Home to several of the country’s best wine regions, including the Barossa, Clare and Coonawarra, almost every road trip in South Australia is a great gourmet getaway. But when it comes to scenic drives from capital cities, the winning combination of beaches, wildlife, food and wine on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and the history of the Adelaide Hills, are very hard to beat.
It’s not just the fabulous coastal views at every turn, restaurants, wineries and fascinating history that make a road trip on the Fleurieu Peninsula a winner, it’s that all this is practically on the outskirts of the Adelaide.
The drive to McLaren Vale – the heart of the main wine-producing area – will usually take less than 45 minutes via the Southern Expressway and Main South Road.
A snug valley wedged between the tail end of the Mt Lofty ranges and the coast, McLaren Vale is a pretty patchwork of vineyards dotted with historic stone and timber wine cellars. If you’re a foodie, make sure you catch the Saturday morning farmers’ market at Willunga, where trestles and tables are piled high with almonds and olives, venison, hand-made cheeses, berries, beef, lamb, organic vegetables, trout and marron, as well as fresh baked breads and tempting pies and pastries, home-made jams and preserves and delicious cakes.
From the township of Willunga, head towards Port Willunga on the coast for the first of the expansive coastal views that are a highlight on this drive, and follow the route signposted as the Fleurieu Way. From here all the way to Cape Jervis on the tip of the peninsula (where you can catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island), you’ll find yourself pulling over again and again to take photographs of the bald green hills dropping abruptly into the sea.
Allow plenty of time for your trip north along the eastern coast. In Victor Harbor, you can learn about whales at the SA Whale Centre, the historic meeting of explorers Flinders and Baudin, and the local history at Encounter Coast Discovery Centre.
You can take the country’s only horse-drawn tram out to Granite Island – guided tours of the penguin colony are available in the evenings – or, if it’s a Sunday, ride the historic Cockle Train (Australia’s first railway) between Victor Harbor, Port Elliot and Goolwa.
Port Elliot and Goolwa are full of beautiful sandstone buildings, now many of them art galleries and restaurants. From Goolwa, head inland back towards Adelaide via the Currency Creek wine region and Strathalbyn, an attractive heritage town with 30 or so historic buildings and a popular place to shop for antiques.
So close to Adelaide, the peninsula is do-able in a day, but with so much to see and so many good places to eat and drink, three days would be ideal.
Day tripper: Adelaide Hills
Less than half an hour’s drive from Adelaide, the rugged hill-top scenery, vineyards, art galleries and history in and around Hahndorf – Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement – makes for a great day drive.
Set in the Adelaide Hills, Hahndorf is the perfect place to snack on traditionally made wursts or indulge in a German teacake or strudel for afternoon tea. Visit Cedars, the home of famous landscape painter Hans Heysen, enjoy a chocolate fix at Melba’s Chocolate Factory in Woodside, spend a couple of hours in the National Motor Museum at Birdwood and take in the city views from the summit of Mount Lofty.