaican fish tacos and sample seven different tap beers with mustachioed hipsters. The Fire Station Inn is a former fire station that’s been divided into three quirky apartments. The Fire Engine Suite is the pick of the bunch, with a bright red 1942 fire truck parked in the living area. If you prefer classy to cool, the Clarion Hotel Soho has 30 chic rooms with Italian marble in the bathrooms, Missoni linen on the king-size beds and Eames chairs.
You’ll find Peel Street restaurant in a lane crammed full with eclectic heritage buildings. Inside, it’s all about fresh food made from local ingredients. Across town in the city’s most of-the-moment eatery, Press Food and Wine, chef Andrew Davies and his team do their own smoking, curing, baking, churning and pickling in-house, and whip up beef burgers in a sexy setting. Oenophiles need look no further than a table at the Penfolds Magill Estate restaurant overlooking the vineyard that produces the world-famous Grange in the Adelaide foothills. Expect sensational views and a five- or eight-course degustation menu with faultlessly matched wines.
You won’t find super-luxe nightclubs in Adelaide, but you will find some of the coolest small bars around. One of the best is Clever Little Tailor on Peel Street, where you can chill out in leather booths under Twenties-inspired lanterns. Before you leave the area, mosey on over to Maybe Mae – notoriously hard to find – for its green booth seating, sweet beats and bespoke cocktails. A five-minute walk away, you’ll find the sophisticated Mother Vine, which mixes slick décor with a comprehensive wine list and staff who’ll know exactly what your palate will love. For a polished, underground experience, head to Bank Street Social. Crammed with local wines, beers and hipsters, it’ll ensure you feel very cool.
Perth’s having a moment. A mining boom has led to an influx of money and style that’s changing the face of the city. Australia’s first Aman Resorts property is set to open in the city’s Old Treasury this year, and a $750-million redevelopment of the Perth airport is underway. A taste of things to come in a city that already has so much going for it: flip-flop weather nine months of the year, gorgeous beaches and the country’s friendliest locals.
The jewel in Perth’s accommodation crown right now is, well, the Crown Metropol Perth. Hire a private cabana and spend an afternoon lounging by one of the palm-fringed pools, then explore the clutch of ritzy bars and restaurants inside. For something more boutique, try the 15-suite Terrace Hotel in heritage-listed St Georges House, a former bishop’s house with a vintage Great Gatsby vibe. Otherwise, there’s the discreetly fronted Richardson Hotel and Spa, where the Treatments for Men menu could be just the thing you need.
The vertical garden-clad Greenhouse on St Georges Terrace – “The Terrace” to locals, and Perth’s main street – is all about environmentally conscious good living. The chairs are made from old road signs, there’s a rooftop garden, a worm farm, and the food from renowned chef Matt Stone’s kitchen is as seasonal and local as it comes. Three minutes down the road you’ll find Print Hall, a four-level dining and drinking extravaganza, which houses venues like modern-Australian Print Hall Bar & Dining Room, Apple Daily Bar and Eating House for Asian street food. Restaurant Amusé in East Perth has possibly the best service in the city, and a delectable menu that changes with the seasons. Seafood lovers, head over to Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth for the freshest Swan River swimmer crabs in Australia.
Take a trip back to Prohibition at Ezra Pound in Northbridge, which combines wood furniture, flickering candlelight and slinky jazz and soul to put punters in the perfect mood to enjoy beers wrapped in paper bags and cocktails served in jam jars. For live music in Northbridge, hit up The Bird, a small bar that hosts live music sets, secret gigs and monthly art exhibitions. Meanwhile, you can get your sophisticated Mexicana fix at El Publico with their Mezcal Trip (three mezcal spirits served with a cucumber icy pole), accompanied by a mouth-watering version of ceviche called aquachile. If brown spirits are your thing, try Helvetica, buried behind office blocks in the Perth business district and with a large selection of whiskeys. End your night at loft-style bar Wolf Lane, also in the neighbourhood.
Drive 25 minutes from the city to the Swan Valley to check out boutique wineries. Or, for a culture hit, visit Rooftop Movies. From October to late April, this carpark rooftop is filled with black-and-white-striped deck chairs and vintage food caravans, while retro, cult and arthouse films are screened each night. Head to Northbridge after, a suburb that’s recently transformed into a vibrant cultural hub, to discover eclectic shops, cafes and museums.