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25 Great Ideas to Explore The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast - McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Coast Blog

McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Coast Blog

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25 Great Ideas to Explore The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

There’s plenty to do across McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Here are some quick bites of inspiration on how to make the most of your time here. 

1) Take the scenic route 

One of the best ways to relax and unwind is to take the scenic route (planned, of course), as you explore the Mclaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. You’re in for a treat meandering the gentle winding roads, enjoying the rolling country-side vistas, all adding to the air of romance. 

There’s Clarendon with its quaint buildings and lovely antiques, the historic town of Kangarilla (make sure you drop into Yangarra Estate Vineyards while you’re there), Coromandel Valley (the Sturt Linear Trail is a great place to stretch the legs with coffee in hand from the local bakery - don’t forget a bakery treat too), and Old Reynella - a town full of historic cottages (find them on Corn Street). Your scenic route isn’t complete without a visit to Geoff Merrill Wines, nestled amid four acres of vineyards, landscaped gardens and a dam which a large family of geese and ducks also call home. For that nip of something special, you can’t miss Horndale Distillery (it could be a regular ‘port’ of call – the liquid variety of course).

2) Watch the sun rise or set

There’s nothing like finding the best vistas in the region. Head for the Willunga Hill Lookout to watch daybreak with an ‘experience it to believe it’ view over the McLaren Vale wine region and Gulf St Vincent. Seeking something a little more ‘beachy’? The Onkaparinga River Mouth and Port Willunga beach are a couple of great places to enjoy the spectacular sunsets over the water, with the sand between your toes (anywhere along the coast is great).

port noarlunga sunrise southport beach onkaparinga river mouth mclaren vale fleuireu coast

3) On Your Bike - Coast to Vines Trail Adventure

The Coast to Vines Rail Trail is a beautiful 32-kilometre trail best enjoyed by bike. It winds its way from Marino, through McLaren Vale to Willunga (aka the famous Shiraz Trail). There are plenty of cellar doors, parks, reserves and beaches along the way. If walking is more your pace, pick a section and enjoy the great views and fresh air. The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast Visitor Centre is a great place to start if you need to hire a bike, push bikes and e-bikes are both available!

4) Take a tour
Let someone do the thinking (and driving) for you on a wine and/or food tour.

Chook’s Little Winery Tours
Tour the McLaren Vale wine region like a local. Choose from the private tour with Mr and Mrs Chook or if time is short, a pocket tour may just be the thing (yes, a pocket tour). Tours can include return transfers from Adelaide CBD, Glenelg, or Victor Harbor. If your in the region, that’s fine too, door to door is Chook’s specialty. 

Adelaide’s Top food and Wine Tours

McLaren Vale Cheese and Wine Trail private tour? Or maybe a McLaren Vale Winery Experience for small groups. You're in good hands with Danny and Innez Blackman’s family owned and operated business. 

Integrity Tours and Charter  

Half-day and full day tours including the afternoon McLaren Vale South Coast Experience (a wine tasting at three wineries, almond tasting, confectionery tasting and coastal stops including Port Noarlunga) or the full day Wine and Wildlife Fleurieu Discovery Tour.  

A RITE Minibus Hire 

A local, family owned business offering minibus hire, winery tours, sightseeing and charter trips. Tours are tailor made for you (or you can choose your own adventure).

5) Bottle feed kangaroos

McLaren Vale’s Woodstock winery and tasting room doesn’t just serve wine. It also boasts a wildlife sanctuary where children can feed gorgeous grey kangaroos and wallabies. The supervised feeding time is 11.30am daily. Too cute. For more ideas on what to do with your family, head to page 64.

Woodstock Wines Kangaroo Feeding McLaren Vale Fleurieu Coast

6) Behind the scenes winery experiences

Shottesbrooke’s ‘Explore, Wine & Dine’ experience takes guests through the Estate property’s vineyards and winery. It also includes a personalised tasting and lunch at award-winning restaurant, The Currant Shed. Wirra Wirra, d’Arenberg and Maxwell Wines also offer hands-on, behind-the-scenes experiences. 

