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Clare Valley, South Australia

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The Clare Valley owes much to the pioneers who planted vines and built in stone. Boutique wineries, scenic beauty and rustic charm combine to make “the garden of the north” an ideal weekend destination.

Less than two hours to Adelaide’s north, this world-famous region of elevated valleys runs for 30km between the hamlet of Auburn at the southern entrance and Clare township to the north.

Driving along Clare’s main road, row upon row of vines on either side, you pass by 19th-century villages such as Watervale, Sevenhill and Leasingham, where settlers’ stone houses have been converted into alfresco restaurants and guest cottages. Some of the most picturesque are now cellar doors for boutique producers of many famous labels - the region’s own aromatic and delicate riesling white wine, as well as its full-bodied shiraz and cabernet sauvignon reds. There are more than 20 wineries and about 40 cellar doors. One of them, Sevenhill Cellars, is the oldest winery in the Clare Valley, founded by Jesuits in 1851.

One of the best ways to tour the region is by bicycle along the 27km Riesling Trail. After renting a bike or two, pedal past row upon row of vineyards and paddocks, stopping to sample the latest vintage at every beckoning cellar door.

The village of Mintaro, north-east of Leasingham, is living history in shades of grey, so solidly built with bluestone walls and slate roofs, that a century or two scarcely matters. Nearby is grand Martindale Hall, the country seat of a Victorian-era pastoralist. The mansion’s plain but imposing façade contrasts with its Italianate interior.

Further to the north is Burra, which during the copper boom of the mid 19th century was the nation’s seventh-largest metropolis. Now it’s one of the nation’s greatest historical sites, with pioneer streets, the “Monster Mine”, old jailhouse and small museums. The Burra Heritage Passport, a self-guided tour, includes entrance to eight locked historic sites, including the miners’ “dugout” homes in “Creek Street”.

On the homeward trail, stop at Kapunda, south of Clare. Kapunda is known for its wonderful stone buildings and iron lacework that are the legacy of past prosperity, courtesy of the nation’s first copper mine. A 10km walk, the Kapunda Heritage Trail leads you through the old copper mine area past tunnels, open cuts and miners’ cottages.

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