Wine, stunning scenery awaits Down Under

Apr 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Adventure, Featured, Travel

South Australia’s Barossa Valley and Flinders Ranges National Park

By Katharine Fletcher

“Would you like to try these wines before you decide which one to buy?” Our server at Adelaide’s trendy La Tapita Spanish bistro enquired.

What a great idea!

Who knew that restauranteurs would be so generous? But in Australia, my husband Eric and I heard this several times. So, to pair with tapas that night, we tasted three different varieties before selecting a 2015 Carnacha, Rojo.

When I asked if this is regular practice, she nodded, “Australians wouldn’t pay for something they don’t like, so we offer tastes.”

How utterly civilized.

Oz offers lots of surprises. Try deservedly renowned wines throughout the Barossa Valley wine region. Hike extraordinary landscapes of uplifted ridges offering sweeping views of Flinders Ranges National Park. Listen to the sounds of kookaburra birds laughing “in the old gum tree” and laugh like we did at the sheer improbability of kangaroos as they hop about. And, in Adelaide, bike, stroll and otherwise enjoy the capital of this sprawling, friendly state.

We love Adelaide. It’s setting makes it similar to Ottawa: just as the Rideau Canal bisects our capital with its bike and walking pathways alongside, Adelaide’s River Torrens similarly flows through South Australia’s state capital. Mind you, I did say “similar”: biking west to the ocean here can take you to a pub on the beach with craft beers and a seafood lunch.

The city core is thriving, too. Addie’s a university town, so students keep things lively and trendy, which always adds zest to a city. We love the (free) galleries and museums: don’t miss the South Australian Museum with its vibrant, fascinating Aboriginal ethnographic collection. And, visit the Art Gallery of South Australia, where Aboriginal and early European art join contemporary works on show.

But there’s lots to explore within a day’s drive from Adelaide.

Being inveterate campers, we rented a camper van from Let’s Go Motorhomes. Peter, the manager, was incredibly helpful, ensuring we understood the van’s features (an awning, table, chairs, full fridge/stovetop … so clean and impressive!). We drove 60 kilometres northeast into the Barossa Valley for loads of fun sampling many of the vineyards’ scrumptious wines.

How to choose from the 50 or so wineries of this astoundingly productive region? Because this was our fifth trip, we know our wine preferences. Jacob’s Creek is a fave, as is Henschke’s, for instance. But part of the fun, particularly if you’re starting out, is to take a guided tour. Browse Barossa’s website: barossa.com. It offers many day and overnight itineraries and let’s face it: you’re on holiday and if you’re going to sample, it’s best not to drive. Park your rental and be free to take a discovery tour of one of the world’s finest wine-growing regions.

After all that wine and delicious lamb and other local fare (do try kangaroo), we headed north a further 400 kilometres to revisit a hiking haven we first experienced in 1984: Wilpena Pound. It’s an uplifted set of ridges sacred to the Aboriginal peoples, and part of Flinders Ranges National Park.

There’s a welcoming Visitors’ Centre on-site, excellent campsites and a hotel. We did all the walks of various lengths save the St. Mary’s Peak 19-km circuit walk which was closed due to temperatures in the high 30s (December is summer, Down Under).

Trails are well-interpreted by signage. There are also some strenuous pulls too, where you might take a full nine hours to hike through red rocks, alongside towering cliffs. On a blue-sky day these colours, along with the green of eucalyptus and other vegetation, are a photographer’s dream.

Interested in rocks and geology? Flinders boasts the extraordinary Brachina Gorge Geological Trail, which exposes 130 million years of Earth’s history through extremely well-explained signs.

As we explored, we kept our eyes peeled and like us, you’ll want binoculars at hand. Watch (everywhere) for kangaroos and wallabies. Also look for emus (resembling ostrich), and bevies of parrots and lorikeets (think streamlined parrots), sulphur-crested cockatoos, and splendid blue wrens.

So, whether you’re a hiker, birder, rockhound – or simply wish to explore Barossa Valley’s reds – check out Oz.

Useful websites

• Australia tourism: www.australia.com

• Adelaide tourism: https://bit.ly/2IL8gP5

• Let’s Go motorhomes: www.letsgomotorhomes.com.au Tip: camping can be free in Oz. There’s free roadside camping in specific pull-outs, little parks, or in some village’s sports parks (called ‘ovals’). So after paying for your van, food, and the inevitable bottles of Barossa wine, you’ll save lodging fees.

• Flinders Ranges National Park: https://bit.ly/2JD1497

• South Australian Museum: samuseum.sa.gov.au

• Art Gallery of South Australia: artgallery.sa.gov.au

Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author and visual artist. Visit her at katharinefletcher.com or facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/

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