Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. Explore boutiques, hearty German pubs, souvenir stores and gourmet delicatessens.
When you think Adelaide, chances are you think hot summer days, rugged coastal scenery, delicious seafood and world-class wine. Unless you’re a local or seasoned visitor, you probably don’t think 1830s-style German village, complete with striking, traditional “Fachwerk” architecture, barmaids in full lederhosen get-up, pretzels galore, and more sausages than you could poke a stick at.
Hahndorf came to be in 1839, when Captain Dirk Meinertz Hahn and almost 200 German-Lutheran migrants made their way to the Adelaide Hills in search of a new life. Attracted by the area’s luxuriant vegetation, a thriving settlement was quickly established. Over the years, Hahndorf has seen many changes, but has retained its old-world, artisan charm.
Today, it’s a tourism hotspot and provides a completely unexpected, picturesque escape from city life, only 20 minutes up the South Eastern Freeway. Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, and like most Adelaide Hills towns, it’s absolutely stunning. Lush green grass and dense foliage greet you at every gentle bend – the 20 minute drive is a pleasure in itself, with so many equally picturesque spots to stop-off along the way.
Hahndorf-Main-Streethahndorfis thriving every day of the week. Boutiques, hearty German pubs, contemporary restaurants, souvenir stores and gourmet delicatessens are thickly blanketed by lush, green 100 year-old elm and plane trees.
Udder Delights Cheese Cellar was one of the first local businesses I encountered on my most recent stroll down the main street. A family business originating from fellow Adelaide Hills’ town, Lobethal, Udder Delights’ Hahndorf fit-out is as swanky as you can get. After greeting a life-sized neon yellow cow and examining a huge range of mouth-watering cheeses, I took to the patio where I looked-on in envy at a very content couple devouring the most delicious looking cheese fondue I’d ever seen.
Alas it was only 11am – must ignore my stomach’s rumbling for at least another hour – so back to the street I returned, to the sight of a 1960s farm truck filled to the brim with potatoes. It’s scenes like these that are so typically Hahndorf, I thought, while returning the truck driver’s wave.
Trying my very hardest to stop thinking about cheese, I continued my wandering. Hahndorf truly is a hotspot for local arts and craft. It’s impossible to ignore the exceptional artisan jewellery, ceramics and homewares peeking out from charming stone-walled cottages along the main street. Must-visit boutiques include Oscars Homewares, the 3 Wishes Candle Barn, Camellia Country Cottage, and the kitsch but undeniably charming German Village Shop.
My next stop was the stunning Hahndorf Academy. Right in the middle of town, the imposing 19th century structure was once a boarding school, maternity hospital, dental surgery and seminary. It is now a fantastic museum showcasing the town’s unique history, from the rich culture of the Peramangk people through to the influence of German settlers.
After getting my art and culture fix, I decided it was time for coffee. I didn’t have to search long – it just so happened I was near one of the main street’s newest vendors: Blacksmith Café. Hahndorf’s Main Street is packed to the brim with rustic, themed cafés, but few as charming as Blacksmith. Think stirrups, tin roofing, cowboy boots, old wooden beams and saloon-style seating. It’s as country as you can get, while serving great coffee, cakes and homemade produce. Coffee-stop over with, my stomach unconsciously lead me to Hahndorf Sweets – an irresistible, old-fashioned sweet store, stocked to the roof with humbugs, locally-made fudge, lollipops, hard candies and traditional English sweets. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone leave empty-handed.
There are many, many places to have lunch in Hahndorf, but if you want the full German experience, head to one of the town’s two historic pubs: the German Arms Hotel (established in 1839) or the Hahndorf Inn (established in 1863). After a good 15 minutes of deliberation with my travel partner, we went to the German Arms Hotel, perching ourselves at a balcony table, under the shade of a maple tree.
If you like beer, you’ll be in heaven in Hahndorf. At the German Arms and Hahndorf Inn, you can try a huge range of authentic German brews. However, if like me, German pronunciation is not your forte, you may find yourself opting for the old point and shrug when the lederhosen-clad waiting staff make the rounds. And then there’s the food. While you can play it safe and order a schnitzel, salad, steak or fish and chips, in my humble opinion, if you’ve come all the way to Hahndorf, you might as well get the works. Not normally the biggest meat eater, it was with a mix of anticipation and fear that I ordered the German Feast: bockwurst, wiessworst, kransky, cheese kransky, pork schnitzel, pork hock and sauerkraut. When the meal came out, I looked-on in awe. Never before had I seen so much meat in one place. After thirty minutes, and enjoying every mouthful, I finally retired, full, content yet thoroughly defeated.
I waddled rather than walked back to the car, and made my final stop at Beerenberg Strawberry Farm. Only a minute or so out of Hahndorf, Beerenberg offers a pick your own strawberries experience. If you’re in the Adelaide Hills, there are few things more idyllic than strolling through Beerenberg’s lush strawberry patch, basket in hand. Lazy, and far too full, even for strawberries, on my visit I was content just perusing the Beerenberg Family Farm shop, which sells a delicious range of sauces, marinades, jams, gift sets and kitchenware. During strawberry season, Beerenberg’s strawberry patch is open 9am till 4.15pm, 7 days a week. The Farm Shop is open 9am till 5pm, 7 days.
If you're a food-lover, nature-lover, culture-lover, beer-lover or all of the above-lover, Hahndorf is one of South Australia's most accessible, unique and enjoyable day trips.