Adelaide city centre

Adelaide city centre is the inner city locality of Greater Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. It is known by locals simply as "The City" or "Town" to distinguish it from Greater Adelaide and from the City of Adelaide local government area (which also includes North Adelaide and the Park Lands around the whole city centre). Due to the construction of many new apartments in the city, the population has grown over ten years from 10,229 (2006 census) to 15,115 (2016 census).

Adelaide, South Australia
Aerial view of part of the Adelaide city centre at night, 2014.
 • Density1,440/km2 (3,728/sq mi)
Area10.5 km2 (4.1 sq mi)
RegionEastern Adelaide[3]
State electorate(s)Adelaide
Federal Division(s)Adelaide
Suburbs around Adelaide:
Hindmarsh North Adelaide Gilberton
Mile End
Adelaide Kent Town
Rose Park

Within the city centre, there are other designations used to describe various areas, the broadest being:

  • The city "square mile", bordered by North, East, South and West Terraces, part of which is referred to as the CBD (most of the northern half), as well a mixture of high-rise apartments and various commercial and entertainment premises scattered throughout, and the smaller cottage residences (mostly in the southern half).
    • Within the "square mile", there are also defined precincts such as the West End and the East End with distinctive characters.
  • The section of the parklands between North Terrace up to the River Torrens, which includes the string of medical, educational, cultural and entertainment institutions on the northern side of North Terrace, notably the Adelaide Festival Centre as well as the Parliament of South Australia and Adelaide Railway Station. Part of this area is sometimes referred to as the North Terrace cultural precinct.

Other well-known institutions within the city centre are the Adelaide Central Market, Victoria Square and Rundle Mall shopping area.


Before the European settlement of South Australia, the Adelaide Plains, on which Adelaide was built, were home to the Kaurna group of Indigenous Australians. The colony of South Australia was established in 1836 at Glenelg, and the city itself established in 1837. The location and characteristic grid layout of the city and North Adelaide, as well as the surrounding parklands, were the result of the work of Colonel William Light (1786–1839), who was the first Surveyor General of South Australia. The area where the Adelaide city centre now exists was once known as "Tarndanya",[4] the Kaurna word for as "male red kangaroo rock", which was the name used for an area along the south bank of what is now known as the River Torrens (Karrawiri Pari), which flows through Adelaide.

Adelaide was not as badly affected by the 1860s economic depression in Australia as other gold rush cities like Sydney and Melbourne, allowing it to prosper. Historian F.W. Crowley noted that the city was full of elite upper-class citizens which provided a stark contrast to the grinding poverty of the labour areas and slums outside the inner city ring. Due to its historic wealth during the 20th century, the city retains a notable portion of Victorian architecture.

Town planning

Adelaide is separated from its greater metropolitan area by a ring of public parklands on all sides. The so-called "square mile" within the park lands is defined by a small area of high rise office and apartment buildings in the centre north, around King William Street, which runs north-to-south through the centre. Surrounding this central business district are a large number of medium to low density apartments, townhouses and detached houses which make up the residential portion of the city centre.


The layout of Adelaide, known as Light's Vision, features a cardinal direction grid pattern of wide streets and terraces and five large public squares: Victoria Square in the centre of the city, and Hindmarsh, Light, Hurtle and Whitmore Squares in the centres of each of the four quadrants of the Adelaide city centre. These squares occupy 32 of the 700 numbered "town acre" allotments on Light's plan.

All east-west roads change their names as they cross King William Street, except for North and South terraces.[5] They also alternate between being wide and narrow, 99 and 66 feet (30 and 20 m), except for the central Grote and Wakefield which are extra-wide, 132 feet (40 m),[6] along with the surrounding four terraces.[7] In the south half of the city, in several places the Adelaide City Council has constructed wide footpaths and road markings to restrict traffic to a lesser number of lanes than the full width of the road could support.

