A December 2001 trip
to Adelaide by Ozzy-Dave
Quote: Little visited by overseas travellers, Adelaide charms those visitors back with a relaxed and welcoming lifestyle and all the things that make life good: miles of beaches, some of the country's best food and wine, and natural attractions to indulge your senses. Join me for a taste as we head for the hills...
1. Scenery; take a leisurely drive through delightful villages, cool forests, valleys of vineyards, orchards and berry farms.
2. Warrawong Sanctuary; discover Australia's cutest and most endangered animals face to face in their own habitat.
3. Hahndorf; settled in 1839 by German emmigrants, this village now offers quality art, craft, food and wine from the area.
4. Mount Lofty Gardens; stunning Botanic Gardens devoted to the world's cool temperate plants.
5. Cleland Wildlife Park; meet Australia's famous wildlife in their own bushland.
6. Vineyard visits; taste (and buy) world-renowned wines from tiny, family-owned cellars.
TIP:If you were smart enough to include Adelaide in your itinerary, why not combine a visit to the Adelaide Hills with the best place in Australia to see wildlife and Go Wild On Kangaroo Island.
Note that all prices here are quoted in US.
HOW TO GET THERE: Hire a car from the airport or bus station. Either way, it's only a 30 minute-drive straight up into the hills on one of Adelaide's main roads.
ACCOMMODATION: Bed & Breakfast accommodation is available to suit all tastes and budgets. We chose to indulge at a luxury, historic property for a not-so-luxury price. Hillgrove House is high on a ridge overlooking the Piccadilly Valley in the middle of the hills. It’s non-hosted and everything is supplied – even things you wouldn’t think of! Two-night escapes are available for a couple. Check it out at the Burdetts Retreats website
Don't be tempted by whirlwind one-day tours on offer from travel agencies - you'll rush from site to site and have little time to enjoy this uniquely Australian environment.
It's best to hire a car. Don't worry, I know we drive on the "wrong side of the road" here, but you'll encounter very little traffic. Hire rates are good and start at around a day for a mid-range four cylinder vehicle. Cars always come supplied with decent maps, and the signposting throughout the Adelaide Hills is good. Petrol costs less than a gallon.
FURTHER AFIELD:Aside from the Adelaide Hills wineries, two more of Australia's premier wine-growing regions are less than an hour away by car - The Fleurieu Peninsula (to the south) and the Barossa Valley (to the north).
Hillgrove House is a renovated 1880s farmhouse, originally occupied by the owner''s grandparents. Today it''s been restored beyond its former glory to a stunning property of two self contained wings that can be used together to serve 4 people or in isolation (you get your choice) if there''s just 2 of you.
Each wing has its own spacious fully equipped kitchen, dining room and sitting room, and each bedroom has an attached bathroom with double spa bath. There''s reverse-cycle air conditioning and ceiling fans, and wood fires add the perfect romantic touch on those cold nights. The bedroom in the wing we used even had its own fire. Gorgeous Huon Pine antique furniture completes the picture, but wait ''til you here about all the extras.
There''s big fluffy bathrobes, slippers, bubble bath, scented oils and electric blankets (of course). And in the living area that overlooks the valley we found decanters of port wine and Irish Cream, you guessed it - complimentary. They were right next to the chocolates, but Karen found them before I did!
If all this sounds a bit too good to be true, pinch yourself and check out the pantry. Now I''ve stayed in B&Bs before where you get two rashers of bacon, two eggs, a few pieces of bread and a jar of jam in the cupboard. And milk if you''re lucky. Not Hillgrove House. Meg Burdett prides herself on a reputation for providing guests with all the ingredients for an indulgent stay. OK, let''s have a look...
There was a well stocked wine cellar, champagne, ice cream, juices, different breads, a box full of herbal teas (and normal teas), gourmet coffee, fresh meats and preserves, fresh cakes and pastries, fruit - even soy milk for the vegans out there. Need I go on. No wonder they get so much return business, you ought to read the Visitors Book. You pay for the wine, but everything else is included.
Outside you''ll think you''re the only ones up here. You can''t see the neighbours and the valley stretches out before you like a patchwork of forests and fields. We saw many different birds, including parrots, black cockatoos, white cockatoos and kookaburras. Only minutes down the road are an abundance of Adelaide Hills attractions and tempting cafes and restaurants serving delicious local fare. Why would you stay anywhere else? Well I guess you wouldn''t. But then, not everyone knows about it do they?
Hillgrove costs around $170 a couple for a two-night escape. It gets cheaper the longer you stay. Cheap thrills I reckon. By the way, their logo boasts "For indulgent lovers and those who love to indulge."
