Adelaide is known as Australia’s wine capital and the title is well deserved. A love of wine is part of the city’s lifeblood. But to really appreciate the depth of South Australia’s winemaking talent you need to venture beyond the city limits to the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa and the Clare Valley. Despite their proximity, these three regions are remarkably different in size, topography and heritage.
This drive also showcases some of South Australia’s most gorgeous scenery — from the orchards and native bush of the Adelaide Hills to Barossa’s grand 19th century chateaux and the dry hills and big skies of the Clare Valley. Just remember to take your time.
Day 1: Adelaide to Hahndorf
25min | 26km
South Australia is not blessed with many motorways, but one of the best connects Adelaide and the hilltop enclaves of Stirling, Hahndorf, Crafers, Mount Barker and Lobethal – known collectively as the Adelaide Hills. In fact, the trip from Adelaide to the Bavarian style village of Hahndorf on the South Eastern Freeway should only take about 25 minutes.
Alternatively, follow a more leisurely back route from North Adelaide to Stirling. This will give you chance to stop off at historic Penfolds Magill Estate, the home of Grange, Australia’s most expensive wine. There are guided tours of the atmospheric cellars – or you can indulge in a spot of wine tasting at the impressively revamped cellar door.
Next stop is Mount Lofty Summit (710m), which offers spectacular views of the plains, city and Gulf St Vincent. Nearby Cleland Wildlife Park is a great place to see native species in the (almost) wild. Apart from its popular koala cuddling sessions, the park has snakes, echidnas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, emus and kangaroos.
Although one of Australia’s smallest wine regions, the Adelaide Hills has carved out a global reputation for its cool climate sauvignon blanc, riesling and chardonnay. Shaw+Smith, Nepenthe, Sidewood and Longview are some of the better known producers.
Fresh from a multimillion dollar makeover, the grand old Crafers Hotel now offers a lively bar, contemporary bistro and seven tastefully decorated hotel rooms, including one catering to those with a disability.
Day 2: Hahndorf to Tanunda
70min | 72km
The drive from Hahndorf to Tanunda couldn’t be lovelier, following a meandering country road to the villages of Balhannah, Woodside and Birdwood before crossing into the Barossa. Apart from closely planted vineyards you’ll see orchards, market gardens and stone cottages. Make sure you visit Woodside Cheese Wrights on the drive north – owner and founder Kris Lloyd is one of Australia’s most talented cheesemakers.
Just up the road is the historic Johnston Brewery, a complex of 19th century buildings that now houses the O’Leary Walker cellar door. Make a slight detour to Lobethal, surely one of the best preserved colonial townships in South Australia, before leaving the Hills.
Craft beer aficionados will love the award winning Lobethal Bierhaus (open Friday to Sunday), which makes a range of ales, stouts and pilsners. Car enthusiasts, however, will want to explore the National Motor Museum in Birdwood. The museum records Australia’s love affair with the motorcar and contains many unusual vehicles and plenty of Aussie memorabilia.
The next leg of your journey takes you into southern part of the Barossa Valley via Williamstown, Lyndoch and Rowland Flat. After the wooded uplands, you’ll find yourself on a wide valley floor, driving past iconic wineries such as Lyndoch Hill, St Hallett and Chateau Tanunda.
But no visit to the Barossa is complete without stopping at Jacob’s Creek. The birthplace of Australia’s most celebrated wine brand now sports a state of the art cellar door, contemporary bistro and a museum. Guided tours and structured wine tastings are all available – plus access to the Jack Bobridge bike track.
With views of Jacob’s Creek Vineyard, the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort Hotel is perfectly positioned. There’s an outdoor playground for children, a heated pool and easy parking.
Day 3: Tanunda to Clare
90min | 96km
For a taste of Australian winemaking nobility, venture out to the charming Henschke estate in the Eden Valley, a winery celebrated for its single vineyard Hill of Grace shiraz. The drive north from Tanunda to the Clare Valley takes you through some of Australia’s finest grain growing country.
Along the way you’ll see evidence of the state’s short but colourful mining history. At Kapunda, wander around the giant copper mine, which once fuelled the state’s economy. The giant statue of Map Kernow (“Son of Cornwall”) pays tribute to the Cornish miners who once toiled there in the mid 1800s.
Settlements are fewer and paddocks larger as you drive further north to Tarlee, Woolshed Flat and Auburn, where you’ll see the first Clare vines. A minnow compared to the Barossa, Clare Valley is most closely associated with riesling, but the region produces many white and red varietals – and some excellent beer. Pikes Wines, for example, houses both a cellar door and a modern craft brewery.
By contrast, the historic Sevenhill Cellars (1851) is part of a magnificent complex established by the Jesuit order, whose members still live and pray there. The winery is handy for the 35km Riesling Trail and has bikes for hire.
History buffs, meanwhile, will enjoy visiting Martindale Hall, a grand architectural folly just outside Mintaro. For those with kids, nearby Mintaro Maze is a winner. After an action packed day, reward yourself with a glass of Clare riesling or pale ale at The Sevenhill Hotel, an authentic country pub with a terrific wine list, hearty bistro style fare and a genuinely warm welcome.
Right on the Riesling Trail, Clare Valley Cottages offer one, two or three bedroom accommodation options perfect for couples or families. There’s barbeque facilities, off road parking and even optional bike hire for exploring the surrounding area.