The street pairs, design widths, and town acres in Light's Vision are illustrated in this diagram:


North Terrace E

132 ft
12345678 M
910111213141516 K

1718192021222324 P
6261605958575655 5453525150494847 4645444342414039 38373635343332
Hindley Street Rundle Street 66 ft
6364656667686970 7172737475767778 7980818283848586 87888990919293
124123122121120119118 Light

115114113112111110109 108107106105104103102 Hind-
Currie Street Grenfell Street 99 ft
125126127128129130131 134135136137138139140 141142143144145146147 150151152153154155
186185184183182181180 177176175174173172171 170169168167166165164 161160159158157156
Waymouth p

Street Pirie t

Street 66 ft
187188189190191192193194 195196197198199200201202 203204205206207208209210 211212213214215216217218 H

252251250249248247246245 244243242241240239238237 236235234233232231230229 228227226225224223222221 220
Franklin Street Flinders Street 99 ft
253254255256257258259260 261262263264265266267 Victoria

270271272273274275276 277278279280281282283284 285286
320319318317316315314313 312311310309308307306 303302301300299298297 296295294293292291290289 288287
Grote Street Wakefield Street 132 ft
321322323324325326327328 B
329330331332333334335 338339340341342343344 H
345346347348349350351352 353354355356
392391390389388387386385 384383382381380379378 375374373372371370369 368367366365364363362361 360359358357
Gouger Street W

Angas Street
99 ft
393394395396397398399400 401402403404405406407408 409410411412413414415416 417418419420421422423424 425426427428429430
468467466465464463462461 460459458457456455454453 452451450449448447446445 444443442441440439438437 436435434433432431
Wright Street Carrington Street 66 ft
469470471472473474475 Whit-
478479480481482483484 485486487488489490491 Hurtle

494495496497498499500 501502503504505506
544543542541540539538 535534533532531530529 528527526525524523522 519518517516515514513 512511510509508507
Sturt Street Halifax Street T

99 ft
545546547548549550551 554555556557558559560 561562563564565566567 570571572573574575576 577578579580581582583
622621620619618617616615 S
614613612611610609608607 606605604603602601600599 S
598597596595594593592591 590589588587586585584
Gilbert Street Gilles Street 66 ft
623624625626627628629630 631632633634635636637638 639640641642643644645646 647648649650651652653654 655656657658659660661
700699698697696695694693 692691690689688687686685 684683682681680679678677 676675674673672671670669 668667666665664663662
South Terrace 132 ft

                 132 ft 99 ft 132 ft 99 ft 132 ft 132 ft                  (width)

Street and square names

The streets and squares were named by a committee of a number of prominent settlers after themselves, after early directors of the South Australian Company, after Colonisation Commissioners of South Australia (appointed by the British government to oversee implementation of the acts that established the colony), and after various notables involved in the establishment of the colony.

The Street Naming Committee comprised:[8]

All members of the committee (except Stephens) had one or more of the streets and squares in the Adelaide city centre and North Adelaide named after themselves. Brown Street, named for John Brown, was subsequently subsumed as a continuation of Morphett Street in 1967. In the same year, Hanson Street, named for Richard Hanson, was subsumed as a continuation of Pulteney Street.

The squares were named after:

The east-west streets named on 22 December 1836 were:[11]

Most of these people did not reside in or visit South Australia.

The naming of the streets was completed on 23 May 1837[8] and gazetted on 3 June.[13]

East-west streets:

North-south streets:

Dual naming of squares and parklands

The Adelaide City Council began the process of dual naming all of the city squares, each of the parks making up the parklands which surround the city centre and North Adelaide, and other sites of significance to the Kaurna people in 1997.[15] The naming process, which assigned an extra name in the Kaurna language to each place, was mostly completed in 2003,[16] and the renaming of 39 sites finalised and endorsed by the council in 2012.[17]

  • Victoria Square - Tarntanyangga ('red kangaroo dreaming')
  • Hindmarsh Square - Mukata
  • Hurtle Square - Tangkaira
  • Light Square - Wauwi
  • Whitmore Square - Iparrityi

20th-21st century precincts

The City of Adelaide Council has defined a number of neighbourhood precincts in the city centre, each with a character of their own:

  • The East End, centering on Rundle Street - known for its restaurants, bars, high-end fashion shops, the Palace Nova Cinema;[18]
  • The West End, from the western end of North Terrace and encompassing several blocks southward, which includes UniSA "CityWest" campus, the Samstag Museum of Art, JamFactory, Lion Arts Centre, Mercury Cinema, numerous bars, clubs and restaurants, and "BioMed City";[19]
  • The South East of the city, largely residential, but including many cafés, restaurants, pubs, etc.;[20] and
  • The South West is very diverse; largely residential and including the Adelaide Central Market[20]

In addition to these, the north-eastern side of North Terrace is often referred to as the "North Terrace cultural precinct" or "cultural boulevard", and includes the Art Gallery of South Australia, the State Library of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, the Migration Museum, the Adelaide Botanic Garden, the University of Adelaide and the "CityEast" campus of the UniSA[21]


