Explore the fascinating stories behind the towns in the Clare and Gilbert Valleys.

With its rolling hills, big gums and productive soils, it is hardly surprising that early pioneers settled here, making the Clare  and Gilbert Valleys some of the most historic regions in South Australia. Today many of the beautiful old stone buildings built by those early settlers line the streets of the towns and lie amongst the rows of vines that the Valleys are now famous for. Take the time to explore the unique stories of these towns and discover something different around every street corner.

The township of Clare was founded in 1840 by Irishman Edmund Burton Gleeson. Initially the town was known by a variety of names, including "The Twins", "Inchiquin" and "Gleeson’s Village", but finally Gleeson settled on "Clare", in homage to his Irish home county. 

The two-week ride to Adelaide meant self-sufficiency was essential, but the richness of the land soon attracted more settlers. A little to the north, the Hawker brothers established Bungaree Station, a large farming enterprise that still operates today. As well as livestock, orchards dotted the countryside, and the region became known as the ‘Garden of the North’.

Today, Clare is the regional centre and main service town for visitors and locals alike. It is home to most major banks, retail outlets, a wide variety of accommodation, dining options and recreational facilities. Its many parks and gardens, together with the beauty of the surrounding hills, lend it a special charm.

The village of Sevenhill is a popular regional hub, often referred to as the ‘heart of the Clare Valley’. It’s the perfect place to start your journey on the Riesling Trail or begin a tour of local cellar doors.  

East of the township is the oldest vineyard and winery in the Clare Valley – Sevenhill Cellars. One of Australia’s most picturesque and unusual wineries, it was established in 1851 by Jesuits who fled religious persecution in Europe. The vineyards and winery continue under the ownership of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  Sevenhill was named by settlers who thought the landscape was similar to the countryside around Rome, the city famed for its ‘seven hills’. To the east is an especially scenic drive to Polish Hill River Valley, a notable wine sub-region; historic displays are housed in the Polish Church Museum. To the west are the Skilly Hills, offering some of the region’s most photogenic vistas, with steeply wooded slopes alongside fields under vine.

Today, Sevenhill is home to a vibrant community of shops and buildings, including the famed Sevenhill Hotel, where locals and tourists abide. There’s also a community hall, where the tradition of Friday night bingo continues to remain strong. Across the road, the popular bakery, homewares store and cellar door, are a must for any passer-by. The Sevenhill Producers Market is held in the town on the last Saturday of the month and features local produce, fresh food and baked items.

 

Penwortham was founded on 5th November in1839 by John Ainsworth Horrocks. Horrocks arrived in Adelaide on his 21st birthday of that year and ventured north on the advice of Edward John Eyre. 
He settled in a fertile well watered area which he named Penwortham after his hometown in Lancashire, England.  At the time this small village was the first significant European settlement north of Gawler. 

Horrocks was a dedicated explorer and he was injured on an expedition North of Port Augusta when his camel lurched and caused his gun to discharge. He died three days after returning to Penwortham and was buried at the secluded St Marks Church. Today you can visit his cottage and gravesite in Penwortham.

Situated on the banks of Eyre Creek, the small town of Watervale was surveyed into town blocks in 1847. Today, it remains a cluster of heritage buildings, one of which is the well-preserved Stanley Grammar School (now an accommodation business). Watervale’s place in the history of the Australian wine industry is significant. The first five acres of grapes for commercial use were planted by Francis Treloar in 1853. Some of this history can be revisited in the present-day Quelltaler winery buildings, museum and vineyards. The town’s many vines continue as a source of Australia’s finest Rieslings.

Just to the south of Clare, is the pretty hamlet of Leasingham, named after a parish in Lincolnshire, England. The soils here are rich alluvial deposits over limestone, which sustain some of the region’s richest viticultural lands. It has given its name to one of Clare Valley’s most prominent wineries.

Leasingham was one of the many resting places for men who carted ore from the Burra mines in the 1850s. It’s still a hospitable spot – home to wineries, accommodation, art gallery and a tourist park.

Known as the southern gateway to the Clare Valley wine region, Auburn is home to an array of accommodation, fine dining options and cellar doors.

Auburn was initially named Tateham’s Waterhole in 1849 after the first settler, William of Tateham, who reputedly lived in a dugout (literally a hole in the ground) on the side of the River Wakefield. The town was renamed after the Irish town of Auburn in 1856 and flourished as a resting place for the ‘bullockies’ and 'muleteers’, the men responsible for carting copper ore from the mines of Burra to the gulf at Port Wakefield.

Today the town retains much of its authentic charm, as well as its original stone buildings, with many converted into restaurants, coffee shops and heritage-style accommodation. Auburn was also the birthplace of the poet, CJ Dennis and is the southern most point of the Riesling Trail.

