Double, double, toil and travel. Just when we thought coronavirus was nearing an end, oh my gosh, it’s Omicron. Will this be another foul ingredient in the pandemic potion, or will we be able to wash our hands of this damn spot?
Dining out this week, I got chatting to a restaurateur who said he’s seen a spike in reservations since Omicron began making news. People are fearful, it seems. Not of the new variant… but of potential lockdowns. Australians (and especially those who have experienced the brunt of the restrictions) are keen to get out – and to travel – while they still can.
It’s heartening that, for the most part, we haven’t seen the sudden state border closures that often accompanied dire COVID-19 news over the past two years, especially as many jurisdictions are currently easing restrictions ahead of the summer holidays. South Australia, for instance, reopened its border last week and the only change the state has made in response to the Omicron variant is requiring a negative test prior to arrival.
Right now is a great time for a visit to South Australia, before the hottest of the summer months but with sunny weather complementing the attractive coastline. And so, with that in mind, I thought we might look at some of the best day trips from Adelaide, the most convenient place to base yourself on a last-minute trip.
It’s quite remarkable that the Adelaide Hills are about 30 minutes’ drive from the centre of the city because, once you’ve ascended, it feels as though you’re in the middle of the countryside. Much of the land is agricultural, a food bowl where you can taste the local produce direct from the farm. And strung amongst the fields and orchards are charming little heritage towns, the German-influenced Hahndorf being the most popular (although Stirling is also worth a visit).
Over recent years, the food scene in the Adelaide Hills has become so notable that it’s common for people to drive up from the city just for lunch. But the wineries are still the star of the show, with cooler-climate grapes like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir.
The Adelaide Hills may be the closest winery to the city, but it can’t compete for stature with the Barossa, about an hour’s drive away. As one of Australia’s best wine regions, big names like Penfolds and Jacobs Creek can be a focus, but boutique producers doing, not just wine, but spirits, cheese, meats, and preserves can round out a visit.
Continue a bit further north to the Clare Valley and you’ll escape some of the more touristy elements in an old but quiet wine region. Riesling is the name of the game here and you can cycle the 35-kilometre Clare Valley Riesling Trail to visit cellar doors along the way. While south of Adelaide, the McLaren Vale is nipping at the heels of the Barossa, with features like the modern Cube at d’Arenberg Winery attracting a new generation of visitors.
McLaren Vale sits in the middle of the Fleurieu Peninsula, and the region’s coasts offer perfect day trips from Adelaide this time of year. Along the western side, there are long white beaches (including some that allow driving along the sand) interrupted by eroded sandy cliffs. Seafood restaurants by the water provide respite from the sun in the height of the day, and golden views as it sets.
On the southeastern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, the holiday towns like Goolwa and Victor Harbor have plenty of things to do on land, from restaurants to hikes and colonial architecture. But the water is also a big drawcard, with surfing, fishing, and boating just some of the ways to spend the day.
Close to Goolwa, you’ll find the mouth of the mighty Murray, the culmination of a great journey from the Snowy Mountains. Stretching out from here are spectacular wetlands, full of wildlife and significant Indigenous sites, that make the two-hour drive from Adelaide to Coorong National Park well worth the effort.
A bit closer to the city is Murray Bridge and the other small towns that once supported the trade that would flow along the river. Historic Mannum is one of the communities that gives an insight into early pioneering days and is also one of the departure points for a cruise on a heritage paddle steamer.
And, finally, we can’t forget Kangaroo Island. I’m loath to suggest this natural gem as a day trip because it deserves so much more. But, for those who are short of time, it’s better to see it for a day than none at all.
Try to avoid one of the organised day tours from Adelaide, though, because they spend a lot of time wrangling the crowd. Either take your own car or join a boutique tour that will focus on the highlights – including the sea lion colony at Seal Bay, the gravity-defying granite formations at Remarkable Rocks, the majestic Admirals Arch, and any of the superb local producers.
You can see more about the best day trips from Adelaide on Michael Turtle’s Travel Australia Today website.