A trip to Barossa Valley is done in the name of the wine. Just over an hour’s drive northeast of central Adelaide, another world reveals itself. Rolling hills, stray cows and well-kept farms. The extensive fields are adorned with lush vines that are impossible to miss. It was immigrants from Germany who founded the South Australian wine industry and planted Barossa’s first vines in the early 1800s. The state escaped the devastating grape lice of the 1860s and the vines planted by the Germans survived. Today, winegrowers in the area are proud to have the world’s oldest plantations of Shiraz. This has made the Barossa Valley world famous.
Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are some of the grape vines that are intermingled on the 80 different vineyards that stretch out over more than 13,000 hectares that make up Barossa Valley. Many of the vineyards have for centuries looked like they do today. The historic buildings in stone would fit in any southern European town and goes very well with the hilly surroundings. Barely 100 kilometres north is South Australia’s other major wine region, the Clare Valley, which also is one of the oldest in the country. Unlike Barossa, the Clare Valley is primarily known for its exquisite white wines, especially Riesling. It is believed that it was the Englishman John Hill who discovered the area at the end of 1839 and saw the potential to grow crops and fruit here. The first European settlers who settled down here were members of the Christian Jesuit Order. They would later be the first winegrowers in Clare Valley. Today, they still own Sevenhill, the district’s oldest vineyard from 1851 which welcomes visitors.
Certainly, the main attraction is the vineyards. Those who appreciate a taste of the sweet life will not want to leave the area. Good food and drinks come in abundance. Many local restaurants compose their menus in order for the wine to enhance the food’s flavours. If you have the slightest interest in wine, nature and rural life, Barossa and Clare Valley are worth a visit. But it is not only the wine, but also the beautiful surroundings that attract tourists from far and wide. Just like Barossa, Clare Valley is surrounded by gentle hills and low valleys. Make a trip here, following your own pace. Drive, cycle or hike among farms, cafes and restaurants and stop wherever it may suit you.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
If you are interested in wine, there is plenty to do in the area. Both Barossa- and Clare Valley have hundreds of wineries to visit. Therefore, to get the most out of your visit, be sure to pick what type of experience you prefer and which wines you want to test.
One of the most popular wineries in Barossa is Penfold’s Winery and Cellar Door (penfolds.com/en-au/visit/barossa-valley-cellar-door). Every weekday at two o’clock you can participate in their one-hour class called Make Your Own Blend. You get a review of what drinks they produce, and you’ll also taste several of them. The best part is that you get to create your own Shiraz that you can take home in a bottle. It is a popular activity, so book in advance (wotif.com/things-to-do/make-your-own-blend-wine-experience-at-penfolds-winery.a260355.activity-details).
If you are unsure of which vineyards you want to visit, maybe a daytrip fits better. Travel together with a smaller group in a minibus and stop by several vineyards, eat a tasty lunch and try local wines. There are several tours to choose from (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Barossa%20Valley).
Clare Valley is not to be forgotten. Especially not if you prefer white wines. If you have money to spare, you can book in with Clare Valley Explorer (discoveraustralia.com.au/tours/clare-valley-explorer-tour-213322.html) and their minibus that takes a maximum of six people. This day-long tour gives you a chance to discover three vineyards before your planned lunch-stop. After that, two more vineyards are shown before it’s time to go back to the hotel and reflect on the day’s events. Pickup is around 08.30 and drop-off at 18:00. On average, the tour usually lasts for nine hours. The whole feast costs around 330 dollars. There are of course more day trips with other tour operators to choose from (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Clare%20Valley,%20South%20Australia,%20Australia).
The Barossa Reservoir dam is located two miles south of central Barossa. What makes the Reservoir special is its acoustics. If you are talking next to the wall, a person standing on the other side of the wall, a whole 100 meters away can hear exactly what you are saying. Hence the name the Whispering Wall (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barossa_Reservoir).
Syrah or Shiraz – which one is it?
Syrah and Shiraz are different names of the same grape. In the French Rhone Valley, the grape is called Syrah, while it was named Shiraz in Australia. They are usually differentiated by name since they taste a little different. Syrah often produces darker wines with a berry and spicy taste and a high alcohol content.
