Adelaide has been known as the ‘City of Churches’ and the ‘City of Music’, the former title recognising its long history of religious diversity, and the latter its status as one Australia’s most dynamic cultural hubs. With a population of about 1.35 million people, Adelaide is the fifth-largest capital city in Australia. It’s also home to more than 75% of the people in South Australia, giving it the most centralised population of any Australian state.
If you’re moving to Adelaide to start a new career, then you can be confident of having made an excellent choice. In 2018, Adelaide was ranked as the world’s tenth most liveable city in The Economist’s influential Global Liveability Index, receiving strong marks for its culture, low crime rate, healthcare, and infrastructure. In other words, Adelaide is a great place to live, especially if you manage to score a graduate job (more on this later). This guide will cover everything you need to land on your feet in Adelaide, the capital city of a state whose official animal emblem is the southern hairy-nosed wombat.
Many of Australia’s major cities, such as Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth, were founded as penal colonies and built using convict labour. As such, they had a tendency to sprawl higgledy-piggledy, as new convicts, as well as migrants inspired by events like the gold rush, arrived in droves.
By contrast, Adelaide was founded as a colony for free immigrants and built to a design known as ‘Light’s Vision’, after the first Surveyor-General of South Australia, Colonel William Light. The city has a defined centre (Victoria Square) connected to four smaller squares by a grid of parallel streets, with the whole design enclosed within a ring of parkland. Even today, Light’s Vision is acclaimed as a triumph of urban planning: though Adelaide has grown beyond Light’s original designs, it remains a city that’s easy to navigate, even for newcomers. Sydney and Melbourne on the other hand…
As noted above, Adelaide is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, making the top ten on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index in 2018 and 2017; one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to Visit in 2017; and one of Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s ‘Most Friendly Cities in the World’ in 2018. There are various reasons for this. For example, Condé Nast Traveler praises Adelaide’s 'chill coastal vibe and first-rate natural wines', its pedestrian-friendly layout, and its welcoming locals.
The Adelaide Hills region (east of the capital), the Barossa Valley (northeast of the capital), and the Clare Valley (north of the capital) are Australia’s three most prominent wine regions, producing half of all Australian wines and hosting some of the world’s most influential wine labels, such as Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek, and Yalumba.
In addition to its wines, South Australia is also a significant producer of well-known beers, from the Coopers Brewery (the largest Australian-owned brewery, based in the Adelaide suburb of Regency Park) to ‘Mismatch Lager’, which was named Australia’s best craft beer in 2018. As for restaurants, there are too many to mention–we’ll get to them later. For now, suffice it to say that Adelaide is a great place to be if you consider yourself to be a connoisseur of fine dining.
The people of Adelaide love their sports, with 49 per cent of South Australians aged 15 years and over attending a sporting event each year. The most popular sports (by attendance) are Australian Rules football, motorsports, horse racing, cricket, and soccer. Adelaide hosts many major sporting events, including the Tour Down Under (Australia’s most important cycling race), the Great Southern Slam (the world’s largest roller derby tournament), and various cricket tests.
The climate of Adelaide is described as ‘Mediterranean’, which is to say that it features cool, mild winters and hot, dry summers. But how hot! Adelaide is Australia’s driest capital city and has experienced repeated heat waves over the past decade (2008–2018). In fact, nine of the ten warmest years recorded in Adelaide have occurred since 2002, with the 2017–2018 summer featuring twelve days with temperatures of 37 °C (99 °F) or above, and five days with temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) or above.
In recent studies of the labour market, South Australia has consistently emerged as the place where it’s most difficult for graduates to secure an entry-level job. For example, a 2017 study by Adzuna found that, for every graduate role advertised in South Australia, there were 46 applicants. The competition will likely become fiercer over the coming years as automation thins out the labour market: a 2016 study, for example, predicted that one in five jobs in Adelaide will disappear by 2030. Together, these statistics give a sense of why, among graduates, Adelaide is often considered to be the hardest place to find a job: in short, it simply is.
Recently, politicians and advocates from South Australia have drawn attention to an ongoing problem with ‘brain drain’, as young people flee the state for better career prospects elsewhere. Unfortunately, the claim checks out: despite an overall population increase between 1982 and 2017, the number of people in South Australia aged 18–24 dropped by about 6,000 (this mightn’t seem like a significant amount, but, taken in context, it suggests an ongoing pattern of interstate migration). Analysts are hopeful that a recent upturn in the South Australian economy might convince more young people to stay, and perhaps even convince others to return. For now, though, forewarned is forearmed: don’t be surprised if you get to Adelaide only to discover that the party is winding down.
