From sea lions kisses to food, wine (and chocolate), blogger Larissa Dening shares her 7 best experiences in South Australia.
Having never been to South Australia before I was surprised at how beautiful and different it was to my home state of Queensland. Instead of being humid and balmy, the climate is dry and crisp. Perfect for the many, many vineyards that produce some of the best wine in the world.
I was lucky enough to catch the inaugural Jetstar flight from Maroochydore to Adelaide, which only took about 2 hours and 15 minutes. So let me show you my 7 memorable moments in South Australia!
1. Adelaide Central Market
I could have spent hours sampling all the amazing food that is on offer here. It is truly a foodie heaven and I am considering moving to Adelaide just for this market, which has been a thriving hub of food and culture for more than 145 years.
With over 80 traders under one roof, the market offers a huge range of fresh foods and some of Adelaide’s most popular cafes and eateries. You can't miss the best cheese shop in all of South Australia - Say Cheese. The biggest and best selection of local, interstate and imported cheeses, pates and dips, caramelised figs, local fruit pastes and fresh made chutneys. I recommend joining an Adelaide Central Market Tour to get the best experience.
2. Adelaide Hills
You can't go to Adelaide without exploring all the amazing wineries in the Adelaide Hills - arguably Australia's most sophisticated and beautiful cool climate wine region, nestled among apple and cherry orchards and rolling fields. An awesome way to explore the region is on a wine tour with Life is a Cabernet. Our tour guide Ralf Hadzic (formerly the children’s TV show character Fat Cat), was full of stories and really made the day so much fun.
We had the pleasure of trying the "ChocoVino Experience" at Hahndorf Hill Winery where fine wines are matched to the world’s most exclusive chocolate. Hahndorf Hill Winery specialises in exciting new wave wine varieties, including Gruner Veltliner and Blaufrankish.
The next stop was Pike & Joyce for more wine tasting and lunch. The wine here was amazing and the food incredible. Pike & Joyce is perched high in the Adelaide Hills, just 40 minutes drive from the CBD with spectacular 180 degree views of the hills, Onkaparinga Valley and beyond. The Pike family and Joyce family have created not just your average cellar door – but the sights, sounds and tastes of the Adelaide Hills in one amazing experience.
3. Haigh's Chocolate Factory
Haigh's Chocolates is Australia's oldest family-owned chocolate maker - since 1915. We were lucky enough to do a tour of the factory and see the meticulous work that goes into crafting every single chocolate. I have to say that Haigh's Chocolate is now my favourite brand. It is smooth, creamy and delicious. If you haven't tried Haigh's Chocolate, I highly recommend it.
Hahndorf is the oldest surviving German village in Australia and was settled back in 1839. Many of the original buildings and traditions have been retained and my favourite cottage was the Grass Roots and Vintage store in the main street. This eclectic store is housed in an old barn that is covered in the most beautiful vines. Everything in the store is retro and brings back so many memories of being a kid - from the melamine plates to the old kitchen scales. I could have spent hours in this store - a must-see if you are in Hahndorf.
You also have to check out Herbees Garden Cafe and the Fairy Place right behind it especially if you have kids. And take a wander through 3 Wishes Candle Barn - the most amazing candle store that smells absolutely divine. This is one of the cutest little towns I have ever explored in Australia and there is so much more than what I have listed here. It's definitely a must-see if you visit South Australia.
5. McLaren Vale
Only 45 minutes drive south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is home to world-class wines and culinary experiences as well as sprawling landscapes. South Australia's viticultural origins began in McLaren Vale and the Mediterranean climate continues to drive the region's wine style and diverse food culture. McLaren Vale’s 30 kilometres of breathtaking coastline and ranges define the region’s boundaries and the distinct landscapes and environment within.
Driving to McLaren Vale takes you down many scenic gum tree-lined roads before reaching the never-ending and stunning views of vineyard after vineyard. It’s truly a sight to see. I also loved seeing the wild canola that is filling the paddocks around South Australia right now and I loved exploring old abandoned buildings too.
6. Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is the most remote and rugged place I have ever seen - stretching 155 kilometres from east to west and with some 509 kilometres of coastline. The whole island almost feels untouched.
At Seal Bay, hundreds of Australian sea lions laze on the beach all day and Flinders Chase National Park is filled with so much raw and natural beauty. No Kangaroo Island holiday would be complete without a trek to one of the island's signature landmarks - Remarkable Rocks. It took 500-million-years for rain, wind and pounding waves to create these aptly named granite boulders.
One of the best ways to experience the splendid scenery on Kangaroo Island is to self-drive. You can take your own car to Kangaroo Island by ferry or hire a car when you get there. The ride on the Sealink ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw and vice versa is a beautiful journey in itself, with views of aqua blue water and rolling green hills from the mainland and Kangaroo Island. The crossing takes 45 minutes and there are several trips per day.
7. Fleurieu Peninsula
The Fleurieu Peninsula is a stunning peninsula located about 60 minutes drive south of Adelaide. With aqua blue water and rolling green hills, you are spoiled with beauty. It is a mecca for surfers, beach and history lovers, whale watchers and fishers. Patterned with vineyards, olive groves and almond plantations running down to the sea, the Fleurieu is Adelaide's weekend playground.
As I was driving down to Rapid Bay I came across a gigantic field of Salvation Jane (or Paterson’s Curse as it's also known). This plant is actually a pest but you have to appreciate the beauty of seeing it on such a massive scale below the rolling green hills. Another stunning part of the Fleurieu Peninsula is Second Valley - a great spot for fishing on the jetty and swimming in the bay.
*Jetstar have flights between Maroochydore and Adelaide on Fridays and Sundays. Check the Jetstar website for details.