Entries from January 2016

CLARE

January 31, 2016

Those who know our family, know that we are beyond enamoured with South Australia, and over the years we have spent a lot of time exploring the areas around the Barossa Valley & McLaren Vale (see my post on McLaren vale here)…One spot we’ve wanted to get to but somehow always ran out of time is Clare…

An easy 90 minute drive from central Adelaide, Clare is in South Australias mid north region, and lends it’s name to the surrounding area; The Clare Valley. Clare itself is a really pretty town, with quaint old houses, a beautiful oval in the town centre, fringed on all sides by that unmistakable Aussie landscape of gumtrees and grape vines that I find so pleasing…

We met up with friends from Sydney in Adelaide, and lured them to Clare for the day with an invitation to join us on the Riesling Trail…a 35 kilometre bike track that was a railway in a former incarnation! The trail is a great way to take in the beautiful landscape, pop in to cellar doors, grab a meal, and get some exercise too (no lycra required!) How much you ride is up to you…We rode 9 km’s from Clare Valley Cycle hire to Sevenhill Cellars, and with a few rest stops along the way it took us about 45 minutes…

Sevenhills was the first winery in Clare Valley, set up by jesuits in 1851! The cellar door and surrounds are beautiful…the grounds alone are worth stopping by to have a look at, and whilst adults have a taste of the wines on offer, there is a huge lawn with balls, cricket bats and a totem tennis set to keep younger visitors entertained.

From here it was a 5 minute ride (downhill!) to the Sevenhill Hotel where we had a cracking chicken schnitzel with chips and salad, and a glass of local white, naturally! The schnitzel was no joke, the size of my head… The ride back was downhill, and we were back in under half an hour. I have never seen anyone fall asleep on a bike before, but somehow Kinga managed to nod off on her tag-along (I highly recommend the tag-along option for younger/novice riders, a bit more work for the adult riding the main bike, but ensures no one gets left behind!)

Later that afternoon, we headed to Mintaro, 10 minutes from Clare, to check out the Mintaro Maze and Martindale Hall. It is worth checking opening times in small country towns, as we arrived at the Maze just before 4pm, bang on closing time. Luckily the young lady running the show kindly let us in, and asked that we stay as long as we liked…sadly, we missed out on visiting Martindale Hall (The mansion features in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock)…something to do on our next visit to the Clare Valley!

We stayed at
Discovery Holiday Parks Clare
LOT 136 Main North Rd, Clare SA 5453

We ate at
The Sevenhill Hotel

We rented bikes from
Clare Valley Cycle Hire
32 Victoria Road
CLARE SA 5453
0418 – 802 – 077

We went to
Mintaro Maze
Jacka Road, Mintaro Clare Valley South Australia

Clare

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MOUNT GAMBIER

January 21, 2016

At some point last year, we were invited to spend a week with good friends in Margaret River after Christmas, and in the middle of winter, dreaming of being at the beach, we accepted the invitation and decided that we would drive over. Yes, we were going to drive from Sydney, cross country to Margaret River, and eventually Perth. All up, with deviations, stops and excursions, it was going to be almost 6000 km’s in the car. We are known for our love of road trips, but even by our standards this was pretty hard core!!! We hit the road, stopped off in Melbourne for a visit with family, and then pushed on to our first official stop on our drive west: Mount Gambier.

Mount Gambier is the half way mark between Melbourne and Adelaide, and is the second largest city in South Australia. It is probably most well known for it’s geological features; lakes and sinkholes, and the town itself is on the slopes of an extinct volcano! Mt Gambier is also BIG on timber/forestry! The roads on the way in and out of town are lined with plantations; huge trees in perfect rows for as far as the eye can see.

I don’t know that I had ever been to a sinkhole before, but was very keen to check it out, all the images I had seen online were of a beautiful, lush underground garden! Umpherston Sinkhole was once a cave formed through dissolution of limestone (The sinkhole was created when the top of the chamber collapsed). There is a series of enclosed ramps and staircases to reach the bottom, and I felt a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole…emerging at the bottom in a beautiful sunken garden bursting with light, hydrangeas, ferns, foxgloves and bees. There was something really very special about the gardens, and I could have happily stayed there all afternoon…perhaps with a picnic, a good book and a bottle of rose!? The sinkhole is right next to the towns timber processing plant and that lovely resiny, pine scent fills the air.

