Adelaide (pop. 1,190,000) has always been a free-spirited, free-thinking type of place -- the first to outlaw sexual and racial discrimination, the first to do away with capital punishment, the first to recognize Aboriginal land rights and legalize nude swimming, and the first state to give women the vote. Adelaide was the only capital to have been settled by free settlers, rather than convicts, and was totally self-sufficient, receiving no financial backing from the British government.

Australians who have never visited Adelaide tend to dismiss the city as little more than a large country town, but that is the city's greatest charm. Meticulously planned by surveyor-general Colonel William Light in 1837, the city is an elegant grid of broad streets surrounded by a green belt of parkland set beside the River Torrens, between the Adelaide Hills and the waters of Gulf St. Vincent. It's an easily navigable city and everything is within walking distance.

Any season is a good time to visit Adelaide, though May through August can be chilly and January and February hot.