Riding the Clare Valley Riesling Trail

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The Clare Valley Riesling Trail is a scenic cycling (and walking) trail in South Australia for cyclists of all levels. The trail winds through the heart of the Clare Valley, which is known for its world-class wineries, stunning landscapes, and charming towns.

As you ride along the 35-kilometre path, you’ll discover views of vineyards and farms against a backdrop of rolling hills.

I recently took up the challenge of this ride, and whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a fun way to explore this beautiful region, riding the Clare Valley Riesling Trail is a great day out.

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We acknowledge that the Clare Valley is the traditional land of the Ngadjuri people.

Let me start by telling you all I am not a cyclist. I get on a bike maybe – maybe! – once a year. I added the Riesling Trail to my bucket list as a challenge.

When it came time to arrange my bike hire, I was very happy to see there were e-bike options. You can hire them too, which makes this trail doable even for people that are not regular bike riders.

What is the Clare Valley Riesling Trail?

The Clare Valley Riesling Trail is a walking and cycling path that has been created along the old railway corridor that meanders through the valley. It runs for 33km from Auburn in the south to Barinia, just north of Clare.

Clare Valley Riesling Trail Map

The rail trail itself is now a well-maintained gravel path, and for the most part, it is flat since trains don’t like hills much.

The trail is very clearly signposted and there are distance markers every 1 km so you know you’re on the right track and how far there is to go.

The highest point of the trail is in the middle near Penwortham, but it is a gradual slope on both sides so you will barely notice that you are riding uphill.

There are one or two short climbs (say 20 metres) as the trail dips down to cross some of the roads and then inclines again on the other side, but these are not onerous.

The northern section of the Riesling Trail is on the eastern side of the main highway.

It swaps over to the western side at Penwortham with a tunnel underneath the road, before crossing the highway again at Auburn just before the trail ends.

As you would expect in Clare Valley wine country, there are lots of cellar doors to stop at along the way.

You will also find many historical markers and signboards along the path pointing out interesting facts, stories and general information. In some areas, you will see sculptures and other artworks too.

As you ride along, you will see lots of reminders of the former use of this corridor, with Clare Railway Station (and many others) still having the platform and signage.

When it’s time for a rest, there are seats in convenient locations along the trail, and in some areas picnic tables and shelters – which come in handy for a few minutes of shade, even on mild days.

You can download a copy of the Clare Valley Riesling Trail map here, or pick it up in many locations in the area. You will also most likely be given one if you hire your bike.

If you have cycled the whole Riesling Trail and want another challenge, there are three additional loop trails that will give the legs a bit more of a workout and take you to some of the wineries that are further off the main trail.

Look out for the Spring Gully Loop, the John Horrocks Loop and the Father Rogalski Loop.

Bike Hire and Other Cycling Tips

You can bring your own bike to cycle the Clare Valley Riesling Trail, but if you don’t, there are plenty of options to hire one right here.

Choosing your Bike Hire

There are three main places to hire your bike from in the Clare Valley

  • Scoot the Valley – has a range of vintage bikes and e-bikes for hire
  • Clare Valley Cycle Hire – has a range of bikes including vintage, e-bikes, mountain bikes, tandem, buggy and tagalong options too.
  • Riesling Trail Bike Hire – has a range of e-bikes and mountain bikes, including children’s bikes and a tandem. They also have baby seats, kiddie carriers, tagalongs and bob trailers if required.

We hired our bikes from Clare Valley Cycle Hire, mainly because they were the closest to our accommodation at Discovery Parks Clare Valley.

This meant we could walk there to pick up our bikes, and didn’t have to worry about driving later if we indulged in one or two too many wine tastings.

The bikes we had were easy to use and all in good working order. We were supplied with helmets, a bike lock, a map, and offered water (which we declined as we already had plenty).

There was sunscreen available if we wanted to put it on before we left. Picking up the bikes was simple, and the property backs onto the Riesling Trail, so we were off and riding in minutes.

There was a water bottle holder attached to the frame of the bike. Each of our bikes was also fitted with a saddlebag, which was great for carrying some of our bits and pieces.

We had backpacks with water bladders, but if we needed to carry extra water, this would have made it easy. It was also great for stashing wine purchases along the way.

As it worked out, we could have hired directly from the caravan park, as they had bikes available on-site from Riesling Trail Bike Hire, but I didn’t know this until we arrived, and I had already booked our bikes.

Cycling Tips

If you have not cycled much before, then here are a few general tips to make your day a little more pleasant.

  • Think about how you are going to tackle the Riesling Trail. We started early, cycling all the way down to Auburn first, then taking our time to ride back. We knew if we stopped at the wineries too early, we would just be tempted to enjoy them and not complete the ride. This also meant we could start the ride early (8:30 am) and by the time we were on the return journey, the cellar doors had opened and it was a reasonable time for wine tasting.
  • Wear appropriate clothing – you need to be able to move in what you are wearing, and you also need protection from the elements. That may mean loose and light clothing covering your skin on hotter days, and warmer layers and wet weather gear on colder days. Don’t forget to wear sturdy shoes. (And don’t be worried if you think you will be “under-dressed” for cellar doors and restaurants – they are used to people in cycling gear.
  • Take plenty of water with you. There are places to fill up along the way, including at wineries, but it is still a good idea to have enough to start with.
  • Pack the sunscreen. Even on a cool day, the sun can come out and it can be fierce.
  • If you don’t want a big workout, hire an e-bike. It becomes incredibly easy and you will have a much more enjoyable day.
  • Pack some snacks. While you can buy some things along the way, you will mostly have to detour off the trail to find shops.