Next time you''re in Adelaide, come and indulge a while.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 28, 2002
Burdetts Road, Basket Range
Waratah Cottage was the inaugural property, firmly aimed at the private, romantic, bonking-break market. It''s a little, 4-room stone cottage - bedroom, sitting room with wood fire, fully equipped kitchen with wood burning heater and a bathroom the size of a football field. Inside the bathroom is a double spa and double shower. It''s also got a huge one-way window that overlooks the valley. If that doesn''t get the creative juices flowing...
Outside there is a vine covered patio that catches the morning sun, looking over a cottage garden bursting with colour and birdlife. Like Hillgrove House, you get a feeling of seclusion and romance, yet you are only minutes from many Adelaide Hills attractions and a selection of local restaurants and cafes specialising in delicious local produce. There are other properties on this road, but, through clever design and landscaping, you can''t see them.
The sitting room includes a television, video and CD player and, of course, the selection of material is biased toward romantic pursuits. Meg Burdett offers all the same delightful and thoughtful extras with both properties. That means the fully stocked pantry is exactly that - no meagre rations here, and there are the obligatory chocolates, port wine and Irish Cream decanters for getting you both in the mood.
After your spa bath action, with complimentary oils of course, grab your towel from the heated towel rail and slip into a big fluffy bathrobe and slippers. Extinguish the candles. The rest is up to you.
In the morning you can find all the ingredients for your own breakfast feast - pancakes, pastries, different breads, jams, preserves, meats, eggs - you name it. And it doesn''t stop there. There is always a bowl of fresh fruit and in the refrigerator there is champagne, juices, icecream and more. You will indulge, believe me.
The rates at both properties are the same - around $170 a couple for a two-night escape, cheaper each night after that.
Earth Sanctuaries operate 10 properties around Australia, all devoted to creating environments to protect indigenous and endangered wildlife where people can experience the animals in their natural habitat. Warrawong Sanctuary was their inaugural property, opening in January 1985. But the story begins much earlier.
Dr. John Wamsley bought a 35 acre dairy farm in 1969 and set about revegetating it, restoring it to its pre-farming glory with 50,000 native plants. In 1982 he fenced the property to exclude all vermin and introduced species, successfully creating a natural environment that had not been seen for more than 200 years.
The bird and mammal populations flourished, with many species recording their first "captive" births for more than 50 years. The rest is history. And it's worth travelling a long way to see. For us it was just a 20-minute drive through the Adelaide Hills from Hillgrove House, our B&B accommodation.
At the Shed Restaurant we dined in the still warmth of dusk to an audience of noisy rosellas and parrots and a curious group of bettongs and kangaroos. "Bush Tucker" features, with the textures and tastes of local bushland produce complimenting vegetarian and meat selections.
As we drained the last drops from a bottle of Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, our guide announced the commencement of the dusk walking tour. A group of around 20 proceeded through the expanded 85 acre property along marked trails. We explored the area's flora, with many of the grevilleas and banksias in flower, before approaching a lake bordered by brilliant rose gums. Their bark was lit with the reflection of the sunset.
In the lake we spotted a platypus (a rare sight we were told) before continuing to the top of the property as night closed. Our guide produced torches for us to use as the bush around us came alive with nocturnal critters. With names like pademelons, potoroos, quolls and woylies, we didn't know if we were in a scene from a fantasy novel or speaking another language.
Our walk continued with the cuddly, cute creatures of the bush teeming around us, seemingly unconcerned, while our guide explained the history of the sanctuary, the animals' habitat and some of their unprecedented and successful breeding programs. It was an unforgettable experience to share the bushland with these endangered animals.
After 90 minutes we emerged at the side of the property for a look at the accommodation before completing the tour. For $150 per couple you can spend the night in a luxurious ensuite "bush cabin" and get a dawn and dusk guided tour, dinner and buffet breakfast. Not surprisingly, only a few of the cabins were empty.
Alternatively, you can come just for a dawn or dusk guided walk for $11 and indulge your appetite with a "bush tucker" feast at the well-priced restaurant.
Mylor, Australia 5152
+61 (0)8 8370 9197
"Harried, hurried, take thy rest; Weary, worried, with peace be blest."
"Romantic, secluded and peaceful. Look, you even get fluffy bathrobes. And we might see koalas!"
Karen was reading about Hillgrove House, our Bed and Breakfast destination for the next two days. We passed the Norton Summit Hotel on our way to Basket Range in the Adelaide Hills and, although less than 30 minutes from the city, the landscape had changed dramatically. It was cooler – welcome relief on a 35-degree (celsius) summer’s day and the craziness of the city gave way to deserted roads and a patchwork of vines, forests and orchards.