7) Have An Art Attack

You could literally spend a few days perusing the galleries, exhibitions, street sculptures and art across the region. So why not? The Port Noarlunga Arts Centre is a great place to start. Friendly staff will direct you to the latest exhibitions and provide information on where and how to get the most out of your visit. Head to our art trail for where to explore!

Red Poles art gallery mclaren vale fleurieu coast

8) Feel the sand between your toes 

Hit the beach for a swim or long leisurely beach stroll. There are a multitude of pretty spots to choose from. The coastline includes places to paddleboard, canoe, swim safely, surf, kayak, and walk your dog (on-leash or off-leash). For a full list of beaches and their highlights, head here.

9) To market, to market - Willunga Farmers Market 

If you haven’t shopped for fresh produce at Willunga Farmers Market, you simply haven’t lived. It is a must on the itinerary. Held every Saturday (8am – 12.30pm) on Willunga’s main street, it boasts more than 80 stalls full of seasonal and regional Fleurieu goodies.

10) Enjoy a regional platter

Local produce on a plate… what more could you need? Add a nice glass of wine and you’ll be living your best life. Here’s a few to get you started (image credit - Wirra Wirra)

Agostino Wines, McLaren Vale – mixed platters, vegetarian platters, vegan platters, something for everyone.
Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale - Harry’s Platter showcases the best produce made by friends of Harry’s Deli.
Paxton Wines, McLaren Vale - build your own regional platter while you taste the stunning range of organic and biodynamic wines.
J&J Wines, McLaren Vale – local produce, cheese and meat platters and small plates are available at cellar door.
Oxenberry, McLaren Vale – walking or cycling the Shiraz Trail? Stop off and re-fuel with an antipasto platter, cured meats platter, or cheese platter.
Hugo Wines, McLaren Vale – ploughman’s platters and cheese platters available daily from 12pm – 2pm (bookings advised).
Dowie Doole Tasting Pod - immersed in the middle of the vineyard, build your own regional platter, with a cheeky wine flight on the side, bliss.

Wirra Wirra Regional Platter in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

11) Heavenly high tea

Tealicious Cakes (Willunga) is one of the cutest shops, with the high tea experience a must. Think ribbon sandwiches, quiches, assorted handcrafted petite desserts, pink lemonade, and bottomless breakfast tea or your choice of a mug of coffee. The delectable cupcakes are also available to take home. 

12) Savour local spirits and beer

Spirits and beer are so hot right now, especially across the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Check out the beer and spirits trail and sample some of the exciting IPAs, lagers, and gins across the region.

13) Your coffee saviour

There is some great coffee to be enjoyed, even by the most discernible coffee connoisseur. Drink-in or takeaway, here’s a few top spots: (image credit State of Mind)

Noarlunga Downs - State of Mind Coffee

Old Noarlunga - Long Shot

Willunga - The Green Roomde Rose Kitchen, The Golden Fleece Café

McLaren Vale - The Tin Shed and Stump Hill Café at the Visitor Centre, McLaren Vale

Port Noarunga - The Flour Store, Hortas Restaurant

14) Rest your head

Get a good night's sleep in one of the many accommodation options across McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Think relaxed indulgence, vineyard romance, family friendly, caravanners and campers, travelling with mates, sweeping coastal views, rural charm and nature lovers. We have it all!

Hotel california road luxury vineyard accommodation suite mclaren vale fleurieu coast

15) Dine with a beach view

Location, location, location. Star of Greece (Port Willunga) offers stunning beach views. Booking is essential (clifftop seats are in high demand). Or, for a more casual affair, purchase fresh seafood, squid, chips, or burgers from The Port Willy Kiosk (part of Star of Greece) and eat it on the deck or take it down to the sand and devour it on the beach.

Hortas (Port Noarlunga) also drops the jaw to the floor with its seaside views and seafood dishes. New restaurant Pearl (Aldinga Beach) serves up lunch just metres from the sandy shore. 