You can easily spend a day at one of the Cellar Doors, such at Mt Horrocks or Taylors Wines, induge at Sugar Rush hand made chocolates, play a round of mini Golf at Simpson Rices Creek, have an Ale at Clare Valley Brewery or the Rising Sun Hotel, appreciate the Art at Vanderpeer Gallery or a show at HAT's.  Hungry?  No problem with Mellors Cafe for a High Tea or Terror for that special treat.
Find out more information at Cogweb (where you could also hire a bike!)

For more information about Auburn, visit www.auburn.sa.au/

Rhynie is a small regional town, home to a significant pub. In the days of ‘early closing’ liquor laws, those who had travelled at least 60 miles in a day were recognised as ‘bona fide’ travellers and could demand a drink from the publican. Being sixty miles north of Adelaide, the Rhynie pub was long known as ‘bona fide’. And, it still is!

It was surveyed and founded in 1859.

Situated on the Barrier Highway and known as the southern gateway to the Gilbert Valley, Tarlee provides a link between the Barossa and Clare Valley wine regions and offers a pleasant stop for refreshments. The town’s quarries provided the stone used in the foundations for many of Adelaide’s grandest buildings, including the South Australian Museum and Adelaide Railway Station. As a bustling agricultural community, Tarlee is home to Four Leaf Milling and Rhodes Free Range Eggs.

Established in 1849, Mintaro has the sort of village charm you might encounter in the English Cotswolds or Dales.

The township was a major staging point for the bullock drivers and muleteers who carted their copper ore to Port Wakefield on the Gulf of St. Vincent. The prosperity they brought to the little town is still evident today. Nearby Martindale Hall was the opulent country seat of Edmund Bowman, the son of a wealthy pastoralist. His Georgian masion was built in 1880, complete with a cricket pitch (which hosted the English XI), boating lake, racecourse and polo field. The Mortlock family purchased the property in 1892 and bequeathed the Hall and some of the surrounding land to Adelaide University in 1965. Today visitors to this State Conservation Park are given a fascinating insight into the lives of South Australia’s landed gentry.

Mintaro is still very much an agricultural community, and the people of Mintaro have maintained their blue-stone and slate heritage and preserved the essence of rural village life. It’s no wonder the town is listed as a State Heritage area.

Besides being a lovely place to stay, Reilly's Cellar Door and Restaurant offers a lovely luncheon option.  Mintaro Cellars is just down the road, Irongate Studio and Mintaro Garden Rooms is also within walking distance.  Or perhaps you just want to loose yourself in the Maze.

For more information about Mintaro, visit www.mintaro.com.au

For stunning views of the western plains, climb through the hills to Blyth.

The district was named in 1860 after Sir Arthur Blyth, who was one of the earliest statesmen in South Australia and was Premier on three occasions. The Blyth Plains were initially part of a huge pastoral run before the Blyth township was laid out on Section 198 in 1875, with the railway line bisecting the town.

On the Blyth Plains, apart from the small area of open plain, there was a 'scrub to the west as far as the eye could see'. The scrubland was cleared from growth with axes and sheer determination, chopping down larger trees and flattening small ones by using chains strung between two horses.

For many years Blyth was a railhead and, at its peak, boasted a flour mill, butter factory and hospital, as well as agricultural and machinery firms. Today, the town is a rich agricultural community, home to a successful football and netball club, cinema, art gallery, recently update Hotel for lunch and evening meals and a cluster of shops.

 

Burra is one of Australia’s great historic attractions. Steeped in rich history, the town is home to a collection of antique shops, miners cottages, heritage buildings, art galleries, pubs, museums, and restaurants. From the 1840s through to the 1870s, migrants flocked to Burra from all corners of the globe to try their luck in copper ore.

The Cornish miners, English pastoralists and European farmers have made Burra what it is today and the local community have worked tirelessly to preserve the towns heritage. Stroll through the shops and historical buildings or pick up a Burra Heritage Passport and accompanying key from the Visitor Information Centre to explore some of the towns most interesting sites as part of a llkm self guided tour.

For more information about Burra, visit www.visitburra.com.au 

 

Once the heart of a thriving farming community, Farrell Flat today is a fascinating town with a strong regional heritage. It is located on the old copper trail to the south west of Burra and was once the stopover point for bullock and mule teams transporting copper ore to Port Wakefield, a time when there was enough work for three resident blacksmiths. In 1880, the railway was put through, connecting the town to Burra in the north and Riverton in the south. Today, it has retained its own identity, with a cafe and meeting house, engineering business and grain silos. There are some interesting town walks including the historical railway station, as well as the nearby Heysen and Mawson Trails for hiking enthusiasts.

The district of Blyth was named in 1860 after Sir Arthur Blyth, who was one of the earliest statesmen in South Australia and was Premier on three occasions.