A Food & Travel Blog

Happy 100th Birthday Hilton Hotels – How Hilton Adelaide was a Total Game-Changer

14/06/2019 | By

Now 100 years old, the Hilton Hotels chain wrote the book on hotel standards – and 36 years ago Hilton Adelaide helped changed this town forever.

hilton adelaide

Adelaide has developed something of a reputation as a party town, with the first part of the year a blur of  internationally noted theatre, arts, drama, music, dance and festivals, drawing visitors from all over the country – and the world.

We take all the fabulous wild times a bit for granted these days, but it wasn’t always like this.

Not that long ago really all we had in the way of nightlife was a few seedy bars and The Festival of Arts, a sophisticated, high-brow, ever so slightly stuffy event that drew limited numbers of the refined and cultured for a couple of weeks, after which the city contentedly slid back into it’s habitual torpor.

The all-singing, all-dancing fleshpots of Melbourne or Sydney were eyed off enviously while, with no international access to Adelaide and very limited accommodation choices, the possibilities of a significant culture shift here remained a vague hope.

All that changed for us in October 1982, with the opening of an international airport terminal and the much-anticipated opening of the five-star ‘Hilton International Adelaide’ (now known simply, as Hilton Adelaide). 

At the time the Hilton was the largest hotel in the state, with 374 rooms, a sophisticated modern bar and a major splash of glamour.

It quickly became the hot spot in town with it’s cabaret shows and cocktail bar, and offered a base for increasing numbers of touring international acts. Suddenly there was somewhere to go after 10.00 at night, and locals hungry for the bright lights got dressed up (big hair and shoulder pads – it was the ’80’s after all), feigned an air of urbanity, developed a taste for cocktails and hung around trying to spot the visiting stars.

A total – and very welcome – game changer.

In May this year the Hilton Hotel chain celebrated it’s 100th birthday. It’s come a long way since 1919, when Conrad Hilton set out with the desire to purchase a bank and, after encountering financial discrepancies, instead purchased the 40 room Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas. 

All we expect of a high-end hotel, we owe to the development of Hilton Hotels over the years – 1930 brought the standardization of room service, in 1947 televisions were installed in hotel guest rooms for the first time, Hilton Puerto Rico bartenders invented the Pina Colada in 1954, and in 1974 the globalization of the in-room minibar began with Hong Kong Hilton.

Beef cheeks, Hilton Adelaide


Salmon, Hilton Adelaide Coal Cellar and Grill

Comforting slow-cooked beef cheeks, and salmon – just a couple of the dishes available at Hilton Adelaide’s Goal Cellar and Grill Express Lunch.

Here in Adelaide, the Hilton Adelaide welcomes over 80,000 guests from overseas and interstate annually with the first-class lobby, corporate and event facilities and the revamped restaurant, the Coal Cellar & Grill, all serving as major draw cards for Hilton Adelaide.

Many of South Australia’s now signature major events – like Tasting Australia and the Tour Down Under – rely on Hilton Adelaide for function space for their engine rooms, to ensure smooth operation for the duration of these events.

No longer the only international hotel in Adelaide, the iconic Hilton Adelaide continues to play a significant role in Adelaide’s now-vibrant social life – a social life it fostered and continues to help develop, for us all to enjoy.



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  1. Glenys

    Oh yes good times after work in Charlies Bar, big hair and shoulder pads included!

  2. Fran @ G'day Souffle'

    Ah yes, I remember Moores Department store used to be located on the site of the Hilton (I think). And with the old Adelaide airport, you used to have to go outside to grab your luggage that was piled on top of a large trolley. Times have changed!

  3. Amanda

    You’re close Fran- Moores was next door in what is now the Sir Samuel Way Courts building.