With the cool winds of change whipping up around us this past weekend we could feel the end of Summer upon us. This may be our last Summer here in Adelaide for a long time, and whilst that is an exciting prospect, the cool change has reminded us to savour the days and re-experience the places we love the most in South Australia. Our family has always had an affinity for the famous Australian wine region, The Barossa Valley, and since it is right on our doorstep, we packed a picnic and spent last Sunday visiting our favourite spots.
You may not think of The Barossa Valley as a destination to visit with the children, but whilst it’s claim to fame is the wineries, there’s a lot to keep the kids entertained as well. We started out our day at The Whispering Wall in Williamstown. The wall with amazing acoustic qualities is actually a dam wall for a reservoir that holds the area’s drinking water. Due to the curve in the wall, soundwaves are able to travel along it so well that you really can hear someone whispering from way over the other side. The kids found this fascinating and had a lot of fun experimenting with sound, (great unschooling!!).
Next up we visited the Herbig Family Tree at Springton. The huge hollowed out Gum tree was the first Australian home Friedrich Herbig who arrived in South Australia in 1855. In 1858 he married Caroline Rattey and took her to live in the tree home. The first two of their 16 children were born there, and then they subsequently built an adjacent hut. It’s hard to imaging raising a family in a tree, and as the wind blew cold around us, we were reminded that winter in The Barossa can get very chilly! Life was certainly very tough for the first European settlers who came with a dream, but not much in their pocket! More unschooling magic, as we learnt the history of the family and the early settlers to The Barossa on the information board inside the tree.
When I first met Simon back in my University days, he was working as an apprentice Fitter and Turner at one of the most beautiful wineries in The Barossa, Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family owned winery. It’s a well known fact that he wooed me each weekend with bottles of wine from his ‘wine allowance’ which was part of his salary back then. Not surprisingly Yalumba is still one of our favourite wineries to visit, and we think it’s one of the most picturesque in The Barossa – and they make great wine! My pick from their reds is the Barossa Shiraz and from the whites, try their Eden Valley Viognier, it’s one of my favourite Barossa wines. Simon explained to the kids the process of wine making and shared some stories with them from his time working in Barossa wineries.
Yalumba is on the edge of Angaston, so after our first winery stop, it was time to warm up with a coffee, (hot chocolate for the kids) in one of the cafes along the pretty main street. The Barossa Valley has a distinctive German feel to it, as this was the origin of many of the first European settlers to the region, and this is quite evident in Angaston.
We decided to have our picnic up on Mengler’s Hill where there is a lookout offering amazing views over the vines and the towns that make up The Barossa Valley. There is also a sculpture park at the top of the hill which the children love to explore.
Even though our bellies were full from our yummy picnic, a visit to The Barossa Valley wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop in Nuriootpa. Maggie Beer is a world renowned cook, famous for seasonally focused cooking using locally produced Barossa ingredients. She has written many brilliant cookbooks, (most of which grace my bookshelf) and starred in the very popular television series, The Cook and The Chef with Simon Bryant. The farm shop is a great place to stock up on some unique ingredients, so that you can take the flavour of The Barossa Valley home with you.
Last stop on our way home was the village of Seppeltsfield and the beautiful Seppeltsfield Winery with it’s traditional old South Australian architecture and meticulously kept gardens. There is a picnic area at the winery, complete with coin operated barbecues available for visitor use, which is very popular during the warm summer days. As it is a winery however, visitors are not permitted to bring their own alcohol to the grounds. Why would you though when the Seppeltsfield wines are excellent and there is even a selection of South Australian beer available at the kiosk? There are also great views from The Seppelt family Mausoleum on the hill overlooking the village. Seppeltsfield Winery is well known for it’s excellent fortified wines, make sure you have a try at the cellar door tasting room. They’re sure to warm you up if you visit on a cool Barossa day.
We had a great day out re-visiting our favourite Barossa Valley spots. There are many, many more wineries to visit and a surprising number of family friendly locations. If you can’t decide who will be the designated driver if you plan on doing lots of wine tasting, why not consider an organised tour? We did our visit on a Sunday, but there is enough to keep you busy in The Barossa Valley for a long weekend or more. If you visit on a Saturday, I also highly recommend The Barossa Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.