Courtesy of the South Australia Tourism Commission, I’m here on a nine-day journey to uncover the best this amazing Australian state has to offer. My tour group and l will visit four distinct regions, including the lively capital city of Adelaide, the sprawling Barossa wine region, Port Lincoln and the Eyre Peninsula, and “the Galapagos of Australia” — Kangaroo Island.
As first-timers to the state our group will experience South Australia with virgin eyes. We’ve been promised a true “WOW” experience — Wildlife, Outback and Wine — and, as we soon discover, it rarely disappoints.
We’re fortunate to tour the region with a bevy of locals by our side. Here, we present part one of our quick guide for travelers with seven days or less in South Australia.
Touching Down in Adelaide
After a few glasses of wine and two and a half viewings of Inception, our fifteen hour flight touches down in Adelaide just after 11 a.m. Our tour group is well past jet lag, but we hit the ground running. Relative to the whole of Australia, the state of South Australia is geographically small. But our packed itinerary reveals that its size is misleading and there’s much to see.
As the capital city of South Australia, Adelaide feels big enough to fit the bill, yet small enough to feel inviting. The locals call it a “twenty-minute city”, since anywhere you need to go is never more than a 20-minute walk. Our (un)official tour videographer, Shana Ting Lipton, captures the essence of Adelaide:
Post-flight logistics all sorted, we hop a tour van from Adelaide Airport with Chris Smyth of A Taste of South Australia and head for our hotel.
Smoking with Hemingway at Buxton Manor
For more than two decades, Rodney and Regina Twiss have tended to twenty boutique hotel properties in the posh suburb of North Adelaide. This quiet area of the city – characterized by historic Edwardian and Victorian-style mansions and cottages along quaint, tree-lined streets – feels a million miles removed from the hustle of downtown.
Buxton Manor, North Adelaide
Set behind beautifully ornate wrought iron fencing, Buxton Manor appears quiet and sophisticated. Meandering through its delicately manicured gardens and eclectically decorated suites, there’s an immediate sense of history, calm and romance. Each of four rooms is adorned with a unique, quirky décor that feels picture-perfect by design.
My quarters, cleverly dubbed Musica Viva, are reminiscent of a “Gentleman’s Game Room”. There’s a massive fireplace, four poster king bed, full kitchen (with Vegemite!) and a comfortably quirky Victorian decor. A man could get used to this. Were there a gift shop, I’d be inclined to secure a pipe and fedora and invite Hemingway over for a single malt.
Lost in Adelaide Hills
We settle in and, after a brief teatime with the Twiss’, depart for a relaxing drive to and through Adelaide Hills. It’s a sleepy, picturesque region where charming villages, hiking trails, artist galleries, crafts shops, and winery cellar doors abound. Just thirty minutes outside the city, tucked into the hillside sits historic Hahndorf Village – the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia and a popular tourist destination.
Udder Delights Cheese Cellar, Adelaide Hills
We break for lunch at Udder Delights Cheese Cellar, an informal cheese and wine shop offering cheese tastings, a cheese and produce shop, cafe, and cheese making school. We opt for the Udder Delights Cheese Basket (three locally-made cheeses served with glace fruit, handmade crackers, and hot, freshly-baked baguette) and Ploughman’s Basket (gypsy ham, Hungarian salami, vintage cheddar, mini balsamic pickled onions & bamjacs chutney served with hot freshly-baked baguette and butter).
From the down-home atmosphere to the “passionate about all things cheese and wine” staff to the superb, locally sourced and prepared food, everything is simply fantastic. It’s the perfect taste of Hahndorf Village.
ChocoVino: A Complete Sensory Experience of Wine and Chocolate
ChocoVino at Hahndorf Hills Winery
A stone’s throw away, Hahndorf Hill Winery has devised a concept so ingeniously simple, our group wonders aloud why no one’s thought of it before. It’s called ChocoVino — a sampling of the world’s finest chocolate, paired with some of the region’s best wines. The proprietors carefully craft each chocolatey course to perfectly pair with a corresponding red or white. If you’ve never thought to experience chocolate with all five senses before – yes, even hearing it – let me say that it’s truly sublime; a can’t-miss for foodies.
A Brief Afternoon with Sir Hans Heysen
The Cedars: Hans Heysen Studio, South Australia
With the right balance of caffeine and wine buzz, we break for a little afternoon culture at The Cedars. This is the home and studio of South Australia’s most illustrious artist, Sir Hans Heysen – an ardent naturist who once said:
I cannot help feeling that my heart lies with these men who see intense and almost religious beauty in simple Nature that surrounds us in the beauty of the skies and the mystery of the earth.
Somewhere in heaven, Heysen and John Muir are enjoying afternoon tea by a lakeside. A man of immense passion for the natural world, it’s no wonder Heysen’s paintings – many immortalizing the townspeople and the gum (eucalyptus) trees of Hahndorf – are among the most culturally significant in Australia’s history.
Guided tours of the cottage, studio and breathtakingly beautiful gardens are just $10 (adult).
A Three Hour Nightcap (and Dinner) at The Manse
Grande Degustation at The Manse restaurant, Adelaide
Our last stop for today finds us at the award-winning The Manse restaurant. Situated within a beautiful Victorian Mansion built in 1882, it features open fireplaces, cathedral ceilings and a gracious outdoor terrace. As Adelaide’s premier fine dining experience, The Manse offers an exclusive, multi-course menu. We opt for the Grande Degustation option – an extravagant seven course tasting menu with copious amounts of fresh seafood, including locally caught tuna, barramundi, crab and oysters.
The entire three-hour event proves the perfect finale for what is only our first day in South Australia. Yet it’s merely the beginning for our tour group, as tomorrow we’ll press on into the sprawling beauty of the Barossa wine region, cuddle with koalas and hand-feed kangaroos at Gorge Wildlife Park, and brake for three wineries in as many hours.
Oh, and if you haven’t yet entered to win Unlimited Flights to Australia for One Year … well, why not? It’s stupid simple and doesn’t take more than a minute to enter!