McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley might get the lion’s share of the glory when it comes to South Australia’s wine regions. But we’ll let you in on a secret. With over 50 cellar doors, and vineyards dating back to the 1840s, the secluded Clare Valley is a world-class food and wine destination.
The first stop for many will be sampling the riesling that the area is most famous for. But what is a glass of wine without the pairing to go with it? Long winery lunches are the order of the day, with locals demonstrating a fierce – and well deserved – pride in the quality and freshness of their ingredients.
Make time to get back to nature in the Clare Valley region. A bizarre-beautiful bubble-gum pink lake, incredibly ancient fossilised remains of megafauna, and remote bushland of faded grey-green trees and saltbush are all ripe for your exploration.
Clare Valley’s first winery, Sevenhill Cellars, serves up estate-grown wine and grazing plates, as well as tours to its historic sites like St Aloysius Church. Try riesling at Pikes Wines on the family-owned Pikes Estate, and brews at Pikes Beer Company. Beer lovers can also make for Jeanneret Wines and Clare Valley Brewing Co at Sevenhill. Hiring a bike is the best way to see the plethora of cellar doors along the 35-kilometre Clare Valley Riesling Trail.
Delve into over 150 years of European settlement, visiting the extravagant Georgian-style Martindale Hall, and the mining heritage town of Burra. Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend is now Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week, with even more added to its food and music-filled autumn program. In springtime, it’s time for Auburn Frenchfest. Stop at creative centres like Arts Collective Clare Valley and Clare Valley Art Gallery. Children and adults alike will adore getting lost among the hedges of Mintaro Maze.
Look for ancient fossilised remains when you visit one of Australia’s richest megafauna sites, Red Banks Conservation Park. Head into Spring Gully Conservation Park for the Cascades walk, and picnic on local produce purchases amongst spring wildflowers. And, an unforgettable experience is gazing upon the shocking shades of Adelaide’s closest pink lake, Lake Bumbunga.
The award-winning Clare Valley Motel has relaxed, comfortable accommodation with a delicious saltwater pool at affordable prices. Clare Valley Cabins is another mid-budget option: a pet and family-friendly stay in the bush. The Clare Country Club resort has golf and other recreation facilities. Skillogalee House is a winery self-contained accommodation that ranges from four to five-star, attached to the Skillogalee Restaurant.
Camping on a tight budget? There is free camping and pay by donation sites in the Clare Valley at Eudunda Caravan Park, in Red Banks Conservation Park. For a tad more comfort, the kid-friendly Discovery Parks Clare Valley is close to Clare, with sites for tents and caravans, and multi-bedroom cabins. The dog-friendly Burra Caravan and Camping Park also has powered sites and 32 self-contained miners’ cottages.
Opt for something different at the adults-only Bukirk Glamping, with its mix of rustic-style tiny houses and luxurious tents. Another miniature-sized option is the eco-friendly Pink Lake Tiny House (which you can book on Airbnb) with porch views over Bumbunga. The romantic Trestrail Cottage is a ‘for two only’ accommodation, nestled in the woodland of Spring Gully Conservation Reserve. A luxurious historic stay awaits in the self-contained, heritage-listed cottages at Bungaree Station. For bed & breakfast, the Clare Valley Heritage Retreat is in a charmingly restored 1860s cottage.
Start the day with a hearty bakery breakfast at the Little Red Grape, or opt for the cosy, buzzing St Just Cafe in Burra. But don’t overdo it, because come midday there are unmissable, scrummy options. Mr Mick Cellar Door and Kitchen has tapas-style dining. If your heart is set on a picnic hamper, stock up at the Shut the Gate Provedore Store before settling down in the sun.
The award-winning Bush DeVine Cafe at Paulett Wines runs on bush tucker flavours, with a long winery lunch menu that specialises in foraged, local and homegrown native ingredients. For another special lunch, the Slate Restaurant at Pikes Wines is delectable, with native food options like kangaroo tartare or local Gawler River quail.
For dinner, the seasonally sourced food at fine-dining Terroir Auburn is hard to top, and Conner’s Restaurant views over Lake Inchiquin are only surpassed by its fresh produce, exclusively Clare Valley wine menu, and a post-dinner nightcap at Conner’s Bar.
For casual drinks and food, Seed Clare Valley has a deli by day, bistro by night and rooftop bar that serves up woodfired pizza. Have a hankering for high-quality pub food? The Rising Sun Hotel’s menu ranges from classic tavern fare to fusion dishes that use South Australian ingredients.
The Clare Valley is an hour and 45 minutes from the Adelaide CBD, just over 140 kilometres. You can reach here either by driving or by taking a tour. The Yorke Peninsula Coach service makes three trips from Adelaide to Clare a week. Australia’s major cities all have flights to South Australia’s capital. From the airport, there are plenty of hire car options.
In summer, the Clare Valley’s Mediterranean climate sees the thermostat hover around 30°C, with welcome ocean breezes, and dramatic temperature drops at night. Come winter, temperatures are often below 14°C with nighttime lows around 3°C. Frosty – but we say all the better for sitting by a cellar door fire. For a safe in between, spring is recommended (coincidentally, when the unmissable Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week is on).
For many, a first priority in coming to this growers region will be locking in that much-loved wine tour. Clare Valley Wine Tours provides personalised tours between cellar doors for private groups, as well as hiking or cycling adventures by 4WD.
As well as wine tours, Clare Valley Tours takes guests on trips out to discover the history of early European settlements. Clare Valley Experience will see you being chauffeured around the wineries by a local, with possible additions like a morning bike tour along the Riesling Trail.
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