While wandering the streets of Adelaide during our first evening in this garden-filled, wine region gateway, we happened upon Urban Cow Studio, a quirky shop full of art and wares by local craftspeople. While perusing the hilarious T-shirts (printed with things like a cartoonish ghost saying, “I’m the ghost who played Patrick Swayze’s ghost in Ghost”) I came across one that read, “ADELAIDE’S GOT BALLS.” Not sure what that meant but amused nevertheless, I put the T-shirt back, and we wandered out of the shop and back into the oven-like heat of Adelaide’s summer.

We later learned the meaning of that odd phrase while on a tour of the city: It refers to a set of large silver balls stacked in front of the David Jones store on the Rundle Mall. They were erected in the 1970s and donated to the city. The area is now a bustling

Central Market

Central market closing time sales

shopping district with street performers and shops ranging from large department stores and international food chains to mom and pop outfits. The silver balls have become ingrained in the culture as a popular meeting point as well as a point of pride for locals. It’s common for people meeting to say, “I’ll meet you at the balls,” and there is no confusion as to what spot is meant.

Our tour was given by Tony Sinclair, a 30-something born and raised Adelaide. He volunteers his Saturday mornings to give free tours beginning at the YHA on Waymouth Street. He said he loves to give tours for the opportunity to meet new people and hear new stories and for the chance to do something active on Saturday mornings. Her and I were extremely glad to have gone on the tour as Tony is a wealth of knowledge, and he gives a fantastic overview of his city.

Some of our favorite highlights:

  • Rosina Street Car Park – A local artist decided to create a different kind of car park. This one’s a wall that consists of more than 10,000 matchbox cars affixed to the brick.
  • South Australian Hotel – On North Terrace, this historic hotel housed the Beatles during their 1964 visit when 350,000 people, nearly half the city (the female half?), lined the streets all the way from the airport to the hotel. The Beatles were so enamored with the city that they built one of the Cavern Club franchises here.
  • The Aboriginal memorial park – Located directly in front of the InterContinental hotel on North Terrace (but hidden from the street), this memorial consists of images and sculptures by local indigenous artists, the meaning of the artwork is not explained because it is meant only to be understood by the local Aborigines. It is still quite beautiful, and all who see it will be able to enjoy it.
  • The River Torrens – Rowing clubs and dragon boats are common on this scenic river surrounded by parks. The city council has created a greenway along the rivers edge with biking and running paths that follow the river all the way to the bay near Glenelg Beach. Several black swans, lorikeets and pelicans call this river home.
  • St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral – Built half from English sandstone and half from local limestone, the building is one of the only in the city’s CBD to be built on a diagonal facing southeast. This was done to allow for the largest possible building on the land available. The church is unique for containing a stained glass panel depicting an Aborigine.
  • Botanical Gardens – At 150 years old, this botanical garden is large and beautiful enough to rival those in Sydney and Melbourne. Be sure to see the restored Palm House, said to be the oldest glass house in the Southern Hemisphere, and marvel at the fig trees on Murdoch Avenue (named for Rupert’s mother, whose family bought their first newspaper in Adelaide). The roots of these trees can grow to be 120 meters in length and quite destructive to sidewalks and buildings.
  • Central Market – This is lively market where you can buy local produce, meats, cheeses, and other wares at very reasonable prices. For self-caterers, it offers a fair number of options for saving money while still eating well. And, if you wait until a half hour or so before the market closes, you can watch the produce vendors begin discounting their prices, shouting over the competition to attract buyers for the last of their food that they would otherwise have to throw away. You can also pick up lots of food for very little money this way.

Tony’s tour was a wonderful introduction to the city and should not be missed. Because he volunteers his time and gives the tour for free, be sure to tip him well!