While many people who travel to South Australia visit the popular regions of Adelaide and the nearby Barossa Valley, there are many off-the-radar destinations that are also worth exploring. Whether you love wine tasting, unique restaurants, adventure travel, craft beer, architecture, art, or culture, there is something for everyone to experience through these lesser-traversed regions down south.
Located about 30 minutes north of Adelaide, Hahndorf offers scenic hillside views as well as a strong German influence through the city’s timber-framed buildings, German restaurants, and German-inspired art galleries. The old-world charm brings you back in time while trendy boutiques and restaurants help to keep the city modern. For wine-enthusiasts, the wineries and cellars of Hahndorf give a great opportunity to sample the region’s cold-climate varieties, which are my personal favorite because of their intense flavors. Make sure to stop at Harris Smokehouse, a fourth-generation family-owned restaurant that serves high-quality smoked fish specialties, like smoked kingfish, hot smoked barramundi, and smoked oysters from Coffin Bay. I would also recommend visiting The White House, an 1858 cottage that features everything from rustic and ethical cuisine like coddled free-range eggs with spinach and pork fennel sausages with asparagus and mushrooms, an impressive wine cellar, live music, and a Secret Garden Cinema on Friday nights in the summer and fall. As a nature and outdoors lover, I also love the country-fresh treats of Beerenberg Farm like chutneys, jams, honeys, oils, and other sauces (try the molasses!), as well as getting to pick your own strawberries.McLaren Vale
While you’ve probably heard of the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale is also a haven for oenophiles everywhere. Located on the Fleurieu Peninsula about 45 minutes south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is a beautiful food and wine destination with opportunities for wine, cheese, and craft beer sampling, various tasting trails, farmer’s markets, and even art and coastal activities. The opportunities for oenophiles are endless, with more than 65 cellars and family-owned wineries. If you’re more of a beer person, McLaren Vale Beer gives in-house tastings, including their Vale Ale, which own a gold medal at the International Beer Challenge last summer, as well as serves gastro-pub type food like mushroom pizzas and shucked Coffing Bay oysters. I would also recommend trying one (or all) or the tasting trails to get a variety of experiences, like the Cadenzia Grenache Trail, Wine and Cheese Trails, McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Shiraz Trail, and the McMurtrie Trail. If you only have time to do one thing, my top pick would be a visit to Bella Cosa, as it’s not only a Bed & Breakfast but also a winery, tapas bar, and sculpture park where you can stroll around and enjoy outdoor art. On the weekends, visitors to the area can drive about 2 miles to nearby Willunga and enjoy the Saturday morning farmer’s market. You can also bike to Willunga, as the towns are connected by a cycle path. Once you feel like you’ve eaten and drank enough, enjoy the outdoors by treking through Onkaparinga Gorge, relax on the beach, or go fishing or surfing.
While most people wanting to experience south Australia’s wine country opt to visit the Barossa Valley, another option that’s just as beautiful but a bit off the beaten path is Clare Valley. Located about 2 hours north of Adelaide, this is one of the more historical wine regions in South Australia and visitors can experience this through tastings at unique wine cellars. I love this region for its countryside ambiance and the way life here seems simple and organic. While there are many different vineyards and wine cellars in the area, there are a few that stand out from the rest. First there is Sevenhill Cellars, which is the oldest winery in the region and was built by Jesuits in 1851 for the purpose of making sacramental wine. Jesuits actually still work there, and along with tastings in the cellar you can also visit a historical crypt that resides underneath the on-site church. Another winery I really love is Knappstein Winery, mostly because I’m a big craft beer fan and there is a micro brewery in their wine cellar. Moreover, Annie’s Lane is a great stop when checking out the Clare Valley wineries, not only because they have delicious Shiraz but also because they have a free art gallery with works from local artists as well as a complimentary wine museum where you can learn more about vino production through the ages. To sample an array of wineries, I would suggest doing the Rieseling Trail, as Clare Valley is famous for its German Rieselings.
While this Outback mountain range is a bit further from Adelaide (about 4-5 hours from the central area), it’s a great way to experience the rugged beauty of South Australia. The experience literally feels like going back in time or a trip to a different world as people live in the bush among wild kangaroos and emus with little signs of civilization and modernization. The landscape of the area is extremely unique, with glowing red rocks, vast desert, jagged mountains, and bright starry skies at night thanks to little light pollution. In the Flingers Ranges National Park you will still find a rich Aboriginal culture as these people have lived in the area for thousands of years. The Aboriginal rock art that you will find is impressive as well as the ancient ruins. Another unique outdoor experience is visiting the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary , where bird watching, off-roading, and hiking are popular activities. Explore precarious-looking mountain peaks, scenic lookout points, ancient seabeds, radioactive hot springs, and see the endangered Yellow-footed Rock-Wallaby in Bararranna Gorge.