Australia Days 31 - 35 - Barossa Valley and Adelaide
Updated: Mar 21
The one with all the wine
Great flight from Cairns with Jetstar, we had been ruthless with our hand luggage because they, like Virgin Australia have a 7kg limit on hand luggage and our camera equipment comes in at about 4/5kg each. I’d booked extra leg room seats (an exit row at the front) but when we arrived my seat had been moved to the second row due to an issue with the cabin crew seat. We opted to fly separately so that Ian could still have the extra leg room, and I ended up with an entire row of seats to myself!
Point of note: There is nothing in the centre of Australia!
When we arrive in Adelaide the temperature is a bit of a shock though. After 30º+ in Queensland we are back to 20º and a chill breeze.
We pick up our third and final hire car and thank goodness it’s not a Haval. It’s a normal Toyota saloon that doesn’t try to drive you, although it takes us a while to find the (hidden) apple car play usb port. Not one of the cars has come with a built in sat-nav so we’ve been reliant on google maps.
We drive to Tanunda, in the heart of the Barossa Valley, which will be our home for the next three nights. This feels like the most “traditional” accommodation we’ve stayed in since Walhalla. It’s a mix of contemporary and old stuff, the bathroom is very tired [old] and the kitchen is like something from the 1950s, but it’s clean and comfortable, and the owner has thought of everything - there’s even a new toothbrush in the bathroom cabinet.
Once we are unpacked we go back out to find a grocery store (and a bottle shop!) then think about dinner, since neither of us have eaten since breakfast.
We both fancy something simple so we opt for steak at Char Barossa, which was excellent. We are trying as much Aussie wine and gin as we can while we’re here and we notice on our walk home that there is a gin bar called Musque which offers 400 different gins so we earmark that for our final night. Tomorrow will be all about the wine.
My brother had given us a list of wineries to visit but today we had booked on a small group tour. We were collected at 9:45 and set off to our first stop, 1847 Wines, which is part of Chateau Yaldara winery. Our host is Sam from Belfast and has a patter that would make a stand up comedian jealous. Drinking wine at 10am with 8 other strangers doesn’t really come naturally but Sam kicks the day off perfectly and soon we are all chatting and enjoying the tasting.
Our second stop is Kies Wines which is currently in the hands of eldest son Barron Kies. Sheila, our host, turns out to be from the UK originally and has been over here 17 years. Here we had a tour of the vats and barrels before another 6 bottle tasting and then a really nice lunch. Barossa is famous for its Shiraz and we get to taste a lot of it over the course of the day. We get to know our fellow guests a bit better over lunch. A couple from Florida who are on a cruise, and 3 couples on a long weekend from Sydney who are mainly in Adelaide to see Ed Sheerhan (Ed has been in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide while we’ve been here, successfully avoiding us each time).
Our next stop is Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, about whom our Australian friends talk animatedly but we and the couple from America have never heard of. Apparently, my brother says, she is a “national treasure”, and so we tell our new friends she must be a bit like Delia or Nigella back home. “Oh yes” replies one, and then looking at our Florida friends he quips “and a bit like Martha Stewart, but with less jail time”. We mostly fail to see the appeal of Maggie Beer’s, it's overpriced as these things generally are and we are only there for 15 minutes before we need to get off to the next winery. At this point it becomes apparent that the couple on the cruise are worrying about getting back for their ship, so our already speedy chauffeur cracks on to our next stop, Rusden’s. This was our least favourite stop, there was zero engagement from the young lady serving us other than to tell us what the wines were. She disappeared between each serving and made no effort to engage with us, I suspect because she had been told we were running late. Needless to say no one bought any wine.
Our final stop is Murray Street, and their sommelier was from an Argentinian wine family who was working over in Australia for the year. Her passion really shone through and the wine was excellent but sadly it was all feeling a little rushed by now because of the people due back for their boat.
We had a great day but resented being rushed due to other peoples’ poor planning. We purposely booked a small tour so it didn’t feel like a conveyer belt and we finished up being rushed through the wine so quickly that we couldn’t really remember what we liked and didn’t like. We only found out the day before which wineries we would be visiting, and although there was a good selection, and they were mostly small wineries, we hadn’t visited any on my brothers list.
After yesterdays mixed day we decided to have a drive around the Barossa Valley a little and see what we could see. While we were out my brother texted and asked how we got on yesterday and what we were up to. He suggested a few wineries we could visit today. Some of them were closed, and some were a bit out of our way. I told my brother that we wanted to walk so we could both enjoy it and following his response that “you don’t need to drink it to taste it” I wondered if I was actually talking to my brother and imagined my dad turning in his grave. However, one of the ones he suggested was just a 30 minute walk away from our accommodation and as it wasn’t raining we booked a tasting with a charcuterie platter at Turkey Flats. This was much more the experience we had been looking for and we spent a great 90 minutes with the sommelier there, tasted 6 wines, had a tour of the vats and even saw some of the wine being bottled.
