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The Adelaide Hills has long been praised both locally and internationally for its exceptional cool-climate wines. While the region has dozens of exciting old-school and new-wave wineries worth visiting, the past five years have seen a boom in new culinary experiences – many of which can be had right amongst the picturesque hills and vineyards.
See the burgeoning pocket of Summertown and Uraidla, home to a peerless natural-wine haven and a repurposed 130-year-old church turned restaurant for pizza worship only. Visit the German-inspired town of Hahndorf, where you can get a taste of Spain or pick sweet, natural berries. Or enjoy a truly unique dining experience in a stone hut in Mylor – if you can nab a booking.
Here are our favourite spots to eat, drink, play and stay in the area. All are less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s CBD – making this a perfect daytrip or laid-back weekender.
The latest project by Masterchef alum Andre Ursini – the man behind the iconic (but now-closed) Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar, contemporary European bistro Orso and adjoining deli Willmott’s Gastronomia – is truly transporting.
Nuzzled deep within a valley on Ursini’s 20-acre property in Mylor, this tiny stone hut looks like something you’d happen across in the Italian countryside. It’s home to one of the most intimate and sought-after dining experiences in the state – you have to register months in advance for your chance to secure a booking.
That’s thanks to its ad hoc, largely veg-heavy dishes that are made from produce grown on the property. “There is no formula for this experience,” Ursini told Broadsheet. “It’s a whole educational culinary experience that taps into our passions.”
Lost in a Forest
Step inside this lofty 130-year-old church in the charming town of Uraidla for woodfired pizzas, natural vino and – in winter – a rip-roaring fireplace.
It’s owned by one of Australia’s biggest names in natural winemaking, Taras Ochota of Ochota Barrels. There’s a solid selection of his wines to choose from, plus some from his Basket Range neighbours.
What the pizza menu lacks in length it makes up for in excellence: the Buzzbomb, with mild sopressa, mozzarella and chilli-infused honey, is a knockout. So is the banh mi-inspired pizza, loaded with cider-braised pork (including crackling) and pickled veggies.
Tip: if you’re going with a group, try to nab a spot on the mezzanine – it’s the cosiest seat in the house.
This Adelaide mainstay in Hahndorf, a small town known for its German influence (mostly in the form of pubs) 30 minutes east of the CBD, puts the spotlight on Spain.
Comida started out as a Central Market stall before evolving into this bright and airy restaurant with a lush kitchen garden.
Go for the Spanish-style breakfasts, which include a very impressive tortilla (omelette); sourdough crumpets; and smoky baked eggs with pork hock. There’s a sizeable tapas menu with cheesy croquettes and patatas bravas (fried potatoes) with aioli and tomato-chilli jam, plus Comida’s signature paella and other substantial proteins.
Just behind the restaurant is a deck that looks over the entire garden. If the sun’s out, grab a rug and a bottle of wine and pull up some grass.
Stirling Cellars & Patisserie
Venture just off Stirling’s buzzing main street and you’ll find this one-stop shop for baked goods and booze. From the patisserie’s almost-always-stacked cabinet, grab flaky pies and sausage rolls, freshly almond croissants and tarts, and ready-made sangas and salads. Plus, Five Senses coffee is on pour.
Over in the well-stocked bottle-o, stock up on boutique wines, craft beers and small-batch spirits from the region’s top producers (including BK Wines, Mismatch and Adelaide Hills Distillery) and their European counterparts.
The Summertown Aristologist
Amid the twists and turns of Greenhill Road – less than half an hour from the CBD – is this unmatched natural-wine bar and restaurant in Summertown, with a next-door bottle shop and cellar door.
It’s one of the most exciting places to drink in the Hills, helmed by big-hitting SA winemakers Anton van Klopper (Lucy Margaux), Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) and Aaron Fenwick (Chateau Comme Ci Comme Ca). Stop in for a tasting with one of the trio, then choose from 350-odd bottles of natty wine to take home, from labels such as Jauma, The Other Right and Frankly, This Wine Was Made by Bob.
