Share

Whether its kids playing in the creek or warming your toes by the fire, winter means different things to us all. For Max Anderson, winter in the Adelaide Hills is...

 

Sitting beside a roaring hearth in a Hills pub 

Pubs in the Adelaide Hills know how to do winter, and for good reason – some of them have been doing it for over 150 years. Historic stone hotels in the Hills tend to be smaller, more intimate and arguably a touch more British than their city counterparts. They’re especially good at welcoming people in from the wintry Hills weather with promises of good food, good cheer and that signature icon of winter refuge, the blazing log fire. 

If you’re eager for the tang of wood smoke and the sound of snap and crackle, you’ve got plenty of choice. The Scenic Hotel in Norton Summit has a huge log fire burning in the front bar (not to mention extraordinary views out the back). The Bridgewater Inn keeps no fewer than three hearths on the go and remains a firm family favourite. The Crafers Hotel is an old-but-new-again hotel that piles on the fireside comforts and has one of the best local wine selections around. The always-glowing Stanley Bridge Tavern in Verdun has one of the snuggest front bars in the Hills. And The Hahndorf Inn ups the ante by serving hearty fodder evolved by those hardy winter warriors, the original German settlers.

Don’t think you have to stick with pubs for the hot-hearth-and-beer-combo. Prancing Pony keeps the home fires burning in its exotic tasting shed in Totness between Hahndorf and Mount Barker, as well as offering tasting paddles of its craft beers. The boys at the award-winning Lobethal Bierhaus also like toast winter with an open fire in their brewery and hot buffalo wings in the restaurant…

 

Hahndorf Inn

 Hahndorf Inn, Hahndorf

Indulging in a gourmet hot chocolate

The Adelaide Hills has quietly-quietly become something of a hub of gourmet chocolate producers – and by default a place to score first-class hot chocolate, one of the sweetest treats when the weather’s cold. 

Chocolate @ No. 5 is resident in a stone cottage on Hahndorf’s Main Street and definitely a go-to place for hot choc connoisseurs. The Chocolate Lounge is where you can peruse a menu of no less than 14 types made with Belgian couvertures (chocolate with at least 54% cocoa) as well as silky hot drops made from single origin chocolates from around the world.

Red Cacao in Stirling has been making waves (and indeed waves of hot chocolate) since it opened in 2013. The hot chocolate menu is similarly diverse, and made from both Belgian hot chocolate and single origin chocs. One variety however is particularly well-suited for winter and that’s the Aztec spiced hot chocolate. It comes extra-thick, extra-rich and packs a little extra heat courtesy some chili…

Cocolat is a gourmet producer that has retail outlets as far as Sydney. They too are based in the Adelaide Hills, producing out of Balhannah where they also run a dessert café. The menu features four varieties of hot chocolate, including one made from Cocolat’s white and dark chocolate. 

We can’t leave without mention of ChocoVino, a tasting experience that combines the twin winter pleasures of both chocolate and red wine. Part fun, part education, it takes place in the divine surrounds of Hahndorf Hills Winery and basically matches four hand-selected boutique chocolates with four HHW wines. What’s not to love? 

 ChocolateNo.5

 Chocolate @ No. 5, Hahndorf

Experiencing the true wonder of a Bull Creek pie at Stirling Market

Bull Creek pies defy physics, packing in more filling than one would think possible in a finite pie-case. We don’t know how they do it, nor do we care; we only know that they’re hand-forged in a traditional wood-oven bakery in the Hills hamlet of Bull Creek, where homegrown farm ingredients are used to create flavours like fallow venison, roast chicken and mild curried beef.

Alas, the bakery isn’t open to the public, but fear not, because Bull Creek is a regular at the lovely Stirling Market held on Druids Avenue every fourth Sunday of the month. 

The Market’s food stalls tend to reflect the season. So in addition to Bull Creek’s deep-dish chunk-a-licious tummy warmers, you’ll also find mulled wines (spicy!), hot soup and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Local producers and growers will also be selling whatever’s fresh and fab at the time – and that includes another Stirling institution, the Roast Chestnut Man. He’s out on the streets most winter weekends with his brazier and locally-grown chestnuts doing a roaring trade. 

Don’t feel left out in the cold if you can’t make the Stirling market because Hills local markets feature on every weekend. 

Adelaide Hills Farmers Market in Mount Barker and Mount Pleasant Farmers Market are held every Saturday. The Macclesfield Market runs every Sunday. The Meadows Country Market is on every second Sunday of the month. Gumeracha Country Market is on every third Sunday of the month and Hahndorf Community Market is every fourth Saturday. 

