The Torrens River meanders between central Adelaide and North Adelaide, surrounded by parklands. Between Parliament House and the river is the Festival Centre, two geometric constructions of concrete, steel and smoked glass, in a concrete arena scattered with abstract 1970s civic sculpture. The main auditorium, the Festival Theatre (wwww.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au), has one of the largest stages in the southern hemisphere, hosting opera, ballet and various concerts. The smaller Playhouse Theatre is the drama theatre, while the Space Theatre is used for a range of experimental performances. A short walk across Elder Park is the river, with its stunning fountain and black swans. Popeye Cruises leave from here for the zoo (Mon–Fri 11am–3pm hourly, Sat & Sun 11am–5pm every 20min; more frequent during holidays; $8 one-way from Elder Park or $4 on the shorter run from the zoo, $12 return; t08/8295 4747). You can also rent paddleboats ($12/30min). Nearby, the green shed at Jolley’s Boathouse, across King William Road, is an Adelaide institution, housing a popular restaurant (see North Adelaide, Norwood and Unley) and cheaper kiosk, both with river views.
The most pleasant way to get to Adelaide Zoo, whose main entrance is on Frome Road (daily 9.30am–5pm; free 30min guided walks every half hour between 9.45am and 3.30pm; $28.50, children $16; call t08/8267 3255 for feeding times and keeper talks, wwww.adelaidezoo.com.au), is to follow the river, either by boat (see Adelaide’s arts festivals) or on foot, a fifteen-minute stroll. Alternatively, walk from the Botanic Gardens through Botanic Park, entering through the children’s zoo entrance on Plane Tree Drive, or take bus #271 or #273 from Currie Street. Opened in 1883, the country’s second-oldest zoo (after Melbourne’s) is full of century-old European and native trees, and well-preserved Victorian architecture, including the Elephant House, built in 1900 in the style of an Indian temple. The zoo is best known for its extensive collection of native birds, and more recently for its impressive panda enclosure – the only one in the southern hemisphere. The Panda and Friends tour incorporates private panda viewing and conservation information with a guided tour of the zoo (Wed–Sun 8.30am; 3hr 30min; $130, bookings essential).