Poet, writer and bookseller Rachael Mead recommends taking the road less travelled when you’re exploring the Adelaide Hills.
As part of InDaily’s My Backyard series, she shares some of her favourite hills haunts – including top spots for eating, drinking and shopping.
Where is your home in the Adelaide Hills and why do you enjoy living there?
I live in Basket Range, which is nestled in some of the steepest and most spectacular country in the central Adelaide Hills. It’s only 30 minutes’ drive from the city but out here among the orchards, vineyards and bushland, it feels like the suburbs are hours away.
What are some of your other favourite hills haunts?
One of the aspects of living in the hills that I love is being surrounded by beautiful native vegetation and wildlife, so being outside and in the thick of it is very important to me.
Lots of people from Adelaide would know the famous conservation parks like Waterfall Gully, Morialta and the hike up through Cleland to Mount Lofty. What hills dwellers know is that there are many small but exquisite conservation parks dotted around the hills that are perfect for exploring on foot in a couple of hours. Scott Creek, Mount George and Giles Conservation Parks are just three of my local favourites.
In addition to being a keen walker, I’m also an avid reader and collector of anything vintage, so my other favourite ways to spend time in the hills are browsing the shelves of the beautiful Matilda Bookshop in Stirling and trawling the racks of Mount Barker’s various op shops for treasures.
What are three things that visitors must see/do?
Whenever we have overseas visitors I always take them to Cleland Wildlife Park to wow them with some up close and personal contact with native wildlife. I know it’s not an insider secret, but I think Cleland is a brilliant showcase of Australia’s unique wildlife – and I defy anyone to not enjoy hand-feeding a kangaroo!
Explore the natural beauty of the Hills and indulge in the region’s produce by teaming a walk in a conservation park with a leisurely lunch at a local winery. Work up a virtuous thirst in Mark Oliphant Conservation Park and then head over to Deviation Road Winery in Longwood for a wine tasting and delicious cellar-door platter. Or combine a trip to Mount George Conservation Park with a meal and wine at The Lane Vineyard at Hahndorf. Wander through Giles or Monacute Conservation Parks, then drop in to Sinclair’s Gully Winery at Norton Summit. You can’t go far in the Hills without seeing a sign to a cellar door, and the drive along these scenic country roads is all part of the pleasure.
The Adelaide Hills are so close to the city that most people only allow a day for a visit to the region, but I think a large part of the beauty of the hills is being able to stop and soak it in. I would recommend taking your time to explore the winding roads, stopping off to buy local produce and wine and seeing a sight or two, then staying at a bed and breakfast overnight. This way you can enjoy the gorgeous views, relax by an open fire and indulge yourself with the wine and food you collected during the day.
The next morning, after being woken by bird song, you can have a leisurely brunch and explore further before winding your way back home, making sure to drink in the glitter of the city lights as you drive back down the hill. Basket Range has some gorgeous bed and breakfasts tucked away in a part of the hills that cyclists call “Little Italy”.
Where are the best places for a drink or a bite to eat?
We are completely spoiled for choice in the Adelaide Hills because we have so much amazing local produce (cheese, fruit, wine, chocolate), so this is an incredibly difficult decision. I would have to say my favourite restaurant is Locavore in Stirling, as the meals are delicious and all their produce is sourced from within a 160km radius, plus the staff are lovely and they are right in the heart of Stirling, which is one of the most beautiful towns in the hills.
Stirling has plenty of wonderful cafes, restaurants and shops, and it is a very easy place to lose a couple of hours.
What is the Adelaide Hills best-kept local secret?
Our best-kept secret is the pleasure of travelling the back roads. Avoiding the freeway and travelling up from the plains on Norton Summit Road (Old or New), Greenhill Road or Montacute Road, then winding your way slowly to your destination can be a wonderful part of your hills experience.
The views are sensational and you really get the feel of being immersed in a breathtaking landscape as soon as you enter the hills face-zone. I know it’s a cliché to say it’s more about the journey than the destination, but when you’re driving through the Adelaide Hills, choosing the road less travelled can prove to be an unexpected delight.
Rachael Mead is the author of two collections of poetry, Sliding Down the Belly of the World (Wakefield Press 2012) and The Sixth Creek (Picaro Press 2013), and she has a third forthcoming this year with Garron Publishing. She writes arts reviews for InDaily and you can also find her talking enthusiastically about books behind the counter at the Matilda Bookshop in Stirling. When not in rehab for her addictions to op-shopping and books, Rachael lives in the Adelaide Hills with her husband, animals and a slightly ridiculous collection of op-shop overcoats.
More My Backyard articles:
Clayton Bay & the Southern Fleurieu – by artist Annabelle Clayton
The Riverland – by winery owner Jenny Semmler
Copper Coast – by Kernewek Lowender executive officer Rosemary Cock
Barossa Valley – by Hentley Farm chef Lachlan Colwill
Yorke Peninsula – by singer Ronnie Taheny
Clare Valley – by Good Catholic Girl Wines head girl Julie Barry
Eyre Peninsula – by Boston Bay Wines’ Tony Ford
Kangaroo Island – by artist Janine Mackintosh
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