Valley Vision: an Adelaide to Barossa Valley road trip

An emu on the road, with more behind it, on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

Wine is absolutely fine, but when you’re heading to Australia’s best-loved gourmet region, you should also add a side of the Yorke Peninsula’s outstanding wildlife and beaches.

It’s been a while since Chris and I travelled to South Australia, but we’ve got five days and we’re going to use them to explore two areas close to Adelaide. One is known the world over for its incredible shiraz and the other, with pristine beaches, abundant wildlife and incredible surf, is virtually unknown, and that’s the way crow-eaters would like to keep it. When we land, we pick up the car from Apex Car Rentals at Adelaide Airport and get on our way. First stop? The Yorke Peninsula.

Heading for the Coast: Adelaide to Marion Bay

A woman walking along a white sand path towards a lighthouse overlooking an island, Cape Spencer, South Australia

From Adelaide it’s an hour run up the coast before we almost double back around Port Arthur and head that far again towards Marion Bay, right on the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula. It’s the best place from where to explore Dhilba Guuranda–Innes National Park. The beaches here are incredible – long stretches of white sand, water the colour blue you’d expect on a postcard and waves to challenge anyone who’s brought their board with them. Unfortunately we haven’t got ours, but we decide to walk out to the Cape Spencer Lighthouse. It’s a clear day and not only can we see Althorpe Island just off shore, but also Kangaroo Island in the distance.

This park has so much going for it. We manage to pack in a visit to the wreck of the Ethel, which was thrown onto the beach by a storm in 1904, and go back to Inneston Lake. There are a few salt lakes in the park, but this one is a vivid blue-green. It was here gypsum was mined until the end of the twentieth century. Nearby is what is now the ghost town of Inneston, its miners long gone. The wildlife, however, has certainly made itself at home. Wild emus strut about, we watch ospreys gliding over the ocean as they hunt and, as the sun starts to set, we even spy some tammar wallabies. These little guys have been killed off over much of the mainland, but there’s a healthy population here. Scared of doing them harm, Chris doesn’t get the car over 30 kilometres an hour as we head back to Marion Bay.

Yours and Mined: Marion Bay to Barossa Valley

A man and two children holding fishing rods and walking along a jetty, Moonta Bay, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

We now realise you could spend days relaxing on the Yorke Peninsula, so we’ve decided to make the most of it with an early start, a walk through the sand dunes and a dip at Willyama Bay. We’ve got one more stop before the Barossa gets our full attention.

Moonta Bay is a lovely town right on the ocean. But before you get there you go through the old Moonta Mines, where relics of past copper digging – crumbling houses, tailing heaps and shafts – still stand. We look around then head to the waterfront. On the jetty, kids are pulling garfish and tommy ruffs from the water. And they’ve got their crab pots in because this part of the world is famous for blue swimmer crab. Just up the road at Wallaroo, we duck into North Beach Kitchen for the delicious local crab rolls.

This is a different approach into the Barossa Valley. We arrive in its north, near Greenock and head towards Angaston. We’ve only been in the Barossa for half an hour or so, but I already get a sense of its history. There are old churches and historical homes on the tree-lined streets. Then there’s all the other reasons you come to the Barossa. We stop at the Barossa Valley Cheese Company and sit beneath the striped awning for a cheese and wine flight. The Barossa Triple Cream with a splash of riesling is a great way to start our visit.

Raise a Glass: Barossa Valley

A church spire rises above the town of Tanunda, set among rolling hills, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Because cars and wine tasting don’t mix particularly well, we’ve organised with Barossa Bike Hire to have a couple of bikes dropped off at our accommodation in Tanunda. There’s a rail trail that runs all the way from Gawler through Tanunda and on to Angaston. We’re doing the second part, which covers about 13 kilometres.

This is a fun way to see this part of the world. The trail is relatively flat and there are so many wineries you’d need a week to stop at them all. We detour to Chateau Tanunda then to Peter Lehmann Wines, set on the banks of the Para River. Pedalling and wine is always going to mean lunch is of prime importance, so we stop at First Drop in Nuriootpa. The winemakers source unique grapes from across the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley to create tasty drops with a difference. More importantly, the cellar door is also home to a tapas bar. As we tuck into croquettes, caprese salad and patatas bravas, it seems as though we’ve found our kind of heaven. And to think, we’ve only just scratched the Barossa’s surface.