Why not combine discovering Australia’s wine regions with other wonderful attractions on offer during your Australia travel.
Did you know that wine is mainly produced in countries that find themselves between 30 and 50 degrees latitude both north and south of the equator? Australia happens to be approximately between 15 and 43 degrees. This plus, in certain regions, its climate and soil have blessed it with the ability to produce exceptional wines. Oenophiles (definition – people who love wine and know a lot about it) will appreciate these special destinations, but they will also appeal to the general visitor on Australia vacations. Let’s take a look at the principal wine regions in this land of sunshine where there are 60 designated wine regions. But also let’s also consider what else these regions have to offer.
Barossa Valley, South Australia
This is probably Australia’s best-known and most important wine region. It is situated about an hour’s drive north of Adelaide. The Barossa Valley was first settled by Europeans in the mid-1800s, mainly German and British who both brought their cultures here and which are very noticeable when visiting the region on trips to South Australia.
The Barossa Valley has over 50 wineries and is primarily known for its red wine, in particular, Shiraz. Other main grape varieties that are grown in the region include Riesling, Semillon, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are also some fortified wines which are traditionally produced. Many of Australia’s largest and most notable wineries are either headquartered or own extensive holdings in the Barossa Valley. These include such name wineries as Penfolds, Peter Lehmann, Wolf Blass, and Yalumba. At most wineries, you can sample and purchase the wines produced, and in many cases, also enjoy a good lunch or dinner.
What Else to See and Do
Barossa Valley is not only an attractively scenic region but also offers a variety of activities to fill your time on Australia travel. There are 3 major towns, each with its own individual characteristics. Tanunda is the most German influenced (the first settlers came in 1840) and the focal point of the Barossa Valley. With its strong European heritage, distinctive church spires, wineries, cafes and restaurants, there is plenty to see and do in the town.
Angaston is more English and is also home to some of the Barossa’s best food. You need to be prepared to take home lots of local produce from here especially from the Farmers Market which takes place on Saturday mornings with vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, specialty breads, mouth-watering pastries, baked goods, and much more. The Angaston Blacksmiths Shop is run by volunteers and the Barossa Historical Museum is where some artifacts featured are a vintage organ, a model of Wartburg Castle (a castle in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Samuel Hoffmann pottery (by an American emerging artist). Learn here about the unique past lives of heritage buildings in Angaston and see photographs of how Tanunda looked in the mid 19th century.
Nuriootpa has German and English influences and is the commercial centre of the Barossa Valley. There are some fascinating and eclectic second-hand stores here including Wilhelm Schaedels (sometimes mistaken for a museum!) and the Community Helpers Warehouse, recommended by locals as a true treasure trove. The Barossa Bush Gardens here are a peaceful wildlife haven and the place to see local indigenous plants. For a few weeks each winter, stunning blooms of red flame heath carpet the landscape − a captivating sight for photographers and nature lovers. A unique experience is a scenic sunrise balloon flight which can be taken in the town of Seppeltsfield.
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
The Hunter Valley is a major tourist destination in New South Wales and attracts more than 2.5 million people annually. Located some 120 kilometres/75 miles north of Sydney, it can easily be fitted into Australia travel itineraries. Why go to the Hunter Valley? The warm climate and lovely scenery together with world-renowned vineyards and ability to enjoy gourmet food is a start. But that isn’t all. One can play golf, visit spa and health resorts, go camping, hiking, fishing, hot air ballooning, take scenic flights, and visit botanical gardens.
The wineries in the Lower Hunter Valley are concentrated around these regions Wollombi Valley, Mount View, Cessnock, Pokolbin and Rothbury, and Lovedale and North Rothbury. They are most famous for their Cabernet Sauvignons and Semillon. Around 50 wineries, most open to the public for both wine tasting and purchases, include such famous names as Tyrells, Lindemans, and Wyndham Estate. The first vines in the Hunter Valley were planted in the 1820s, making it the oldest wine region in Australia. Hunter Valley Semillon is widely considered the iconic wine of the region but the Hunter Valley also produces wine from a wide variety of grapes including Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Verdelho. You can even join a wine tasting masterclass here.
What Else to See and Do
The Hunter Valley is renowned for its fine dining, with an abundance of excellent restaurants to choose from. Wyndham Estate, one of Australia’s oldest vineyards, sponsors Opera in the Vineyards each year – a combination of singing, food, and wine held in an open-air amphitheatre beneath the stars. You can also spend time on an Australia vacation sampling local cheeses, hand-made chocolates, charcuterie, dairy goods, sourdough breads, and olive oils direct from the local producers. There are also several cooking schools where you can hone your culinary skills. Try hot air ballooning while watching wallabies having their breakfast or take a helicopter ride or a light plane to view the whole valley. The Hunter Valley Gardens are built around the old Tallawanta Winery and feature twelve themed garden “rooms,” each with a different focus. This is more than just a garden; it is a work of art and you can easily spend all day enchanted by the displays. Werakata National Park is great for bird watching and home to native animals and exceptional spring wildflowers.
Singleton is a historic Hunter Valley town where you will find a relaxing mix of country hospitality and nature-based activities. A tour of the Australian Army Infantry Museum is fascinating, with its historic collection of infantry equipment, weaponry, and memorabilia dating back more than a century.
The village of Broke offers a relaxed vineyard experience set against the dramatic backdrop of the Yellow Rock escarpment. You can join a tour and get a birds-eye-view of the Hunter region from a helicopter or balloon ride or pack a picnic to go for a bush walk along the scenic walking trails through Yengo National Park, a perfect base from which to explore the rich Aboriginal and natural heritage of the area.
