Where in Australia do you go when you’ve seen enough of Melbourne, partied on the Gold Coast one time too many, and are as familiar with Sydney’s hot spots as you are the back of your hand? That’s the question I found myself asking before flipping a coin and deciding on my next destination – the city of Adelaide. Located in the south-east of South Australia, Adelaide is perhaps best known for two things: its wine (being just a two-hour drive away from the Barossa Valley) and its churches.
I arrived at the city of churches early one Friday morning after a two and a half hour flight from Sydney. There are buses from the airport that will take you directly to the city so I hopped on one and headed straight for the hotel. The hotel I’d booked was conveniently positioned right next to most of Adelaide’s happening night spots – on Hindley Street. It was also just a stone’s throw away from the popular shopping strip – Rundle Mall. After taking care of business at the place I’d call home for the weekend, I decided to go on my first long walk around the city to get a first-hand feel of the streets and its people. I’d heard about Hindley Street’s reputation as the place to party at night but during the day, it was almost completely lifeless. It doesn’t take long to realise why some of the locals so affectionately refer to it as ‘Sleepy Adelaide’. The establishments are mostly empty and the takeaway stores have no more than a handful of people snacking at a time.
It’s not until reaching Rundle Mall that there are more signs of life with people shopping and stocking up on goods for the weekend ahead. I am certainly not here to shop so I decide to get away from the city centre and hop on a tram and head straight for the beach. Some forty minutes later, I arrive at Glenelg Beach – arguably Adelaide’s most popular beach. It’s long and narrow with people scattered all along it and where swimmers can be seen jumping off the jetty without a care in the world. I spend some time here enjoying the 35 degree heat but also devising a plan of attack for the night ahead.
I kick the night’s festivities off with a bar and pub crawl having no more than one drink at a variety of establishments before finding somewhere to settle in for a few more. It’s not until reaching establishment number six, Adelaide Casino (just under 300 metres away from Hindley St) that I find a venue with a half decent crowd. I get acquainted with the bar staff who commit my poison of choice to memory (although not a huge stretch given the quantity of alcohol I consume). The casino has it all – beautiful women, a live band, places to sit when you need to take a breather, and it even has poker machines – who would have thought! When the live band stops, the local DJ takes over spinning mainstream tunes to an all-age, all-types sort of crowd.
A few hours in and several drinks down, I go on a mission to find an after-party venue at one of the more happening nightclubs on Hindley Street. I walk past The City Nightclub, Encore, Red Square, and a few others I’d heard about but none look to be at capacity. Then I reach The Dog & Duck and see a solid line out the front. The decision is made. After being ushered in, I hit the bar and can’t help but notice how young this crowd is. It’s an effort to spot anyone over the age of 25 but the music is pumping, the place is packed, and I party into the wee hours.
Saturday begins with brunch on Rundle Street. The street is littered with cafés, restaurants, and pubs. It’s the place to be “seen” during daylight. I do a lap of Rundle Street, Hindley Street, and also North Terrace. Many of Adelaide’s historical buildings can be found on a kilometre-long walk along this street – Adelaide Library, The State Museum, Art Gallery of South Australia, Government House, Botanic Gardens, and the War Memorial are just some of the sites you will see here. After my scenic walk, I decide to hop on a tram again; but this time towards Henley Beach – Adelaide’s other famous beach. It is also long and narrow but I find it a little less touristy than Glenelg Beach.
After a solid day of sightseeing, the night begins with another exploration of bars and pubs around Rundle and Hindley Streets – I even end up at the casino again to test out the memories of my newly acquired bar staff buddies. The crowd is significantly larger at every venue on Saturday night – this is the one night of the week when Adelaide chooses to party. When midnight hits, it’s time – time to check out by far the biggest nightclub Adelaide has to offer – HQ. Located on North Terrace and a good 500 metres away from the other hot spots on Hindley Street, this place is so big I forget for a moment that I’m actually in Adelaide. It kind of reminded me of being at Home Nightclub back in Sydney with its several rooms and its superclub kind of feel. If there’s one place you need to party when in Adelaide, then this is it.
Sunday comes around fast. I’m advised that The Grand at Glenelg Beach is the best place for a Sunday session but having already been there and needing to be up bright and early for the hotel check-out on Monday morning, I stay close to the hotel in the city. I later regret this as the city just isn’t happening. They say Hindley Street is Adelaide’s (albeit smaller) version of Kings Cross. This might be the case on Saturday night but on Sunday, there is no comparison to be made. It’s a bit of a ghost-town. I walk past one venue that has one customer – a lone punter with a full schooner glass seemingly gearing up for a big night. Pity no one else is.
One thing you will not miss on Hindley Street however is the shisha puffers (smokers puffing on flavoured tobacco through a water pipe). The majority of the crowd on Sunday night (or on any given night) appear to be there for the shisha – it’s an epidemic! After a sleepless Sunday night reflecting on my visit, I leave Adelaide on Monday – shisha-stained clothes and all!
© Danny Canak