We’ve put this venue in the “drink” category, but The Summertown Aristologist could easily go under “eat”. The chalked-up menu is tight and vegetable-heavy (reliant on the team’s Basket Range market garden), with a focus on sustainable seafood.
The Lane Vineyard, Panorama Experience
South Australia isn’t lacking in topnotch wine-tasting experiences, but this is something special. In the middle of The Lane’s rambling vineyards is a small building with 360-degree views of the surrounding Adelaide Hills – and you can make a reservation for a special tasting experience here with your mates.
The intimate two-hour tasting, which includes a gourmet picnic prepared by the winery’s head chef, could feature wines made from the oldest vines on the property or drops from the small-batch Provenance range (including a brilliant pinot meunier).
Applewood Distillery and dynamic local wine labels Unico Zelo and Harvest share a collective home in the little town of Gumeracha (perhaps best known for its towering 18-metre-high rocking horse). In 2017, Brendan and Laura Carter converted a former 1920s cold store – previously used as storage space – into Ochre Nation, a snug cellar door and bar with exposed brick and timber furnishings.
Opt for a flight of easy-drinking Unico Zelo wines or Applewood spirits (the limoncello and mandarin liqueur are worth adding to your liquor cabinet), or just knock back a punchy cocktail or two.
Shaw and Smith
This Balhannah winery is known for its refined, exclusively Adelaide Hills wines, including sauv blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz – varietals that suit the region’s cool climate. All grapes are hand-picked, and the wines are fermented, aged and bottled on-site.
Inside its sprawling tasting room with a view, try five classic drops (with cheese) for $20, or five limited-releases (with an SA produce plate) for $45. If you want to delve a little deeper, go behind the scenes on a winery and vineyard tour, or book in for a Friday long lunch.
At this pint-sized off-the-grid cabin, the only people you’re likely to come across are the ones you bring with you.
The 2.5 by six-metre hideaway is situated just 25 minutes from the city, but secluded among hundreds of acres of natural scrubland. You won’t receive the exact location until just before your stay.
It’s equipped with all the creature comforts: a king-sized bed (and king-single day bed), shower, gas heating, two-burner kitchen stove, mini fridge-freezer, an environmentally friendly composting toilet, and plenty of board games. Plus, it’s dog-friendly – so your four-legged friend can lap up the serenity too.
The most recent addition to boutique designer hotel Mount Lofty House is Sequoia Lodge – 14 panoramic, open-plan luxury suites with 180-degree views of the Piccadilly Valley.
Here you can take in the scenery from a range of enticing vantage points: the comfort of your king bed, while warming up in front of the stone-clad fireplace, or while soaking in the freestanding bathtub.
Guests also have access to a private lounge with a heated plunge pool and yet another stunning view. And to top off the experience, we recommend booking in at the estate’s on-site fine diner, Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant.
Mount Lofty Botanic Garden
Thousands of cool-climate plants, sprawling gullies and a tranquil lake are the draw at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. Set on 97 hectares overlooking the Piccadilly Valley, it’s a great destination for a picnic, a leisurely stroll or fully-fledged hike.
Arguably the best time of year to visit is autumn, when the leaves turn all shades of crimson, gold and russet. In spring the garden pops with magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias, and in winter it’s often blanketed in mist and fog.
Over summer, seek refuge from the sun in the dense Fern Gully – one of the richest fern collections in the country.
Beerenberg Farm Shop and Strawberry Picking
Based in Hahndorf, Beerenberg makes a range of first-rate sauces, jams, condiments and dressings. And you can shop (and sample) them all – as well as some products you won’t find anywhere else – at its homey farm shop right next to where the produce grows.
And if you’re of the opinion that fruit tastes better when you pick it fresh yourself, there’s a strawberry patch open to the public – usually from November to April – when the fruit is in season. Pick to your heart’s content, then pay by the kilo.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Australia. Whether you’re seeking a quick getaway, a lazy holiday or an epic trek, Australia is a land of endless adventures. There’s never been a better – or more important – time to get out and explore. Take a Holiday Here This Year.