Golf and hiking
Barossa Valley has more than wine to offer. There are possibilities for a variety of sports, one of them being golf. Barossa Valley Golf Club Nuriopta (barossavalleygolf.com.au) is open every day. The golf courses are varied and offer nice greenery where kangaroos can be seen moving around. In other words, a long-awaited break from the city life. Visitors can play and equipment can be rented on site.
Stroll among indigenous plants that descend from the beginning of time. All plants in the Barossa Bushgardens Natural Resource Centre in Nuriootpa have been labelled so that visitors can find out their names and characteristics. The garden area is open every day and sells plants.
Hale Conservation Park (environment.sa.gov.au/parks/find-a-park/Browse_by_region/Barossa/hale-conservation-park) is popular for those who want to see wild animals in their natural environment. A four-kilometre long hiking trail runs through the forest over a slightly hilly terrain. There is a great chance to see kangaroos and birds in the park, and if you are lucky, maybe even an echidna.
The restaurants in Barossa Valley are many and it can be difficult to know which one to choose to get the best experience possible. Hentley Farm Restaurant is a smart choice for those looking for fine dining (hentleyfarm.com.au/food-philosophy). The restaurant is in a converted barn with a rustic and country-style décor. The food is of high standard and every dish is presented before it gets consumed. Matching wine is recommended by the chef. Choose from a four-course or seven-course dinner with wine. Costs from 115 dollars and upwards.
Mr Mick’s Kitchen (mrmick.com.au) is located in Clare Valley and is suitable for those who like tapas at a relatively low price. Order several dishes and share with someone. The restaurant has undoubtedly made a name for itself in the area, both for its Spanish influences and for its quality of service and food. The dishes cost from nine dollars and up.
If you fancy locally produced ingredients, don’t miss Barossa Farmer’s Market (barossafarmersmarket.com.au), which is open every Saturday. Between 07.30 and 11.30, Stockwell Road in Angaston is transformed into a large market where everything from vegetables to pastries is sold. The market is organized under a roof, so no matter what the weather brings, you can make a visit – every Saturday, all year round.
Good to know
For more information, please contact Adelaide Visitor Information Centre located next to Rundle Mall in central Adelaide. On weekdays they are open between 09:00 and 17:00 and on weekends between 10:00 and 16:00. In Barossa Valley you can visit the Barossa Visitor Information Centre at 66-68 Murray Street in Tanunda. They too are open every weekday between 09:00 and 17:00 and on weekends between 10:00 and 16:00.
Whether you are in Barossa- or Clare Valley, you need not to worry about typical tourist traps. The vineyards nurture their reputation thanks to the ongoing fierce competition, and they depend on satisfied visitors. But it is good to have a look around and compare different activities to find something that suits you and your preferences (wotif.com/discover/australia/south-australia/barossa-valley.d55249).
In addition to the guided tours that take you to Barossa- and Clare Valley, there are many car rentals in Barossa Valley. A cheaper alternative is Elephant Rent A Car, which offers cars for a cheap daily allowance (elephant-rentacar.com/Australia/Rent-A-Car-Barossa-Valley.aspx). It is also easy to rent a car around Adelaide and then drive from there (wotif.com/Car-Hire). It takes about an hour to drive to Barossa and two hours to Clare Valley.
There are plenty of hiking trails and bike paths in the Barossa. The hilly terrain is a great challenge and it’s a fun way to see more of the surroundings. The roads are peaceful, you don’t need to be worried about congestion. There are options to suit most people. Next to the Visitor Information Centre in Tanunda you will find the Cycle Hub (barossa.com/visit/see-do/cycling/bike-hire-and-cycle-tours/572c2e04f5e39bc96143fc30/_Barossa-Cycle-Hub) where you can get all the information and help you need. In addition to bicycles to rent on site, there are lockers where you can leave your valuables and showers to use. You can also rent a bike at Barossa Bike Hire (barossabikehire.com) at 5 South Terrace in Nuriootpa. They deliver the bike to your accommodation if you wish and arrange bike tours around Barossa. Online is a PDF to download, showing three good stretches where to go cycling in the area (barossabikehire.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Barossa-By-Bike.pdf).
There are a variety of accommodation options to choose from. Whether you are looking for a hotel, Bed & Breakfast or a simple campsite. Since both Clare Valley (hotelscombined.com/Place/Clare_Valley.htm) and Barossa Valley (hotelscombined.com/Place/Barossa_Valley.htm) are popular destinations, it is worth booking your accommodation early on.
