Top ten things to do during Spring in the Clare Valley
Header Image: Canola Fields, Horrocks Highway - Pamela Inverarity
The Clare Valley is gorgeous in spring, canola fields dotting the roads, the seasons first buds on the vines and of course the fresh new vintage rieslings! So apart from just admiring the stunning landscapes, what else should you do? Here’s at least ten ideas to get you started.
1 - Take advantage of the long sunny days with a scenic walk
There are so many walks in the Clare Valley, and with the days getting longer and warmer, spring is the perfect time to put on your hiking boots and set off. Experienced hikers will be aware of the 1200km Heysen Trail starting in Cape Jervis all the way to Parachilna passing through Burra in the Clare Valley. Take note of the Mount Bryan summit, the views from here are breathtaking!
If your legs are not quite up to that long a stretch, the Lavender Federation Trail stretches 325km from Murray Bridge to Clare, or you could try one of the six Clare Valley Short Walks, many of which take in some sections from the Lavender Federation Trail such as the Watervale to Mount Horrocks section, which again has the most spectacular views from the lookout.
Of course, if you haven’t already, hire a bike or stretch your legs and set off on the Riesling Trail passing through the Clare Valley Wine Region or the Rattler Trail running between Auburn and Riverton, taking in some of the agricultural lands, and if you time it right, the canola might be blooming…
2 - To market, to market
Fill your picnic basket with fresh produce at the Clare Show Market, held on the second Saturday of each month at the Clare Town Hall. As well as food, you’ll find homewares, plants, and jewellery, plus an array of other creations and of course, great coffee.
On the long weekend of October, enjoy the Manoora Hall Market and Tarlee Market with trash and treasure and local makers spread throughout the hall, carpark and oval there’s sure to be a hidden treasure for everyone, however, if you just go for the Lions Hot Cinnamon Doughnuts, we won’t judge.
The Saddleworth Country Market is one of the largest markets in regional South Australia, sometimes getting over 180 different stalls! Held on the first Sunday of each month, it’s worth detouring your route back home after a weekend in the Clare Valley or on your way north, or it makes an easy day trip just 45 minutes from Gawler.
3 - Taste the region's fresh new release Rieslings
The Clare Valley's Mediterranean climate of hot summers and chilly winters along with its surprising elevation of 608m at the highest peak and ancient sedimentary soils, creates exceptional growing conditions for the grapes that produce the quality wine the region is renowned for worldwide.
Experience all that the region has to offer by starting your wine tasting adventure at Pikes Wines, winner of the 2022 and 2023 Halliday Wine Companion People's Choice Award for Best Winery Experience. Not only is the wine outstanding (hear, hear voters!), there’s also an onsite brewery,plus and it’s home to Slate Restaurant overlooking the vines, (expect to see quail, locally sourced lamb necks and beef short rib braised in their own stout on their menu, bookings a must!) with loads of lawn area for the kids to run wild, it has all the bases covered.
A hop, step, and jump up the road is Jeaschkes Hill River Clare Estate. Set up camp on the cellar door deck overlooking the (fenced) duck laden dam, topped up after the soaking winter rains. The kids will be nearby playing in the sandpit, kicking the footy on the lawns or playing giant jenga under the ancient gums. It’s hard to leave.
Head south to the quaint township of Auburn and to Wines by KT, Australia’s very own ‘Riesling Queen’ as recognised by Australian Wine, Kerri knows her stuff and has the awards to prove it. Whilst you’re trying her super cool wines, why not ask about her gin? We’re just going to leave that there…
4 - Head to an Open Garden, or two...
Spring is the perfect time of year to visit a garden or two, or how about 15 as part of the Goyder Gardens event on October 28 and 29? A weekend of blooms and get hands-on with workshops including pottery, weaving, vertical gardens, insect hotels, botanical planting, kids cooking and talks on the ecological balance of native fauna. Perhaps some time to explore the history of the region with the Burra Heritage Passport or enjoy a coffee (keep reading to find out where) whilst you’re out? Plan a visit to The Heritage Garden on when they open the garden to the public. Enjoy a picnic on the grass surrounded by the colours of Springtime. Just north of Tarlee, you'll pass another Garden at a place called Avondale (past Tarlee at the end of the overtaking lanes). A gorgeous little spot for a stroll, open the first weekend of September and October.
5 - Explore the wildflowers at our conservation parks
If you haven’t had enough of wandering amongst the delights of Spring, we recommend a scenic drive out to Spring Gully Conservation Park, maybe popping into a winery or two on your way to collect goodies (think wine and a cheese platter) for a picnic when you get there, the views from the lookout are just spectacular, particularly at dusk and dawn. If you’re feeling energetic there’s the Cascades Short Walk or the longer Wymans Hike loop to enjoy, dotted with native flora and fauna. Keeping with the gorgeous views, just down the road is Neagles Rock Lookout which encompasses a short 1km loop walk from the carpark up to the top. You'll need your camera for this walk. Or head on out a bit further to Red Banks Conservation Park where the landscape is blooming.
