Seal with a deal in Adelaide

The Australian city offers diverse cultural experiences and chances to get up close to wildlife

Who: Writer-photographer Jon Gresham, 48, a British-Australian citizen and Singapore permanent resident who has lived in the Republic for more than 13 years. He published his debut collection of short stories, We Rose Up Slowly, last year.

Favourite destination: Adelaide, Australia

Why: I went to high school and university in Adelaide; and my parents, brother and sister and their families live there. I have not lived in Adelaide for more than 25 years, but have visited the city almost every year.

Also called the City of Churches, Adelaide is known for its refined, genteel nature and the fact that it is better designed and less larrikin than many of Australia's other cities. The food and wine are exceptional and its cultural experience diverse.

Favourite hotel

Writer-photographer Jon Gresham (above) recommends Kangaroo Island for wildlife spotting. PHOTO: JON GRESHAM

We have spent a week at beautiful beach houses ( at Aldinga or Goolwa, south of Adelaide. Visitors looking for a bed and breakfast in a country cottage setting can try Peppermint Farm Cottage ( in McLaren Vale, about 45 minutes south of the city; or, for somewhere in the city, Athelney Cottage ( in North Adelaide, just 10 minutes from the airport.

Favourite restaurant

We always visit d'Arry's Veran- dah (, which is part of the d'Arenberg Winery in McLaren Vale. There's a tasting room, cellar door and large fireplace next to the restaurant. You can eat its signature lobster medallion with blue swimmer crab, prawn ravioli and bisque (A$35 or S$35) with a view of the vineyards and the southern vales towards the Willunga hills.

Another place to eat south of the city is Star of Greece (, perched above Port Willunga beach with stunning views over the tranquil seas across Gulf St Vincent. It is named after a cargo ship wrecked there in 1888.

The last time we ate there, I looked up from my shallow fried, Kangaroo Island salt and pepper squid (A$15) and King George whiting (A$34) to see dolphins gliding along the water only 5m from the shore.

Best breakfast

The Latvian Lunchroom ( in Adelaide Central Market. I recommend the Latvian Fry-up of fried blood sausage, egg and potatoes with beetroot vinaigrette and applesauce (A$10 to A$15).

Must-try food

In days gone by, you would never leave Adelaide without trying a Pie Floater, a meat pie from Balfours Bakery in chunky pea soup, served from a food cart in Victoria Square.

Now, it is chocolate from the 100- year-old, family-owned Haigh's Chocolates factory ( in Greenhill Road, which has a 150 sq m chocolate shop and factory tour. The 440g milk honeycomb block at A$10.95 is pretty solid.

Favourite park

Visit Cleland Wildlife Park ( at the top of Mount Lofty, where you can frolic among koalas, lorikeets, wombats, Tasmanian devils, dingoes and snakes in a bush environment. There are close-up animal experiences and daily feeding times.

Experience local culture

For an essential Australian activity, watch a day/night cricket test match at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval (

Favourite place to spend an afternoon

I'd recommend McLaren Vale and Aldinga Beach. The light is different there. You can eat and drink at more than 70 cellar doors. Food can be found not just at d'Arrys and Star of Greece, but also at The Salopian Inn ( and The Elbow Room (

The smaller wineries are warm and inviting. Chat with wine- makers over shiraz at Samuel's Gorge (, Fox Creek ( and Coriole (

In the region on a Sunday? Visit Red Poles ( for lunch, view art in its gallery and hear a band play in the afternoon. If you are there in January, watch the Tour Down Under (, the biggest cycling race in the southern hemisphere.

Favourite place for shopping

Adelaide has a lot of markets - find the list at Weekend Notes (

Best hidden find

For cult accordion ensembles or a jazz-ska band, try The Wheatsheaf Hotel (, a bar in Thebarton.

Best short trip

Kangaroo Island (, Australia's Galapagos Island. You can watch seals, ringtail possums, kangaroos, echidnas, goannas and bandicoots. You may also see whales in the Great Australian Bight.

If you are hungry, there are 28 vineyards, many with cellar doors and cheesemakers. At Island Beehive Cafe (, try the honey made by Ligurian bees descended from Italian bees brought to the island in 1884.

Event to bookmark

I'd love to take Singaporean writers such as Amanda Lee Koe, Alfian Sa'at and Cyril Wong to Adelaide Writers' Week, which is Australia's largest free literary festival and part of the Adelaide Festival ( in March.

March is when the city really comes alive with sporting events, the Womad international music festival and a fringe festival ( Performers last year included international acts such as Mogwai and Sinead O'Connor .

Ideal length of stay

A week, with three days on Kangaroo Island and the rest of the time spent in and around Adelaide.

Recommended reading

As a child in England in the 1970s before we emigrated to Adelaide, I read Storm Boy by Colin Thiele, in which themes of growing up and man's relationship with nature are explored. The book, which features a boy and his pelican, Mr Percival, is set in the sandhills and the Coorong, a long stretch of wave- battered shore facing the Great Southern Ocean about a 11/2-hour drive from Adelaide.

Another migrant to Adelaide is the winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature, South Africa-born J.M. Coetzee. I recommend his novel, Life & Times Of Michael K, as preparation for a visit to anywhere because it asks questions about fleeing war, the translation of belief into action, the need for a spiritual, inner life and connection to the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline 'Seal with a deal in Adelaide'. Print Edition | Subscribe