Things are changing in Hahndorf. That’s not to say you can’t tell the town is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement – you can still pick up a bee sting cake or sauerkraut, dine on bratwurst or knock back a hefeweizen – but there’s a new feeling in the air. There’s specialty coffee, paella, a gin distillery and a natural-wine bar.

Some of this change has been gradual, in the way that most towns evolve over time, but much of it has been accelerated due to the pandemic. The Advertiser recently reported that at least 10 businesses in the town had closed because of Covid-19 restrictions, with border closures heavily impacting the interstate, and international, visitor market.

The pressure has been felt acutely by Jason Duffield, a director of The Manna by Haus, Ascend Hotel Collection, and a range of other businesses in the town. For him, increased collaboration has been key to survival. “We try and work with local business to generate exposure for all within the Adelaide Hills community,” Duffield tells Broadsheet. “Strong local support has helped us get through.” Now, with the opening of SA’s borders, the town’s latest additions are ready to debut themselves all over again.

A charming new addition to the main street is Thiele’s Shop, a community-minded cafe and bar connected to art-supply shop The Paint Box. Step inside for a laid-back lunch, a glass of natural wine or a wild-fermented beer. It’s the latest in a string of offerings in or near the town that stray from well-worn tourist clichés. Another is Ambleside Distillers, which recently expanded to increase production space eightfold and visitor capacity to 150, and it now offers a gin-blending experience in addition to tastings.

Comida, which moved from its beloved Central Market digs to Hahndorf’s main street in early 2020, is an ideal stop-in for lunch. The signature dish is paella – try the paella de Comida (chicken, chorizo, eggplant, cauliflower, sofrito, lemon, peas and herbs) or the plant-based paella de verduras (eggplant, cauliflower, beans, zucchini, artichoke, peas, lemon and herbs). It’s also serving ocean trout, Boston Bay mussels and a braised lamb shoulder, plus excellent coffee. Grab a rug and head out to the garden, which supplies much of the veggies, herbs and fruits on the menu.

Despite the exciting new kids on the block, don’t discount the town’s institutions – many of them have adapted in recent years, and there are new discoveries to be made in the oldest of spaces. Join a tour to see the gorgeous studio and grounds at The Cedars (formerly home to iconic landscape painter and early conservationist Sir Hans Heysen) before sitting in front of the artist’s largest watercolour, The Camp at Wonoka Creek, for dinner at The Haus Restaurant (the painting was purchased for the restaurant just a few years ago).

Hahndorf has always been a great base for the exploring the Hills, so if you’re staying the night (or a few), Scandinavian-inspired hotel The Manna by Haus is located on the main street. There are also three Haus Group properties in town – The Manna, The Studios and The Lodge – and guests of all of them are free to use the swimming pool located at The Lodge.

The next morning, if you’re venturing further afield, grab a coffee and sourdough focaccia at Brid before lunch at The Summertown Aristologist. In nearby Aldgate, Fred Eatery is an ideal spot for breakfast or lunch – and you can browse the fun homewares at Fred Living when you’re done. And Dirty Doris, an ode to American diners of yesteryear, recently opened a few doors down, serving pancakes, burgers, steak and breakfast ramen from 7am.

The writer was a guest of The Manna by Haus, Ascend Hotel Collection.