In 2016 Adelaide was named one of the ten Great Wine Capitals of the World. That’s no surprise because we have some absolutely amazing wine regions right on our doorstep. It also means there are about a zillion wine tours to choose from for a day trip from Adelaide to taste that famous McLaren Vale shiraz. To save you doing all the research, I’ve done it for you and have come up with this list of the best McLaren Vale wine tours available.
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- 1 Where is McLaren Vale?
- 2 About the McLaren Vale Wine Region
- 3 Best Full Day McLaren Vale Wine Tour
- 4 Best Half Day McLaren Vale Wine Tour
- 5 Best Hop On Hop Off Wine Tour
- 6 Best Tour Combining McLaren Vale Wine Tasting & Other Towns
- 7 Best McLaren Vale Wine Tour including Lunch
- 8 Best Private Wine Tour to McLaren Vale
- 9 Best Private Tour with Your Own Itinerary
- 10 Best Wine Bike Tour in McLaren Vale
- 11 Best Winemaking Tour
- 12 McLaren Vale Accommodation
- 13 More South Australian Wine Tours
Where is McLaren Vale?
But first things first. McLaren Vale is a small town, population 4000, about 40km south of the Adelaide city centre in South Australia. Getting from Adelaide to McLaren Vale takes about 45 minutes by car. It is possible to get there by public transport by taking the train to Seaford and then catching a #751 bus, but this will take twice as long. A better option if you are planning some wine tasting is to take a tour. There will be no concern about drinking alcohol while driving, and you will save a lot of time.
The main things to do in McLaren Vale revolve almost entirely around the wine industry, but for more ideas head into the McLaren Vale Information Centre on Main Street in town. This is also a great place to grab a McLaren Vale wineries map.
About the McLaren Vale Wine Region
South Australia has had vineyards pretty much since the day it was settled. The Wikipedia article claims that grapes were first planted in 1836, but I find that hard to believe since Europeans first landed here on December 28th. Most other sources say 1837, but whichever is correct, it was within months of settlement at the latest. Winemaking is something of an institution in South Australian culture.
McLaren Vale was right up there with the first regions to have wineries, with grapes planted here for the first time in 1838. With a Mediterranean climate, the McLaren Vale vineyards mostly produce Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, although there are now many other varieties available in smaller amounts. The most common white wine to find is Chardonnay.
Currently there are more than eighty cellar doors in the McLaren Vale region available to visit. Many offer both wine tasting and food options. One that really stands out is the d’Arenberg Cube cellar door, housing not only the cellar door, but a restaurant and the “Alternate Realities Museum”. The five story structure also provides views across the vineyards and in my opinion should be a part of every one of the McLaren Vale tours.
Best Full Day McLaren Vale Wine Tour
If you want a full day wine tour but without the frills, then this one is for you. You will be picked up from your Adelaide, Glenelg or McLaren Vale hotel by the minibus for your small group tour. There will be narration on the bus from your tour guide as you make your way to the McLaren Vale wine country. Your day will be spent visiting wineries the group decides on during the visit. While lunch is not included, there will be a stop in McLaren Vale township so you can choose amongst many places to eat, and perhaps visit The Chocolate Factory and The Almond Train.
Best Half Day McLaren Vale Wine Tour
Wine tasting is best done at leisure, but if you only have half a day spare there are still some options. This afternoon tour will take you to two wineries as well as have time for a stop in the heart of McLaren Vale township. On the way back into the city explore Glenelg, and either leave the tour there to make your own way back to the CBD or continue on to be dropped back at your hotel.
Best Hop On Hop Off Wine Tour
You want to do some wine tasting, want to avoid drink driving, have flexibility and to keep the costs down? Then the hop-on hop-off wine tour is perfect! Pick up is from the Adelaide CBD or you can join the tour in McLaren Vale. The air-conditioned coach loops around fifteen McLaren Vale cellar doors and you can get on or off as many times as you wish. Being the best of the cheap wine tours, you can pack a picnic and enjoy lunch overlooking the magnificent Fleurieu Peninsula or combine with a delicious lunch from one of the McLaren Vale eateries.
