Say hello to the Clare Valley Wine and Wilderness Walk, a getaway that combines awesome scenery, mouthwatering cuisine, and world-class wines. It’s time to lace up your hiking boots and indulge in a long weekend that will awaken your senses and create memories to last a lifetime.
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We acknowledge that the Clare Valley is the traditional land of the Ngadjuri people.
If there was ever a walking tour that needed a few more kilometres, it’s this one – just to work off all the delicious food and wine along the way.
The 3-Day Clare Valley Wine and Wilderness Walk is the perfect way to spend a long weekend exploring the countryside without missing out on any of the gourmet food and world-class wine along the way.
This tour is run by Life’s An Adventure, an Australian-based tour company that makes walking a more enjoyable experience with their pack-free walks.
Yes, that means you can enjoy the scenery and climb those hills without all that added weight.
They offer some fantastic interstate, and even overseas, tours along with a handful of tempting tours right here in South Australia.
You can choose between this Clare Valley walk, or the ones on the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula or Kangaroo Island.
The South Australian walks range from 3 days to a 10-day combined Flinders Ranges & Yorke Peninsula walk, and they include everything!
From the time I jumped on the bus in Adelaide until I was deposited there again, I did not need to spend a cent. Of course, there were opportunities to buy local produce and wine along the way if I wanted to, but no obligation.
The pack-free walk concept means that there’s no carrying heavy backpacks during the day, just a small daypack with water, snacks and weather-related items.
Accommodation is always very comfortable, and meals are of good quality. For this Clare Valley walk, I would even go so far as to say of excellent quality.
The tours are run by local guides. We had two guides, one who called the Clare Valley home so was able to answer all those little questions that only a local would know.
The other was our designated driver who lived in Adelaide. Both had worked together in the past and were a good team.
It’s not just all walking either, there are opportunities to experience the attractions each area is well known for.
Each tour will likely include smaller local tours with specialist guides, like our Penobscot Farm tour, a flight over Wilpena Pound or an oyster farm tour at Coffin Bay.
My 3-Day Clare Valley Wine & Wilderness Walk
I’ve not done a multi-day group tour like this before. If you haven’t either but want to give it a go here are all the details and my experience so that you know what to expect.
When I decided to do a walking tour, this one in the Clare Valley wine region appealed to me for a couple of reasons. I had been to the region before, so I knew the terrain was not going to be too challenging.
I also knew the restaurants listed, and I was as eager to taste their food as much as I was to do the walk.
I am not a “group tour” person at heart. I struggle with the idea of a fixed itinerary, I tend to go off on tangents when I travel.
I’m also not the best at being constantly part of a group, I often prefer to do my own thing, at least for a portion of the day. So I understand all the reservations that come with this type of tour.
Life’s An Adventure keeps their groups small, a maximum of sixteen people. We had thirteen in our group plus the two guides, and this was a great number.
While you can’t choose the other members of the tour group, there is a certain type of person that will choose a tour like this. I found our group to be relaxed yet punctual, organised and social.
Some were experienced hikers, some not so much. Some had done walking tours before, others had not. All were well-travelled, interesting people who made spending three days with them easy.
This 3-day walk follows some of the Clare Valley Wine & Wilderness Trail. The whole trail is 110km long and is split up into six sections.
It’s a big loop through the Clare Valley, starting and finishing at the visitor information centre. Most of the trail runs through private property, with over fifty different landowners giving access to their fields, vineyards and scrub.
The itinerary we followed over the three days was perfectly balanced. We fit a lot in, but it didn’t feel rushed and there was just enough flexibility and downtime. There was a good mix of nature, history, food and, of course, wine.
Each day included 10-12km of walking, done at a reasonable pace, not too fast and not too slow. Everyone went at their own pace, but our group kept fairly close together for most of the time.
Thankfully the Clare Valley Wine and Wilderness Walk starts right in the centre of Adelaide.
That’s right, you just need to make your way to the Hilton Adelaide on Victoria Square by 7:30 am and your chariot (ie: truck) will whisk you away from the mundane to start the walk.
Since I live in Adelaide, it was an early morning trip into the city, but if you are flying in from elsewhere, or perhaps just want a little more sleep in the morning, then the Hilton Adelaide is the recommended hotel.
I’ve stayed here multiple times over the years, and it’s always a pleasant experience.
It was around two hours of driving to reach the starting point of our first hike.
We were dropped off at the Clare Valley Information Centre where we could grab a coffee and use the toilets while our guides did a vehicle shuffle – something that would happen regularly to get the truck to the end of the walk.
We started our walk from there on foot, crossing the highway to join the Riesling Trail for a short time.
We left the trail at Tim Adams and continued up to the top of Dunns Range which runs along the eastern side of the Clare Valley and walked along the top, giving us stunning views on both sides of the range.
Lunch was at a small hut on top of the range which could provide shelter if needed. Luckily we didn’t, even though the weather for the whole three days was forecast to be cold and wet – a standard hazard when doing anything outside in May.
A packed lunch of wraps, a piece of fruit and cake had been provided for each person to carry in their daypack.
The wraps were chicken and salad in one and beef yiros and salad in the other and were provided by a local Clare cafe. They were large and one would have been enough for me but both were very tasty.
Now it was time to descend from the range as we completed the hike for the day. We jumped back into the truck and made our way to Bungaree Station where we would be staying for both nights here in the Clare Valley.
We had around 90 minutes to settle in, shower, and get ready for the next part of the trip – a Penobscot Farm tour then a degustation dinner at the Watervale Hotel.
