There has never been any doubt – in our minds at least – that Adelaide is a city that is vibrant and full of life. Jess Thomson from local business, Square Mile Tours is also a proud, born and bred ambassador of our amazing city, which is why she started up her own little tour company – and also why you can trust her when it comes to all things Adelaide.
With an extensive background in South Australia’s creative and hospitality industry, it wasn’t a complete departure from her normal life when she started Square Mile. On what inspired her to start the tour company, Jess says the idea came after a trip to Tokyo to visit her sister and discovering that that all the blogs and lists of what to do were disjointed and hard to sort through in such a short time.
“Tokyo is an incredible city, a place where you could do anything if you had the time and money,” she says. “…but it was taking such a long time to organise that information and navigate my way around such an enormous city… I was researching constantly on all the things I wanted to do during my visit and became super frustrated with the vast amount of information I found online”.
Basically, she just wanted – as many of us do – someone to collate all the important information, the must sees, hidden gems and hot spots in one place. She credits this as the first concept for Square Mile, which started as a printed guide in its first form then turned into an app and has now developed into a fully inclusive, in real life guided experience of Adelaide.
Square Mile currently offers four tours, each covering a different aspect of food and drink that Adelaide is known for. Apart from the general interest in the Adelaide food scene, Jess’ extensive background in hospitality has afforded her the ability of getting some of her favourite venue owners on board for the tours.
“I approached all the venues on my tours because I like what they’re doing,” Jess says. “They give great service, produce delicious meals, have a start up story or can offer an education on a particular topic or product”.
Take for example the ‘Café Cruise’, where tour-goers will ride Treadly Brompton Bicycles to get around the city and experience Adelaide’s café and coffee culture. On this cruise, you’ll visit Mondays Coffee Store where owner Jarrad conducts a cupping session and you’ll learn to identify tasting notes in the coffee. You’ll also learn about the different regions for bean growing as well as the washing and roasting process.
There is also the ‘Craft Beer Crawl’, which ventures outside the city to the legendary Wheatsheaf Hotel where tour-goers will get to try a number of in-house brews before heading back to the city to meet Taylor from Lady Burra and sample a paddle of their beers. The tour ends with a stop in to see the boys at NOLA to try their international beer offerings and a New Orleans-style feast. For those who prefer wine, there is ‘The Big Cheese‘ which celebrates the ultimate combination of vino and cheese. “[There are] my two favourite things combined,” Jess says. “We conduct this tour on Sunday afternoons and visit 3 venues across the city indulging in the best local and imported cheeses on offer paired with excellent local wine and gins”.
And then there is ‘The Roaming Degustation’ where you can learn about the history of pintxos culture in the Basque Country at Udaberri from owner Rob, who lived in San Sebastian for 3 years. It is “by far my most popular [tour]” according to Jess. “I think because there is a broad range of tasting experiences, and we walk in the tour so it’s accessible to people who physically can’t ride or aren’t very confident on a bike”.
When asked about how we shape up to our interstate competition, Jess says she’s tired of hearing people compare Adelaide to places like Melbourne. “Adelaide is Adelaide and it’s fabulous,” she says. “You have a lot of young business owners here giving it ago, everyone is so friendly and just wants you to have a good time here”.
“I adore playing tour guide to my interstate and international friends,” she continues. “There are so many cutting-edge producers here and amazing venues with tonnes of personality, and you just need a mate to show you around – or of course, Square Mile”.
The best thing about Square Mile Tours is that they are all-inclusive so all you need to do is book, pay and show up for the ride (or walk). Apart from the gastronomic journey that you’ll go on, you’ll also get the guarantee that there will be a personal touch and stories of Adelaide as well. “My tour guides and myself have a real thirst for knowledge when it comes to Adelaide,” Jess says. “We all conduct our own independent research that we like to include on our tours while moving from venue to venue”.
“On tour, you want to create a memorable experience for your guests, and people remember stories better than hard facts, so we try to tell the story of Adelaide”.
Jess also offers private and customisable tours as well – changing up modes of transportation depending on the amount of people and what kind of experience you’re after.
“Each tour is different, fun and challenging in their own ways and it mostly depends on the group your guiding,” Jess says. “I ran a bachelorette party last year [where] we took a group of 20 women on a bar crawl around the city, using EcoCaddys to get from venue to venue. It was a real novelty and the bride absolutely adored it”.
On what’s next for Square Mile, Jess says she is currently working on a new tour focussing on CBD-based producers that will be available later this year as well as a number of niche one-off events. “I’m continuously building my sales network domestically, and the next step is to develop those networks overseas to target more of an international audience,” she says.
So whether you have friends here from out of town, or you just want to be a tourist in your own backyard, Square Mile Tours is something local you should get behind.
Photography by Meaghan Coles.