16) Take to the skies

Adelaide Bi-Planes

As hidden gems go, this is as good as it gets. Adelaide Biplanes offers scenic flights over the region that take off from their base in Aldinga. A seat for one in their aerobatic planes, or share the joy aboard their dual seat open cockpit WACO plane. It’s an utter delight. 

Skydive the Southern Vines

There is a new and exciting way to drop into Leconfield Wines - literally. Skydive with spectacular uninterrupted views (unless you close your eyes) across McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, where on a clear day you can see from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, landing in the picturesque vineyard grounds. Make time to hang around and enjoy a lovely platter and glass of wine.

17) Pick your own

Produce tastes better when you harvest it with your own hands (fact). These charming places provide the chance to do exactly that. 

Apples and Pears

McCarthy’s Orchard stall is piled high with apples, pears, nashi, cherries, and table grapes. Pick your own fruit (depending on the season) at this soul-packed family farm. There’s a cellar door for cider and wine tasting too.

Mushrooms

Pick mushrooms fresh from Maxwell Wines’ 100-year-old Lime Cave. It’s quite the experience and is available seven days a week (subject to availability).

18) When in need of a hearty brunch

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is brimming with cafes offering some of the most delicious bunches going around. Mouth-watering? Here’s one of our favourites:

Cantina 61 - Moana

This delightful suburban cafe provides a warm, genuine welcome and some of the best brunch options in the region. The ‘Salmon Sensation’ is a winner. Think two potato rostis on a bed of spinach, topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese, a balsamic glaze and capers. Delish. The coffee is great, service comes with a smile and Cantina 61 is child friendly too.

19) A touch of the Mediterranean

When you taste the olives in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, there’s no turning back. So which will it be, Coriole or Lloyd Brothers? Why not both, you won’t be disappointed. Best enjoyed at the cellar door, where you are perched on the side of the hill at Coriole, taking in the amazing vista, whilst Lloyd Brothers arrival is through the olive grove with the cellar door overlooking the lush green lawns and lake. Both are pretty as a picture.   

20) A sip of history

Quaint, historic, character-packed buildings are dotted all over McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Add these gems to your itinerary. Their walls literally whisper with tales. 

Battle of Bosworth, McLaren Vale

This cellar door is housed in an old (1850's) converted chaff shed and stables. It’s quite beautiful. Admire vineyard and Gulf St Vincent views while you sip. 

Chapel Hill, McLaren Vale

Wine tasting in an iconic 150-year-old chapel and tasting room full of heritage and art… stunning. 

Hardys Tintara, McLaren Vale

In 1878 Thomas Hardy transformed an old flour mill on the main street of McLaren Vale into The Hardys Tintara winery. It is a lovely place to visit, taste wine, relax on the expansive green lawns or visit the art-packed Fleurieu Arthouse, located on the historic grounds. 

Paxton Wines, McLaren Vale
Taste the Paxton Wines range in the beautifully renovated 1850s shearing shed. Fruit for all of Paxton’s wines are from their estate grown organic and biodynamic vineyards. It’s quite the location to try them.

Samson Tall, McLaren Vale
Small but packed with history. Paul Wilson and Heather Budich breathed life into a small pug church (circa 1854) to create their cellar door and winery. A spiritual experience of a different kind.

Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale

The ironstone cellars of Wirra Wirra house has a rich and colourful history, but utter dedication to creating great wines. The winery was built in 1894 by an eccentric former state cricketer, who absconded to McLaren Vale after embarrassing his family one too many times and was re-built in the late 1960's by a visionary, Greg Trott.  The Trott’s Tales Wine Experience is one for the bucket list if you want to find out more. 

21) Linger over a long lunch 

A good lunch is a long one. Here’s a few to tempt your tastebuds.

Victor’s Place, Old Noarlunga

New executive chef Chris Bone champions seasonal ingredients, natural cooking techniques and innovative craftsmanship (the Australian Good Food Guide awarded him a coveted ‘Chef Hat’ for his efforts). A lazy three course lunch (with paired wines) with stunning Onkaparinga Gorge views is a wonderful way to relax and unwind. 

