Our 10 Best Clare Valley Experiences.

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Whether you’re planning a weekend, overnight, or an extended stay in the Clare Valley, we’ve done the research, so you don’t have to.

In this article (in no particular order), we share our ten best Clare Valley experiences.

Clare Valley is South Australia’s Epicurean Way’s first stop ( or last, depending on your travel direction). Wine lovers and foodies are in their element with over 40 cellar doors, many with first-class restaurants. 

However, the Clare Valley offers more than fine wining and dining.

Firstly, you’ll find many historical windows to the region not to be missed. 

Secondly, the Clare Valley community is hell-bent on sustainability, conservation, and supporting local.

Finally, Clare Valley’s contrasting landscape, quaint townships, and seasonal events provide reasons to return again and again.

Martindale Hall Clare Valley

A stone’s throw from the picturesque village of Mintaro stands the stately Martindale Hall. 

Enter the grounds through Martindale Hall Conservation Park, passing the coach house and stables.

Adhere to speed limits to allow resident kangaroos access across your path. 

This 32 room Georgian style mansion took 23 months to build in 1879/ 80, costing Edmund Bowman Jnr £30,000.

Sadly, when Edmund was a boy of eleven, his father drowned, leaving the property of 11,000 acres to his son.

Returning from studying law at Cambridge, Edmund commissioned 2 architects to design Martindale Hall. From London, Ebenezer Gregg and Adelaide, Edward John Woods.

Grand plans came to fruition. A polo ground, racecourse, boating lake, and cricket pitch surrounded the home. 

All this grandeur came to a screeching halt during the drought preceding 1891. Edmund had no choice but to sell. 

Fortunately, William Tenant Mortlock was in the market for a wedding present for his wife, Rosye. He acquired the lot for £33,000. 

William and Rosye’s eldest son Jack was the benefactor of Martindale Hall. On their demise, the interior was decorated with furniture and artefacts from Jack’s global travels. His study remains intact, allowing us an insight into the man and his lifestyle. 

Today, Martindale Hall is open for day visitors only; however, between 1991 and 2014, it was the setting for weddings, functions and heritage accommodation. 

If you’ve seen the original 1975 Peter Weir production of Picnic at Hanging Rock, you’ll recognise Martindale Hall in an instant. 

Bungaree Station Clare Valley

In 1841, when the colony of South Australia was but 5 years old, Hampshire (England) born brothers, George, Charles and James Hawker, invested £4,200 on 2,000 head of sheep. 

Tracking north from Adelaide, the brothers sought suitable land for sheep farming. A journey devoid of infrastructure, they relied on horse, bullock and their own feet.

Sinking a well close to the Hutt River on Xmas day of 1841, “good drinkable groundwater” was the reward, and their sheep station was born. 

‘Bungaree’ is derived from the Aboriginal ‘Bungurrie’ translating to ‘my country’ or ‘place of deep water’. 

This isolated property, spreading 267 square miles, was far from any conveniences. Hence, as the property grew in size (additional licences in Northern Flinders Ranges and west of Port Augusta) and headcount (100,000 sheep by the mid-1880s), so did staffing and amenities. 

With over 50 staff employed as blacksmiths, carpenters, gardeners, housekeepers and, of course, shepherds and their families, Bungaree became a small village.  

Today, the self-guided tour at Bungaree takes you through the general store, stables, blacksmith’s workshop, shearing shed, church, homestead gardens, and council chambers with audio and interpretive signage providing a connection to the past. 

Fourth, fifth, and sixth generation Hawkers still live and work the property, of whom you’ll meet on arrival at a brief tour introduction. 

As famous for stunning architecture and beautiful gardens as it is for its sheep,  Bungaree Station is a must-see for those curious about South Australia’s pastoral and pioneering history. 

Unique Clare Valley accommodation is available at Bungaree Station.

Various historic buildings offer self-contained accommodation, and groups of up to 25 share the Shearers Quarters.

