23 best picks (as voted by the locals) for 2023 – Clare Valley
New year, new you? If your new year’s resolution is to experience more of South Australia, then stop dreaming and start doing. Here in the Clare Valley, we’ve compiled a local recommendation ‘Bucket List,’ chock-full of experiences for your next stay.
A Clare Valley icon. You can’t visit the region and not get on the Riesling Trail, regardless of whether you walk, run or ride (e-bikes accepted). Complete 1 or the entire 33 kilometres of this disused railway line which now passes by magnificent countryside with vineyard views. You’ll see sheep, goats, maybe even a kangaroo or two if you’re lucky. For a complete guide on how to explore this gem, view How to do the Riesling Trail.
Bubblegum pink or pristine white, Lake Bumbunga is a natural wonder. Protected by Lochie (the Lochiel monster), this salt lake is located on the Port Wakefield Highway in the tiny town of Lochiel, a great excuse to stop and stretch your legs. The colour of the lake changes from bright pink to light purple to white, depending on the weather, the amount of sunlight and the total rainfall in recent days.
3. Shimmering Pines Sunflower Farm (November/December)
Wow, haven’t sunflowers become all the rage!! Here’s a chance to frolic in a field of sunflowers. It’s impossible to be in a bad mood here. Each December, Shimmering Pines Farm at Tarlee swings open its gates for visitors to wander through acres of blooms. Trust us, you will want to make sure your camera or phone is fully charged with plenty of storage. Keep an eye out for market dates and information about painting classes.
4. Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week (May)
Australia’s longest-running food and wine festival, the Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week is back again in 2023 for its 39th year from May 19 to 28. Whether you want to enjoy the festival weekend, slow it down and breathe it in for more immersive mid-week events or tuck into the land of the long lunch across the final weekend, there is something here for every food and wine lover. The full program will be released soon, we advise to book your accommodation as soon as possible.
Camping, but make it fancy. These belle tents are on a farm on the edge of Clare, where you can meet all the residents including Kevin Bacon, sheep, chickens and more. Wondering why Bukirk? Say it like you’re a chicken (out loud), and you’ll understand. Each tent is named after a different breed of chicken. You have a private ensuite, cooking facilities, a pool in the summer and a fire pit area in the winter. And if a tent (no matter how luxurious it is) isn’t your thing, try one of the fancy coops – aka: tiny houses.
A classic Clare Valley experience, Skillogalee has been around since 1970. Sure, you can just pop in for a tasting, but to get the full experience enjoy their wines how they’re supposed to be drunk, with good food. On a warm day, the best place to dine is under the olive tree overlooking the gardens and the vineyards. Allow a few hours for this, sit back and relax.
This new 100km, six-stage walk is exactly what it says – a walk between the wine. Starting and finishing at the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre, the trail will pass each cellar door in the region looping around both sides of Horrocks Highway. Complete one stage at a time or go the full mile, or 62, over a few days. You can even book a guided experience where transfers to your accommodation and some meals are included.
A café in a bus serving well-executed, simple light meals and wood-fired pizzas every Friday to Monday – this place is seriously a must-visit. Recently changed hands, it’s the perfect spot for brunch or lunch, or just a coffee and cake. You can bring the whole family, kids and dogs are welcome and encouraged to roam.
9. Slow Cabin
Clare Valley’s newest tiny house, Slow Cabin is a destination where you can totally relax and unwind. Owned by the Mitchell family (you might have drunk some of their wine?), the off-grid, sustainable and eco-friendly oasis sits at the foot of the Skilly Hills. Surrounded by towering gums, you really have the chance to slow down and breathe it in far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Sparkling and fortified is the specialty at Mr Nobody Cellardoorway. In the quaint town of Auburn, this place is a hidden gem. Next door to Terroir Auburn (also a must), the cosy nook is like stepping through the gates of Narnia. The best seat in the house is the upstairs couch, and the best time to visit is on the first Friday of the month when they have cocktail night, popular with the locals. Meet Miss Somebody, and Mr Nobody, on your next trip.
You may have been to Pikes before, but have you been wined and dined in their Pruners Hut? If you answered no, it’s time for a return visit. Viewed from Slate Restaurant the hut sits tothe back of the property, amongst the vineyard. You can choose to either taste a range of their wines or enjoy a private lunch, or you could say ‘stuff it’ and combine the two back-to-back.
A winery and a cellar door all in one (no seriously, you’re tasting in the winery). Every wine in Marnie’s range is named after a different member of her family. Matriarchs are the women and Rogues of course, are the men. When she isn’t busy making wine or running after her young one, Marnie is happy to make a time with you to taste her range at the site they’re made and here the stories of the legends behind the names. If you’re feeling musical after a taste of liquid encouragement, have a bang on the drumkit.