The Currant Shed, McLaren Vale

The six-course chef’s selection at this beautiful lunch spot is one of the jewels of the region. Let chef Wayne Leeson and the team feed you. Add the wine pairing and you’ll be talking about the happy memories for years. 

Maxwell Restaurant, McLaren Vale

Head Chef, Fabian Lehmann forged in Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe. Now, he dishes up exquisite degustation-style meals at Maxwell Wines Restaurant. It’s challenging, delicious, fun and a feast of world class quality. Add it to your bucket list.

Mitolo Wines Little Wolf Osteria, McLaren Vale

Chef Vincenzo La Montagna’s Da Noi ‘let us feed you’ option serves up a selection of dishes from across the menu. Meanwhile the La Panarda (traditional Abruzzo feast to table) involves a selection of Vincenzo's favourite dishes and lots of fun times.  Set aside some time, this is a long, long lunch. 

Shingleback Wines, McLaren Vale
Let chef Horst lead you through his WineFood Chef Experience Tasting where wine informs (and is an ingredient in) the dishes in a four-course menu. The locally sourced produce is prepared in front of you so there’s an element of fun to the experience.

Gather at Coriole, McLaren Vale

This winery has a restaurant set in a gorgeous courtyard with rolling, vineyard and garden views. Chef Tom Tilbury is a master in the kitchen and serves up fresh, Instagram-worthy dishes. Choose between five or seven-courses with optional wine pairings. 

Beach Road Wines, McLaren Vale

Don’t have oodles of time? Head to the stunning Beach Road Wines for a two-course set lunch menu with a starter and pizza (dessert can be ordered separately). The pizzas here are a delight. The perfect, casual accompaniment for winemaker Briony Hoare’s creations. 

Winery in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast 

 22) Learn a new skill

Did you know you can learn a multitude of new skills while you’re in the region? These masterclasses and workshops are short, sweet and lots of fun.  

Blend your own wine

We can’t all be as creative as d’Arenberg main man and winemaker Chester Osborn. But we can try. Make like a winemaker for a couple of hours and blend your own wine. The hands-on experience ends with you taking home a bottle of your favourite blend. You can also blend your own gin at Settlers Spirits.

Learn about varieties

Kangarilla Road Vineyard & Winery winemaker Kevin O'Brien hosts masterclasses on varieties such as shiraz. Delve deeper into what makes the region so unique and why it’s Kangarilla Road’s most distinguished variety.

Surf Culture Australia

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is one of the best spots to learn to surf, with gentle beginner breaks and sandy bottom beaches. Surf Culture Australia runs a range of programs for all ages and abilities. 

Make cheese

The SloWhey School of Cheese workshops (McLaren Vale) happen in a rustic shed full of character and genuine rural charm. Classes range from farmhouse cheese and halloumi to ricotta and include morning tea. A delightful way to spend a few hours (and you’ll use your new cheesemaking skills forevermore).

23) Enjoy a pub meal

Sometimes, after a long day of sightseeing, you just need a classic pub meal, with some great options on offer across the region. Here’s a few that have caught our eye:  McLaren Vale Hotel, The Old Bush Inn, Willunga Hotel, Alma Hotel, Mick O’Shea’s Hotel and the Victory Hotel. Great food and local wine lists await.

24) Get back to nature

Onkaparinga River National Park is a must for exploration and there are many ways to do it. The large stretch of native bushland is home to the stunning Onkaparinga Gorge, nature trails, and lots of beautiful scenery, flora and fauna. The view from Punchbowl Lookout is spectacular, but don’t take our word for it, see it for yourself. 

bush walking trails onkaparinga national park mclaren vale fleurieu coast

25) Hit a hole in one

The Willunga Golf Course is a picturesque 18-hole (par 70) available to be played every day except Saturday mornings (that’s competition time). Greg Norman (or Jason Day) wannabes of all ages and abilities are welcome, complete with practice areas and a fully-stocked pro shop. Clinics are available and golf carts and clubs are available to hire too. 

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