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Step into the garden .... the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Photo: Jonathan van der Knaap

Embracing the madness of Festival Season 2017

By Mark Eggleton

This may sound like hyperbole but if you’re in Adelaide during March you’ve probably picked the hottest place to be on the planet. It’s a big call but you will have thousands of entertainment choices plus great food, wine and more and, all of it takes place in some of the world’s most eclectic venues.

For starters, there’s the Adelaide Festival (3-19 March), which also coincides with the Fringe Festival (16 Feb – 19 March), WOMADelaide (10-13 March) and the Clipsal 500 (2-5 March). It’s known as Mad March and it’s a crazy month catering for everyone from theatregoers, to music lovers, arts enthusiasts, foodies and petrolheads. Put simply: there’s no other place on earth quite like Adelaide in March.

So, how do you navigate all the attractions? What are the must-see events and where can you stay?

Not to be missed

On the Adelaide Festival front, not-to-be-missed events include Adelaide Festival co-director Neil Armfield’s brilliant adaptation of Kate Grenville’s 2005 novel The Secret River being staged in the natural outdoor amphitheatre setting of the Anstey Hill quarry or the Australian premiere of Schaubühne Berlin’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III from director Thomas Ostermeier.

Yet those two productions barely touch the sides of what the Festival has to offer let alone the Adelaide Fringe with its tribute to Leonard Cohen as well as a cornucopia of cabaret, comedy and theatre and more, plus WOMADelaide which is celebrating its 25th year with a range of headline acts from around the world including the Philip Glass Ensemble performing the musical score from the classic 1982 film KOYAANISQATSI.

And then, there’s the Clipsal 500 and a few hard days of street circuit racing featuring the nation’s top supercar drivers.


Between the action though, there’s plenty of eating and socialising to do. One option is The Garden of Unearthly Delights with a huge program of over 100 shows across 13 venues, covering live music, circus, visual art, comedy, family, magic, variety and so much more.

Set in Rundle Park, The Garden offers night time and daily entertainment plus plenty of food and pop-up bars scattered throughout. As the night gets very late, The Propaganda Club on Grenfell Street provides late night eats and entertainment in a stylish retro setting.

Also, going till late will be the newly designed Floating Palais during the Adelaide Festival on the Torrens riverbank. Dance the night away to bands and DJs in the Grand Ballroom, compare notes on the shows you’ve loved over a drink or soak up the last glimpses of summer (and the odd international star) in the glorious open air mezzanine bar.

The Palais precinct will stretch into Elder Park with a great range of fare on offer featuring the talents of some of Adelaide’s leading chefs such as Duncan Welgemoed from Africola.


For those that just want to chill and watch the city pass-by, you can’t go past the rooftop bar 2KW. Sitting on the rooftop of a landmark bank building, the outdoor terrace affords an incredible panorama of gardens, Government House, the Adelaide Oval, Saint Peter’s Cathedral and more.

Alternatively, wend your way up to Peel Street, which has become small bar central and descend the stairs into the speakeasy-inspired Maybe Mae for a late-night cocktail or final beverage before you fall into the arms of Morpheus. Then again, back down on Rundle Street, Nola (the name is short for “New Orleans Louisiana”) is housed in the old Adelaide stables building and serves up a real taste of Creole and Cajun food matched with a great range of Aussie craft brews and local whiskies.


And finally, where to lay your weary head before beginning again the following day. For starters, the city’s most stylish digs are probably the Mayfair Hotel on busy King William Street. The 170-room hotel is a gloriously successful restoration of the heritage 1934 Colonial Mutual Life building with a rather striking add-on; inside is all style with just the right amount of intimacy.

A little more utilitarian but offering a solid dose of good service and comfortable surrounds is the 308-room Crowne Plaza overlooking Hindmarsh Square. It’s central and close to some of the city’s best eating and obviously, all the major theatre and concert venues.

And for those keen on spending more on Mad March events rather than accommodation, the Ibis Adelaide is one of the new kids on the block. Sure, it’s a budget hotel but it’s a gleaming glass and steel tower on Grenfell Street and even has a good restaurant and cocktail bar in-house if you want the walk to bed to be a short one.


For more information about South Australia, click here.


Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.


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