Travel Story The Hills are alive with quiet beauty

It doesn’t take long to find peace just outside busy Adelaide.

Stopping and starting in peak-hour Adelaide traffic, horns blare and cars creep forward, ducking in and out of the bus lane in a bid to make the next lights.

It continues like this for some time, over almost too-flat roads bordered by square houses on square blocks that stretch into the distance.

Impatient fingers tap steering wheels here, and radios are tuned and retuned looking for stations not spitting out more chatter.

Then, abruptly, the rumbling engines begin to quiet and it’s as if the veil of suburbia is suddenly lifted. 

The summer has been long and inescapably hot, leaving its yellow and browning marks across the landscape.

But even so, the powerful beauty of the Adelaide hills in South Australia has not been burnt out of any of them.  There is a real feeling of surprise to finding yourself suddenly surrounded on either side by towering mini-mountains after the stretching flatness of Adelaide, with the city stopping right at the base of the hills it could not conquer.

Starting at Gorge Road, the hills quickly sharpen to towers of granite and stone, sheer against the sides of the road hugging the bulging hillside.

Yellow and red marble cross the rock and the colours weave through the mountainside along with your car, which has left the stop and start behind in exchange for smooth slows into curving bends.

The mid-morning sun disappears and reappears as you wind around each bend, shining speckled light through eucalypt trees, the leaves of which still stand green against the stark countryside.

There is almost no need for music here  as the wind whooshes through the open window against face and skin, bringing with it the sound of nearby rivers and streams running strongly below.

As you continue winding around Gorge Road’s twists and bends, Kangaroo Creek Reservoir appears from around a corner on your right, visible in snatched glances from the car or from a beckoning lookout point over the valley.

S Para Road will take you further north and through the quaint towns of Kersbrook and Williamstown, with these charmed locales perfect for a stroll down quiet streets or a welcome coffee before  the next leg of the drive.

Here, you can choose to visit the towns of Seppeltsfield or Tanunda, just 20 to 30 minutes north, to settle yourself in the heart of wine country.

Alternatively, Warren Road to the south will carry you into the picturesque Mt Crawford Forest, which even in the dry summer envelops you in its lush, natural surrounds.

For the active traveller, the hikes on offer through the forests, valleys and hillsides are a great excuse to park and stretch your legs. Turning left off Mount Road will take you into the heart of the forest, with more trails than you can shake a hiking stick at.

Jenkins Scrub Walking Trail is a short 1.5km round walk over relatively flat terrain that will get you back in the car before too much of the day slips away.

While the Barossa Valley to the north has a suite of wineries to choose from, taking a drive off the beaten track south of Adelaide will have you see more of the State, and even the world.

A 40-minute drive south of Mt Crawford will put you in a town seemingly plucked from another time and place. Hahndorf is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement and almost 200 years after 38 German Lutheran immigrants arrived, still embraces its Bavarian roots.

There are incredible places to eat and drink, from the Hahndorf Hill Winery to the Beerenberg Farm, where you can pick your own strawberries.

But one of the town’s greatest claims to fame  lies in the Hahndorf Inn. There, topped with sauerkraut and German mustard, is the biggest hot dog in all of Australia.

Stretching one metre and served with a one-litre stein of Bavaraian Schloss lager, the meal is not for the faint-hearted or weak-stomached.

Sharing the monster meal might be a good idea, given there is still a plethora of wineries and vineyards further south calling your name.

Driving through Echunga will put you on to Battunga Road and down to Brookman Road, with many turn-offs beckoning you towards tastings and treats.

Turning on to the unsealed Tynan Road, a simple sign marking K1 by Geoff Hardy leads you on.

The dirt drive and subtle signs leave you unprepared for the K1 entrance.  An almost blinding stretch of green flashes into view, with gorgeous, lush trees and plants bordering the opulent gateway into the expansive estate.

Finding your way to the restaurant can be difficult as you wind past the vineyards and lake and are taken in by the scenery.

Enjoying a wine at the cellar door overlooking the lake is the perfect way to wind down and with a cheeseboard by your elbow — let’s be frank, you’re not fitting much else in after Hahndorf — you can sit back to sip and nibble away the afternoon, or venture on into McLaren Vale to extend your escapades before the day finally closes.

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