The Clare Valley is one of the most popular regions to visit while in South Australia. It is best known as a wine region, but this list will show there are many other things to do in Clare Valley too.
Where is Clare Valley
Clare Valley is located north of Adelaide, starting at the town of Tarlee in the south and extending to the north of Clare. It takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours to drive from Adelaide to Clare Valley, depending on which part of the valley you are headed to.
The towns encompassed in the Clare Valley Region are: Auburn, Blyth, Burra, Clare, Farrel Flat, Leasingham, Mintaro, Penwortham, Sevenhill, Stockport, Tarlee and Watervale.
Driving is the most common way to get to the Clare Valley from Adelaide. There is little public transport in the region so having your own car to get around is a definite advantage. Of course this may not be practical if your visit is going to include a lot of wine tasting.
If you do not want to drive, another good option is to arrange a tour or private transfer from Adelaide. There are many different options, here are a selection:
- Private tour from Adelaide for up to 6 people
- Clare Valley Tour from Adelaide (including pickup from the airport or cruise terminal)
A third option is to get a public bus. The service to Burra is very limited, running only once a week. For more information, including timetables and fares, look at the Mid North service on YP Coaches website here.
The Clare Valley does have it’s own taxi service, conveniently called Clare Valley Taxis, Give them a call on 131008 to arrange transport around the area.
Things to do in Clare Valley
With so much to see and do in the area, you will need at least a weekend to cover a good portion of it. In between tasting wine at the best wineries Clare Valley has to offer, you can see some great natural attractions, visit galleries and museums, eat and drink to your heart’s content, then wear all those calories off with some exercise.
If you only have one day to have a look around, then this Clare Uncorked tour is a great taster. You will do a little wine tasting, but also have the opportunity to visit some of the other attractions in the area too, showcasing many different aspects of the valley. It is run by a Clare Valley local who knows all the secrets and best spots. The tour can be done from your Clare accommodation, or you can be picked up in Adelaide.
Taste the Clare Valley Wine
While in the Clare Valley you need to visit at least one of the fantastic Clare Valley wineries. The Clare Valley wine region is well known for it’s Rieslings, and is the premiere region in Australia for these classic wines. It’s closely followed by some really good full bodied reds such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a wide range of other varieties available in smaller amounts too. There are over forty cellar doors dotted around the valley that provide wine tasting opportunities. Some are big brands, such as Taylors, or small boutique wineries such as Shut the Gate Wines. Some wineries have on site restaurants so make the perfect stop for lunch, like Pindarie for example. Try Pikes for a classic Riesling, and also a fabulous version that gets better with age.
Cycle the Riesling Trail
If you are looking for a slower way to get around, how about hiring a bicycle for a day and cycling the Clare Valley Riesling Trail. The trail runs from Auburn in the south, finishing at Barinia Road north of Clare. The basic route is 35km long, but there are a few additional loops that can also be incorporated to allow visits to many of the wineries along the way. The trail uses what was once an old rail corridor, but it has now been turned into a dedicated bike and hiking trail.
For more information, including maps, see the Riesling Trail website here.
Hike One of the Many Trails
There are dozens of hiking trails around the Clare Valley. The Riesling Trail mentioned above works just as well for hiking as it does for cycling. The Rattler Trail is another popular walk which goes from the town of Riverton and meets up with the beginning of the Riesling Trail in Auburn. While of course you can tackle just a section of these longer walks, there are some shorter walks around too. Try the Lomandra Walking Trail at Blyth or the Cascades Walk in the Spring Gully Conservation Park. For more details of walks in the area take a look at the Walking SA website here.
Check out an Art Gallery
There are all sorts of Art Galleries located throughout the Clare Valley showcasing a diverse range of artwork. Here are some of the ones you may like to visit:
- Arts Collective Clare Valley, Auburn
- Burra Regional Gallery, Burra
- Dingo Dreaming, Blyth
- Jenii Mac, Mintaro
- Clare Valley Art Gallery, Clare
Art lovers may also consider staying at the Irongate Studio B&B which features local artists that change from time to time throughout the year.
