By Amy Cooper
The Adelaide Hills boast plenty of food and beverage options to satisfy everybody's wants and needs, as well as breathtaking wildlife and rich history.
Live the high life at Mount Lofty House
It’s easy to see why 1850s free settler Arthur Hardy chose this perch over the Piccadilly Valley as a location for his summer retreat: the panoramic views are breathtaking. Now a hotel, Mount Lofty House is still an enticing escape, with two working vineyards, tennis and badminton courts, a croquet lawn, Stables Day Spa and swimming pool as well as a mix of rooms, suites and four carefully restored heritage cottages.
A wave of recent upgrades has included the opening of Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant, where seasonal, local produce takes centre stage.
Bask in a foodie retreat
A lesson in the secrets of Asian cuisine at Stirling’s Sticky Rice Cooking School is the perfect prelude to a sojourn in one of its three luxury villas. These exotic retreats echo owner Claire Fuller’s devotion to all things Asian, with authentic design borrowed from Japan and Bali – think thatched roofs and shoji screens – as well as modern comforts.
Bask on a day bed, soak in a Balinese bath, watch a movie on your 3D plasma or flex your newfound cooking muscle in a state-of-the art Jag kitchen. With walled courtyards and landscaped gardens, each of these architecturally designed havens is a private paradise where food is king.
Commune with nature at Cladich Pavillions
The three treehouse-style contemporary Cladich Pavilions blend seamlessly with the surrounding wilderness. Floor-to-ceiling windows and roomy decks provide wraparound views of stringybark eucalypts and all manner of native fauna.
If you’re lucky, you might spot a koala passing through. Indulgent touches such as crisp white linens, Tasmanian oak floors and Jurlique bathroom products enhance this bushland haven’s soul-soothing tranquility.
Wine, wine and more wine
Up in the Mount Lofty Ranges, 60+wineries produce many of Australia’s best cool climate wines, and an odyssey through their cellar doors reveals astonishing diversity. From the Austrian grapes nurtured at Hahndorf Hill (be sure to taste the acclaimed gruner veltliner) to the famous Croser sparkling wines at Petaluma’s new Woodside cellar door, and certified biodynamics at Ngeringa Wines, you’ll find familiar superstars alongside the adventurous and experimental.
Be sure to seek out the Hills’ artisan winemakers for intriguing small batch tastes. Try Vinteloper’s Portugese touriga nacional, Italian varieties at By Jingo! and a rare roussane at Lobethal Road’s rustic mudbrick cellar door. For a scenic tasting spot you can’t beat the gorgeous lakeside location of serial award-winner K1 by Geoff Hardy.
Go beyond the grape
Wine isn’t the only drink of note in the Hills. There’s a burgeoning craft beer and cider scene and exciting boutique distillers. In the convivial surrounds of The Brewshed at Prancing Pony Brewery in Totness you can sample delicious bites matched with your beer tasting plank while watching the brewers at work. Tastings at Lobethal Bierhaus are accompanied by a lowdown on the region’s illustrious brewing history.
Excellent local apples and pears carry their quality into ciders and perries, including Paracombe Premium Perry, made by fourth-generation pear grower Damian McArdle at Chamberlain Orchards (tours and tastings by appointment). Sample local spirits, including gins by Imperial Measures, Applewood Distillery and Adelaide Hills Distillery, at the Stirling Hotel’s dedicated spirits bar, Gin Club.
Pick your own fruit
Fruit doesn’t come fresher than a sweet strawberry straight from the patch, or a tree-ripened pear or apple munched in the orchard. The Adelaide Hills is a bountiful fruit basket, and all year round there’s something ripe for the picking.
Strawberry season from November to April at Beerenberg Family Farm in Hahndorf is a South Australian institution and draws pickers from nationwide. From February to April you can pick figs in the beautiful terraced orchards at Glen Ewin Estate. In December and January the Cherry Trail is a juicy feast, and in May you can Pick a Pink Lady from the trees at Harrisville and Mahnew orchards on their annual open weekend.
Linger over lunch
It would be criminal to rush a meal in this food-besotted region, so loosen your belt, cancel all commitments and lose yourself in the land of the long lunch.
At The Lane Vineyard’s Dining Room you’re advised to allow three hours for the Chef’s Table immersive dining experience. Verdun institution Maximilian’s celebrates its long lunch past with a special Friday menu including wine tastings, designed for slow enjoyment.
Enjoy share platters at the Bridgewater Mill Restaurant beside a historic waterwheel, or a slow food celebration at The Locavore. Alternatively, take your time over a gourmet picnic of fresh bread, cheese, pickles and more from the Hills’ farm gates, orchard shed doors and farmers markets.
Indulge your inner chocoholic
For a match made in heaven, look no further than Hahndorf Hill Winery’s ChocoVino experience, which marries fine wines and gourmet chocolate in a heady tasting adventure. Then take your sweet tooth to its spiritual home, Melba’s Chocolate Factory in Woodside.
It’s an operation that Willy Wonka would be proud of. You can tour its various operating rooms and the 1940s heritage machinery that crafts chocolate frogs, giant letters, bunnies, numbers, dinosaurs and more.
Cuddle a koala at Cleland Wildlife Park
Now in its 50th year, the conservation-committed Cleland Wildlife Park in Crafers is one of the few places in Australia you’re allowed to hold a koala.
This precious photo opportunity is one of many intimate animal experiences made possible by a set-up that’s as natural as possible.
The animals, raised around humans and comfortable with close contact, roam free over the 35 hectares of bush. You can enjoy encounters with kangaroos, potaroos, pelicans, dingos, emus, wombats and more.
Motor into history
The National Motor Museum’s collection of 400 vintage vehicles is an impressive enough spectacle.
Combined with memorabilia and automobile artefacts – including maps, road signs, bowsers, toys and photography – they present a riveting virtual road trip through Australia’s love affair with motoring.
Four-wheeled treasures from Paul Keating’s prime ministerial car to prized antiques from the 19th century and some classic Aussie Holdens reside in Birdwood’s historic mill.
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.