Bungaree is located 12 kilometres north of Clare.

St Aloysius Clare Valley

In the 16th century, Inigo, a Spanish mercenary, turned from violence to caring for others, and the Jesuit order was born. 

Unpopular in Europe in the 1800s, the order encouraged 2 Jesuit priests to take the 4-month ocean journey to Australia. On arrival, Father Kranewitter, along with over 100 German and Silesian migrants, headed north from Adelaide to the Clare Valley. 

Purchasing 100 acres in 1849, Father Kranewitter named the property Sevenhill for the seven hills of Rome and proceeded to develop gardens and orchards. 

Vines were planted in 1851, producing the first Clare Valley wine in 1856. 

St Aloysius Church was completed in 1875 and still holds Mass each Saturday at 6 pm. 

From the outside, admire the historic Gothic Revival architecture. Inside, you’ll walk on local Mintaro slate, admire the impressive stained glass windows, and be taken aback by the Madonna painting presented to the Jesuits by King Ludwig of Bavaria in 1848. 

Outside on the church’s northern side, enter the crypt where 41 Sevenhill-residing Jesuits have been laid to rest. 

The magnificence of this property doesn’t end there. With the grounds established for over 170 years, rolling lawns, abundant orchards and vines are open to the curious wanderer. 

And then there's the wine!

Sevenhill Clare Valley

Our advice: don’t miss a tasting. It’s here where you’ll realise the diversity of Sevenhill wines. 

Estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Grenache, Merlot, Riesling, and Pinot Gris are skilfully crafted to produce divine wine for your enjoyment. 

The Inigo range, named for the Spanish ex-mercenary, includes a dangerously quaffable rosé, a light yet complex Grenache, and exceptional full-bodied Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Sparkling red drinkers will love Sevenhill’s Sparkling Shiraz with its fine beads and dark berry notes. 

Most importantly, don’t miss the fortifieds. 

Firstly, the Liqueur Verdelho. 

Candied orange peel, caramel and a nutty finish make this wine perfect for dessert or teamed with aged cheddar. Alternatively, chill and enjoy as an apéritif. 

Secondly, Sevenhill Classic Topaque. 

Spice notes and a lingering smokiness bring to mind Xmas cake drizzled with warm burnt butter. With its beautiful amber hue, it’s the perfect gift.

Finally, in the fortifieds, Fine Old Tawny. 

What’s better than a port on a chilly evening?

This one’s spicy fruit, roasted nuts, and dry finish make it difficult to say no to a refill.  

Sevenhill Cellar door is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm offering tastings and grazing platters chock-full of the Clare Valley’s locally grown produce. 

St Aloysius Church and Sevenhill Cellars, unsurprisingly, are found at Sevenhill.

Clare Valley Wine & Dine 

Clare Valley wine

You’ve come for the wine, and you’ll stay for the local produce. 

Sustainability, conservation and supporting local have become the ethos of the Clare Valley community. 

Permaculture, water conservation, waste management, and native revegetation take precedence over land rape, chemical pesticides, and soil erosion.

Clare Valley boasts a plethora of excellent venues; therefore, singling out a few is hard work.

Here are some of our favourites to get you started.

Mitchell Wines Clare Valley

In a picturesque valley surrounded by the Skillogalee Hills, Mitchell Wines has been at it since 1949. 

It all began when Peter McNichol Mitchell purchased a mixed-use farm of dairy, fruit, & underdeveloped vines. 

In 1975, son Andrew and his wife, Jane, took the reins respecting the past while having their eyes on the future. 

With extensive study and international wine experience, Andrew and Jane have grown Mitchell Wines to 4 premium vineyards of 80 hectares within the Clare Valley region. 

Following sustainable practices, vines are dry-grown for water conservation.

Artificial herbicides and pesticides were made redundant 10 years ago. The results are proven in the lower yields producing flavour intensity and natural biodiversity. 

