What a quaint, country feel to this area!
You wouldn’t believe we were less than an hour from Adelaide. This feeling was accentuated by the fact we did not take the direct route from the airport in Adelaide but a scenic touring route. I completely lost track of distance and time as we traveled. If fact, we seemed to be going back in time as we drove. The towns became smaller but closer together (a day’s horse ride apart), with older architecture and quaint farmhouses.
It was surprising how much this region reminded me of the Cariboo in BC. Perhaps it is the similar history that caused this: It all started with a gold rush, thus the old hotel building in the centre of each town. The gold rush also left the pride of rustic roots. Then, when gold fever cooled, the Barossa area, like the Cariboo, turned to ranching. There is also a similarity to the Okanagan because now a lot of the ranching and farming has been supplanted by the almighty grapevine. Which is, of course, one of the main reasons we are here! And why the Barossa has become the weekend playground for escapees from Adelaide.
The biggest difference between South Australian towns and BC is that the Barossa is not divided by massive mountain ranges and treacherous canyons but (to our minds) easy hills and low ridges. Visiting from one town to the other only takes a few minutes by car.
Perhaps because of this physical nearness to each other, these towns have become close emotionally too. When you ask questions such as, “Where is the nearest wifi?” (always an important question to me) the townsfolk have no problems recommending sites in some other town. The same with restaurants and pubs. They are all one big happy family.
And, like siblings in a big family, even though you can see the family resemblance, each town has taken on a unique identity: Springton has the hollow tree that served as a family’s home for 5 years, Handorf celebrates its German Heritage, Gumeracha has a giant wooden rocking horse, etc.
I found that hollow tree fascinating. I could understand a gold prospector taking refuge in a hollow tree for a while, but not to make a home out of it and then marry and have not one but two children born inside that tree! When you visit the tree there is some information on the inside that shows they had built a thatched lean-to on to the tree, which helped …but still! They even had pictures of the husband and wife. I was expecting a bearded, scruffy, counter-culture kind of guy, but no, he looked very staid in his thin tie and suit. She looked incredibly prim and proper with her ruffled cap and tightly laced high neckline.
In Barossa, everyone we interacted with was very friendly and welcoming. We might have come screeching in to a little back lane winery at five minutes to closing, but the proprietress just waved our apologies aside and proceeded to tell us the full history of the winery, and even opened up an extra bottle because we were enamoured with her winery.
Our wonderful county house was perfect except it had (on purpose) no wifi. This meant we had to search out spots and settle in. Were they annoyed that we ordered just one coffee? No! In fact, they brought extra glasses of cold water to make our stay more pleasant. I was most impressed!
And, of course, there are lots of wineries. Barossa is know for its fine cabernets and shiraz, nice and big and fruity. It was harder to find white to balance our collection (with the hot weather, it was nice to cool down in the evening with a chardonnay) but we managed. It was even harder to force ourselves not to always buy the winery’s most expensive reds; they were usually reserves from older vintages and were so good. 2009 became a benchmark vintage for us.
Barossa wine region for us was a delightful mix of wine tastings, good food, pretty towns, lovely wildlife (especially birds and kangaroos) and pleasant people. A wonderful place to visit!