Bike paths and Vineyards – Cycling through the Clare Valley Region
While we were super excited to cycle up to Broken Hill to see our mums, there was no way we were going to cycle the same road back if we could help it. Luckily for us, Tim’s brother has a ute (utility for those of you not Aussies) and was kind enough to drive us back to Peterborough to start our ride into Adelaide. We got an early start and what had taken us 3 and a half grueling days was retraced in just 3 hours. With the terrain still fresh in our minds the trip backwards took on a whole new perspective.
The Peterborough Caravan Park seems to be a way out of the centre but is clearly signed from the main road and there are a couple of shortcuts you can take on foot that will have you back in the main drag in less than 10 minutes. We checked into one of their on-site vans, equipped with a couple of brochures about the Clare and Barossa Valleys and plotted our route through some of the most scenic areas we’ve visited yet.
A wander into town takes you past some lovely historic buildings and the super helpful and friendly Tourist Information staff are more than happy to help you with any questions you have on both the town and surrounding areas. The office itself is housed in a restored train carriage, a reminder of how important the railways were to the livelihood of this area.
Some of the most historic buildings in town are the four pubs. Being ardent fans of history we decided it was our duty as dedicated tourists to visit each one of them and partake in a couple of cold ales. It really is one of the best ways to connect with the locals who are always up for a chat and we are wrapped to see that all of those we’ve visited over the past few weeks have still been a going concern and in many cases, the centre of the local social scene.
We were a bit concerned overnight as the van rocked and rolled with the blustery wind and a bit of rain but as we hit the road to our next stop, Jamestown, it seemed to turn friendly. With only 45km to ride, almost entirely downhill on quiet roads we sat back and relaxed and took in the scenery. Sunny blue skies, a gentle slope and fresh legs must it one of most pleasant rides yet.
Jamestown is a nice little place. It does have a caravan park but we were lucky enough to be catching up with one of my old university friends who has been living in the area for well over 20 years with her family. Four kids, a successful career and more than two decades of experiences hadn’t changed her a bit. It was great to catch up and really experience country town hospitality. We got to drive around the area on the Sunday, visit the local farmers market at Wirrabara and grabbing a pie at the “best bakery in South Australia” at Stone Hut, seeing more in a few hours than it would have taken us 2 or three days.
After much discussion, we took on board our friends suggestions of a route through to the Barossa Valley. They drive the local roads all the time and know which ones are busy, hilly and sealed or otherwise. Our next stop was Clare in one of the most famous wine regions in Australia. You all probably know I’m a bit partial to a drop or two of red so it was pretty exciting for me.
The ride from Jamestown is basically downhill all the way to Spalding with an average over 25kmph, before kicking up to Clare to complete around 79km. The second half definitely a little harder, dropping our average right back to just over 20 kmph.
The caravan park at Clare is about 3km south of the main shopping area so we figured it was probably sensible to see and do what we wanted to before checking in. First stop on the itinerary was the Knappstein Winery and Brewery where I sampled a spectrum of reds and Tim did a double tasting of the one beer they produce. Second stop was the Clare pub for a great $9.95 lunch. Possibly the best value we’ve had on the whole trip. Third stop was the Foodland to pick up something for dinner and after a bit of a look around town we dropped in at Bentley’s to pick up a few drinks before heading to the Caravan Park for the night. The publican was a little astounded at our story and kept us chatting for a good 20 minutes. Luckily one of the customers, who was staying at the Caravan Park as well, volunteered to carry the beers for us and had them in his fridge by the time we got there. We grabbed a comfortable grass pitch, investigated the pool and had a relaxing afternoon in the treed surrounds.
Day 2 we got ourselves onto the Riesling Trail, a compressed gravel trail (you can pick up across the road from the caravan park) that winds its way down through vineyards for about 20km to Auburn. Most of the way we barely had to pedal and other than a few stiff ups as the path crosses the roads; we barely got a sweat up.
We dropped in at the Seven Hills winery for a look. Everyone with experience in the area had recommended that if we only visited one winery, this should be it. Not only do they have a great selection of wines, you can also visit the museum, underground cellar and a lovely church within the surrounds.
Auburn is a nice little place and is conveniently placed on the Riesling, Mawson and Rattler cycle paths. There’s a great little café called Cogwebs where Judy can answer all your questions on the trail and the surrounding area. Great coffee, great food and great advice. What more can a touring cyclist ask for?
Judy’s advice was we take the road to Saddlesworth and onto the Barrier Highway for the ride into Riverton. The road out is very quiet, as opposed to the one through to Rhynie. With a quick raspberry squash at the Saddlesworth hotel we were in Riverton early in the afternoon and pitched up at the nice little caravan park on the main road in. One of the highlights of riding this way is entering Riverton through a colonnade of gorgeous shady trees.
We were cycling through to Kapunda in the Barossa Valley the next day. I’m sure there’s much more to see in the Clare Valley but we’re on track to be in Adelaide by the following Saturday and we want to get a taste of the Barossa as well.