Adelaide's park-fringed downtown area is compact and walkable, but to access the more spread out beaches, 'burbs and hills a rent-a-car is the way to go. Hire wheels at Adelaide Airport (try Hertz; www.hertz.com.au) or in Adelaide itself. Parking is cheap and easy by Australian standards (which are cheap and easy by world standards).
Adelaide is Australia's fifth-biggest city with a slick international airport (www.aal.com.au). Qantas, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific (among others) service Adelaide from overseas, with domestic flights (Qantas, Virgin Blue, Tiger and Jetstar) winging-in from around Australia. The airport is six kilometres west of the city centre.
Interstate trains (the Ghan from Darwin, the Overland from Melbourne and the Indian Pacific from Sydney and Perth) chug into the Adelaide Parklands Terminal (13 21 47; www.gsr.com.au), just south west of the centre. Adelaide's local train network (+61 (0)8 8218 2362; www.transadelaide.com.au) comprises five suburban lines - useful if you're staying a while. There's also a tram running from the city to beachside Glenelg.
Country code: +61; South Australia: 08 (drop the 0 if dialling from outside Australia).
All Things Bright and Beautiful: Murder in the City of Light by Susan Mitchell undermines Adelaide's snobby social hierarchies, questioning how the infamous Snowtown murders could have occurred on the fringe of this civilised town. Set in Adelaide, Knitting by Anne Bartlett tells a tale of friendship between two women who stop to help a stranger in distress.
Do go / Don't Go
Adelaide summers (December to February) are always sunny, but when the desert heat swoops down from the north the temp can top 40°C for days. Time your visit with spring or autumn when it's clear skies, pleasantly warm days and plain sailing. The marvellous arts-centric Adelaide Festival (www.adelaidefestival.com.au), Adelaide Fringe (www.adelaidefringe.com.au) and WOMADelaide (www.womadelaide.com.au) festivals all happen in February to March. Unfortunately, so does the Clipsal 500 (www.clipsal500.com.au) car race - a four-day fuel-fest whipping local rev-heads into a salivatory frenzy.
Adelaide may seem rather Caucasian culturally, but there's no shortage of great international eateries here. European immigration in the 1950s launched fine Mediterranean cuisine in the city's culinary lexicon, with more recent arrivals from Asia seeding a host of affordable Indian, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants across town. The main eat-out arteries are Rundle and Hutt Streets in the East End (think cafés, pizza and pub-grub) and Gouger Street in the West End, fronting onto Adelaide's Chinatown and the superb Central Markets. The McLaren Vale, Barossa and Clare Valley vineyards are also close by - nirvana for wine lovers.
There are licensed taxi ranks across the city or you can easily flag one down in the street. Reliable operators include Adelaide Independent Taxis (13 22 11), Suburban Taxis (13 10 08) and Yellow Cabs (13 22 27).
Like elsewhere in Australia, tipping here isn't mandatory, but add on 10 per cent in restaurants and cafés if you rated the service. Round taxi fares up to the nearest dollar.
Australian dollar (AU$).
Bring a sun hat if you're going to the cricket at the Adelaide Oval (www.saca.com.au) or a woollen beanie if you're watching the Adelaide Crows play football (www.afc.com.au). Take sunscreen in summer, too, as South Australia's capital can be a scorcher.
Adelaide regards itself with a lofty cultural gaze. The Australian masters (Roberts, Conder et al) hang in the highbrow Art Gallery of South Australia (+61 (0)8 8207 7000; www.artgallery.sa.gov.au), on North Terrace, along with international and Aboriginal works. The JamFactory (+61 (0)8 8410 0727; www.jamfactory.com.au), at 19 Morphett Street, displays local contemporary craft and design with on-site glass-blowing. Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute (+61 (0)8 8224 3200; www.tandanya.com.au), at 253 Grenfell Street, covers the art of the city's traditional owners, the Kaurna.
Appetite-stoking shopping hub, food court and tourist highlight, Central Market (+61 0(8) 8203 7203; www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au), between Grote and Gouger Streets, is an Adelaide essential. Ranks of covered stalls sell organic fruit and veg, smelly cheese, gluten-free sausages, seafood, coffee, chocolate, yoghurt and more, trading from Tuesday to Saturday. Vital, noisy and effervescent, it's multicultural Adelaide at its exuberant best.
No-one really comes to Adelaide to shop, but Rundle Street and Rundle Mall (plus the lanes and arcades running off them) comprise its commercial epicentre: start here for boutiques, record shops, chain stores, jewellers, bookshops, outdoor equipment, food and drink. The luscious cosmetics from Jurlique (+61 (0)8 8410 7180; www.jurlique.com.au), at 50 Rundle Mall Plaza, are iconically South Australian. For CDs and vinyl, tune in to Big Star (+61 (0)8 8232 1484; 197 Rundle Street). Urban Cow Studio (+61 (0)8 8232 6126; www.urbancow.com.au), at 11 Frome Street, stocks eclectic local arts and crafts.
Drive (or walk) up the gently sloping Montefiore Hill in North Adelaide to the statue of Colonel Light, the town planner who gave the city its grand urban design. From Light's feet, the view back across town to the Adelaide Hills is magical, especially at night.
Adelaide is a dead-flat town - boring to look at, but perfect for cycling. Bicycle SA (+61 (0)8 8168 9999; www.bikesa.asn.au) has a stable of free bikes you can borrow for the day (with a valid ID) to explore 'ADL' on two wheels. It's based at 111 Franklin Street in the city and provides info on bike trails as well as helmets and locks.
January The world's top cyclists swoop into South Australia for the Tour Down Under (www.tourdownunder.com.au) bike race, with the big finish in Adelaide. February in even numbered years The major biennial Adelaide Festival of Arts (www.adelaidefestival.com.au) kicks off, running into March. March A duo of fine annual festivals: Adelaide Fringe (www.adelaidefringe.com.au) and WOMADelaide (www.womadelaide.com.au) world-music festival compete with the Clipsal 500 (www.clipsal500.com.au) car race for hearts and minds. July in odd-numbered years The Adelaide Festival of Ideas (www.adelaidefestivalofideas.com.au) brings together the terminally intelligent for a biennial brainstorm, with debates and seminars. August The South Australian Living Artists Festival (www.salafestival.com) features innovative, expressive installations and exhibitions across town. September Feel like a jog? The 12-kilometre City-Bay Fun Run (www.city-bay.org.au) from the city to Glenelg will get your pulse racing. September also delivers the SANFL Grand Final (www.sanfl.com.au), the pinnacle of the local Australian Rules football season. November The fab Feast Festival (www.feast.org.au) is a three-week gay and lesbian event offering a cavalcade of dance, theatre and more.