Wednesday, June 20

Adelaide for Easter

Back in the heady day when Garry and I were both employed full-time we took advantage of some Qantas discount fares and booked a five-day Easter break in Adelaide.  I’ve only been to the South Australian capital once before.  The occasion was the funeral of my best mate’s father and as a result I saw very little of the city itself.  Garry has been before but seemed to recall very little.  Now that we’re back in Australia, it seems appropriate to begin filling the gaps in our domestic sight-seeing repertoire.

We made the most of our trip by hiring a car.  This let us get out of the city on a couple of occasions which proved rather prescient as the inner city was almost deserted for much of the weekend.   However, the empty streets did have their merit as it meant parking was easy to find.  This proved a boon as South Australia has an odd tradition of making city parking free of charge on public holiday.  As a result, we avoided hefty valet parking charges at our hotel and always found a parking spot within 50 metres of the front entrance.

We flew into Adelaide mid-morning on Good Friday after enjoying a hearty breakfast in the Qantas Lounge.  I think I’ll miss top tier lounge privileges most of all once I’ve left Text 100.  I won’t complain too much as the impact will be a while in coming.  By December this year I’ll have done enough flying to renew my Qantas Platinum status for another year.  Then in 2014 I’ll simply revert to lifetime Gold member status, thus retaining some lounge access privileges.  That is, until Qantas changes its frequent flyer program, or goes bust.

After checking into our hotel we decided to venture out of the city.  Good Friday is one of those rare calendar dates when almost every retail outlet is closed.  We headed south towards Victor Harbour with vague plans to visit a few vineyards before ending up at the mouth of the mighty Murray River.  However, this plan fell apart once we realized every vineyard was closed for the day.  It appears that liquor licensing restrictions on Good Friday cover more than just bars and clubs.

Ultimately, the change of plans did us no harm as we switched focus to finding the most scenic roads to take us between Adelaide and the south coast.  Highlights included the quaint homestead of Penny Hill.  We currently have a case of its Cracking Black Shiraz cellared in our pantry.  Victor Harbour proved to be a bit of a disappointment.  We found many of the beaches layered deep in seaweed deposited by the Southern Ocean’s relentless swell.  The seaside cafes were also heaving with visitors who’d clearly decided to make the same excursion we’d planned.

We eventually found ourselves on the wharf overlooking Goolwa channel, a body of water that separates Hindmarsh Island from the mainland.  Here you can see the infamous Hindmarsh Bridge curving high over the water.   Its construction created huge controversy in the 1990s.  For almost a decade its construction was delayed by claims that its location violated a sacred indigenous site.   However, those opposing the bridge refused to clarify these claims in what became known as “secret women’s business”.   Eventually a royal commission found that the “secret claims” had been fabricated and the Federal Government went on authorize the bridge’s construction.  It finally opened in March 2001 at a cost of $14 million.

We dined on lashing of fresh seafood at Hector’s CafĂ© soaking up some glorious sunshine.  Afterward we wandered through weekend produce markets spilling across a nearby park.  Needless to say we didn’t leave empty handed.  We bought a large jar of delicious local honey and a fiery chili paste that the stall owner promised would transform our curries and stir fries. Three months on, the last of the honey has been eaten, while the chili paste was tested for the first time only last week.  Let’s just say it has quite a kick!

Our road trip was completed with a drive across Hindmarsh Bridge and on toward the island’s southeastern corner.  Here the road abruptly ends in front rolling sand dunes.  A small lookout on the dunes provides a panoramic view of the Murray Mouth south of the island.   Thanks to extensive water diversion further upstream, at this point the river barely flows out to sea.  Instead its mouth is marked by shifting sandbanks, upon which row after row of foaming waves continually break.  In 2002 the mouth actually closed over and two dredging barges were brought in to reopen it.

We set aside Easter Saturday to enjoy the inner city.  The day kicked off with a late brunch at the Central Markets.  These fresh produce markets are feast for the eyes and ears as much as for the stomach.  The rest of the day was spent wandering the banks of the River Torrens and soaking up the sights and sounds of Rundle Mall.  I was fascinated to learn that the river is only 85km in length; its source is in the nearby Adelaide Hills.

Easter Sunday was spent driving through the Adelaide Hills, spotting its many vineyards and enjoying its rural attractions.  We began our road trip with a brief stop at the Mount Lofty lookout.  The viewing area offers views across the Adelaide Plains, the city and the Gulf St Vincent.  We traced the ridgeline as far as the aptly named Corkscrew Road.  From here we turned inland winding down into the valley, past Kangaroo Creek reservoir, and on to the village of Woodside. 

Woodside is famous for Melba’s Chocolate factory.  Inside we watched technicians coat chocolate balls and dress freshly molded chocolate Easter rabbits.  Naturally, we didn’t escape its well stocked store without purchasing several packages of tasty goods.  We suffered a similar fate in Cheese Wrights, a local cheesemaker located next door.

Our tour of the Adelaide Hills finished in the incredibly quaint town of Hahndorf.  The area was settled by Lutheran migrants from Prussia and so the town is heavily influenced by German culture.  After a walk to soak up the local atmosphere and Autumn colours we eventually stopped at the Hahndorf Inn, a Victorian style pub serving German fare.  We both went for the classic Six Weiner Platter.  Germans do sausages better than anyone.

Our final day in South Australia saw us make the most of our hire car.  We started with a visit to Botanic Gardens to see its famous Amazon Lilypad House and elegant Tropical Palm House, before heading north to Port Adelaide and then down the coast as far as the seaside suburb of Glenelg.  In Glenelg we found a fish and chip shop selling the perfect seafood.  However, the highlight of the day was a dolphin we spotted frolicking in the local marina.

No comments: