Ashes fans' guide: hidden Adelaide
Without a rock, reef or Opera House to its name, Adelaide has made an icon of its food culture. Lying snug between the Adelaide Hills and the shoreline, it is wine, beer, and the fat of the surrounding land that makes its genteel heart beat a little faster.
Adelaide's indoor Central Market on Gouger Street is neither as self-consciously gourmet or prettified as Melbourne's celebrated food halls, but it still has serious produce with speciality stalls like Piroshki Russian food, kangaroo meat done every which way and Lucia's, the city's oldest Italian cafe, which has been turning out classic dishes since 1957. At Café Zed, bring in an old album for their record deck and owner Franjo Novosel will shout you a coffee in exchange. Cheese is a regional speciality so follow your nose or take a tour with stall holder Mark Gleeson (, +61 8 0402 165 800).
The decrepit but fascinating Museum of Economic Botany in the heart of the Botanic Gardens (North Terrace) has been restored from its floor to its high-minded Victorian gilded ceiling. Traditional glass cabinets hold plant specimens that have "a use or value to mankind" and displays show the indigenous people's ingenuity with what's to hand, such as a giant nut from the fish poison tree – used to stun fish for easy capture. Whether by lobbing it hard or by extracting its venom isn't stated.
Fire station chic
It's not everybody's choice of room, mate, but you can't ignore the 1942 American fire truck parked by the bed in a converted fire station. There's a fireman's pole for dance practice, too. North Adelaide Heritage Group has a number of eccentric properties and heritage cottages, such as the Fire Station Inn (from around Au$200, £123, a night) across historic North Adelaide (). The area is handy for the Oval and full of the stone houses, pubs and churches of the 19th-century Anglo ascendancy. Back in the city centre is the more conventional Clarion Soho, a by-the-book boutique hotel with minimal studios from Au$160.
Driven mad by the beeping pokies (slot machines) that ruin many an Aussie pub, three game gals took over the Wheatsheaf Hotel in dodgy Theberton. Unlike most Adelaide hotels, the Wheaty doesn't have a wrought iron facade but beneath its sun-damaged skin is an airy old-skool boozer. A "Fosters-free zone," the bar has a healthy gust of draught beers from across the state and the world. The nearby Brew Boys microbrewery () contributes and a bar-top "hopinator" forces beer through fresh hop flowers. There are gigs most evenings and Sunday arvo (Tuesday is the local ukelele collective's practice night).
• 39 George Street, Theberton,
Look up, and high above the corner of King William Street and Rundle Mall is the stone hive and golden bee symbol of Adelaide's Haigh chocolate dynasty. The city goes nuts for cocoa with a clutch of chocolate cafes in the centre. For a real high, head 30 minutes up into the handy Adelaide Hills. At Woodside, there's the Willy Wonka-ish Melba factory (), where vintage cement mixers churn chocolate raisins. Outside the historic German settlement of Hahndorf is the slick Hahndorf Hill Winery, with its ChocoVino tastings. Its splendid estate wines are matched with the best "single origin" bean chocolate from around the world.
Australia's oldest mosque (1888) was built in a back street for Afghan camel drivers employed in the South Australian desert. A simple stone affair with whitewashed brick minarets, it now serves city workers and a new wave of Afghani refugees. You can enter (avoid prayer times) but the wood-lined interior makeover now bears unfortunate resemblance to a Swedish sauna. The camels' descendants have gone feral but their pure bloodline means they are in demand back in the Middle East. Those not exported can end up as camel pastrami at Wild Oz in the Central Market (), which also deals in wild goat, wild boar and, of course, Skippy.
Arts and crafts
Galleries and antique shops are sprouting among the bathroom fitting and joinery warehouses of Magill Road. The trendsetter was furniture-maker Khai Liew (166 Magill Road, ), who is building an international reputation among collectors. His work is influenced by everything from the east to English Arts and Crafts. Surfaces are folded and creased like sublime timber origami. There are more of his designs at the local Jam Factory (19 Morphett Street, ) arts centre shop (19 Morphett Street) while one of the finest Arts and Crafts collections outside London is at the Art Gallery of South Australia (North Terrace, ).
Seriously good grub
From an unlikely spot sandwiched by the strip joints and sex shops at the wrong end of Hindley Street, The Apothecary 1878 restaurant and bar does seriously good food and wine. It is exceptional value – you can get five Mediterranean-style sharing dishes for Au$35pp. Judge the Some Young Punk's Passion Has Red Lips cab shiraz by its pulp fiction label: Wicked. Try also The Sparrow Kitchen and Bar (10 O'Connell Street, ), Chianti Classico (160 Hutt Street, ) or publican's daughter Mary Anne Kennedy can take you on one of her insider Taste of SA tours ().
• The Apothecary, 118 Hindley Street,
Fish and chips on the beach
Semaphore (named after its old-time signal tower for mariners) is a coastal town that they forgot to close down. A sun-bleached, treeless boulevard leads down to a jetty jutting out past empty white sands into the ocean. Once a popular resort suburb with a palais and funfair, Semaphore has a faded charm that is now apparently attracting a hip crowd. You wouldn't know that from the cavernous and seedy Federal Hotel on main street, which looks perfect for a shoot out, but Sotos fish and chip shop a few doors down (23 Semaphore Road) still pulls them in from across the city.
Follow the mosaic path down the side of Muratti Cakes in Prospect and you're at the door of Cafe Komodo (118 Prospect Road), a backyard burger and smoothie joint in a tin shed that's all about formica tables and locals hanging out. Live music Friday nights. If you can't face the schlep, you get a similar dining aesthetic at the altogether cooler and pricier Tin Kat Cafe housed in a terrace at 107 Rundle Street, Kent Town, where a seasonal lunch menu to make you purr belies the alley cat environs. Cute gardens at both.
• Qantas () flies London Heathrow to Adelaide, with a variety of connection choices, from £886 inc taxes and surcharges. Valid for departures 16 April - 20 June 2011.