If you’re reading the sections of this guide in order, you might have been a little discouraged by the disadvantages described above. But take heart: there’s good news too! Adelaide is consistently ranked as the most affordable Australian capital city for renters, with a median rent (for a house) of $375 per week, which is far below the combined national average of $462. According to a March 2018 quarterly report by Domain, the median weekly rent for an apartment is $300 week, which is, again, the most affordable in the country.
Across Adelaide itself, median weekly rent fluctuates considerably, from a high of $500 a week in Stirling, a picturesque suburb of the Adelaide Hills, to the far more affordable options available in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, such as Smithfield Plains ($216 per week) and Davoren Park ($220 per week). Fortunately, the South Australian government makes it easy for new tenants to get a sense of how much it should cost (per the average) in different parts of Adelaide. Its quarterly rent reports provide an up-to-date summary of median rents in South Australia by suburb, postcode, and local government area.
While Adelaide is far from the most expensive capital city in Australia (that would be Sydney), it nevertheless has an increasingly high cost of living, a fact exacerbated in 2018, when the rate of wage growth was overtaken by the rate at which Adelaide’s CPI is rising. Tellingly, the rate at which the consumer price index is increasing in Adelaide appears to be higher than in any other Australian capital cities. As a result, while Adelaide is still far cheaper than Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane, it’s likely that the prices of some commodities will continue to rise.
According to the price aggregation website Numbeo, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Adelaide costs $17; one litre of milk is $1.50; a loaf of bread is $2.43; an adult movie ticket is $15; a month of basic utilities is $243; a monthly gym membership is $56; and one kilogram of apples is $3.95.
If you’re wondering how your own lifestyle will affect the cost of living in Adelaide, use this free cost of living calculator to get a general sense of what your budget will need to be.
The City of Adelaide council provides a helpful introduction to the different districts of Adelaide, from East End, with its vintage clothing outlets and famous cafes, to West End, which is Adelaide’s entertainment hub. You can learn more about adjoining regions, such as the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills, using Immigration South Australia’s interactive map.
The question of where you should live in a new city (or the one you already call home) is not a trivial one: in fact, copious amounts of research has shown that where you live can have a marked impact on measures of satisfaction, well-being, and mental health. The effects are seen when one switches cities or suburbs, and can even reflect how close one lives to a main road or busy intersection.
As a result, experts advise people to consider their options carefully before relocating. To give yourself the best chance of being satisfied with your address, you should choose a suburb where your income is at least as high as the median income; minimise the length of your commute; aim, if appropriate, to put off moving again for as long as possible; consider how a new address will impact the accessibility of parks, gardens and other restorative natural environments; and, whenever possible, choose locations where you will be able to embed yourself more easily in a social network (for example, by living close to other young professionals), supportive communities, and people with similar interests or cultural concerns.
Of course, moving house brings with it a large number of practical considerations, many of which will be unique to you and your interests. The following questions are intended to provide some clarity as you research your options and navigate the inevitable compromises of rental life:
There are a variety of tools that you can use to look for accommodation and flatmates in Adelaide, some of which are free with basic features (like Gumtree) and others of which charge a fee. Some of the more popular options include:
If you’re on Facebook, it can also be helpful to check whether or not there are any groups for individuals looking to rent or share in different regions of Adelaide.
According to the South Australian Department for Industry and Skills, the state’s labour market is in the middle of a transition period with ‘factors such as foreign competition, automation, and an ageing population resulting in the need for fewer of some workers but more of others’.
As a general rule, service industries (such as health) continue to outperform production industries (such as manufacturing). This trend is reflected in data that describes the growth of key industries during the ten years leading to 2018: the highest growth rates were found in arts and recreation services (48.7%), health care and social assistance (40.7%), professional, scientific and technical services (21.3%), administrative and support services (20.2%), and construction (20.1%). The same industries are expected to continue growing over the coming decade, creating new jobs for educated professionals, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, accountants, solicitors, and defence personnel.
As noted earlier in this guide, the job market for graduates in Adelaide is currently quite tough, with 46 applicants for every advertised graduate role. One government response has been to ensure relevant information for job-seekers is easily accessible in one location. However, a more practical solution is yet to emerge, and analysts predict that over the five years to May 2022, South Australian employment will increase at a rate below the national average (4.8% vs 7.8%).
Fortunately, when it comes to graduates, the outlook is increasingly positive at the national level, with ‘71.8% of bachelor degree graduates finding full-time employment after graduating in 2017, up from the recent low of 68.1% in 2014’. The most recent Graduate Outcomes Survey (published by the Social Research Centre) confirms that, in 2017, ‘71.8 per cent of undergraduates were in full-time employment four months after completing their degree’.