Best Tour Combining McLaren Vale Wine Tasting & Other Towns
Sure you want to do some wine tasting at the McLaren Vale vineyards, but you also want to see a little more of the region too. The solution is a tour that covers the whole Fleurieu Peninsula. This tour picks you up in the Adelaide CBD then drives through the picturesque Adelaide Hills, stopping briefly in Strathalbyn for morning tea before continuing on to Goolwa. From there it’s on to Victor Harbor for some lunch and free time to explore the town and Granite Island. After lunch it’s back to McLaren Vale for wine tasting before returning to the city.
Best McLaren Vale Wine Tour including Lunch
Experiencing the McLaren Vale food goes hand in hand with visiting the wineries and this tour does both. It takes place in a 4WD to get you to some beautiful local viewpoints, where you enjoy some local cheeses with a glass of wine, then off to enjoy a gourmet 3 course lunch with dessert and more wine. Of course the day would not be complete without visiting some of the best Australian wines at the local cellar doors. Pick up for this tour is from Adelaide, Glenelg or your McLaren Vale hotel.
Best Private Wine Tour to McLaren Vale
If your idea of the perfect day is travelling around McLaren Vale in a luxury vehicle, with your private guide and tasting wines at boutique wineries, then this is the tour for you. You will also be booked into one of the best McLaren Vale restaurants for a delicious lunch with matched local wines. The afternoon wineries will be chosen through discussion with your guide on the day to ensure the perfect match for your taste.
Best Private Tour with Your Own Itinerary
You know exactly which wineries you want to sample and just need a driver to take you in style? This tour is for up to only four people in your group in a late model BMW 5 series. Since this tour is completely customised, you can be picked up anywhere in the Adelaide area, including from the CBD, your home address or from the cruise ship terminal. It is also possible to include attractions along the way that are not wineries.
Best Wine Bike Tour in McLaren Vale
So you want to travel more slowly, enjoy the scenery and work off the good food and wine you are about to try? How about doing a wine tour by bike. You will be picked up in Adelaide and taken down to McLaren Vale where you will collect your mountain bike. During the day you will cycle through Kuitpo Forest and visit at least two wineries for tastings. You will be served shared platters of local produce for lunch. Your guide is a local who will happily tell you all about the region.
Best Winemaking Tour
There are plenty of masterclass experiences in McLaren Vale teaching visitors about the wine-making process. While I was unable to come up with a tour including them, they can be easily added into some of the more flexible options above. Here are some of the experiences.
McLaren Vale Accommodation
Looking to stay in McLaren Vale longer and doing your tours? Here are some suggestions for where to stay in McLaren Vale
Casavino Luxury Villas
Perfect for a group or large family, these self contained villas sleep up to eight people in luxury. Located in the heart of the McLaren Vale township, here you will be central to all the action. You will have access to a full kitchen with dishwasher and microwave, a spa bath and an outdoors BBQ area.
Serafino McLaren Vale
This is a good example of McLaren Vale winery accommodation. This four-star resort style property has a pool, restaurant and bar on site. It’s set in a lovely rural location away from the hustle and bustle so a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet. The rooms are hotel-style, with double as well as family rooms available.
The Linear Way Bed and Breakfast
For B&B style accommodation give The Linear Way a try. Each bedroom comes with it’s own private bathroom and the daily full breakfast offers both Continental and English styles. It is located within walking distance of restaurants, and has vegetarian options available.
McLaren Vale Budget Accommodation
I want to put this in here as a budget option but I have not stayed at the property and the reviews tend to be a little mixed. No free wifi tends to be a big complaint, but the staff and location seem to be great. If you are looking for cheap dorm accommodation, this could still suit.
More South Australian Wine Tours
While you are visiting South Australia, why not visit one or two of the other wine regions we have here – after all there are 18 to choose from! Here are some links to some wine tours in the other regions that make up the top five most popular with visitors.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.