The Adelaide Hills
So close to the city centre but yet worlds apart in atmosphere, the peaceful Adelaide Hills serve as a handy getaway to both citysiders andvisitors alike. Forming part of the Mount Lofty Ranges, the undulating landscape which provides Adelaide's impressive backdrop is overflowing with scenic winding roads, wineries, and walking trails ranging fromgentle strolls to strenuous hikes. The picturesque mountain villages dotted throughout the valleys and hillsides are equally appealing, not just for their gorgeous old buildings and other numerous attractions, but for their strong historical backgrounds which are always proudly ondisplay. (for information on the southern Adelaide Hills towns of Mt. Barker and Strathalbyn see Southern Vales)
Less than ten kilometres beyond the outskirts of Adelaide's urban sprawl, the pretty garden hamlets of Stirling, Aldgate, Piccadilly, and Crafters are the first of the mountain villages, lyingon the foothills of Mount Lofty itself. Much of Mount Lofty's lushly forested slopes are contained within the popular bushwalking area of the Cleland Conservation Park, and one of numerous walks includes a steep trail to the renowned lookouts and restaurant/cafe waiting at the summit (you can drive). The park's other main drawcard is a 35 hectare wildlife sanctuary, featuring Australian fauna favourites such as kangaroos and koalas. If more leisurely strolls beckon, the magnificentnature trails in the adjacent Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens may be just the ticket. All the townships mentioned above can be found just off of the city's South Eastern Freeway, and each offers a couple of pleasant places to stay and eat.
Further into the hills and also not far from the freeway, Hahndorfis the oldest existing German settlement in Australia, and one of thehighlights of the Adelaide Hills. The township's 19th century buildingshave been fully restored to their original German charm, earning not only a state heritage classification, but creating an ambience richlyBavarian. Most of Hahndorf's multitude of craft shops, galleries, and museums are conveniently located along Main Street, dotted amongst thetown's famous restaurants, cafes, and superb old pubs. Hahndorf's accommodation is equally alluring, offering many comfortable places to escape from the grind.
Another 10 kilometres east of Hahndorf, Nairne is of similar old-time appeal, yet generally less busy than it's favoured western neighbour. It's fascinating enclave of old buildings can be explored via Nairne's self-guided historical walk, which takes in all 28 sites including the fabulous District Hotel and a couple of good antique stores. Information on the trail and the town can be obtained from the tourist office, located on Junction Street in the old Albert Mill. North of Nairne, the township of Woodside is best known for the tempting Melba Chocolate Factory. The complex not only churns out an amazing variety of homemade chocolate and other sugary treats, but showcases the quality arts and crafts made by the local talent. Woodside is also home to an excellent horse and trail riding centre,offering an assortment of rides ranging from a hour to several days.
Travelling north of Woodside, Lobethal is another Adelaide Hillsvillage with a distinct German flavour, accentuated by the lovely old buildings and cottages still lining the streets. Besides the interesting walking tour which files by most of them, the town's main attraction is it's comprehensive Motor Cycle and Heritage Museum, a fewdoors down from the tourist office. On the outskirts of town, the council run Bushland Park contains some great scenery and strolls, and children will love the fun and friendly Fairytale Village. Not far fromLobethal, the historic township of Birdwood (originally called Blumberg) is also worth a visit, not just for it's quiet old-world charm, but for the century of Australian motoring history on display in the outstanding National Motor Museum.
Lying less than fifty kilometres inland from Birdwood, Mannum gives visitors to the Adelaide Hills an easy opportunity to experience one of South Australia's famous river towns. On the banks of the mighty Murray, Mannum became one of the major paddlesteamer ports, and reminders of it's thriving past abound throughout the town. River cruises are obviously the most popular activity, and for thoseon a tight time schedule there are several companies offering short trips. For an extended and more luxurious tour, the majestic paddle-wheeler the Murray River Princess operates out of Mannum,and runs two, three, and five night cruises. For self-guided explorations, Mannum is also one of the best spots along the river to hire a houseboat or canoe. (for cruises and houseboats see Tour & Tripsunder Things To Do)