In the grid-like CBD, there’s an unspoken rule: the best bars in Adelaide are the hardest to find.
Away from the bustling crowds sit intimate drinking dens, nestled in basements or hiding in plain sight on rooftops – these are the best bars in Adelaide, just waiting to be discovered by those in the know.
Follow your little blue dot down laneways or tunnels to find hidden gems that you’ll want to keep all to yourself. Good things come to those who search, so what are you waiting for?
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Curated cocktails take top billing at Maybe Mae, the secret subterranean spot in the middle of Adelaide’s CBD. Perched between vibrant Peel and Leigh Street, this 1950s-inspired bar is all about accessible yet intriguing combinations, with concoctions inspired by the sights, sounds and stories of South Australian landscapes. Think bright spritzes reminiscent of the coast, or aromatic highballs that pay tribute to the fantastic produce of the Adelaide Hills.
Where to find it: In a tunnel between Peel and Leigh Street in Adelaide’s CBD. Look for the restaurant Bread & Bone – the stairs to the concealed entrance are right next door. 15 Peel Street, Adelaide
A slice of New York hides in plain sight on Rundle Street at BRKLYN, bringing a bite of the Big Apple to the East End. Walk along its internal street, past a barbershop, record store and subway foyer, to find a gin and cocktail bar cum deli dishing up local and international flavours. Sip on a Bloody Martinez while snacking on Reuben-loaded fries, or work your way through the rotating selection of local and international gins and craft beers while grazing on a BRKYLN board (filled with assorted cheeses, pickles, house-baked lavosh and sourdough).
Where to find it: The Eastern end of Rundle Street, above Schnithouse Rundle St. 260A Rundle Street, Adelaide
As one of the city’s original small bars, Proof has been serving up toasties and interesting wines from its Anster Street location since 2013. Luckily, its tucked-away laneway off Waymouth Street is secluded enough to keep it a truly local haunt, leaving you more time and space to work your way through its drinks offering, including classic cocktails and local and international drops. Pair it all with a kimchi, gochujang and sesame toastie on the rooftop deck for a decadent night out.
Where to find it: Look for Press* Food & Wine on Waymouth Street and then turn into the adjacent laneway – Anster Street. It’s on the left! 9a Anster Street, Adelaide
There are small bars…and then there’s The Sorcerer’s Bar, a wizard-themed den with a capacity of 25, inside and out. Fans of a certain boy wizard will find something to delight within its snug space: butterbeer shots and polyjuice potions appear on the menu, alongside a compact list of nibbles and a selection of German craft beers. Snack on shiitake mushroom chips while sipping on half-blood sangria or colour-changing gin; soon enough, you’ll forget that your Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail.
Where to find it: On Bank Street, in between a sushi bar and Thai restaurant. 25B Bank Street, Adelaide
It may look and feel like a bar in the middle of the French capital, but there’s more to discover within La Buvette Drinkery’s chic four walls – in fact, there’s a whole other room. The Secret Vault, accessed through an original strongroom door in the main bar, is the definition of a secret drinking den, offering French-inspired aperitifs, cocktails and spirits, as well as an inspiring collection of natural and organic wines. The Vault is only available for special or private events, so why not round up 19 of your nearest and dearest for a Parisian-perfect night out?
Where to find it: La Buvette Drinkery is on Gresham Street, accessible via North Terrace or Hindley Street. 27 Gresham Street, Adelaide
With 130-year-old stonework walls and a restored pressed-tin roof, reminiscent of a wine cellar, Hellbound Wine Bar could be considered a shrine to the gorgeous grape. Sitting one block down from Australia’s longest pedestrianised shopping mall, the unpretentious speakeasy is a haven for oenophiles, with over 20 wines by the glass and 200 listed bottles, all accompanied by cheese and salty snacks. You’re bound to find a favourite – in fact, with 60% of Australia’s wine exports coming from the state, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a delicious drop among the best bars in Adelaide.
Where to find it: On Rundle Street, one block down from the Eastern end of Rundle Mall. It’s underneath a Kathmandu, with the entrance in between two of the store’s windows. Basement/201 Rundle Street, Adelaide
Walk over the custom-tiled mosaic and down the stairs of the former State Bank building to find Bank Street Social, a basement bunker inspired by 1900s New York, with exposed brick, soft lighting and recycled timber. Settle in for pizza loaded with local produce, a crafted selection of local beers, ciders, wines and spirits, and a lively ambience – come Friday and Saturday, some of Adelaide’s best DJs take up residence, filling the space with house, disco and party jams until late.
Where to find it: The address may say Hindley Street, but the entrance to Bank Street Social is on the corner of Bank and Hindley, opposite the McDonalds. The nondescript door is next to a Zambrero. 48 Hindley Street, Adelaide
Paloma Bar and Pantry is one of the newest neighbours in Peel Street’s small bar district, dishing up Southern European fare and drinks within its petite bohemian-inspired setting. Pickled, fermented and preserved fare dominates the snack-style food menu, while drinks champion agave spirits and bitter European liqueurs, with cocktails like the Sicilian spritz and, of course, the Paloma. The list of wines, beers and ciders is Australian-leaning, with European classics thrown in for good measure.
Where to find it: On the pedestrianised Peel Street, next to Malt & Juniper. 20 Peel Street, Adelaide
The Olivia Hotel is a new addition to Hutt Street, transporting the best of Adelaide’s East End a little further down the road. Self-described as ‘pub in a wine bar’s skin’, the small bar offers a rotating cocktail, beer and wine list, with both classics and curious concoctions represented. Cheeseboards and bar snacks are the perfect pairing, best enjoyed in the sun-filled courtyard or rooftop beer garden. Should the weather turn, snuggle up on one of the vintage couches – most of the fit-out was sourced from op shops, making you feel right at home.
Where to find it: On Hutt Street, immediately next door to Havelock Hotel on the corner of Carrington Street. 170 Hutt St, Adelaide
Looking for more inspiration? Check out Australia’s best breweries by state.