Growing up with wine in the blood, Andrew and Jane’s 3 kids share in the winery’s responsibilities, perhaps intending to produce the 4th generation of wine enthusiasts. 

On a visit to their 1890s Cellar Door, you’re surrounded by the entire experience from vine to barrel to bottle to glass. 

Offering a range of tasting options, it would be remiss not to mention the Semillon, a grape that stands on its own far better than blending with Sauv Blanc (in our opinion).

Take the John Horrocks Loop off the Riesling Trail and take in Kilikanoon, Penna Lane, Skillogalee, and Jeanneret Wines while you’re there.

Mad Bastard Clare Valley

If you find the branding offensive, you’ll be appeased by the wines. 

Mark Barry, son of the late Jim Barry, has wine in his veins. Having spent many years in the family business, he has taken his pedigree and diversified. A mad scientist with a clear path to develop wines with character, a little like the winemaker himself. 

Expect the unexpected.

While recognising the grape varieties on the labels, once sampled, flavours are surprising. 

Most importantly, Shiraz is Mark’s baby, making it a ‘must-have’ Clare Valley wine. In addition, take home a bottle of Mad Bastard Riesling; it’s a no-brainer.

Closed on Sundays for ‘church’, Mad Bastard is open from 10 am to 4 pm the rest of the week.

Stop by after visiting Bungaree Station.

Pauletts Clare Valley

Being seated on the deck at Paulett Wines is arguably one of the most coveted locations in the Clare Valley. 

Imagine viewing an expanse of rolling hills and vineyard, surrounded by the scent of native bushland, sipping on a glass of Pauletts Rosé while anticipating the arrival of dishes prepared with native ingredients from the garden just metres away. 

A relatively young winery for the region, Pauletts is a mere 30 years of age. Lovingly developed by Neil and Alison Paulett in 1983 when they purchased the plot of 47 hectares.  

The property came with 45-year-old Shiraz and 5-year-old Riesling vines. These produce the signature Andreas Shiraz and Antonina Riesling honouring the original property settlers.  

Today, Paulett Wines boast 147 hectares devoted to a sustainable future. Solar energy, greywater recycling, rainwater catchment and the reintroduction of native Australian plants drive the property.

Be sure to visit Bush DeVine Garden, where you’ll be serenaded by the croaks, chirps and buzzing of local inhabitants. 

Bush DeVine Garden prepares you for what to expect at Bush DeVine Restaurant and Pauletts Cellar Door. 

We recommend you combine a Pauletts wine tasting with Bush DeVine dining on the aforementioned deck. 

Reservations are essential even without COVID restrictions. 

Head chef, Thomas Erkelenz, combines native ingredients from Bush DeVine Garden with local produce and daily foraging, showcasing the diversity of flavours, textures, and aroma of the region. 

Native saltbush, plums, muntries, bunya nuts, quandong, and eucalyptus are found on the menu and, to simplify proceedings, a long lunch is prepared for you. Add wine pairings, and you’ll have the opportunity to discover all the flavours from the Paulett property. 

Open every day from 11 am to 4 pm, there’s no excuse not to make a reservation at Pauletts.

Watervale Hotel Clare Valley

‘Farm to table’, ‘nose to tail’, ‘zero waste’, ‘permaculture’. Do I have your attention?

Nicola Palmer and Warwick Duffy have made these terms the cornerstone of their Ethical Epicurean Experiences at Watervale Hotel. 

Penobscot Farm is home to the couple and where the bulk of the Watervale Hotel’s kitchen supplies come from. What’s not grown on the farm is sourced from local like-minded producers. 

Farm tours are available to follow the paddock to plate journey.

Watervale Hotel offers casual dining inside and out.

Foodies should take the opportunity to reserve seats at the Chef’s Table overlooking the kitchen.

In conjunction with the kitchen, the wine list guarantees a journey through the Clare Valley region. 

