Adelaide deserves its place on the Lonely Planet list | Jane Howard

The city has the best festival, gorgeous weather and both friendly and endlessly inventive locals. What's not to love?

It didn’t take long after Adelaide was announced as one of the Lonely Planet’s 2014 top 10 places to visit that the jokes started rolling in. “Sure, it’s a nice place to visit, but no one actually wants to live there,” goes one well-worn refrain.

Adelaide can feel perpetually trapped in the shadow of its bigger counterparts in the eastern states. And sure, we’re not as beautiful and shiny as Sydney (although I don’t think you can take all the credit for that harbour), and I’ll give Melbourne the crown of cultural capital (they need something to distract from the grey and the rain). But Adelaide is my hometown, the city I love, and a city that should absolutely be on that list.

I defy anyone to convince me there is a better city in the world to be in during Fringe – the biggest arts festival in Australia, and the second biggest in the world. Combine fringe with the festival of arts, both taking place in a city centre blocked in to just one square mile and you feel the energy here in your bones.

Festivals as large as Adelaide's capture the best and the worst of art, but at the end of the day it’s my favourite season because of the people. At 2am when it’s still 25 degrees we drink local wine and beer and sit on old wooden logs or milk crates in driveways between city buildings. We lie on the grass and look up at the stars – yes, you can see them from the city – and talk for hours with friends we’ve known for years, or known for hours.

In small cities like Adelaide you get people mixing in ways you don’t in big metropolises. The Wheatsheaf Hotel – or the Wheaty – in Thebarton is just as much home to the tradies as it is to the roller-derby girls and to the local musos. Audiences elsewhere are never as diverse as those you come across at the Garden of Unearthly Delights during Fringe.

Perhaps Adelaide is a city where we keep the best bits a little too close to our chest. Small city streets that appear to lead only to carparks surprise you with galleries and bars. It can be a city of house parties rather than nights out. People say you need to know a local to really find your way in, but that’s because it’s the locals that make the city what it is.

We all know it’s not a place without problems. I can’t remember how many goodbye parties I’ve been to, yet can count the friends who moved here on one hand. The council constantly strives towards an indefinable "vibrancy", while small venues and organisations drown in paperwork. In some strange way, though, I think the fight this puts in those who stay gives this city an impassioned energy lost on our bigger counterparts.

Even on the Lonely Planet list, I’m still going to get asked why I live here, and when I’m going to move. But at the end of the day, those who can’t see what Adelaide is offering are the ones who are missing out. Cities are made of their people; and Adelaide is made of some very fine people indeed.


Jane Howard

The GuardianTramp

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