South Australia – Adelaide Hills – Hans Heysen, Hahndorf and the Hills

By Sam Russell
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Bridgewater, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Bridgewater, Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Echunga, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Hahndorf, South Australia


Tourism’s spotlight beams brightly on the 25 five-Halliday-star cellars of the Adelaide Hills wine region. Several (The Lane, Bird in Hand and Shaw and Smith) feature highly on any itinerary, but there’s more to the Hills than wine.

You are a wine tragic in Adelaide with time to spare? Your companion is bored with your relentless cellar door rounds? Try these suggestions for an engaging non-wine tour through some of Australia’s most accessible – and beautiful – landscape.

The M1 freeway is a spectacular piece of highway engineering. A quick trip will take you from the old toll gate at suburban Urrbrae to rural Hahndorf. Typical of Hills townships, it nestles cosily among stately trees and gardens obscuring the inevitable spread of suburbia.

To its south lie the pretty towns of Echunga and Macclesfield (both with good pub food) and Strathalbyn where several antique stores keep the faith for those of a Collectors disposition.

To its north are many of those five-star wineries. Vineyards at Basket Range, cherry orchards at Forest Range, apples at Ashton, museums at Birdwood (cars) and Lobethal (costumes and fashion) … altogether there’s plenty to attract thousands of wandering tourists each fine weekend.

But you will leave the freeway at Hahndorf – and pause for a while.

This is the country of Hans Heysen, German-born and a great Australian artist. He lived at The Cedars until his death in 1968. It stands on the fringe of Hahndorf among native gums and towering conifers. The house and studio are maintained as a gallery-museum with an extensive showing of his works. Open six days a week, it is also a showcase for his daughter Nora Heysen, herself a notable painter with an Archibald Prize to her name.

En route from The Cedars to Hahndorf township is the seven-days-a-week roadside Glen Vimy Orchards

The township of Hahndorf has much to see and do. Visitors throng the main street in holiday time. Some doubtless think it kitschy (much of it is) but there are interesting shops and good eateries.

Harris Smokehouse is a bright exemplary food outlet. This family has been in the smoked seafood business for four generations with origins in coastal England. Here is a wide range of smoked fish prepared on site (and in full view) as well as fish stocks and chowders from Tasmania’s Mures. Harris has a first-rate website with a tantalising hook and catchy graphics – both puns intended. It offers online ordering and typifies imaginative Aussie food retailing.

Across the street and seemingly unfussed by modernity is the family butchery of Max Noske and Son. Aha, say your senses: this is a real butcher’s shop. The metwurst is marvellous. The kassler is renowned. The pork ribs are juicy and generously sized. You might be tempted to eat meat thrice daily if you lived in Hahndorf – but then, when would you have time for the Harris’ seafoods?

Udder Delights Cheese Cellar is just one of many coffee places here - but it’s special for other reasons. Apart from wonderful coffee it offers delectable shop-made pastries and cakes, a fine range of their local cheeses (and imported ones too) and mouth-watering foods. They also run cheese-making classes and sell the things you need to make your own – such as rennets, cultures and books. This is a real ambassadorship for cheese and always worth a visit.

On the edge of town is Beerenberg, a name well-known to airline passengers and everyone whose breakfast conserve has arrived at the table in a little glass pot. It is another fine family-owned business (five generations, this time) with a range of locally-made sauces, honey, chutneys, dressings and jellies. What better Aussie barbecue could there be than meat from Noske’s butchery with Beerenberg Coopers Ale sauce?

Leaving Hahndorf, it’s time to meander back westward along the older main roads of the Adelaide Hills.

At Bridgewater is the old mill – now home to the Petaluma cellar door and restaurant. A little further is the Aldgate Providore and Café – a fine food store with local and imported goodies, interesting eat-in food and a welcoming ambience that makes it a worthwhile sanctuary.

In Stirling is a wonderful secondhand bookshop. Chapter Two Books is owned by second generation booksellers (the first generation has two prominent bookstores in Adelaide). Among much else is a fine stock of local and South Australian history. As with all really good bookshops, you will have trouble tearing yourself away – but it has a first-rate website to fall back on.

Across the street is the award-winning Locavore. Disciples of the 100-mile diet school of gastronomy (‘If not local, family farmed; if not family farmed, organic; if not organic then fair-trade.’) the owners do their best to foster local food, wine and talent. It’s a pleasant, cool place during the day – and often a busy wine bar with live entertainment (try Jazz and Shiraz) at night.

And now – it is time to rejoin the freeway. In 10 minutes you will be back in the metropolitan reality of the Adelaide ‘burbs, looking up at the skyline behind you – and planning another trip to the glorious Adelaide Hills.



  • Adelaide Hills (SA)

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November 29th, 2010
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