The hotel itself has been transformed from its rustic past while maintaining its historical integrity. 

All-day dining means popping in at your leisure, or the more organised of you can make reservations.

Visiting Watervale Hotel is an experience encapsulating the Clare Valley region. 

Watervale Hotel is open every day from 11 am to 9 pm.

Magpie & Stump Hotel Clare Valley

After a morning at Martindale Hall, stop at the equally historic Magpie & Stump. This 1850’s built pub is perfect for a relaxing counter lunch. 

The menu is filled with pub favourites in addition to gourmet temptations, all utilising locally sourced produce. 

Outdoor seating under the verandah and the sprawling lawn means the kids have a place to play while you relax with a chilled glass and a Clare Valley cheese board. 

In the cooler months, the roaring fire keeps you snug as a bug, and the kitchen adds some robust dishes to warm the cockles. 

Open 7 days, visit Magpie & Stump year-round to wind down and take in the local culture. 

It’s on the corner of Burra Street and the Martindale Hall turnoff in Mintaro; you can’t miss it. 

Clare Valley Cycles

Clare Valley’s Riesling Trail is best appreciated by jumping on a bicycle.

Of course, you could walk it, but The Riesling Trail follows the railway line north from Clare to Barinia (8km), south to Auburn (25km), and joins the 19km Rattler Trail from Auburn further south to Riverton.

52km all up. 

Spring Gully, John Horrocks and Father Rogalski loops add a few more km to the clock with varying degrees of difficulty. 

Before cycling the Riesling trail, be sure to check your ride’s topography. Those cute vintage bikes with comfy leather seats and gorgeous wooden baskets may tempt you, but you’re in a valley, so what goes down must come back up. 

No problem, you say? Having chosen said vintage bikes and pedal power, we can assure you that next time will be on an e-bike. 

As much fun as sailing into the valley is, an e-bike will be an advantage on the incline to elevated cellar doors offering spectacular views, not to mention the added weight of your purchased bottles. 

Clare Valley Cycles have a broad selection of both electronic and pedal-powered bikes and will fit you out with helmets and locks in the deal. 

Clare Valley Cycles have 2 locations:

  1. On the Riesling Trail @ 56 Warenda Road, Clare.
  2. In the town centre @ 34 Old North Road, Clare.

Clare Valley Accommodation

Spoiled for choice is an understatement when searching for Clare Valley accommodation.

From historic shearers quarters and homesteads to glamping and camping, Clare Valley has options for all budgets.

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FAQs

Below you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions to help plan your Clare Valley adventure.

Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments, and we’ll endeavour to sort you out with the answers.

How do I get to the Clare Valley?

The township of Clare is 140km from Adelaide CBD on a remarkably picturesque route, so our recommendation is to drive.

Alternatively, buses leave at 4 pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Adelaide Central Bus Terminal on Franklin Street, taking 2.5 hours.

Stops in the Clare Valley before reaching Clare include Auburn, Watervale, Penwortham, and Sevenhill.

How do I get around the Clare Valley?

Take your bike or hire one once you arrive. Many of the Clare Valley townships are accessible, as are the Clare Valley Riesling Trail and connecting loops.

You’ll need a car for townships further afield like Mintaro and Bungaree.

When is the best time to visit the Clare Valley?

You can experience the Clare Valley in all seasons; it’s beautiful all year round. 

Winter sees daytime temperatures of a chilly 8 – 12C dropping to 5 – 6C overnight. The Clare Valley enjoys clear skies and minimal rainfall; consequently, frosts are prevalent.

Venues are prepared for winter with roaring fires, warming dishes, Clare Valley reds and port fully stocked.

In contrast, summers are warm, also dry, ensuring outdoor activities in abundance: cycling, nature trails, and special events,

Of course, summer is the season for alfresco dining, chilled whites, and stunning views.

Spring and autumn are the seasons for colour. Photographers and painters capture the wildflower season from September to November and autumnal changes from March to May.

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