With South Australia’s Premier Steven Marshall announcing the state’s borders will open to the rest of country from next month, it’s time to check out what to see, where to stay and what to do in the state that’s home to the City of Churches.
But if you’re after an escape from city life, there’s really only one place to log into your GPS.
Just 25 minutes out of the Adelaide CBD is the Adelaide Hills where the hardest thing you’ll have to do is decide where to start and what you can fit in, so here’s a beginner’s guide to the region.
Where to start
I always like to start at the top – Mount Lofty Summit.
Here you can see Adelaide stretch out before you – all the way to the coast.
Where to stay
Mount Lofty House sits rights near the summit of the mountain and is a luxury escape with gorgeous views over Piccadilly Valley, a three-hatted restaurant, day spa experiences and manicured gardens.
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For caravan, camping or luxury lakeside cabins, award-winning Hahndorf Resort is the go, offering modern accommodation, plenty of caravan and camping sites and even a restaurant on-site – all within the picturesque township of Hahndorf.
If you’re really wanting to get off-grid, and perhaps share a room with just yourself or your partner, book yourself into tiny homes and getting away from it all. CABN offer a string of tiny off-grid homes, perfect for a wine weekend in the hills.
If the thought of combining Zen-like accommodation with a cooking classes has you dreaming, try Sticky Rice in Stirling for a unique holiday experience.
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During winter, getting cosy anywhere in front of a fire goes without question. But if you’re wanting to cuddle up to something other than your partner – head to Cleland Wildlife Park or Gorge Wildlife Park to meet some of the cute local koalas.
Where to stroll
The beauty of the Adelaide Hills is the ever changing food and wine scene. But between meals – and trust me, there will be a lot of them – there’s plenty of places to stretch your legs and work off lunch.
Start at Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, which offers a hillside amble through 97ha of manicured, rare and cool-climate plants. Entry is free as are guided walks every Thursday. You can set the pace with a leisurely walk around the lake or a strenuous hilly hike.
If you’re really keen … and I mean really keen … hike from Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty. Past First and Second Falls, there is a 3.9km serious uphill trek to the top. Thankfully, there is coffee at the summit and the views are some of the best in the region.
For something a little less strenuous, Hahndorf offers great walking tours that make for a great jaunt around town. If you’re feeling peckish, try the food and footwork combo with the Strudel and Stroll tour. Learn how to make strudel then, while it’s baking, walk the town with Sharon Pippos learning about its German history along the way.
If you’re a coffee fan, you’re in luck because I haven’t found a bad cup anywhere in the Hills.
For a midmorning hit, drop into Red Cacao in Stirling where it’s all about their award-winning artisan chocolate, coffee and indulgent desserts. When you get to have them all at the same time … bonus!
Big ticks for Woodside Providore, which is open seven days and late on weekends, and if you’re into cold drip coffee – drop into Nairne’s Pallet Cafe, located in one of the friendliest towns in the Hills
Time for a real drink?
Away from the vineyards and cellar doors, each Hills village has its own pub … and they all have something different to offer.
The Hahndorf Inn has the full-on German feast and beer fest. Big platters of roast meat, traditional kranskies, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes with beer tasting paddles. You’ll want to loosen your belt.
Stop at Balhannah Hotel for a pint on the Onkaparinga Scenic Drive between Verdun and Oakbank.
For a modern twist on German heritage, try The Haus in Hahndorf, or if you’re looking for a bit of local heritage – try The Crafers Hotel, which is one of Adelaide’s first pubs (established 1839) and its fridges are full of fun craft beer.
For beer, gin and cider lovers, Lot 100 in Hay Valley ticks multiple boxes in the one stop. Taste five locals in a really cool atmosphere: Hills Cider Co, Mismatch Brewing, Vinteloper, Adelaide Hills Distillery (78 Degrees Gin), and Ashton Valley Fresh “not just juice”.
For a beer that’s “untamed and unfiltered”, saddle up for a rustic, eclectic experience at Prancing Pony in Mt Barker. If you’re after a snack with you schooner, the Lobethal Bierhaus is where it’s at with an award-winning mix of boutique beers and buffalo wings. Say no more.
You can’t go past Unico Zelo Wine and Applewood Distillery in Gumeracha without stopping in for an afternoon drink. All gins are handmade in an old industrial cold store built in the 1920s. Fun and funky.
And while you’re in Gumeracha, don’t forget the kids. You can’t miss (literally) the Big Rocking Horse (thetoyfactory.com.au).
Food glorious food
For the sweet tooth, head to the Paech family’s Beerenberg farm in summer where you can pick your own strawberries. In winter, you won’t be disappointed. Instead of picking fruit from the vine, you’ll be able to stock up on all sorts of chutneys, pickles, sauces and jams made from local produce.
For cheese and chocolate fans, try before you buy at Udder Delights in the main street of Hahndorf and at Kris Lloyd’s Woodside Cheese Wrights where cheesemaking classes, cheese fondues or cheesy high teas are all on the cards.
Right next door to Woodside Cheese Wrights is a family favourite – Melba’s Chocolates.
Melba’s is a working chocolate and confectionary factory and hidden among the shelves and shelves of delicious things to buy, are free samples. It’s also where you’ll find the best hot chocolate made from the dark, milk and white chocolate on tap.
The ultimate wine trail
It’s why you’ve come to the Hills. If you’re a fan of sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cool-climate shiraz, gruner veltliner, bone-dry rieslings and some of the best sparklings you will find – you’ve come to the right part of Australia.
With more than 90 wine labels and 50 cellar doors in this cool-climate region, the choice is hard, but here are a few favourites that are now open and are perfect stops during the wintry weather.
Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard – all vines are hand-pruned and grapes are hand-picked at this winery, and the attention to detail shows in every bottle. Tastings are served in a rustic setting among steep sloping vines and stunning panoramic views across the Hills. Oh, and did I mention there’s an open log fireplace?
Hahndorf Hill Winery is famous for gruner veltliner labels and the delightful Choco Vino – chocolate and wine pairing. So this spot for me is a match made in heaven.
Stop in at Longview Vineyard which sits among 65ha of rolling hills, vines and sweeping views just outside Macclesfield. Reminiscent of classic, old-world estates but with modern style, it is one of the most awarded wine producers in the region.
Other highlights to mention include Golding Wines, Anderson Hill, Karrawatta, Tapanappa, Pike & Joyce Wines and Petaluma.