Wine Tasting Along the Riesling Trail

As you meander along the Riesling Trail Clare Valley, you might be tempted to call into some of the cellar doors – and you should absolutely give in to this temptation.

The cellar doors are very used to visitors turning up on bikes, so you will find bike racks at all of them (at least, every winery we visited during our Clare Valley stay had them).

We decided in advance to only stop at two Clare Valley wineries – I still needed to be able to stay upright on my bike.

We looked for ones that were close to the trail, that we hadn’t been to before, and we weren’t planning to go there later in the trip.

Our first stop was at Crabtree Wines which is a small, family-run winery located not too far off the Riesling Trail at Watervale.

They produce small batches of handcrafted wines, including a Riesling, Tempranillo, Grenache and a Shiraz. They also do delicious fortified wines.

The wines available at Crabtree Wines Clare Valley

We had an intimate tasting of a range of their wines with a family member in their small but welcoming cellar door. This is a lovely spot with beautiful views over the vineyards and across the valley.

They are family-friendly and have a great outdoor area where the kids can play games like giant Jenga while the adults enjoy the wine.

We purchased a bottle of their 2021 Watervale Tempranillo and their Grand Muscat, stashing them safely in our saddlebags for the remainder of the ride.

Our second stop was at Tim Adams. This is another family-owned winery, this time closer to Clare.

Their cellar door sits amongst the gum trees and has a lovely deck that is the perfect spot to sit and relax and rest the legs while trying some of their wines.

Tim Adams offered a range of tastings, and we each chose to do a different one, so between us, we tried ten different wines. I went with the standard “Estate Tasting” and Simon did the “Back Vintage Tasting”.

What was interesting was that my flight contained a recent vintage of one of the wines, and the other flight had an older vintage of the same wine, so we could taste them side by side and see the difference a few years made.

We were also offered an extra tasting of their fortified wine, NV 20-Year Fine Old Tawny, and that was what we purchased, mindful that we were still on the bikes.

Wine tasting at Tim Adams

There are many choices of cellar doors close to the trail – two others we visited during this Clare Valley wine region visit were O’Leary Walker Wines and Shut the Gate Wines, and I would happily recommend them too.

Others we tried on this trip that are a little further from the trail (but still reachable by bike) are Mitchell Wines and Kilikanoon Wines.

I would also recommend Skillogalee, Sevenhill Cellars and Claymore Wines.

A wildcard could be Wines by KT in Auburn. I’ve not personally tried them, but they were recommended to me twice as I was asking people working in the cellar doors their recommendations (something I like to do in wine regions – it can be very interesting).

Another good stop is the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre.

Not only can you learn about everything going on in the valley, but you can do some wine tasting (they showcase a different winery every week), grab a coffee at their cafe and stock up on all the local produce, artwork and crafts.

Where to Stop For Lunch on the Clare Riesling Trail

There are plenty of places to stop for lunch along the Riesling Trail, and almost all of them are really good.

The pub meals in this region tend to be a step up from what we expect, and bakeries and cafes are often award winners or widely known.

We didn’t book anywhere for lunch in advance because we wanted to see where we got to by then, but if you are riding the Clare Valley Riesling Trail on the weekend, during a festival or at any other time it is likely to be busy, then you may want to plan ahead.

We stopped at Sevenhill Hotel for lunch. They serve lunch from 12 pm until 2 pm, and we just sneaked in at about 1:50 pm but they were more than happy to serve us.

They had a wide range of options on their menu, including vegan meals for me. Service was quick and efficient, and we were soon on our way again.

Some of the other places I would recommend eating along the Clare Valley Riesling Trail are:

  • Rising Sun Hotel
  • Little Red Grape
  • Watervale Hotel
  • Bush Devine Cafe
  • Clare Rise Bakery
  • Mr Micks

There are so many great places you might have to ride the Clare Valley Riesling Trail twice.

Clare Valley Accommodation

You certainly could drive up to Auburn from Adelaide (it’s around 120km or 90 minutes drive), ride the Clare Valley Riesling Trail and then return to Adelaide in the evening, but why not stop in the area and enjoy even more of what it has to offer?

Here are some suggestions for where to stay

What are you waiting for? Start your Planning Now

Riding the Clare Valley Riesling Trail is an experience that cannot be missed.

I wasn’t sure I would love it since riding a bike for over 50km did not sound like fun to me, but with the help of an e-bike, it really was a memorable day out – and not too onerous at all.

From the beautiful scenery of vineyards and rolling hills to the delicious wines and food on offer, this trail really does have it all. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a beginner looking for a fun adventure, there’s something for everyone.

So pack your bags, grab your bike (or hire one) and head out to discover the beauty of Clare Valley Riesling Trail – trust me when I say it’ll be an unforgettable journey!

For more information on the Clare Valley, try these posts
Discover 21 Top Things to Do in the Clare Valley
Sip, Eat, Hike, Repeat: A Guide to the Clare Valley Wine and Wilderness Walk
Things to Do in Burra

Want to explore more of South Australia? These posts will help
5 Day Kangaroo Island Itinerary
Things to do in the Flinders Ranges
21 Best Things to Do in Port Lincoln

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Josie sitting cross-legged in a garden
About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.