When we rolled into the Adelaide Hills to pitch our tent, along with the satisfaction of arriving at camp for the week, came the realisation that this was the destination for our five month trip.
We become interested in making Adelaide the furtherest point in our road trip months before our departure. And then when time pressures forced us to limit our around Australia trip to five months there was a lot of pressure (mostly from myself) to scrap the whole of South Australia and make the Great Ocean Road the furtherest destination, I'm glad we didn't.
The charming aspects of Adelaide, are it's ease of navigation, and it's cultural legacy. Glenelg Beach is also nice. We opted not to take the one of two tram routes the city has too the beach, but instead drove there, and would have found a free parking spot if we had looked a little harder.
Most impressive were the kids playgrounds, slides by the beach front, and an endless variety of rides and mini trampolines. There are also amusement style merry go rounds, dodgems and show type activities which looked like they would only reach full capacity on the warmer days of the summer school holidays. This was a great place to enjoy the family vibe, and enjoy letting our little one mix with the polite, South Australian kids. While Glenelg Beach was a real hit for it's active family friendliness other beaches were more laid back but equally pretty.
Adelaide Botanic Garden provided good respite for us o n the days we went into the city. There is enough variety here to spend the good part of a day and then go home having missed large parts. The fountains by the cafe were especially popular with our little one.
A little further out of Adelaide is the Barossa. While this is worthwhile adding to your itinerary it's best approached as a separate destination. The same goes for Victor Harbor to the south.
I'm not going to say not that South Australia is an ideal family vacation place. Adelaide has lots of charm but it lacks the energy of other Australian states. Before heading out I was aware that Adelaide had a bit of a reputation as the bogan capital of Australia ( Australia is the bogan capital of the world). Unfortunately this reputation has too much truth, and it has prompted South Australians to lower their expectations of themselves. You have seen the guy walking obliviously trough the mall with stained tract suit pants and you know that they simply don't care any more. This is the person that personifies Adelaide. Of course these are generalisations and there are some people and places that do care ( mostly these are run by outsiders or are tourists) but the lack of ambition is not something you would want to expose your children to for too long.
The lack of enthusiasm is due to South Australia not having a convict population. The most energetic and lively places in Australia have had a convict past. These free settlers largely built the country driven on by their second chance at life and ability to make a fresh start. In my family tree there is Mary Wade: also known as the mother of Australia. Mary was sentenced to death in the Old England for stealing the dress of a rich girl from the corrupt ruling class. This was simply a way to make an honest living, but on being pardoned to live in Australia created a life for herself and now has a legacy of hundreds of thousands of descendants. These people actually had to work to make things happen without any favors. But unfortunately to few of them have been to South Australia until we arrived and it's this type of thrift and drive that is missing.
The advantage of the South Australian slacker mentality is that there has not been enough progress to fill up the car parks surrounding the down-town, which makes it possible to actually find a car park. Also if you head to many of the tourist attractions it's unlikely you will find them overcrowded. Buses were easy to catch from our Browns Creek camp-ground which we recommend. We had a little discrepancy with the price changing upon our arrival that was sorted out, but the space to move and easy transport into town made it a good choice.