Maitland in the Hunter Valley is surrounded by pretty countryside. Here you can stroll along the river walk precinct to admire the Hunter River, dine by the riverbank at a cafe, or head to a stylish heritage pub. The Maitland Regional Art Gallery or the National Trust-listed Grossmann House can be visited for an insight into Maitland’s cultural heritage.
Paterson is one of the historic towns of the Hunter Valley, a small, picturesque village with a mountain backdrop. Once a busy river port, Paterson today offers old country pubs and perfect picnic spots. Explore the mid-19th century historic sites of Paterson such as Paterson Historical Court House Museum and St. Ann’s Presbyterian Church.
The Yarra Valley, Victoria
If you are on Australia travel in Melbourne and want to experience the Australian countryside, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Yarra Valley with its 160 wineries. This region of Victoria is only 90 kilometres/56 miles east of the city. Due to a series of bushfires burning large areas of rural Victoria in 2009, it is estimated that around 25% of the viticultural area was threatened or impacted by the fires.
The Yarra Valley has a thriving wine industry due to its relatively cool climate suited to producing the required grapes. The region produces high-quality chardonnay, pinot noir, and sparkling wine. You can undertake what the locals call a Wine Flight, with both feet remaining on the ground and sometimes referred to as a tasting flight. It consists of tasting multiple wines, allowing you to get a more detailed understanding of particular varieties of wine. A Flight can generally include anywhere from three or four wines. Flights will often be based around a central theme but may also just be a chance to try a number of different types of wine at the many local wineries.
What Else to See and Do
There are several vantage points from which to enjoy panoramic views of the area. There is the Kangaroo Ground Memorial Tower Lookout, which offers 360-degree views taking in Melbourne and the Kinglake Ranges. There is the Mount Donna Buang Lookout tower with its Rainforest Gallery part way up the mountain with a spectacular skywalk aerial walkway through the treetops. There is Selovers Lookout which offers a vantage point for taking in the impressive Maroondah Reservoir and surrounding mountain ranges. Then there is the Keppel offering stunning views of the ridgeline and forests surrounding Marysville. Perhaps the most popular site is Lake Mountain with the most incredible views from several lookouts. On a clear day, you can see Melbourne and spectacular views of the Victorian Alps as well as the surrounding foothills of the Great Dividing Range to the west.
Pretty little Healesville is the main town and base for exploring the Lower Yarra Valley on Australia vacations and perfectly located for easy access to some of the region’s finest wineries. It is famous for its wildlife sanctuary – a nature park with hundreds of native Australian animals displayed in a semi-open natural setting, featuring an active platypus breeding programme. You can wander through trails and meet some iconic Australian animals such as koalas, kangaroos, platypus, dingoes, wombats, and emus.
The exotic-sounding Blue Lotus Water Garden in Warburton is a unique 14-acre garden displaying lotuses and water lilies. The Tarra Warra Museum of Art located in the Yarra Valley presents seasonally changing exhibitions each year. It has become recognized as the cultural jewel of the Yarra Valley, combining stunning architecture with the very best of modern and contemporary art. Lastly, want to pamper yourself while on Australia travel? There is a number of life-rejuvenating spa centres to be found in the Yarra Valley.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Margaret River is an area and town of the same name located in the southwest corner of Western Australia, 277 kilometres/172 miles south of Perth. In only 50 years, the region has built a reputation as one of the foremost provinces for fine wine, with approximately 120 wineries accounting for 20 per cent of Australia’s premium wines.
Margaret River is said to share a similar climate to that of Burgundy, France and is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The principal grape varieties are fairly evenly split between red and white; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, and Verdelho. Among the many vineyard tours, there are also tours that take you behind the scenes to meet winemakers, have a barrel room tasting, and even blend your own bottle of wine.
What Else to See and Do
Margaret River town has one long street lined with cafes, gourmet and curiosity shops, boutiques, galleries, and much more. In the evening, you can try the many restaurants, wine bars, and pubs. Wonderful walking and cycling tracks meander along the river or through the surrounding forest to the vineyards and farms and also the beach which is only 10 minutes away. The region is known for its surf beaches on the Indian Ocean and also the sunsets viewed from the coast. It is known internationally as one of the best big-wave surfing locations in the world.
At nearby Busselton, you can see the 150-year-old, 1.8 kilometre/1.1 mile long jetty, the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. There is a train which travels on a rail along the jetty, and you can see whales and dolphins playing, as well as the local fishermen at work. At the end of the pier, you can descend 8 metres/26 feet below the surface to an observation chamber to view coral and vividly-coloured tropical and subtropical fish at the site’s artificial reef.
Jewel Cave, 45 kilometres/28 miles away from Margaret River town, is the largest show cave in Western Australia and one of the world’s most spectacular. It is encrusted with gleaming crystal ornaments throughout its three massive chambers. Hanging here are a delicate straw stalactite, a hollow crystal tube the diameter of just a single water droplet which grows down into the cave darkness for almost 5.5 metres/17 feet reaching longer than any other in all the show caves in Australia.
More thrills in the region, while on Australia travel, can be found with rock climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, canoeing, and whale watching tours. You might even be tempted to throw in a line and chase some snapper at one of the designated fishing spots.
The Margaret River Gourmet Escape is held annually in late November and gives you the opportunity to taste wines, eat top quality local produce, and get involved with more than 50 world-famous chefs who give hands-on master classes while demonstrating their skills.
These are the four principal wine regions to visit on Australia travel so, if you want more, why not explore the other 56!
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