Feature image via McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast
Ever dreamed of a place where pristine coastline meets rolling vineyards?
A place filled with mouth-watering local produce, spectacular cliff lined sandy beaches, and quirky local villages just waiting to welcome you?
We’re here to tell you this place exists, in all its discoverable glory, just 40 minutes from the Adelaide CBD.
It’s the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast.
Home to many wineries, an award-winning foodie scene, coastal walks and nature based adventures, the region is loved by locals and visitors alike.
With so much to offer, it can be hard to decide where to go and what to do when planning a visit, so we’ve put together our bucket list items to help you make the most of a trip to this spectacular region.
1. Start your adventure at the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast Visitor Centre
The local specialists will point you in the right direction, whilst also offering a wine tasting experience with Vale Cru, and casual fare at the Stump Hill Café (which is best enjoyed on the deck overlooking the vineyard valley).
The Gallery features local and regional exhibitions and a nature playground for little ones. This is a great first place to visit.
2. Discover Maxwell’s five-star winery, meadery, restaurant and conifer maze
Carved into a limestone hill at the heart of McLaren Vale is Maxwell Wines.
With many cellar door food and wine experiences available, you’re sure to find a unique offering to tantalise the taste-buds.
Adjacent to the cellar door is Maxwell Restaurant, where head chef Fabian Lehmann and pastry chef Jason Brown prepare a range of menu experiences featuring seasonal produce from the estate gardens.
Up for a little adventure? Why not lose yourself in Maxwell’s conifer maze.
3. Spend a Saturday morning at the Willunga Farmers Market
Known as South Australia’s premier regional farmers market, Willunga hosts more than 80 stalls selling seasonal and regional produce championing the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The market is a chance to get a taste of the region, and enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, baked goods, plants, coffee, and of course, breakfast or brunch.
4. Spend time at the breathtakingly beautiful Chalk Hill Collective
Chalk Hill Wines, Never Never Distilling Co, and Cucina di Strada make up the Chalk Hill Collective, a destination for small batch, hand crafted wines, rich and complex gins, and delectable pizzas.
The trio are connected in a familial way, with the teams having made options from all three businesses readily available for patrons.
Trust us, the view from the sprawling grass has to be seen to be believed.
5. Walk or cycle the magnificent Coast to Vines Rail Trail
The Coast to Vines Rail Trail is perhaps the perfect way to explore the diverse attractions of this magical region, as you wind along coastal cliffs through to the foothills of Willunga.
The Shiraz Trail between McLaren Vale and Willunga is also a must, with many food and wine temptations close by.
6. Eat fish and chips by the seaside at Star of Greece
A jewel on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu coast, Star of Greece is all about good wine, really good food, and great views.
From fish and chips in the kiosk, to a four-course meal in the restaurant, things are kept simple, local and fresh.
Named after a long-remembered shipwreck, this South Aussie spot is a must for stunning coastal views and laid back vibes.
7. Check out Down the Rabbit Hole’s double decker bus cellar door
Down the Rabbit Hole’s powder blue, double decker bus is the winery’s newly opened cellar door, and it’s the epitome of Instagram-worthy.
Local produce is used for the platters on offer, and McLaren Vale grapes are utilised to make Down the Rabbit Hole’s crisp, contemporary wines.
8. Kayak along the Onkaparinga River
The Onkaparinga River National Park is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding.
The waters meander along burnt orange cliff faces from Port Noarlunga through Old Noarlunga to the surrounds of Clarendon, and the scenery is stunning.
9. Explore the award-winning d’Arenberg Cube
Each of the five levels of the d’Arenberg Cube were carefully designed to entice the senses.
Think a wine sensory room, a virtual fermenter, Alternate Realities Museum and current Salvador Dali Exhibition.
Enjoy a relaxed dining experience at [email protected]’s, offering seasonal casual fare, or enjoy a hosted blending bench masterclasses, where you blend and bottle your own wine.
10. Soak up the village vibes and support local
Wander the village streets of Old Coach Road Aldinga, Willunga, Clarendon and Port Noarlunga to to indulge in some retail therapy.
Stop by Bottanista or Charlie Rose Boutique in Port Noarlunga, Miss Gladys on Sea or Little Road Studio in Aldinga, The Spock Sisters or Tall Poppy in Willunga, and Emprades Vintage and Design in Clarendon.
Supporting local is the name of the game at the moment, and this is a great way to do just that.
11. Stop at Goodieson Brewery for views and beverages
Overlooking Mt Lofty Ranges in McLaren Vale, you’ll find Goodieson Brewery.
Home to award-winning beer, the brewery is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.
Enjoy classics like Pilsner and Pale Ale or try an experimental brew such as Cherry Stoutand Chocolate Stout (dogs are welcome).
12. Have a meal at the eclectic Salopian Inn
The Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale serves eclectic hand crafted, contemporary Australian cuisine, made from scratch with seasonal produce from their Kitchen Garden.
For wine-lovers, anticipate an exceptional local and international cellar, and an exotic gin list.
13. Enjoy a wine tasting at Coriole Vineyard
Coriole is a long standing foodie favourite in the region..
The team at Gather (Coriole’s restaurant) serve quintessentially Australian cuisine, and are passionate about showcasing native ingredients.
If you’re looking for a seated tasting experience, book the Collective Wine Flight, held in Coriole’s ‘Top House’ with stunning views of vineyards.
14. Explore Port Noarlunga Reef
One of South Australia’s most popular dive sites, this gorgeous area is home to more than 200 species of marine plants and animals, and more than 50 species of fish.
For land based lovers, views of the reef are best enjoyed from the Jetty (a stones throw from the reef) or whilst sipping a wine or coffee from the beachside Hortas Restaurant.
15. Discover the diversity of the arts and culture scene
There is no shortage of visual inspiration for the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast artisans and creatives, with studios, galleries, street art, murals and sculpture dotted across the villages.
Hidden gems include Port Noarlunga’s Arts Centre and Saurbier House, the Salt Yoga Mural in Christies Beach, as well as original Aboriginal artworks created and exhibited at Micky Barlow’s Gallery (pictured).
The works of South Australian Aboriginal artists are also showcased at Red Poles Gallery in McLaren Vale
Of course, with The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast region being so expansive, and oh so beautiful, this is a mere beginning to the bucket list experiences on offer.