Going on a hike is an invigorating way to immerse yourself in South Australia’s beautiful natural landscape. It can also be damned tiring, so you deserve a reward once you’ve walked up a sweat. Celebrate with a refreshing beverage at one of these conveniently located post-hike watering holes.
Morialta to Norton Summit
Traversing the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, the 56-kilometre Yurrebilla Trail lets you immerse yourself in the bush without having to venture far from town. Hiking the full trail is a multi-day effort, but it’s conveniently divided into five sections that can be tackled as day walks. The 7.5-kilometre section from Norton Summit to Morialta is one of the most picturesque, and can easily be completed in an afternoon. Walk it in reverse and you’ll get most of the climbing out of the way early as you head out of the valley towards Deep View Lookout. Even harder than the ascent is deciding where to look; views out over Gulf St Vincent compete with koala spotting and multiple waterfalls for your attention. The creeks and waterfalls are particularly impressive in spring and winter, when colourful orchids also dot the sides of the path.
After leaving Morialta Conservation Park, you’ll crest a series of undulating hills before emerging at Norton Summit. From there, you can enjoy expansive views over the Adelaide plains from the aptly named Scenic Hotel (which was founded in 1866) with a cold beer and one of the famous roo schnitzels.
Onkaparinga River Hike
At the upper end of the Onkaparinga River National Park, this trail is only 4.5 kilometres long but takes over two hours to complete. That’s because it drops all the way to the riverbed before climbing back up again. The hike begins gently enough, meandering through open, pink gum forests and grassy slopes before the gradient gradually increases as you near the Onkaparinga Gorge. By the time you get to the bottom, you’ll probably want to cool off in the permanent waterholes where herons stalk yabbies and frogs before attempting the thigh-busting ascent. Fortunately, stunning views over the rugged orange walls of the gorge provide plenty of excuses to stop on the way back up.
The River Hike, one just a few tracks located on the southern side of the park, has two distinct benefits. The first is that it’s rarely crowded, so you’ll often have the entire walk to yourself. The second is that when you finish, you’re on the edge of lauded wine region, McLaren Vale, so there are plenty of convenient options for a celebratory drink. Grab one of the outside tables at the enormous two-storey Swell Taphouse for a refreshng ale from one of the 16 taps – the Golden Ale strikes the perfect balance between rich malts and tropical hops.
Alligator Gorge Ring Route
Just three and a half hours from Adelaide, Mount Remarkable National Park is the most accessible part of the Flinders Ranges – and one of the most scenic. The park can be accessed from several directions, with the most spectacular walking in Alligator Gorge. The nine-kilometre Ring Route begins with 300-odd steps down to the floor of the gorge, which is usually cool and shady even in the summer months. Stop to look up at the sliver of sky between the steep walls and you’ll be struck by a deep sense of peace; even whispers echo off the ochre-coloured walls where millions of years’ worth of sediment are visible as striking horizontal layers. At The Narrows, the sides of the gorge close in until they’re just two metres apart before the trail climbs towards open bushland with healthy populations of both roos and emus. After a wide loop, re-enter the gorge and walk over a series of rocky terraces that still bear ripple marks from when this entire landscape lay at the bottom of the ocean floor.
If you’ve had enough of the great outdoors for the day, head down the road to Melrose’s Mt Remarkable Hotel where the ceilings are low and the beer is ice cold. The vibe is rustic but the welcome is warming, as is the hot salad bar and Bartagunyah port.
If you prefer to avoid hill climbs, the coast-hugging Encounter Bikeway provides an easier option. The 30-kilometre-long shared-use pathway is broad and flat, so there’s plenty of room for both cyclists and walkers, and the four-kilometre section from Middleton to Port Elliot is a pleasant stroll. Begin above the gentle swells at Middleton Point and take a few gulps of fresh Southern Ocean air before setting off. You can either follow the beachfront trail or give yourself a workout on the sand before the trail veers away from the beach as it enters Ratalang (Basham Beach) Conservation Reserve. But keep an eye on the water as you walk past wetlands and an old copper mine – it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins, sea lions or even whales in season.
When the towering Norfolk pines come into view, you’ll know you’re approaching Port Elliot. If you can resist the siren call of the famous bakery, head to The Joinery where Charlotte Dalton and Cooke Brothers Wines have a shared cellar door complete with its own pool table. And if you don’t feel like walking back after a few wines, keep an eye out for the Cockle Train that makes the return trip even easier.