A really good budget option is Barossa Gateway Motel (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Barossa_Gateway_Motel.htm) located just over 20 km outside central Barossa. The hotel is very affordable. A double room costs from 92 dollars. The rooms are simple but clean and the beds are comfortable. There is a fridge, a kettle and Wi-Fi. In the area there is also a laundry if you need to freshen up your clothes.
Barossa offers very many Bed & Breakfasts. The style varies, from rustic and rural to more of a motel feeling. The Lodge Country House (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/The_Lodge_Country_House.htm) is a beautiful Edwardian-style accommodation. The rooms are fresh and decorated in bright colours. They have a swimming pool for hot summer days and a fireplace for wintery cold winds. The property is located at the Steppeltsfields vineyards in Barossa Valley. To spend a night with breakfast included, it costs from 360 dollars for two people during peak season.
If you like staying out in the wild, you can book in at the camping facility Barossa Valley Caravan Park (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Discovery_Parks_Barossa_Valley.htm). They offer everything from a simple parking spot to spacious cabins. A regular camping site costs from 31 dollar and a cabin 91 dollars and up. A swimming pool, children’s playground, kitchen and much more is available on site.
Clare Valley Motel (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Clare_Valley_Motel.htm) has 33 rooms that cost from 125 dollars for two people. Their own restaurant, Top of the Hill is open Mondays to Saturdays. Main courses cost around 25 dollars. The motel is located a few kilometres from the town centre. A walk here takes about half an hour but to drive only five minutes. It is a modern complex, white houses with red roofing tiles. The area has a swimming pool with sun chairs.
Two miles from Clare Valley lies The Fruiterer’s B&B (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/The_Fruiterers.htm). The area is quiet and lush. Free parking is available, and guests can borrow bicycles for no extra charge. Breakfast is served with homemade marmalade and freshly baked bread. The rooms are quite small but clean. A large kitchen is available. Prices from 90 dollars.
Campsites and cabins are also available in the Clare Valley at Discovery Park’s camping site (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Discovery_Parks_Clare.htm), four kilometres away from the town centre. Good for families and budget travellers who want to prepare meals on their own.
A Saturday around Barossa Valley & Clare Valley
08.00 – A morning in Barossa
Time to rise. You start with a breakfast at The Table Café at 30 Barossa Valley Way in Lyndoch. This modest café serves tasty dishes and a refreshing coffee. When the food is eaten you continue the drive eastwards to Barossa Farmer’s Market. You stroll around the market for a while and buy some locally produced fruit and bread to eat later.
11.00 – Creative wine making
Continue to Penfold’s Vineyard for an hour of wine teaching in Make Your Own Blend, which means you get to make your own bottle of Shiraz with the help of dedicated connoisseurs and winemakers. After the hour is complete, you try some famous varieties of Penfold’s wines and buy a bottle to enjoy during the evening. Make sure to have a sober driver with you so you don’t have to miss out on the tasting.
13.00 – Welcome to Clare Valley
The journey continues northwest, to Clare Valley. Lunch is enjoyed at the tapas restaurant Mr. Mick’s Kitchen. You even order a dessert in tapas style, perfect to share with some friends. After finishing the meal, you decide to visit some of Clare Valley vineyards. After all, you are in the vicinity, right?
16.00 – Beautiful vineyard visit
You leave the restaurant around three in the afternoon to see the region’s vineyards. Mostly, you are interested in Clare Valley’s oldest vineyard, Sevenhill Cellars (sevenhill.com.au), which was founded in 1851 by members from the Jesuit Order. Don’t miss the beautiful stone church nearby.
18.00 – Move those legs of yours
To get a break from the wine testing, you decide to play golf for a couple of hours. Take the rental car to Barossa Valley Golf Club to test your shape on the hilly course. If you are lucky, maybe a kangaroo or two will skip past you. When you feel satisfied, head back to the hotel for a shower and a rest before it’s time for dinner.
20.00 – Rustic restaurant in Barossa Valley
In Barossa you want to get the most out of what the region has to offer. You decide to book a table at the rustic restaurant Hentley Farm. After your meal, take a walk in the warm summer night and gaze out over the rolling landscape. Then straight to bed to prepare for next day’s hiking in Barossa Bush Gardens Natural Resource Centre and an evening with barbecue and one or two beer in the Coulthard Reserve.