A delicious weekend in the Adelaide hills

For outstanding produce – from craft beer and fine wine to chocolate and fabulous meat dishes – the picturesque Adelaide Hills region is perfect for a gourmet stopover

A sunset on a meadow.
  • Daniel Scott
  • April 2014

Saturday

We begin our Adelaide Hills weekend by joining wine connoisseur and award-winning guide Jason Miller of Rich + Lingering Tours. From the moment he picks us up, Miller regales us with information on the region, first settled in 1837, and its fine winemaking heritage.

Our first stop is at The Cedars, the former residence of one of Australia’s most successful artists, Hans Heysen. Heysen built an international reputation during a 70-year career, and by his death in 1968 at the age of 90 had produced over 20,000 paintings. A tour of The Cedars gives insight into Heysen’s work, especially his passion for painting river red gum trees, many of which adorn the gardens of the 60-hectare property. Heysen was that rare thing, an artist who made money in his lifetime, and he enjoyed a high public profile, with operatic soprano Dame Nellie Melba and ballerina Anna Pavlova among those to visit his home.

Our first winery is The Lane Vineyard, just outside Hahndorf, which has some of the region’s best views. Its wines, melding European and Australian traditions, are deliciously distinct and owner/vigneron John Edwards is a straight-talking hoot. When mouthwatering aromas begin to emanate from the restaurant we decide to stay for lunch, and are rewarded with food that both looks and tastes exquisite.

After lunch we stroll along the main street of Hahndorf, unable to resist the lure of the Udder Delights handmade cheese shop, the Harris Smokehouse’s smoked mackerel and kingfish, and the many temptations of Chocolate @ Nº 5. There’s more yummy chocolate on offer at Hahndorf Hill, the second winery we visit on our Rich + Lingering tour. The ChocoVino experience here, coupling boutique wines with the globe’s finest chocolates, delights both my sweet tooth and my wife’s fine palate. It’s justifiably been included in CNN’s “Top 10 Global Adventures for Chocoholics”.

It's hard to imagine a more exciting place to dine

After sprucing up at our accommodation, we finish a near-perfect day at Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant. Re-opened last year under the stewardship of executive chef Scott Huggins, the tasting menu at this exclusive Hills restaurant – in the winery that makes the sought-after Grange – is becoming one of Australia’s top dining experiences. From the sun setting over Adelaide and the vines during our Coffin Bay oyster appetiser to a galaxy of dishes including milk-fed pork belly and Wagyu beef, each paired with a stellar wine, it is hard to imagine a more exciting place to dine.

Sunday

After a wander in the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, I’d love to pretend that we make up for last night’s indulgence on our Escapegoat cycling tour. But the Lofty Descents ride does exactly what it says on the tin, taking us 17 km downhill to Adelaide from this 710m-high summit.

And what a joy it is to be mountain biking down a little-used trail where colourful wildflowers abound and koalas hang out in gum trees. Even better, we get to have morning tea at Cleland Wildlife Park, with its prime city views and 130 species of native animals – including a Tassie devil, splayed out in the sunshine like a sleep-deprived schoolie. By the end of the tour we’ve also learnt some tricks from Escapegoat’s owner and guide Ian Fehler, like flying over natural ramps, negotiating hairpin bends and avoiding squashing the tails of the brown snakes that cross our path.

Wildflowers abound and koalas hang out in gum trees

We get back to the Hills for lunch at the 1860s Bridgewater Mill, home to Petaluma wines and a refined restaurant. Our lunch is a memorable meal, only slightly blemished when I hear my wife referring to “the Old Rumbler” waterwheel, which I mistakenly take as a reference to me.

In the afternoon we switch codes to beer, and make a thirst-quenching visit to the Prancing Pony Brewery at Mount Barker. We can’t decide which of the fire-brewed, handcrafted ales to try, so between us we have all three – a pale, an amber and a blonde.

Back in Hahndorf, we can’t resist communing with the locals in the German Arms Hotel, established in 1839. Then, for dinner we amble to The Haus, the most happening bar-restaurant in Hahndorf. What better way to say auf Wiedersehen to this region than with the signature dish for two? A repast of slow-braised beef rib, basted in Haus German beer and wild blackberry honey, and served with kipfler potato, sauerkraut and German sausage crush, it’s a fittingly ample way to end the weekend.

Take me there

The Cedars: Heysen Rd, Hahndorf, +61 08 8388 7277, hansheysen.com.au opens in new window

The Lane Vineyard: Ravenswood Ln, Hahndorf, +61 08 8388 1250, thelane.com.au opens in new window

Hahndorf Hill Winery: 38 Pains Rd, Hahndorf, +61 08 8388 7512, hahndorfhillwinery.com.au

Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant: 78 Penfold Rd, Magill, +61 08 8301 5551, penfolds.com opens in new window

Bridgewater Mill Restaurant: 386 Mount Barker Rd, Bridgewater, +61 08 8339 9200, petaluma.com.au opens in new window

Take a tour

Rich + Lingering tours: 1300 707 000richandlingering.com.au opens in new window

Escapegoat Adventures (cycle tours): +61 04 2291 6289escapegoat.com.au opens in new window