Due to the construction of many new apartments in the city, the population grew over ten years from 10,229 (2006 census)[22] to 15,115 (2016 census).[1]

In the 2016 Census, there were 15,115 people in the Adelaide city centre, of whom 38.8% were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were China 17.5%, Malaysia 4.4%, England 3.4%, Hong Kong 2.8% and India 1.9%. 44.6% of people spoke only English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Mandarin 19.6%, Cantonese 4.9%, Arabic 1.9%, Korean 1.9% and Vietnamese 1.1%. The most common response for religion in Adelaide was 'No Religion' at 47.7% of the population.[1]


At federal level, Adelaide is within the Division of Adelaide, a marginal seat which historically has alternated between the Liberal and Labor parties. It has been held since 2004 by Kate Ellis of the Labor party.[23]

In the South Australian House of Assembly, Adelaide is within the Electoral district of Adelaide. Since the March 2010 state election, the seat has been held by Rachel Sanderson of the Liberal party.


Adelaide's cultural and entertainment precincts/venues are generally concentrated in the city centre. They include the Convention Centre, Entertainment Centre and the redeveloped Adelaide Oval. Additionally, most of the events relating to the Adelaide Festival and Adelaide Fringe are held within Adelaide's city centre during February and March. This time is known as "Mad March", due to the large number of other cultural festivities at the same time, including the Adelaide 500 and WOMADelaide. North Terrace is considered Adelaide's "cultural boulevard" because of its tight concentration of galleries and museums.

Pictures of Adelaide city centre skyline

From the North
From the East
From the South (West -> East)
From the West

See also


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Adelaide (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Adelaide (State Suburb)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  3. "Eastern Adelaide SA Government region" (PDF). The Government of South Australia. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  4. "Tarndanya", Retrieved 2009-09-09.
  5. Royal Automobile Association. "Adelaide CBD & North Adelaide" (PDF). Retrieved 7 December 2014. This map, showing the Adelaide city centre, North Adelaide and the Adelaide Parklands, was published on the website "soul underground".
  6. Elgar, Frederic (1863). Handbook to the Colony of South Australia. London: "Australian and New Zealand Gazette" Office. p. 3. Retrieved 8 December 2014. ... principal north and south streets (from 99 to 132 feet wide) being nearly one mile in length, and the east and west streets (from 66 to 132 feet wide) from a mile and a quarter to a mile and three quarters.
  7. Margaret Anderson (31 December 2013). "Light's Plan of Adelaide 1837". History SA. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
    The page contains a copy of one of the two surviving original plans drawn in 1837. Quote: "It is a watercolour and ink plan, drawn by 16-year-old draughtsman Robert George Thomas to instructions from Light. ... The streets were named by a Street Naming Committee that met on 23 May 1837, indicating that this plan must have been completed after that date."
  8. "The Street Naming Committee". 30 September 2001. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  9. The Colonial Storekeeper, like the Colonial Secretary, was an official position.
  10. "Stephens, Edward (1811-1861)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. 1967. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  11. "City Streets named 22 December 1836".
  12. Daniel Bell Wakefield should not to be confused with his uncle, Daniel Wakefield. Note that the street is named after him, not after his better known brother Edward Gibbon Wakefield - Refer Wakefield Street in "Streets Named on the 23rd May, 1837",
  13. "City of Adelaide municipal year book". Adelaide: Adelaide City Council. 1972: 57, 70. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. Spence & Beams (2006) p.33
  15. Adelaide City Council. "Adelaide City Council Placenaming Initiatives". Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi. University of Adelaide. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  16. Adelaide City Council. "Kaurna Placename Meanings within the City of Adelaide". Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi. University of Adelaide. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  17. "Kaurna place naming: Recognising Kaurna heritage through physical features of the city". City of Adelaide. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  18. "East End". City of Adelaide. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  19. "West End". City of Adelaide. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  20. "City neighbourhoods". City of Adelaide. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  21. "North Terrace cultural precinct". Adelaidia. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  22. Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Adelaide (State Suburb)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  23. Antony Green (27 December 2007). "Adelaide (Inner City) - Green Guide". ABC News Online - Elections. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 3 January 2009.


  1. Spence, Catherine Helen; Beams, Maryan (2006). Susan Magarey; Barbara Wall; Maryan Beams; Mary Lyons (eds.). Ever yours, C.H. Spence: Catherine Helen Spence's An autobiography (1825-1910), Diary (1894) and Some correspondence (1894-1910). Wakefield Press. ISBN 978-1-86254-656-1.

Further reading

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