Top 10 reasons to explore South Australia

South Australia is renown for its wine growing regions and while the tastings and cellar door visits are considered the main game for visitors, the Hills are alive with so many other attractions. It’s not hard to fill a day or two in the Adelaide Hills without visiting a vineyard.

An easy 30 km drive from Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills unfold in a series of quaint villages, all with a deep history that springs from the mid 1800s. The centre for our sojourn was Hahndorf but each of the other small towns in the area offers similar delights.

1. Art history
This region is famous in many parts of the world. Not for its wine, but for its art, notably the Heidelberg School recognised as one of Australia’s most important periods of art. The pre-eminent artist of that time was Sir Hans Heysen, who arrived in Australia as a young man from Germany. His family home The Cedars and his studio on his large property are now managed by his grandchildren and open to the public. His home and studio are a perfect time capsule, kept just as it was when Hans, his wife and children lived there. Feeling very inspired? You can even walk the 1,5000 Heysen trail - named after the famous artist - and discover the next work you want to create.

2. Sculpture trail
Acknowledging the important role art has played in this community, the local councils have come together to support a sculpture trail. In recent years a number of sculptors from around the world have been invited to spend a week in the Adelaide Hills, to each create (over just seven days) an original sculpture carved from a huge chunk of local rock. The many works now completed are dotted through the region’s villages and provide a unique theme of exploration. One stands outside the old Onkaparinga blanket factory and is well themed for its location. The next works of art will be created and shown during April 2016.

3. Delightful villages
We stayed at the centrally located and comfortable Hahndorf Motor Inn but equally charming accommodation is to be found from Crafers to Lobethal. Weekends in all of these little hamlets are a particularly vibrant time of fairs and weekend markets. But it is the towns themselves that offer the traveller all sorts of treats. Although less than a kilometer long, we spent a full day exploring just the main street of Hahndorf and came away with gourmet treats enough to stock our pantry for weeks.

4. Local produce
Udder Delights makes magnificent locally-produced cheeses, both hard and soft - including Australia’s most expensive cheese. We came away with a yoghurt-making kit plus brie and camembert - enough for friends and family back home.

The Harris Smokehouse will send a freshly smoked and truly delicious salmon direct to most places in Australia.

At the far eastern end of town is the Beerenberg Jams outlet. Arrive before 3pm in the picking season and for a small fee you can pick buckets of strawberries and the store itself houses scores of jams, relishes, chutneys and spreads.

5. Milk bar
memories Just across the road from Udder Delights is one of the old fashioned milk bar restaurants you just can’t miss. The White House serves delicious creamy milk shakes and delicious scones. Out the back are hundreds of jars of lollies (certain to appeal to the kid in all of us).

6. Local arts and craft
A fine selection of locally crafted art is to be found in the old Hahndorf Academy. With soaring ceilings and creaking timber floors it’s filled with intriguing sculptures, one-of-kind jewellery and a wide range of contemporary pottery, photography and paintings

7. A decorator’s dream
There are a series of shops along Mt Barker Road in Hahndorf that could easily be mistaken for the props rooms of a movie studio. Truly quirky items old and new from birdcages, walking sticks, old toys and even skeletons. At one we bought some stylish twine and a hand-blown olive oil dispenser. This is not your usual collection of doylies and bric-a-brac though that’s available aplenty, too.

8. Beer
Midpoint in town is the Hahndorf Inn, a German-style beerhouse, offering a traditional Bavarian menu featuring sauerkraut, foot-long German sausages, schnitzel and a wide variety of beer on tap. Are you more of a wine connoisseur? Then the winemaker trail in South Australia will also be a delightful trip.

9. Main Street
Mt Barker Rd The strip contains a great collection of dress shops, shoes shops, a gem shop and a leather shop, which still has its original dirt floor. Don’t miss the Sweet Shop for some truly original flavour combos.

10. Nature
The great outdoors is close at hand in the Adelaide Hills, walking trails abound, shooting stars by night and we bumped into some very cute koalas twice!

Although our trip would have been complete without a trip to a vineyard, we did manage a quick tasting at McLaren Vale. However, it was the five kilo box of farm gate cherries purchased nearby that were the biggest hit when we got home.

What are your favourite memories of exploring the Australian country-side? Join the conversation below …