The Barossa Valley is in South Australia and is one of the best wine-producing regions on the Australian mainland with a rapidly-growing international reputation. Many of the area wineries are open for tastings and there are organized tours operating out of Adelaide to visit them.
The evidence of the original German settlers can be seen in the steeply sloping roofs of the older buildings. The local cuisine is very heavily influenced by Germanic culture. For example, meats such as Mettwurst, Bratwurst and a range of other tasty and old-fashioned sausages are found throughout the region. On the dessert side, heavy cream cakes are very popular, including Bienenstich and cream buns of all sorts of forms.
There is also an Anglo influence in the Scottish Angaston region. You will be able to see the differences between this town and the surrounding Germanic towns, in the architecture and even by the family names that can be found on war memorials etc.
Religion in this region is predominantly Lutheran, so expect to see many churches made from stone, with beautiful silver spires reaching to the sky. The quality architecture is testament to much loving care and fine masonry skills lavished on the building of the churches in the past 150 years.
It is now possible to say with truth and pride that the Barossa is one of the finest wine producing regions in the world. It has great soils, family farms where the wine-growing traditions have been passed down through the generations and local oenologist courses at such places as Roseworthy College are ensuring that winemakers are highly educated and skilled in their winemaking. Many of the local schools also include winemaking courses as part of their agricultural studies curricula.
Other regions close by include Eden Valley, Adelaide Hills, and of course Adelaide.
The Barossa Valley is about an hour's drive from the airport in Adelaide. Public transport isn't that good within the valley, which is a shame given the opportunities to drink lots of excellent wine, usually for free - though hotels can arrange transfers to and from the airport if that's what you want. Hires are available in Adelaide for all budgets ranging from the world wide brands, down to rent-a wreck cheapies. The Adelaide airport is rated as one of the best mid-sized airports in the world (new terminal in 2006), and renting and returning a hire car is a no-brainer.
Getting to the Barossa from Adelaide or the airport is considerably easier than traveling to Australia's other major wine regions (Hunter Valley from Sydney - about 2-1/2 hours; Yarra Valley from Melbourne - about 1-1/2 hours; or Margaret River from Perth - about 3-1/2 hours). The Barossa is positioned one hour to the Northeast of Adelaide, about the same geographical relationship as Napa Valley has with the city of San Francisco.
The scenic driving route to the Barossa is via the Adelaide Hills just East of the city, and then North through the hills enjoying country roads and sleepy towns. Perhaps drive through Inglewood Houghton and Williamstown to arrive in the Valley at Lyndoch. If time permits the wispering wall, the reservoir wall at Williamstown is worth a visit. Similar to the sound effect in the dome of St Pauls London, but on a far far larger scale, wispered sounds, inaudible a few feet away are miraculously conducted along the wall to re-emerge perfectly audible half a kilometre or so away.
The direct route is via Main North Road and Sturt Highway bypassing the town of Gawler. This route is about 1/3 city driving, 1/3 suburban neighborhoods and shopping centres, and the final 1/3 is open main road through rolling country farmland. Allowing 60-75 minutes between airport and Barossa winery tasting rooms is realistic. Adelaide seldom has traffic jams, and while the locals may whinge about growing conjestion, it's still a very civilised metropolis with polite drivers, good roads and ample directional signage.
Tour Down Under. A professional cycling racing race featuring some of the world's top riders. Race starts on the third Tuesday of January each year. One stage of the five stage race includes towns in the Barossa Valley. The riders ride approximately 150km on this stage.
Whispering Wall. via Yettie Road, Williamstown. A dam built to create the Barossa Valley reservoir in 1903, that has an unusual design and quality of build that allows people to whisper against one end of the dam wall, and be heard perfectly at the other end 144 metres away.
Menglers Hill Lookout An excellent vantage point east of Tanunda, with a large carpark and several sculpture around the base. On a clear summers day, it offers stunning and unparalleled views of the entire Valley. Even in winter rain, the view is still worth the short drive.
Visit wineries. The Barossa Valley is famous for wines and many wines are internationally known. The following list contains some of the larger and commonly recognized wineries.
Barossa Vintage Festival. A week long festival showcasing the region's best food and wine. The festival is held at wineries, vineyards, churches and parks. The Festival is held in odd numbered years and always begins on Easter Monday.
Many of the local restaurants and cafes serve "traditional" German-heritage food, and food made with locally-grown fresh ingredients. Examples include 1918 in Tanunda and the Krondorf Cafe at Kabminye Wines. Fine dining choices include Appellation in Marananga and Vintner's Bar and Grill in Angaston.
Meals will be 'off' in the afternoon. Plan on eating at structured times (11a-1p; 5p-8p).
If you're coming to the Barossa Valley, the wine is probably part of the attraction. Most bars will serve a good selection, and most of the wineries have a cellar door with free tastings. The main restaurants feature a wide range of Barossa vintages, as well as a surprising bredth of offerings from the rest of Australia and international iconic wines.
The Barossa Valley is a pretty safe area. The usual travel precautions always apply though.
Also, you should be very careful not to drink and drive. The police are very vigilant as this region sadly has a high rate of car accident deaths amongst young males - the roads can be very windy and large gum trees in these region often front onto the road, which can make coming at one very daunting as you round a corner. Stick to the speed limits and keep safe.
Alternatively, you could head south and out to the Great Ocean Road on your way to Melbourne.
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