Key resource: use the South Australian Government’s Skills & Employment page to learn more about finding a job in Adelaide. Alternatively, you can call its infoline on 1800 506 266.
Adelaide offers professional graduates competitive salaries that are typically highest in the health, construction, and professional services industries. The following average salaries are taken from the 2018 Hays Salary Guide, which itself draws on a survey of 3,000 businesses in Australia and New Zealand that together employ some 2.3 million people. We’ve included a representative sample of salaries for popular graduate occupations: if yours isn’t listed, consult the GradAustralia website for more information. Note that the average salaries below exclude superannuation.
If you’re a shopaholic, then Adelaide is going to make you very, very happy indeed. From the 700 retail outlets at Adelaide’s pedestrian shopping strip, Rundle Mall, to the famous shopping arcades of the CBD, Adelaide offers something for every shopper, whether it’s high-fashion clothing or cut-price vintage wear. Adelaide’s largest shopping centre is the Westfield Marion Shopping Centre, but you may prefer to explore the clusters of related stores in places like Burnside Village, well-known for its international fashion labels, or Norwood Parade and Magill Road, where you’ll find various homewares and second-hand stores. To plan your shopping spree, check out the City of Adelaide guide or check for recommendations on the South Australian government’s tourism website.
First of all, you should know that Adelaide Zoo is the only zoo in Australia, and one of a few worldwide, where you can see giant pandas. It’s worth the visit too: yes, they’re sleepy and slow and hellbent on never reproducing in captivity. But Wang Wang and Fu Ni are also adorable. It’s the best kind of cultural experience.
However, it doesn’t stop there. It’s not for nothing that Adelaide is known as Australia’s Festival City. There are festivals all year round, with several of the larger ones coinciding during what locals call ‘Mad March’. A (non-exhaustive) list of Adelaide’s festivals would include OzAsia Festival, Feast Festival, Womadelaide, Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Vegan Festival Adelaide, and the Adelaide Film Festival.You can learn more (and find out about other festivals) by visiting the Festivals Adelaide website. Alternatively, visit this page to learn about Adelaide’s Aboriginal cultural attractions or this page to explore the city’s museums, galleries, and other cultural venues.
Bars, pubs, cafes, and restaurants: Adelaide has it all, whether you’re after a casual (and cheap) meal with friends or a special place for a seven-course degustation. Obligatory stops for the gastronome would include Jerusalem Sheshkebab House (for the best falafel roll in South Australia); a tour of the Coopers Brewery; a visit to the Haigh’s chocolate factory; dinner at Amalfi (book ahead for some of the most popular Italian in Adelaide); or authentic Thai at Star of Siam.
In truth, this whole guide could be about the food experiences available to you in Adelaide, which has been working hard (and not without success) to establish itself as Australia’s culinary capital. So, if you love eating out, or dream of starting a food blog, visit the City of Adelaide’s ‘Eat & Drink’ guide or check out the recommendations on the South Australia tourism website.
To get a sense of everything that’s happening in Adelaide, you're best bet is to check a website that aggregates events, such as the City of Adelaide’s ‘What’s On’ guide, Time Out Adelaide, or What’s On in Adelaide. These offer a great way to learn not only about events in the CBD, but also possible day trips to places like the Adelaide Hills or the Barossa Valley. It’s also good idea to check the events pages of major venues in Adelaide.
Straight up: the best way to meet people in Adelaide (or anywhere for that matter) is to get a really, really cute dog and take it for regular walks. If that’s not possible, then here are some other things you can try:
Getting around Adelaide is easy and inexpensive. In fact, they call it ‘the 20 minute city’ because it’ll never take you longer to get from where you are (in Adelaide) to where you want to be (in Adelaide). Trams and buses within the Adelaide CBD are free all week, with the CBD connected to the rest of Adelaide by a metro system comprising buses, trams, and trains. To use public transport in Adelaide, it’s best to get a Metrocard that you can top up with credit and use to tap on or off when boarding (or alighting from) the different transport options. You should also download the metroMATE app, which will allow you to plan your route and view real-time public transport information. For a map of the metro system, click here.
Adelaide is also a great city for walking around (you can find helpful pedestrian maps here, or download the Adelaide City Explorer app). Adelaide is also (arguably) Australia’s best city for cyclists: flat, and with extensive cycle paths, bike lock-up stations, and public tyre pumps. You can even borrow a bike for free from one of 20 locations around the city. Check out the maps