Heading for the Hills is an essential part of any visit to the South Australian capital.
Sitting directly east of the city in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Adelaide Hills encompass a bucolic patchwork of rolling pastoral land, fruitful vineyards, pockets of virgin bushland, mossy waterways, and tiny towns and villages dotted with ivy-covered stone cottages and churches.
Upping the allure even further, adults only Sequoia Lodge on Mount Lofty offers deluxe accommodation and stunning views of the plains below. A stay at this stylish retreat puts guests within easy reach of everything the Hills have to offer.
Here are ten of the best things to do in the Adelaide Hills.
1. Explore Mount Lofty Botanic Garden
Sitting on Sequoia Lodge’s doorstep, the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden is a divine spot to lose yourself for a few hours. Spread over 97 hectares, home to a variety of landscapes, and filled with mellifluous birdsong, highlights include the Australian Forest, International Rose Garden, Wetland Zone, and Garden of Health (which showcases plants that have been used to promote health and wellbeing for thousands of years). There’s a lot to see and do here, so it’s worth putting yourself in the hands of an expert on a free guided tour.
2. Go wild at Cleland Wildlife Park
It’s a short drive from the Botanic Garden to the Mount Lofty Summit Lookout, and on to Cleland Wildlife Park — home to an array of native animal species. Meet kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and koalas, or cross paths with some of the less cuddly locals in the reptile house. There are scheduled feeding times and keeper talks throughout the day. Sequoia Lodge’s Cleland Koala Experience gives you access to the park two hours before it opens to the public.
3. Take a country drive in style
The concept of a country drive in the Adelaide Hills is elevated to an elite level with Prancing Horse. You’ll have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the latest Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and McLarens, and put them through their paces over the course of a single day. This experience includes a five-course lunch at The Lane Vineyard in Hahndorf and a sumptuous dinner at Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant at Mount Lofty House, and can be booked in conjunction with your stay at Sequoia Lodge.
4. Check out some motoring classics
Car enthusiasts will also want to drop by the National Motor Museum in Birdswood to admire their collection of motoring bling. With around 400 vehicles on display, this is one of the largest museums of its kind in the country. See antique and vintage vehicles, gas guzzling mid-20th century classics, muscle cars, modern sedans, motorcycles, and plenty of auto-memorabilia. You’ll need a good two or three hours here.
5. Explore the local wine scene
The Adelaide Hills are the highest wine region in South Australia, and as such, they make a unique contribution to the state’s formidable winemaking credentials. Cooler and wetter than the Barossa, the Hills offer elegant sauvignon blancs, understated chardonnays, and velvety pinot noirs. There are more than fifty cellar in operation. Drop by Deviation Road for stellar hand-crafted sparklings, Shaw & Smith for celebrated sav blancs, and Ashton Hills Vineyard, which sets the standard for Australian pinot production.
6. Visit Hahndorf
Few visitors to the Adelaide Hills depart without having spent a few hours soaking up the Germanic charm of Hahndorf. Settled by Prussian immigrants in the early 1830s, this tourist hotspot boasts gorgeous period cottages, characterful public houses, arty boutiques, winsome galleries, and aromatic artisanal food stores. Follow your nose into bakeries turning out traditional German strudels and spritzkuchen (donuts).
7. Get fruity at Beerenberg
Beerenberg Farm’s preserves and sauces are standard issue on breakfast, lunch and dinner tables across the nation, but it all began with strawberry jam. See where the magic happens by visiting the farm itself, which is located just outside Hahndorf on Mount Barker Road. The farm offers strawberry picking from November through to April — an activity that’s been delighting Adelaidians and visitors alike since the 1970s. The farm shop is open all year round and offers tastings of the broader product range.
8. Learn about a famous landscape painter
The picturesque Hills harbour a thriving arts scene, and it’s easy to see why creatives find the setting so inspiring. Capturing the essence of the Adelaide Hills on canvas was the life’s work of Sir Hans Heysen. Best known for painting realist landscapes, Heysen spent most of the first half of the 20th century working from his Hahndorf home — The Cedars. Today the estate is open to the public and provides an intimate insight into the artist’s life and work.
Explore the grounds and visit Heysen’s studio on a self-guided basis. The studio of his daughter Nora Heysen — the first woman to win the Archibald Prize — is also accessible. You’ll need to join a guided tour to see the inside of the Federation/Arts and Crafts-style home.
9. Master gin distilling at Ambleside
Heading back towards Mount Lofty from Hahndorf, call into award-winning Ambleside Distillers to sample their range of botanical-infused gins. The tasting room and deck offer stunning views across the Hills, and you can settle in with a tasting flight of three top drops or an expertly crafted G&T. True juniper devotees may like to meet the makers and do a tour of the distillery, or even enrol in a gin-making masterclass. They’re held regularly and you’ll take home a bottle of your liquid creation.
10. Climb the Big Rocking Horse
Your visit to the National Motor Museum is also a chance to check out one of the Adelaide Hills’ quirkiest attractions. Pull over en route at The Big Rocking Horse and Toy Factory just outside the town of Gumeracha. It sells an amazing range of handmade wooden toys (crafted on site), and you’ll have the opportunity to climb 18 metres to the top of the world’s biggest hobby horse — an achievement that will earn you a take-home certificate.
Sequoia Lodge onsite experiences
Looking for more memorable experiences in the Adelaide Hills? Here’s a selection of the curated onsite tours and experiences available to all guests at Sequoia Lodge.
Gather with other guests at sunset for a glass of wine and a selection of bites created from the finest local produce. You’ll also learn some of the rich indigenous history of the region from your hosts.
This early morning yoga session aims to loosen muscles and relax the mind as a prelude to your day of discovery in the Hills. A qualified practitioner will tailor moves to suit your skill level.
Guided nature walk
Gain an appreciation for the extraordinary biodiversity on Mount Lofty by joining Sequoia Lodge’s daily guided nature walk. This is a must-do at least once during your stay.
Maker & Somm Experience
A stay at Sequoia Lodge puts you within reach of no less than four fabulous wine regions. Join one of the Lodge’s Maker & Somm sessions, where a sommelier joins forces with a local winemaker to guide you through a tasting.
If you love getting starry-eyed, Sequoia Lodge is the perfect place to do it! From this lofty vantage point, and with access to a private telescope, the stars seemingly come to you. Identify ancient constellations and take a visual stroll along the glittering Milky Way.
For more information, visit www.sequoialodge.com.au.
Do you have any suggestions to add to the best things to do in the Adelaide Hills? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.