We chose to drink a further bottle of one of our favourite Shiraz and we took two bottles away with us, one for my brother and one for us to lay down when we get home. We also discovered that unlike any of the wineries we visited yesterday, you can actually buy some of the Turkey Flats wine in the UK, so we will definitely be on to that when we get home.
As promised that night we tried the gin bar, Musque. We found it a little difficult to narrow down our gin choices from 400 but we gave it a good go! We stuck to various different Australian gins, and we had some amazing food at the same time. It was so good we almost overlooked the fact that once again they were cleaning up around us at 9pm. (This is weird right?)
No matter, we had to be out of the accommodation by 10:30 tomorrow anyway for our drive back to Adelaide.
The weather has taken a turn for the “unsettled” again but before heading in to Adelaide we persevere with our plan to drive the Barossa Valley Scenic Route. This gets mixed reviews mainly because there are very few signs, despite complaints from many lost travellers! We find a blog that gives us a good idea of the route and set off to enjoy a drive around looking for scenic spots to photograph between rain showers. The good thing we have found here is that if you drive around enough you will see plenty of ‘brown signs’ sending you to lookout points or interesting spots; which is how we ended up killing some time at the Whispering Wall Dam, where you really can talk to each other across the vast expanse of dam. We finish the route in Gawler where we grab some not-very-interesting-lunch and head off to Adelaide.
We are staying at the Majestic M Suites, which are very impressive, probably one of our favourite accommodations apart from one thing. There is a sliding window between the bedroom and the bathroom - who needs that? And what it means is that if you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you disturb whoever is left sleeping when you turn the light on. I do think hotel designers should be made to sleep in anything they design for at least three nights. The lack of storage space in most accommodation is mind blowing.
On a tip off from my brother we have booked into Gouchos (nothing to do with Gouchos in London) for highly recommended steak. It is in the central business district, so is very busy and noisy however the steak is incredible and we enjoy it with a fantastic cab sav from Coonaworra ( I now have almost as many pictures of wine labels on my phone as I do beaches) and (hooray!) We were not the last to leave and nor were they clearing up round us at 9:45pm!
We are starting to feel a little touristed out now so we have a bit of a slow start to the day, fill the washing machine (there is a tumble drier here so we get some bigger items washed), have a nice breakfast. We set out for the Botanical Gardens, about 30 minutes walk away, however just as we arrive we are a little confused to come across a fence blocking the footpath. We think it must be maintenance so try another route only to discover that blocked too. When we finally discover some signs we realise it has been taken over by a music festival, so it’s closed to the public. In fact, The Fringe Festival is also occurring so there’s lots of things that are not easily accessible during our time here. We wander down to the main shopping street and as we are trying to decide where to grab a cup of coffee a lady with a hat and a lanyard offers to help us and points us in the direction of a fabulous Italian coffee place. They take their coffee incredibly seriously in Australia (particularly Melbourne) and its great to see small independents everywhere instead of high street giants like Starbucks all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, they do have Starbucks here but nowhere near in the numbers we do, I checked and there are only 9 in central Sydney, and just 8 in central Melbourne.
We then made our way to Adelaide Central Market which we’d been told to check out. It was fabulous. I never thought I’d say this but it was like Borough Market, but better! If I lived in Adelaide I’d be there every week for my shopping. It was even better than the one we visited in Melbourne. I was tempted to try a ‘weed and seed’ bar but stuck to the Turkish Delight in the end.
We were at a bit of a loss as to what to do next so we got some sushi from the market and returned to the apartment. After a grey start, the sun had come out so we decided to make use of the car and head for the beach. We drove to Semaphore beach first, then down to Brighton and finished up at Halle Cove in time for sunset. The beaches here aren’t the same deep colour turquoise we had experienced along the route to Sydney, but they certainly have a rugged beauty of their own.
Because we’d stayed to watch the sunset we didn’t get back to the apartment until gone 8, so the race was on to find somewhere to eat before they all closed. We managed to appeal to the better nature of the waitress at the local rib place “we were just about to close the kitchen but if you order now you’ll be ok” at 8:45. So yeah, ribs it was.
I don’t think we saw Adelaide at it’s best maybe, it was a bit underwhelming, and compared to Melbourne and Sydney it didn’t feel like it had much soul.
Tomorrow we set off on the final part of our trip, the Great Ocean Road. I can’t believe our time here is nearly over and we are almost back at the start again.