|Following the Riesling Trail - Quick Facts|
The Clare Valley is a 90 minute drive from Adelaide.
January: 13-30°C, July: 3-13°C
The Clare Valley is moderately continental, with cool to cold nights and warm to hot summer days. Rain falls predominately in winter and spring.
The Clare Valley, 90 minutes drive from Adelaide, has more than 40 wineries, all within 15 minutes drive from each other. If you're a wine buff - it's the perfect day out. But what about the driver, who has to sit by and watch you enjoy tasting after tasting?
That's where the Riesling Trail comes in. It's a 27km walking and cycling track that follows a disused railway line between Clare and Auburn. It's sealed and suitable for bicycles as well as wheelchairs and strollers. What's more, you don't have to compete with road traffic, so it's great for families and small children.
Named after the grape and wine variety that the Clare Valley is famous for, the Riesling Trail travels past many cellar doors and other visitor attractions, making it ideal for those wanting a leisurely walk with a distraction or two. It will take you around two hours to complete if you are cycling, or if you are after something a little shorter, there are three loop trails along the way for those that want to park and ride. Parking is available at Clare, Sevenhill, Watervale and Auburn.
The Clare is one of Australia's oldest wine regions. The first settlers to the area were from England, Ireland and Poland, producing a rich architectural heritage, most of which remains, although the original village houses now tend to house restaurants and galleries. The first vines in were planted in 1842 by James Green, servant to the district's pioneer John Horrocks. Since then, the industry has grown and...
All sorts of grapes are grown here, but the valley is most well known for its riesling - now seriously back in fashion after the chardonnay-soaked nineties. But the valley is not just about wine; it is also full of history with some great historic attractions and a good splash of shopping at art galleries and antiques stores thrown in for good measure.
The Riesling Trail starts at Auburn. To get there head north out of Adelaide on the Main North Road. Auburn is the birthplace of CJ Dennis, of Sentimental Bloke fame, and has many beautifully-maintained historical buildings, several of which now house good-value, country antique stores.
Continue north through paddocks and paddocks of grapes until just past Watervale, where you should take a quick detour off the trail to visit Murray Edwards Studio to browse beautiful and vibrant impressionist-style art works of the Clare Valley and local area at the artist's Corella Hill Studio. Most times, you'll get to meet the artist and view his works in progress.
You can spear off the main track at Penwortham and follow one of the loop trails known as the John Horrocks Loop that travels up through the Skilly Hills. Stop for lunch at Skillagalee Winery and Restaurant where you'll find delicious food served either inside the tiny 150-year-old Cornish miner's cottage or on the terrace under the olive tree overlooking the vineyard and Skilly Hills - and some of the best riesling in the valley.
The John Horrocks Loop meets up with the main Riesling Trail (and main road) at Sevenhill, or you can continue on the Spring Gully Loop if you want to explore more of the Spring Gully Conservation Park. Just 8km south of Clare, this park in the Skilly Hills is the only reserve in South Australia to protect red stringybarks. Walking trails provide magnificent views of the park and surrounding areas. Highlights include the Cascades Walk which leads down to the creek bed of Spring Gully and, after rain, an attractive series of cascades.
Sevenhill Winery was founded in the mid-19th century by early Jesuit settlers, and offers tastings and sales in the old monastery cellars, as well as tours of the underground cellar, museum, St Aloysius Church, historic cemetery, crypt and shrines.
Clare is just up six kilometres up the road and the end of the Riesling Trail.
You can return home to Adelaide the way you came, but a worthwhile detour is to head east for 43km and spend some time in historic Burra. This quaint little town is one of the world's best preserved colonial mining communities. The best way to really explore the town is with a Heritage Passport - a detailed guide book and entry ticket to help you follow the 11km heritage trail around the town. There are 47 sites along the trail, including historic cottages, Redruth Gaol (the first gaol built outside Adelaide), churches and museums and of course, the Monster Mine, which made the town famous. If that all sounds like too much serious history, spend a couple of hours browsing the many antique shops in town.
From Burra, head back to Adelaide via the historic hamlet of Mintaro, South Australia's first proclaimed historic town. Call into the Magpie and Stump Hotel for a cold drink or visit Martindale Hall, a historic mansion built in 1881and located in the 45-acre Martindale Hall Conservation Park. The park is within the original property of 11,000 acres established by Edmund Bowman Snr in 1841 as a sheep station called Martindale station. The station is still intact and active.
From Burra, Adelaide is 160km south-west on the Barrier Highway.
Article by Lee Atkinson, April 2005. Image courtesy of Tourism South Australia.