Lying under a thick doona and looking out through picture windows …

The bed’s toasty, the coffee’s piping hot and the curtains are drawn. All you have to do is lie there and rejoice at the sight of morning light playing across the vines… 

There are plenty of rooms with a view in the Adelaide Hills. Longview Vineyard near Macclesfield has 12 contemporary apartments enjoying an eyeful of the estate’s gorgeous vineyards. Mount Lofty House in Crafers is a boutique hotel perched high atop the magnificent Piccadilly Valley. And to meet everybody’s idea of a Hills cottage escape, Adelaide Hills Country Cottages has five cottages in different parts of the central Hills region, variously enjoying aspects over a lake, a lemon grove, an apple orchard and cow paddocks. 

Mount Lofty House

 Mount Lofty House, Crafers

Feeling the burn on a walk or bike ride through the Hills 

Chilly on the outside, nice and toasty within…

The Heysen Trail runs through the Adelaide Hills and you can join at any point. There’s a beautiful 2-3 hour loop through Bridgewater and Mount George; and a similar one through Mylor and Aldgate. Smart walkers coincide their start or end-point with one of the Hills’ many bakeries, since they have the perfect excuse to indulge in a fat danish and a strong coffee. 

The Adelaide Hills is also first-class bike-riding country, punishing in places and much loved by those who are serious enough to own bikes that weigh less than a mobile phone. 

However, there’s also fun to be had for those who don’t even own a bike. Bike About in Woodside hires all types of bikes and also does escorted day trips. And the old Charleston General Store (0411 662 453) also hires out treadlies.

Both are conveniently located on the Amy Gillett Bikeway – a flat, traffic-free trail fashioned from a disused railway line and enjoying vistas over vales, vines and villages. The 17km trail runs from Oakbank to Woodside to Charleston to Mount Torrens, offering the perfect way to get nicely warmed up. 

If chunky tyres and suspension forks are more your thing, check out the Eagle Mountain Bike Park, with its 21kms of cross-country trails catering to all abilities. The family trail is a breeze. The double-black-diamond trail isn’t.

Better still, join an escorted downhill ride with Escape Goat. Their popular Lofty Descent event takes in a visit to Cleland Wildlife Park, stunning native bush trails and the odd hot drink and muffin. 

Escapegoat Mountain Bike Tours, Cleland Conservation Park, Adelaide Hills

Escapegoat Mountain Bike Tours, Cleland Conservation Park

Enjoying a generous glass of Shiraz at the Winter Reds Weekend 

The Winter Reds Weekend has quickly become a calendar favourite thanks to the heady cocktail of down-home country celebration and damned fine red wine.

The Adelaide Hills wine region enjoys a cool climate and soil diversity that has made it a champion producer of Pinot Noir. It also reliably earns trophies for its elegant cool climate Shiraz and outliers like the Abruzzo variety, Montelpulciano. 

This year, 30 local producers will be flying the red flag by hosting sumptuous celebration between July 29 and 31. You’re invited to ‘Play with Fire’ and surrender to the like of cellar door discos, barrel room barbecues, tutored tastings, bush dances, brazier ‘n’ bottle nights, chef-inspired degustations and more.

 Winter Reds Weekend, Adelaide Hills

 Winter Reds Weekend, July in the Adelaide Hills

Getting into the thick of it at a Hills footy match

Although only 20 minutes from the city, footy matches in the Hills are akin to country football -- a serious business that starts early Saturday morning with the little tackers, continuing through to the afternoon with the A-graders and inevitably finishing in the clubhouse.

Much like the mud that develops on local Hills ovals, it’s a bonding event, a social glue. Rain or shine, the crowds turn up to watch age-old rivalries play out between villages that live cheek by jowl. 

Make a day of it at village ovals like Macclesfield (home of the Blood and Tars), Balhannah (home of the mighty Onkas) and Nairne (home of the Rams, and our nomination for the most beautiful country footie oval in Australia).

Expect hot food, plenty of drinks and the obligatory round of celebratory car-horns when the home team scores a goal.

Casting a rosy glow over the kids

The region plays host to two lovely winter traditions, both of them hailing from the other side of the world. 

Guido Fawkes gets his comeuppance (again) for attempting to blow up the English Houses of Parliament on November 5, 1605. The Mylor Bonfire Night is a regular event, held by Mylor Primary School on the very picturesque Oval. The sky will be lit up with a fireworks display and bonfire; food stalls will be selling the like of bonfire toffee and toffee apples, and a bar will keep the winter chills at bay. This year’s event takes place on Saturday 25 June. 

On Saturday 13 August, Hahndorf honours another European winter tradition. The Lantern Festival begins with a procession of children through the Main Street, each carrying a lantern or candle and singing traditional songs accompanied by Hahndorf’s Youth Town Band. They will meander through to the Hahndorf Academy gardens where there will be live music, food and drink stalls and other festive activities.