Visit for the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend
The Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend occurs in May each year and it is the perfect opportunity to see all the local produce from the area. It is timed to celebrate the end of the grape harvest each year and the release of the new vintages of wine. All of the wineries will get involved, organising special events such as masterclasses or huge degustation menus. There is a large farmers market, a gourmet hub and a local art exhibition. Spend the day learning and tasting, then relax to some great live music with even more delicious food and wine.
In 2020, the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend will run from 15th to 17th May.
Explore Martindale Hall
If you are a lover of movie sets then Martindale Hall at Mintaro should be on your to do list as it was featured in the iconic Australian film, “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. It’s a Georgian style mansion completed in 1880 as the residence of a wealthy local pastoralist. Martindale Hall is now set up as a living museum to show how this style of house would have been in the past. It has 32 rooms and it rumoured to have had a staff of 14. The grounds held all the objects of leisure for the weathly of the time, including a polo ground, cricket pitch and boating lake.
Martindale Hall hours are Wednesday to Monday from 10am to 4pm
Martindale Hall Entrance Fee is $15 per adult
Get Lost in the Mintaro Maze
Another of the Mintaro attractions is the Mintaro maze. This maze is made up of over 800 hedge plants to produce this European-style maze. It included all the usual twists and turns with surprises such as fountains in hidden corners throughout.
Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the maze and surrounds, or grab a meal in the on-site cafe. Pick up some local souvenirs and gifts in the gift shop.
Mintaro Maze hours – 10am to 4pm Saturday, Sunday, public holidays and every day in the school holidays
Mintaro Maze Entrance Fee – Adults $15, Children (4-15) $8
Spend a Day Exploring Historical Burra
Burra is a destination in itself, but it is also a part of the Clare Valley, Burra is historically a copper mining town, and back when it was in full production it was supplying 5% of the total copper in the world. Now it is much smaller and serves as a hub for the local farmers, but it is considered one of the best preserved Victorian towns in Australia.
While in town pick up the Burra Heritage Passport from the Burra and Goyder Visitor Information Centre and it will give you entry to eleven of the town’s attractions, such as the Monster Mine area, Redruth Gaol and the Unicorn Brewery cellars.
Enjoy Farm Life at Bungaree Station
Bungaree Station was settled in 1841, just five years after the first setllers arrived in South Australia. Bungaree soon became the headquarters for a farming operation running over 100 000 merino sheep. The homestead was almost like it’s own small village with over fifty families living there. Today the working station is still owned by the same family and is now heritage listed. It offers visitors accommodation, day tours and a venue for functions.
Self guided day tours are available anytime between 10am and 4pm everyday and cost $15 per adult and $7.50 per child. Larger groups can contact the station in advance for guided tours. People staying at Bungaree Station get the tours as well as animal feeding included for free.
Check out the pink Lake Bumbunga
Pink lakes have been popping up all over social media lately, and just 30 minutes drive from the town of Clare is Lake Bumbunga. This salt lake takes on a definite pink hue for much of the year (it may also be white or blue depending on the salinity of the water). You can walk out into the lake to get that perfect instagram photo as it’s very shallow, but ensure you are wearing decent shoes. While you are there, look out for the Loch Eel Monster, most easily seen from Highway One.
Learn About the Clare Valley at a Museum
Spend some time in one of the many Clare Valley museums to learn about the history and agriculture of the region. Here are a few suggestions
- Polish Hill River Church Museum, Sevenhill
- Bon Accord Mine Complex, Burra
- Morphett’s Enginehouse Museum, Burra
- Old Police Station and Courthouse Museum, Clare
- John Horrocks Cottage, Penwortham
- Burra Railway Station, Burra
Of course you can also find lots of historical information at both Martindale Hall and Bungaree Station as listed above.