This was the highlight of the tour for me. We were given a farm tour by Warrick which was fascinating, enough to keep us standing in the drizzling rain for close to an hour listening to what he had to say. He was compelling and thought-provoking.
Entering the Watervale Hotel was a surprise – this was not just a simple country pub. We sat down to eight courses of interesting and creative dishes.
The policy here is to use produce in line with their biodynamic philosophy, firstly from their farm and the kitchen garden across the road from the hotel, but then as local as possible without compromising their values.
Each course was matched with a local Clare Valley wine. In May each year, the hotel showcases wines from wineries that do not have their own cellar doors, so we got to try an interesting range of lesser-known labels.
Both the food and wine serves were of an appropriate size, and four hours later we left full and sated and not bursting at the seams and drunk. It was an impressive food experience.
We were up bright and early for another round of hiking in the rain – although to be fair, some were brighter than others after all the food and wine the night before.
Breakfast at Bungaree Station was in the main house and consisted of cereal, fruit and yogurt, then a hot meal of bacon, eggs, tomato and toast.
Water, juice, coffee and tea were also available. It was a good way to get us ready for the day.
Today we were hiking from the Armagh area to the Skilly Valley. While yesterday we were mostly in areas of farmland, today we were mostly hiking through the scrub, including some time in the Spring Gully Conservation Park.
Before we started our hike, we were provided with a range of snacks (lollies, trail mix, muesli bars and biscuits) to make up a small bag to add to our daypack – plenty of sugar to keep us going for the day.
As the hike started, so did the rain, and the first hour was mostly walking in the drizzle. We spotted a few kangaroos through the rain and had some undulating terrain to traverse.
Our halfway point was at the Blue Gum Lookout, which on previous visits has given me great views across the plains to the gulf. Not today though, it was misty instead.
We stopped for a snack and a hot drink (yes, our guides carried supplies to be able to heat water for coffee and tea) and enjoyed what we could of the view. The rain even stayed away while we paused.
The last leg of our hike for the day started with a short walk to see the Cascades, a small waterfall with lovely views down the valley. It was then on to a late lunch as the rain started again.
We were a very wet and bedraggled group as we staggered into Skillogalee Winery & Restaurant. We were all glad to shed our wet layers and huddled around the open fire as we waited for our lunch to be served.
Lunch was a set menu with a glass of wine. We had some tasty bread and olives for starters, followed by a main meal of duck and salad.
We had time for a quick wine tasting at Mitchell Wines, before making our way back to Bungaree Station to get out of our hiking clothes and ready for dinner.
There was a little time to look around, but if there was one disappointment for the whole weekend it was that there wasn’t enough time to properly explore – perhaps if it wasn’t raining so much it might have been easier to look around.
Dinner was back in Clare at Ragu & Co – another three-course meal with wine. We certainly weren’t going hungry on this trip! Ragu & Co is an authentic Italian restaurant that provided us with delicious dishes.
First, an antipasto platter, then two types of pasta, and the mains were chicken, fish and salad.
We all fell into bed with tired legs and full stomachs again.
On our final morning, I had a few extra minutes to look around Bungaree Station. I visited the church and cemetery and lamented that I did not have more time to see the shearing shed and other areas of the property.
They’ve done a great job of providing sign boards and audio to share some of the important histories of one of South Australia’s oldest properties, but I just didn’t get a chance to check it all out.
After breakfast we piled all our luggage into the truck and set off for our last hike, this time starting in the town of Sevenhill.
Just a short distance along the track we come to Sevenhill Cellars. This was the very first winery in the Clare Valley, settled by Jesuit immigrants from Poland in 1851.
Making sacramental wine was very important to them, and the wine cellars were the very first thing they created – although the stone they dug out of it was used for other buildings.
Today Sevenhill Cellars is still the largest supplier of sacramental wine in Australia.
Visitors can take a look around at the historic buildings, including the cottage of the man who brought over the first group of settlers, the wine cellar, a college, St Aloysius’ Church (which still celebrates mass each weekend) and other small religious shrines and statues.
After a look around, we couldn’t leave without a quick taste of the wine, and we went into the cellar door to try their fortified wines – they warmed us up, ready to head out into the drizzle again.
Our walk continued, and as a contrast to the other two days, today we were walking through vineyards, with a small patch of farmland right at the end.
We saw some gnarled old vines, over 150 years old, and also first-hand the evidence of the current Shiraz glut, with some grapes left to rot on the vines.
We were making such good time we took the long way to Paulett’s where we had lunch in their Bush Devine Restaurant, another of the acclaimed winery restaurants in the Clare Valley.
We had preordered our meals here the day before from a selection of three dishes, one duck, one barramundi and the other a vegetarian gnocchi. Of course, a glass of wine was included too!
The end of lunch sadly signalled the end of our time in the Clare Valley. We bid farewell to our local guide, and it was back into the truck for the two-hour trip back to Adelaide.
We had tired bodies and full bellies and it was a sleepy crew who reflected on a fabulous three days on the Clare Valley Wine and Wilderness Walk.
Those visiting from interstate had discovered that a region of SA renowned for its Rieslings has much more than just that going for it.
We all agreed the walking was not too difficult – but there was just enough challenge with the few hills we had to negotiate along the way.
The food was well above expectations, the accommodation was comfortable, and most importantly, warm. We all learnt new things and stocked up our wine supplies.
And we all agreed – it was even worth it, walking in the rain!
Want to explore the Clare Valley walking trails yourself?
See all the details of the tour on the Life’s An Adventure website here
Thank you to Life’s An Adventure for sponsoring this tour. As always, all opinions and reviews are my own and as I saw things on this particular tour in May 2023.
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