We toasted our escape from reality on the patio at Hillgrove House, admiring 180-degree views of the Piccadilly Valley. In the garden tiny wrens foraged while we scanned the tourist literature. Basket Range is central to many attractions in the Adelaide Hills and plans were made, careful to leave time to relax and indulge in our surroundings.
The landscape of relaxation
Rising 727 metres above the plains and only a short drive away is Mount Lofty, known as Urebilla to its indigenous caretakers. Aboriginal and European history is presented in the Visitor Centre along with informative displays about conservation activities around South Australia.
Bushwalks through stringybark forests to nearby waterfalls give visitors the opportunity to enjoy the wildlife and views, even if time is limited. We settled for the view, a crisp white wine and a light snack in the café.
Being nature-lovers we couldn’t resist a visit to Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens. It’s stunning in any season and a couple of hours spent here is good soul food. Opened in 1977, the park now covers 97 hectares and is dedicated to cool-temperate region plants from around the world. A range of graded trails makes exploring easy and on Sundays in spring and autumn there’s a bus service through the grounds.
"Can you feel that?" Karen said, as we meandered through the back-roads on our return to the B&B.
"Huh?" I thought there must be something wrong with the car.
"The tension. It’s gone already," she said, making big circles with her head.
She was right. I don’t know if it was the combination of the sun, wine, bruschetta and exercise, or whether we were just happy to be somewhere else for a while. But we were both feeling more relaxed than we’d been for months.
"Was that the road to Basket Range or the Basket Range road?"
I recalled that gem of an Australian film called The Road to Nhill that poked fun at the Australian psyche. We had just crossed the Basket Range road on our way to Basket Range, if that makes any sense. Try explaining that to a visiting European tourist already driving on the wrong side of the road.
Back at Hillgrove we rifled through the CD collection, fired up the spa bath and pampered ourselves with bubbles, Bolero and Irish Cream. Tonight we would enjoy a bush tucker feast at Warrawong Sanctuary and a guided dusk walk through the grounds.
Over 14 hectares of rehabilitated bushland provides a natural habitat for the cutest (and most endangered) wildlife. Warrawong was the inaugural member of the award-winning Earth Sanctuaries Group and boasts Australia’s only successful platypus-breeding programme. Much of the wildlife is nocturnal and a guided dusk walk is a memorable experience.
A cultural and culinary palette
The next morning was bright and warm, but brought an unexpected problem: what to have for breakfast. Meg Burdett, proprietress of Hillgrove, wasn’t kidding about the "many thoughtful extras".
The kitchen was stocked with a selection of fruit, meat, vegetables, cereal, condiments, tea and coffee that would satisfy the fussiest gourmand. Then there was the comprehensive cellar, chocolates, port and Irish Cream. Well, maybe not for breakfast. Refuelled and recharged we opted for a cultural morning, deciding to visit The Cedars, home to the famous Heysen family since 1912.
Inspiration was never far away for Hans Heysen. 60 hectares of bushland surround the 1860s farm house, a landscape dominated by the gum trees featured in many of his paintings. His studio remains undisturbed since his death in 1968, and the hour-long tour reveals much about this great Australian and his family.
Not far from The Cedars the work of other South Australians, many still undiscovered, line the walls of the Hahndorf Academy in the town’s main street. It’s one of the state’s finest showcases of local talent. A walk along the shady tree-lined streets of this German-style village is a popular pastime and an opportunity to shop for mementos.
Our memento was a selection of local produce for a barbecue on the terrace at Hillgrove tonight. This would go well with a nice red. But what about dessert?
Summer and autumn is the time for fresh berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries – berries you’ve probably never heard of. The district is crammed with farms growing them by the hectare. Some let you pick your own. But the best tip? Smother them in luscious ‘berry syrup (Meg usually puts some in the Hillgrove pantry) before you serve them. And don’t forget the cream!
The barbecue was, of course, a big success. A capable support cast that included black cockatoos, kookaburras, a pink sunset and a Basket Range Red all performed well. And the berries? I think you know.
Bolero got an encore as chocolate wrappers flew and the Irish Cream flowed. From the spa we watched in silence, hypnotised by views of the darkening valley and emerging stars. Flames from candles made shadow-pictures on the walls. It was hard to believe how stressed we were just two days ago.
Every now and again – but not often – you get that perfect marriage. The Adelaide Hills and Hillgrove House will celebrate many anniversaries.
"For indulgent lovers and those who love to indulge," says the brochure for Hillgrove House. Right on the money.