Play with a Model Railway
The Clare Valley Model Engineers have used their enthusiasm for all things train related to set up a huge model railway. The track is over 1km long and included bridges and tunnels. The sit-on trains are available for rides a few times a month for kids both big and small. For more information as to the hours, see their website here.
Take a break at the Gleeson Wetlands
Just near the centre of Clare are the Gleeson Wetlands. This is the perfect spot to catch your breath and enjoy a relaxing walk. There are three ponds connected by walkways and there is abundant birdlife in the area, so perfect for the keen birdwatchers. There has been a concerted effort in the last few years to bring the area back to it’s best with only native flora and fauna. There are picnic areas available to use, so this is a good place to stop for a break as you are travelling through town.
Relax with a Beer at a Local Craft Brewery
While the Clare Valley might be all about the wine, it’s not the only drink in town! There are two craft breweries that are brewing up a storm.
Clare Valley Brewing Company, located in Sevenhill, claims their beers have a unique taste from the water that is drawn from aquifers directly below the brewery. CVBC produce a diverse core range and it can be found at locations all over Australia. I suggest to call into their local , the Sevenhill Hotel, and test it out there.
Pikes might be well known for their wine, but the also brew beer on site too. Pikes Beer Company features the familiar fish on it’s label and it’s kept all in the family with Alister Pike running the operation. Their beer garden is open on site everyday from 10am – 4pm, not only for beer tasting, but they provide meals and platters too.
Visit a Lookout for Views of the Valley
Throughout the Clare Valley there are dozens of lookouts to get a great view over the surrounding countryside. Nealges Rock Lookout is one option, with a short, 300m walk through the scrub from the carpark to see the views across the valley. You could also try Brooks Lookout on Blyth Road, Quarry Hill Lookout, or the Blue Gum Lookout in the Spring Gully Conservation Park.
Look out for Local Markets and Special Events
Throughout the year there will be markets and other special events all over the Clare Valley. The best way to keep up with the information is to check out the What’s On page of the Clare Valley website here. If you are already in the Clare Valley, you can call into the Clare Valley Wine, Food, and Tourism Centre on Spring Gully Road in Clare for all your tourism and event information.
Clare Valley Accommodation
There is almost every type of accommodation available in the Clare Valley, from camping to B&Bs, hotels to farmstays. Here are just a few selections to get you started on your search.
- Clare Valley Motel – located in Clare, a good budget option with motel style accommodation. There is a pool and restaurant on site.
- Discovery Parks Clare – Great self-contained cabins sleeping up to four. Has a pool and playground on site, so perfect for families.
- Adagio in Auburn – cozy, romantic B&B in the town of Auburn. Breakfast is included, and rooms also have a kitchenette for convenience
- Bed in a Shed Vineyard Stay – located in Waterfall, this B&B style accommodation has a fantastic rustic feel to it.
- Bukirk Glamping – stay near Clare in one of these unique glamping tents. It’s camping, just with all the luxuries of home.
- Royal Exchange Hotel – budget accommodation in the heart of Burra. Typical pub-style, no frills rooms
- The Pig and Whistle – here you get a whole holiday house, perfect for a family getaway to Burra
Places to Eat in Clare Valley
There is no shortage of delicious places to eat through the whole of the Clare Valley. There are many places that showcase local produce as well as perennial favourites such as great pub meals. Many of the wineries offer amazing menus to complement their wines too. Some of my favourites are:
- Terroir Auburn for locally produced foods
- Rising Sun Hotel, Sevenhill Hotel, Watervale Hotel, Magpie & Stump Hotel for pub meals
- Umbria Rustic in Clare for Italian
- Llittle Red Grape Bakery in Sevenhill or Clare Rise Bakery for lunch on the go
- Indii of Clare for Indian
- Skillogalee for great meals at a winery
- Wild Saffron in Clare for a cafe-style meal
I hope you enjoy your time in the Clare Valley
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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.