A menu inspired by native ingredients grown at their on-site Bush Devine garden, and therefore specialising in bush tucker flavours, local produce and foraged finds, this is a menu you must try.It’s hard to believe that you can have beef with watermelon, but somehow it just works. If you want to try a few wines and a few courses, you can do the whole shebang and spend all afternoon indulging in their five-course shared menu, or opt for the tasting express option (where no shortcuts are taken we promise) and try their Wine & Canape flight. The views over the Polish Hill region are the cherry on top.
The edge of the outback, we dare you to explore it. Just north of Burra you’ll discover the outback, and it’s only two hours from Adelaide! The drive will take you off the main highway at Mount Bryan (stop and take a pic by the wind turbine blade first) and after about 3 hours (depending on stops), you come out at Terrowie. Along the drive, you’ll cross Goyders Line of Rainfall, most noticeable towards the end of winter when the crops are still green – blink and you miss it. Please note that some areas are private property, we ask you to stick to the road and don’t jump any fences!
15. Rocks Reserve
A hidden gem that offers a place to take a dip in the summer or enjoy a picnic all year round. Rocks Reserve in Balaklava deserves to be on your itinerary. The waterhole is surrounded by towering gums and cliff faces keeping it protected from the heat and the wind. It’s away from the crowds and a lovely day trip if you’re craving something different than vineyard views (not that anyone would be).
Trestrail Cottage is a haven, no matter the time of year, and we reckon everyone should experience it at least once. The stone cottage is in the Spring Gully vicinity, tucked in the back roads of Sevenhill. The property has an outdoor bedroom (a must not miss experience) and shower for summer and in the cooler months a fire pit area and a sauna. There is plenty of space to wander around and explore the property, and if you don’t want to leave (we don’t blame you), you can pre-order your dinner for your first night in.
17. Ragu & Co
Authentic Italian food straight from nonnas kitchen. Guests can experience uncomplicated and contemporary Italian dining with fresh SA ingredients paired with Clare Valley and Italian wines. No need to fly all the way from Italy, indulge in classic pizzas and pasta right in the heart of Clare. And if you're keen to get behind the scenes and see how the pros do it, keep an eye on their social pages for a series of masterclasses and make your own pizza and pasta under the guidance of the expert team.
18. Bed in a Shed
This charming shed is not only one-of-a-kind, but also incredibly comfortable, making for a truly unforgettable stay. Plus, with 100% recycled, upcycled, or thrifted materials used in its construction, you can feel good about your choice to stay in a sustainable lodging option that can't be found anywhere else. Your view overlooks vineyards and you can see, almost smell the O’Leary Walker cellar door and restaurant over the road.
19. Blyth Breakout
Blyth Breakout is a popular escape room just 10 minutes out of Clare. It offers a thrilling and stimulating experience for players of all ages, with a variety of unique puzzles, clues, and challenges that require players to use their problem-solving skills, creativity, and teamwork to escape before time runs out. There are several different escape rooms, each with its own theme and story – with no thought spared in creating the puzzles. Can you make it out in time? PS: they give you clues!!!
Good friends, great wine and grand times is the motto at Greg Cooley Wines. Most weekends here you'll find live music or a show of some description, paired with delicious eats. It's the perfect spot to plonk yourself down and settle down for the afternoon. With a wide variety of wines to choose from, as well as local gins and beer, plus being pet and family-friendly, it's a favourite with the locals and visitors alike.
Jaeschkes YSTALYFERA Historical Farmstead Tour is a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the daily life of early European settlers in South Australia. The farmstead offers a fascinating glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of pioneering families. Current owners Rob and Lynn Jaeschke have spent the better part of 50 years pulling together the history of the property and would love to show you around. You won’t want to miss the Tractor Museum, where some machines are over 100 years old!
22. Burra AGL Rally (April)
The Burra AGL Rally is one of the most thrilling and adrenaline-fueled events in South Australia. This high-octane rally pits driver and their mean machines against the rugged and sometimes unforgiving terrain of the beautiful Clare Valley. The roar of engines, the screech of tires, and the smell of burning rubber fill the air as daredevil drivers push themselves and their cars to the limit. With plenty of twists, turns, and jumps, the Burra AGL Rally promises a heart-pumping, jaw-dropping spectacle that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Get ready for a wild ride!
23. SA Autumn Garden Fest (March)
The SA Autumn Garden Festival is held annually, this year on March 19 and is the largest event of its kind in the state. It’s a great place to learn, explore and connect with fellow gardening enthusiasts. The festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of South Australia and gain inspiration for creating your own garden oasis. Learn about sustainable gardening practices, garden design, plant propagation, and landscaping at the workshops and talks, or browse through a diverse range of stalls offering garden accessories, homewares, and artisanal products.
How many of these places have you ticked off already?