Adelaide’s best-kept secrets

When the borders are open again, consider maintaining your inner peace. Just a short stroll from the centre of Adelaide is a gorgeous, tranquil garden. Travel editor Winsor Dobbin goes exploring – and suggests a couple of great hotels in which to stay.

Many Adelaide residents are blissfully unaware of one of their city’s finest attractions – a tranquil Japanese garden that is free to enter and offers a perfect location for some quiet contemplation.

Originally built to honour the Japanese city of Himeji – which became one of Adelaide’s sister cities in 1982 – the garden on show in this little oasis was the work of Japanese landscape designer Yoshitaka Kumada and many volunteers.vEnter through ornate gates and discover a little slice of Japan in Park 1, one of the southern parts of the Adelaide Parklands. You can purify yourself by using a chozubachi, or traditional water bowl.

The garden contains features which are of religious significance to the Japanese people and some designed to reflect the beauty of nature. It is a blend of two classic styles. The first is the senzui (lake and mountain garden), where water and the imagination create images of vastness and grandeur. The second is the kare senzui (dry garden), where rocks and sand evoke the presence of water.

There is a lovely small lake at the centre of the park, which is fed by a mini waterfall.

Himeji, 650km west of Tokyo, is a beautiful city with an historic castle that I was fortunate enough to have visited a couple of years ago. The park is beautifully maintained and open from 8am daily.

For a different Asian experience in Adelaide, the Thai food at Soi 38 is exceptional and the wine list full of interest. For a full-on gourmet experience head to the suburbs for a meal at Penfolds’ Magill Estate – a beautiful spot with a fascinating wine history.

Two quite different places to stay are also on my radar after a recent visit. 

Sometimes you really don’t need a hotel with all the bells and whistles that cost the big bucks. For a night or two you can get by without a concierge, 24-room service, around-the-clock reception and porters to help you take your one small bag to the lift. What you probably do want is a clean, quiet, well-sized room with a TV, shower, fast free internet and a central location.

For all those of you with simple tastes, may I introduce you the Adabco Boutique Hotel. With a history dating back to 1897, the Adabco has a communal kitchen and outdoor terrace located on each floor. It is clean, comfortable, and very affordable.

Old world charm

Located in a heritage-listed Venetian Gothic style building it offers a beguiling mix of old-world charm and modern sophistication. There is even a guest lounge with computer terminals.

It’s a little old school, for sure, but that’s part of its appeal.

There are little touches of luxury like in-room robes and Netflix movies, but what the Adabco does best is offer a very good base within strolling distance of both Adelaide”s many cafes, eateries and bars, and the lovely parklands. The building was originally opened as Our Boys’ Institute in 1897, the early forerunner of the YMCA in Adelaide.

Lady Victoria Buxton, wife of the former Governor of South Australia, laid the foundation stone in October 1896. There are a range of room sizes and styles with prices booked directly online for under $100 a night – that’s cheaper than many crappy country motels. Two-night stays, for instance, attract a 20% discount.

The Adabco is part of the Elanor Group. See The Mayfair Hotel is part of the same group, but a step up in facilities and style. 

First, the location is perfect; within strolling distance of about anywhere you would want to go in Adelaide. Secondly, the rooms are terrifically comfortable and the staff, particularly at breakfast, go the extra mile to make sure guests feel comfortable. Another shot of barista-made coffee? No problem. 

There is a sense of serious hospitality here.

Opened in 2015, the Mayfair offers understated luxury in the heritage-listed former Colonial Mutual Life Building which dates to 1934. It overlooks Rundle Mall from King William Street. The property has 170 good-sized rooms in a range of configurations that have hand-crafted South Australian furnishings, custom-made beds, and premium hotel facilities.

Eating and drinking options include the Mayflower Restaurant, Hennessy rooftop bar and The Den Bistro.  In support of South Australian produce and sustainable practices, the Mayfair has established two beehives, home to the ‘Mayfair Rooftop Bees’ (MRB). MRB Raw Honey features in signature Mayfair dishes, desserts, and cocktails.

The hotel prides itself on warm and attentive service and was named ‘Best 5-Star Hotel in Australia’ by Trivago 2019 and ‘Best Hotel Bed’ by Australian Gourmet Traveller in 2018.

There are range of packages available, including one for well-behaved pets. See 
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