Blue Lake is the most impressive of the three major lakes in town (Brownes Lake, Valley Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake are located nearby) During the warmer summer months of December through to March, the lake turns bright cobalt blue, returning to a murky grey for the rest of the year. No one can say for sure why?! You can walk all the way around the lake, an easy 45 minute walk, but with two grumpy, overtired kids, we didn’t quite make it that far!

Mount Gambier is a very well serviced town, with supermarkets and no shortage of restaurants & accommodation options, making it a very easy place to stay with small people in tow… worth stopping by!

Next stop; CLARE VALLEY!

UMPHERSTON SINKHOLE
Jubilee Highway East Mount Gambier
Free Entry

BLUE LAKE
John Watson Drive Mount Gambier

We Stayed at
Big 4 Caravan Park Mount Gambier

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PORT WILLUNGA / MCLAREN VALE

January 13, 2016

Every family has ‘their special spot’… a place that fulfils all their needs as a family, but that few other people seem to know about. This is our families most special secret holiday location, and we have spent summers here for almost every summer for more than 10 years.

Port Willunga is on the Fleurieu Peninsula, a 45 minute drive south of Adelaide, and a 10 minute drive to McLaren Vale. It is a truly BREATHTAKING beach…soft golden sand, turquoise water, dramatic cliffs that could be anywhere in Greece, Portugal or even Turkey, so much so that several of the Gallipoli series were filmed here…each year when we arrive, I’m surprised, yet again, by just how unique this spot is!

There is a pod of dolphins who bob past one way at about 8 in the morning, and back again between 3 and 5 in the afternoon…heaven!

It’s perfect for kids, protected by an outlaying reef (read: NO SHARKS!) and has ample parking. There are two access points to get down from the cliff tops, those in the know (locals) go down the long ramp that pops out at the pier remains, and there’s a much shorter ramp at the northern end of the large car park, perhaps easier if you have smaller kids, and loads of gear to carry.

Between the two ramps, perched atop the cliffs is the Star Of Greece restaurant & kiosk…a special spot for Mez & I as we got married there all those years ago! The kiosk does great fish & chips and ice creams, but is quite expensive, and you can expect a wait in peak times. If you get your timing right, there is nothing better than having a drink on the outside deck of the restaurant as the afore mentioned dolphins cruise past in the late afternoon!

The most desirable spot is really just to the right of the old pier poles…at different times, depending on the tide, rock pools form, and there are anemones, sea snails and little pools for smaller kids to splash about in. Behind the pier are old caves, fun for older kids to muck around in, but best to wear shoes, as occasionally you come across a broken beer bottle.

Silver sands beach, just a few km’s south is also worth checking out, if only for the novelty of driving on the beach! The rock pools at the northern end make for good exploring too.

This region not only boasts beautiful beaches; the McLaren Vale wine region is a 10-15 minute drive away, meaning that exceptional cellar doors & restaurants are just down the road. We try to treat ourselves to a meal at our two faves…Fino & SC Pannell Wines.

Fino has long been my favourite, making use of the freshest local produce, cooked simply…with a killer wine list made up of innovative local & european offerings…and the deserts! Make sure you save room! The Crema Catalana is TRANSCENDENTAL!

SC Pannell Wines is simpler fare, perfect for sharing, tapas styled share plates, overlooking the rolling hills covered in green vines, with a glass of rose in hand…it’s easy to lose track of time staring out into the green. Perfect for kids too with a kids menu, and loads of grassy areas for them to go free range.

If you’re going to drink, don’t drive; give Chook McCoy a call…he offers very reasonably priced transfers, and will get you home safe & sound!

I’ve told you my special secret spot…I’d love to know yours!

We ate at;

SC PANNELL WINES
60 Olivers Road, McLaren Vale,
South Australia

FINO WILLUNGA
8 Hill Street
Willunga SA 5172

STAR OF GREECE
1 The Esplanade, Port Willunga

Drinking?
Don’t drive!
Call Chook McCoy on 0414 922 200

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Port Willunga

Port Willunga

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