Though it’s just under two hours north of Adelaide, the Clare Valley feels like a world away. Golden fields of grain bow before the wind and carefree kangaroos nibble the green shoots between rows of gnarled vines. On the peaceful valley floor between hillsides crowned with majestic gums, a string of quaint hamlets beckons visitors with a warm welcome as do world-class wines at cellar doors and country pubs alike.
Visit world-class wineries
The slender valley mimics the form of a riesling bottle and the single-vineyard drops at Grosset Wines set the standard for the varietal in Australia, making a visit to the cellar door a rite of passage.
Around 150 years before Clare became the spiritual home of riesling in Australia, the Jesuit brothers at Sevenhill Cellars were carefully tending their vines to produce rich, aromatic fortified wines. After a tasting you can see that history laid bare in the onsite crypt.
Though it’s just a few minutes from the main highway, the broad deck at Jeanneret Wines is screened in by thick bushland. Offerings like the voluptuous Hummer merlot shiraz blend lives up to the motto of “naturally perfect”.
Further up the thickly forested Skilly Valley, Kilikanoon’s cosy cellar door is housed in a restored 1860s farmhouse. Book ahead for the opulent Revelation Experience featuring two vintages of the impeccably structured Oracle, which has repeatedly been named “best shiraz in the world”.
Taste fresh, local flavours
In a prime hilltop location overlooking a patchwork of bushland, golden paddocks and undulating hills striped with vines, the kitchen at O’Leary Walker Wines matches elegant drops with elevated comfort food like southern rock lobster and pork belly dumplings.
Once a typical country pub, the tastefully renovated Watervale Hotel has been transformed into a must-visit epicurean destination. Elaborate degustations begin with a walk through the veggie patch at a nearby permaculture farm to pick ingredients like crispy salad greens.
Local flavours also rule at Terroir Auburn, where everything bar the spices are sourced from within the Clare Valley to shape a four-course tasting menu with a subtle French influence that changes weekly.
In a former bank on the main street of Clare, Seed stays busy thanks to a menu of wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and modern Australian bistro fare. Visit the onsite delicatessen, which is stocked with essential supplies for a romantic picnic in the vines.
Visit the Valley’s stunning surrounds
The Clare Valley looks good from every angle on the car-free Riesling Trail, which connects dozens of cellar doors along the valley floor. Save your legs with an e-bike from Clare Valley Cycle Hire and you can easily tackle the entire 35-kilometre trail in a day.
Or travel at a more leisurely pace on the Clare Valley Wine & Wilderness Trail that meanders through lush vineyards and thick native bush. For a touch of luxury, join Clare Valley Wine Tours on a guided walk that marries the gorgeous scenery with sumptuous food and wine.
Head west and you’d be excused for dismissing Insta-friendly Lake Bumbunga as an optical illusion, but the bubblegum pink hue of the water is 100 per cent genuine (unlike the kitschy Loch-Eel Monster rising from the waters). Extend your stay by checking in at Pink Lake Tiny House and watch the water change colours as the sun sets.
In the other direction, the Burra Passport Heritage Trail gives you a literal key to the National Heritage listed town and unlocks mysterious underground cellars, an old jail and disused mines in the former boomtown that once housed Australia’s largest copper mine.
Stays that offer more than a bed
End the perfect day with a hot-rock sauna session or a steamy outdoor shower in the crisp winter air at Trestrail, a gorgeous stone cottage hidden in 40 hectares of picturesque woodland.
Or get a taste of the region’s rich pastoral heritage at Bungaree Station, where guests can pick up lamb, chicken, honey and orchard fruit grown on a 2800-hectare working farm. Spend the night in thoughtfully converted stables, workers’ quarters and council chambers.
If you prefer to stay in town, chic Mill St Retreat is just metres from Clare’s main street. The two complimentary bottles of Jim Barry Wine are an invitation to settle in for the night and enjoy the sleek design that marries modern furnishings with retro Palm Springs vibes.