6 - Let a local drive for the day
Trust us, they know all the best spots. Test your knowledge and your humour with local ‘Mr Wilson’ of Clare Valley Tours who will take you on all the backgrounds and devote the day completely to your interests. History? No worries. Wine? Too easy! A combination of both with a delicious long lunch to compliment? His speciality. Dave can cater for groups of 2 to 45+ for a truly personalised and special day out. If you’re feeling like you need to stretch those legs a bit, Clare Valley Experiences offers half-day cycling, and half-day chauffeured tours which sounds right up our alley. Get dropped off to collect your bike and cycle to Sevenhill, stopping at Tim Adams Wines, Shut the Gate Wines, Good Catholic Girl Wines and Sevenhill Cellars (if you can fit them all in) on the way. Any purchases made will be collected by your host, who's right behind you, then you’ll be driven to your lunch location, depending on if you want a picnic or platter style, for a decadent experience, and perhaps another wine tasting. Clare Valley Wine Tours also offers tours with a difference. Want to combine your tastings with a bush walk or a picnic lunch on the lawns of Sevenhill Cellars? That’s no trouble. Last, but certainly not least, jump on a tour with Charles of Valley Wine Tours, long-term local who loves the region and would love to show you around. He also offers dinner transfers from anywhere between Auburn and Clare (even out to Mintaro)
All our drivers include pick-up and drop off from your local accommodation, so no need to worry about driving all day, and if you want a restaurant transfer for dinner (if you can fit any more food in that day), just ask, or give the team at Clare Valley Taxis a call.
7 - Enjoy a long lunch under the sun
Vineyard views, or even in the vineyard, there are some spectacular venues for a long lunch in the Clare Valley. Skillogalee Winery and Restaurant is a classic Clare Valley icon with a restaurant spreading out right next to the vineyard and under the olive tree. Hours can be spent here with the sun on your skin and a glass of wine in hand. Or how about dining in a vineyard? Eldredge’s annual Vineyard Long Lunch is back again for 2023 on October 28. The long table degustation is catered by none other than Sprout Catering with Chef Callum Hann (remember him from MasterChef?). And for views of the countryside, we recommend checking out Pauletts' Bush Devine Cafe, with their philosophy of ‘great wine deserves great food’. Their Head Chef loves to work with native ingredients, mostly hand-picked from their very own Bush Devine Garden or by local producers. If you're not up for a full lunch, try their Wine and Canape flights, where you choose your favourites from a selection of 14 to make up 5 wines matched with 5 canapes, delicious. Bask in the sun in the Watervale Hotel's Beer Garden, featuring garden-to-plate dining options, have lunch in the jail cooked on the fires of hell (yep we're not joking), plus, they’re also home to some of the regions cellars without doors, giving you an opportunity to try the wines you'd normally not be able to/ You’ll be amazed by what you come across, featuring Woodvale, Goose Trumpet, Vickery, Koerner, Mr Hyde and Some Young Punks by the glass, you might even find a bottle or two of Wendouree...
8 - Follow the ‘Yellow Canola Road’
We’re so lucky in the Clare Valley, every spring the countryside turns into a patchwork of green and gold. That golden yellow sight is truly spectacular, really brightens your day plus it makes for a stunning capture on your Instagram feed! Just remember, these fields are private property so please don’t enter them, instead admiring from behind the fence. The fields look their best until around the end of September. If canola is not your thing (damn hayfever), you can still enjoy the yellow fields at Shimmering Pines Sunflower Farm. It's harder to know exactly when these guys will open up and display their golden yellow petals, but likely late November. Follow us on social for updates.
9 - Start the day with a hearty country breakfast
You can’t start the day without breakfast, or a good coffee for that matter, so make sure you fuel up before heading out on your adventures around the Clare Valley. The Watervale General Store is a quaint setting with the most delicious selection of cakes and slices, fresh out the kitchen of the Watervale Hotel. Enjoy classics like bacon and egg rolls and ham and cheese croissants to smoked trout, both excellent choices, trust us. If you’re just after something light then you can not go past the Velvet and Willow Pantry for classics like an almond croissant (yum!) or ham and cheese toasties done to perfection. The enclosed garden and lawn area provide a relaxing way to start the morning. From here, you can pop across the road to visit Wines by KT (remember her from earlier) for a tasting. If you’re in Burra, check out St Just Café for a caffeine hit and gourmet breakfast in a country café that shares its space with a homewares store a spot of shopping after your meal.
10 - Head to one of the major events in spring.
Auburn turns red and blue on the second weekend of September, with the Auburn Frenchfest returning for its second year. There's so much on in the three days, from live performances including theatre, comedy, and singing to workshops to try your hand at crepe making or crafting bouquets or wander past all the wineries on the wine and cheese trail. Ooh la la.
The Spring Equinox and the season's first bud bursts are the driving factors of the Clare Valley Festival of the Lamb, oh and the lamb of course. An array of our finest restaurants and hotels are getting involved offering degustation dinners, cooking classes and an exquisite line-up of lamb-focused specials between the 22nd and 28th of September.
And let's not forget the classic country Shows! Both the Clare Show (October 14) and Eudunda Show (November 12) have been confirmed for 2023, showbags, rides, craft and cooking competitions, plus all your favourite show food can be found at these popular events.
Well, this list is a great start to help you plan your stay, but if you need a bit more assistance, chat with a local at the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre or the Burra and Goyder Visitor Information Centre, who are more than happy to help.