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With an endless choice of first-class wineries, eateries and leisure activities at your doorstep, this picturesque Fleurieu Peninsula town is a wine and food-lovers nirvana.
McLaren Vale has long been recognized as one of South Australia’s oldest and most celebrated wine regions. And with over 160 wineries calling it home, you’d be excused for thinking that may be all it offers. But the agricultural lifestyle is only a small part of what endears this district to so many.
Situated just a short 45-minute drive south of Adelaide, and mere minutes from some of the state’s best beaches, you’ll know you’ve arrived as the suburbs give way to wide, open fields dotted with stately alpacas and magnificent vineyards against a backdrop of rolling hills. It’s almost surreal. Bordered by both the ocean and the impressive Mounty Loft Ranges, this cultural melting pot has so much to share, while its idyllic Mediterranean climate - with four distinct seasons - makes it a much sought-after place to reside.
The landscape is an evolving canvas; a palette of fresh, vibrant greens during spring and summer slowly give way to stunning autumnal tan and gold hues through winter. In July, a sea of white and pink washes over the landscape as the almond trees explode with their delightful blossoms. It truly is nature’s masterpiece.
But where did it all begin? Although not officially gazetted until 1923, the district was founded in 1838 when Thomas Hardy, of wine label fame, planted his first grape vines. The wine industry remained small and supplemented by farming, until post-WWII saw exports increase and vineyard holdings grow. Around this time, the region also welcomed many Italian immigrants, and today’s thriving olive industry was born.
In 2013, the region’s significance was recognized by state government and a protection order made to ensure the district remains a haven for agricultural pursuits well into the future.
Exploring the area, it’s easy to lose time discovering everything that’s on offer. From the main street to the furthest corner, you’ll find award-winning restaurants serving up enticing fare. With ingredients sourced from a broad network of local producers, showcasing the best is easy when fresh produce is everywhere you turn. And the friendly country hospitality is second-to-none.
Complemented by a thriving arts and crafts scene, nearby Willunga is home to one of the best Farmer’s Markets you’ll find anywhere. A local institution, each Saturday morning sees over 40 stallholders come together - rain, hail or shine - to offer their handmade and homegrown wares. While history buffs will be fascinated by the many relics to explore in the vicinity.
For those seeking more active pursuits, hiking is a must. The scenic ‘Shiraz Trail’ makes up part of the 38km long ‘Coast to Vines’ trail, meandering its way from Marino to Willunga. Just 20 minutes away, Kuitpo Forest is a leisure-seekers paradise, offering walking and horse-riding trails, leafy picnic spots and beautiful camping grounds. Keen nature-lovers may even spy a glimpse of the rare flora and fauna that call the forest home.
But more than just a rural centre, McLaren Vale is also a close-knit community offering a hub of practical conveniences. Schools, medical and other essential amenities are within minutes of each other, while a collection of specialty stores, supermarkets and easy public transport routes ensure it really is the ideal place to live, work… and play.
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