Situated 39 kilometres or a 45-minute drive south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is one of the most accessible wine regions in the country.
McLaren Vale is less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide. It is a charming township surrounded by more than 70 vineyards and wineries.
The vast majority have their own
cellar door, where tastings and sales are available.
McLaren Vale also produces fruit and is an extensive almond growing region. It’s little wonder that McLaren vale has an abundance of cafés and restaurants, whose chefs delight in cooking with local produce.
McLaren Vale is known for exceptional wines, regional produce and beautiful scenery. It’s nestled between the Mount Lofty Ranges and the beaches of Gulf St Vincent.
McLaren Vale is both a town (population 5070) and a wine region, located on the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The locals call it a boutique village and while the town is small, it is jam-packed with restaurants, cafes, boutiques and galleries.
Its long main street, which runs for eight kilometres to the village of Willunga, is dotted with 19th-century ironstone buildings, while many rustic wineries are heritage listed.
As one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, the rolling hills of McLaren Vale are covered in vineyards, many of which have sweeping views over St Vincent’s Gulf and the magnificent Mount Lofty Ranges.
Named after David McLaren, the colonial manager of the South Australian Company, the region’s first vines were planted in 1838 by John Reynell.
Farming and viticulture have dominated McLaren Vale since the 1840s and today’s growers produce almonds, olives, quinces, pears and a bounty of fruit and vegetables.
McLaren Vale Tourist Drive 60 (Written by Steve Hudson original article found here
The best drive you’ll have this year
The McLaren Vale region is known by many as one of the premier wine growing districts in Australia and with good reason – the temperate climate rivalling the Mediterranean, some of the best brands, smooth reds are the norm and of course the locals who tackle the art of wine making with a passion. Encompassing a large area just south of Adelaide suburbia, it is easy to miss many of the hidden highlights, unless of course you are taking a drive (or ride) on McLaren Vale Tourist Drive 60.
Tourist Drive 60 is around 30km long and starts at the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre just a few hundred metres from the Victor Harbor Road turn off, and alongside the Coast to Vines bike trail. Information on the Drive is available from the team in the Centre, or alternatively just follow the well maintained and distinctive brown “Tourist Drive 60” signs.
Heading east the drive takes you along the Main Street of the township of McLaren Vale, a town that was once two villages known as Gloucester and Bellevue. The planting of vines in the 1850’s led to a mini-population explosion, one that saw the two villages merged into one and became known as McLaren Vale, named after the Surveyor who first surveyed the region in 1838. Some of those first vines were planted by Thomas Hardy whose original winery sits in the centre of town, and a memorial sits in the park opposite.
Driving along the Main Street of McLaren Vale, the tourist appeal to the town is apparent. Cafes, chocolate shops and bakeries line the Main Street, with larger supermarkets and service providers lying just back from the Main Street. Old and new buildings share the Main Street, one that has been the start of the Queen stage of the Tour Down Under for many years. The drive passes through the town and turns at the Salopian Inn on to McMurtrie Road, the home of many of the great brands and cellar doors of the McLaren Vale region.
Notwithstanding how easy it would be to stop at Hugh Hamilton, Wirra Wirra or Red Poles, and spend the afternoon there, the drive must go on, and it continues east across some small creeks before joining Oakley Road and heading north towards McLaren Flat. On the way, the drive passes a number of smaller wineries, highlighting the depth and breadth of winemaking within the region. Upon reaching the Main Road intersection, the drive turns left and takes us into the centre of McLaren Flat.
McLaren Flat is a small village so named because it was built on the only flat lands in the region, but that didn’t stop the winemakers from settling here as Scarpantoni, Rosemount and James Haselgrove would attest to. Today McLaren Flat is part of the larger McLaren Vale township in respect to sporting clubs, services and most major facilities, but the memorials and plaques along the Main Road give respect to a time when the village was its own identity.
Leaving McLaren Flat the drive heads north along Blewitt Springs Road past more and more vineyards, many of which are interlaced with natural bushlands including the Douglas Scrub campsite, one of the campings retreats for members of the Girl Guides Association of SA. The drive continues south and winds its way uphill towards Chapel Hill Road where stunning vistas of the McLaren Vale region behind you necessitate a stop just to take in the view and grab a mandatory photo.
It is now time to head west along Chapel Hill Road where the views continue unabated passing the Blewitt Springs Retreat on the southern side and the Onkaparinga River National Park on the north, again highlighting the beauty and co-existence of Australian natives and vineyards. A bit further along the road and the iconic buildings of the Chapel Hill Winery come into view, again teasing with another spend-an-afternoon offering that combines views, vineyards and the ‘vale’.
Leaving Chapel Hill the drive heads south and down the hill towards the township of McLaren Vale where the views continue unabated along with the signs indicating further great brands of the region. Nearing the end of the drive, the d’Arenberg Winery sign appears, and a short detour into the winery is in order as there lies what is likely to become one of South Australia’s most famous icons in years to come.
Leaving the D’Arenberg Cube behind, the drive continues south into McLaren Vale, passing over the former Willunga Rail Line which is now known as the Shiraz Bike Trail, before coming to an end at the Main Street. The drive is on bitumen roads the whole way which makes it ideal for cars, and with only one hill to climb up towards Chapel Hill, it also makes it suitable for cyclists looking for that alternate and scenic view of McLaren Vale. For further information on the drive, refer to the team at the Information Centre who will indicate more of the highlights to see while on the drive or check out the McLaren Vale website.