Growing up in Adelaide, there was always something magical about the Adelaide Hills. Those charming cottages, the colourful cast of towns that each have their own personality and the view out the window that’s pure enchantment.
It’s as though the area that’s bounded by the town of Mount Pleasant in the north and Mount Barker in the south has been torn straight from the spine of a kids’ fairytale book. And it’s all less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide (measured from the Mall’s Balls).
While I may now be a treacherous eastern states passport-holder, I still hold the Adelaide Hills in my heart, right alongside Narnia.
Here are some of my favourite things to do in the Adelaide Hills:
- Practice my German by eating a sausage and a schnitzel, with a stein of beer, in Hahndorf. The distinctly German town is such a tourist cliché but also adorably cute (and delicious), both inside the pubs and out.
- Stay at The Stirling Hotel’s boutique accommodation 5 Rooms. With only five rooms available (hence why it’s called 5 Rooms, get it) an overnight stay here is the ultimate in luxury. Enjoy stunning treetop views, complimentary breakfast and bathrooms that are bigger than my Sydney apartment. And did I mention there’s a TV in the bathroom?
- Pick my weight in strawberries at Beerenberg Strawberry Farm, which is stumbled across just outside of Hahndorf. While strawberry picking is only available November to April, you can go picking for Beerenberg sauces and jams in the shopfront all year round. Graham’s Hot Chip Sauce of part sour cream, part sweet chilli will blow your spectacles off.
- Prove to your husband that you can cook edible food, but first take a cooking class at Sticky Rice Cooking School in Stirling, where you learn to cook restaurant-quality Asian, Moroccan and Spanish. The luxurious accommodation next-door, Sticky Rice Villas, is also pretty damn nice – even Kanye West would be impressed.
- Order a board of cheese at artisan cheesemakers Udder Delights (in Hahndorf) or partake in some cheese tastings at Woodside Cheese Wrights (in Woodside). Being kept company by friends chevre, cheddar and camembert is a damn good situation to be in.
- Drink wine like it’s my job. The Adelaide Hills is my second-favourite wine region (by a nose hair after McLaren Vale). Their cool-climate whites are the shirt. Artwine (Woodside), The Lane Vineyard (Hahndorf), Barristers Block (Woodside) and Howard Vineyard (Nairne) are all favourites, although there’s 50 more wineries where they came from. In Gumeracha, Unico Zelo is the new kid in town turning heads and worth a nosey.
- Walk to Mount Lofty Summit from Waterfall Gully. It’s a steep lung-burner but the panoramic views at the end are pay-off. Wearing head to toe Lorna Jane is also compulsory.
- Climb the Big Rocking Horse. At 18 metres high, it’s Gumeracha’s answer to Australia’s obsession with big things. There’s a Toy Factory next door, which I might visit if I need a new dump truck.
- Have a swing at Sidewood Estate’s golf challenge (there’s wine prizes if you hit a hole in one, across the lake, on the floating green) in Verdun. That’s after I’ve eaten a 15-course lunch at the fairy-lit on-site Maximilian’s Restaurant and joined the crop-top wearing fashion set having a bubbles on the lawn.
- Insist on making the annual pilgrimage at Christmas to see dancing Santas and flashing chimneys at The Lights of Lobethal. No one has a higher electricity bill in December than the town of Lobethal – it’s serious stuff.
- Walk the luscious trails of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, stopping for a picnic by the lake. Belair National Park is also another well-worn picnic favourite.
- Visit in autumn when the leaves of the Adelaide Hills are a canvas of golden colours putting on a show as they migrate to the ground. Nowhere else in the world is as beautiful as the Adelaide Hills in autumn.
- Book a table at Pike & Joyce in Lenswood and dine on some A+ views of the Adelaide Hills, as well as some crispy skin pork belly. This sunny spot seamlessly marries together a cosy (Thursday to Sunday) restaurant, panoramic balcony and cellar door. At the latter you can conveniently taste Pike & Joyce’s cool climate single vineyard wines.
- Avoid the South Eastern Freeway and drive the awfully pretty back way. The Adelaide Hills are connected by a series of twisting and turning, winding back roads, which show off the best of country life. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re The Stig from Top Gear.
- The National Motor Museum in Birdwood is another tourist trap but surprisingly fascinating for non-car nerds, with its 300-plus vintage, modern and classic cars and motorcycles, including a DeLorean.
- Drink a paddle of craft beer at Prancing Pony Brewery – the small-batch, award-winning brewery in Mount Barker. The moustaches are also award-winning.
- Go all gaga over an Adelaide Hills’ wine festival. I love, love, love the Adelaide Hills Winter Reds Cellar Door Weekend (and have previously shared seven reasons why). Adelaide Hills Crush Festival in January is also equally delicious.
- Have my mind blown by a chocolate and wine pairing at Hahndorf Hill Winery. Because we all know that there’s never been a sadness that can’t be cured by chocolate. Melba’s Chocolate Factory in Woodside is also sadness-curing, and where as a child I fully expected to meet Willy Wonka.
- Enjoy cheat’s day and eat everything on the menu. In the Adelaide Hills the food is as fresh as it comes, the lunches are of the long kind, the wine is local and there’s plenty of places to enjoy all of the above. I personally love the following restaurants:
- Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard for fine dining and fine drinking (Lenswood).
- The Seasonal Garden Cafe for brunch (Hahndorf).
- Jimmie’s Restaurant for wood-oven pizzas (Crafers).
- Lost in the Forest for wine and wood-fired pizzas (Uraidla) – read the full EPLT review here.
- The Summertown Aristologist for food that perfectly straddles the line of simple yet swanky (Summertown).
- Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant at Mount Lofty House for elegance, opulence and extravagance (Crafers).
- The White House for burgers and baguettes in a cute vintage setting (Hahndorf).
- The Stirling Hotel for up-market pub fare (Stirling).
- Pike & Joyce for winery lunching at its best (Lenswood).
- Maximilian’s Restaurant for winery lunching at its second best (Verdun).
Cool your jets. 19 is a low number and I’m well aware that I’ve missed some things off this list (word count can be a bitch). But please share your favourite things to do in the Adelaide Hills below.