McLaren Vale, South Australia, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


Visiting McLaren Vale and not seeing the d'Arenberg Cube is a bit like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. The bonkers, five-level Rubik's Cube-esque structure houses a museum, cafe, art gallery and tasting room. Highlights include a weather-controlled outdoor soundtrack, a $1 million portrait of Jesus fashioned out of South Australian opals and a set of men's urinals that have to be seen to be believed. Luckily, the wines match the hype. See


The Chaff Mill, McLaren Vale, South Australia 

It took owners Richard and Bernice six years to transform a dilapidated 1870s stone granary into Old Chaff Mill Retreat, a new luxury two-suite property in Sellicks Hill. Thankfully, they've retained many original features (including a rusted conveyer belt driveshaft and a worn wooden chaff chute) but also added modern conveniences, such as full kitchens and opulent stand-alone baths. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, it's a tranquil haven you'll be reluctant to leave. See


Housed in a handsome 1850s homestead, the Salopian Inn has been in the talented hands of owner/chef Karena Armstrong since 2012. Sourcing produce from an on-site organic garden and regional suppliers, it offers a menu of seasonal modern Australian fare with an Asian twist (think Sri Lankan hoppers and king prawn dumplings). The result is regional dining at its best – excellent food served in an atmospheric setting by delightful staff. See


As South Australia's oldest market, the weekly Willunga Farmers Market has been showcasing the Fleurieu Peninsula's best produce for more than 19 years. Held every Saturday from 8am to 12pm, it contains 60-70 stalls selling everything from alpaca pastrami to cold-pressed honey to gin-flavoured cheese. There's even an outfit selling tasty local treats for dogs. Arrive early for the best choice and leave space for top-notch coffee and delicious mushroom toasties. See


In less than five years, Never Never Distillery has gone from a tiny Adelaide start-up to an award-winning global brand, culminating in its Southern Strength Gin winning World's Best Classic Gin at the 2019 World Gin Awards. You can sample its full range of juniper-laced spirits in a stylish new tasting room at the Chalk Hill Collective, which is also home to Chalk Hill Wines and Italian restaurant Cucina di Strada. See


From its unrivalled cliff-top position, the Star of Greece restaurant offers such a mesmerising panorama of Port Willunga Beach that it could easily get away with serving sub-standard fare. Thankfully, the food matches the view, with a focus on fresh, regional produce (think Coffin Bay oysters and King George whiting) accompanied by an excellent wine list. Don't be fooled by the name, which refers to a nearby shipwreck, the cuisine is unashamedly modern Australian. See


Once a busy corridor for steam trains, the seven-kilometre stretch of disused rail line between McLaren Vale and Willunga has since been repurposed as a cycle path. Known as The Shiraz Trail, it offers a gloriously scenic (and welcomingly flat) route through the vineyards, passing wineries including Oxenberry Farm and Primo Estate. Hire a stylish cruiser from Hither&Yon in Willunga or an electric bike from Coast&Co at Primo Estate. See and


It's worth ensuring your visit spans a weekend just so you can experience the rustic charm of Russell's Pizza in Willunga. Housed in a tin-roofed stone cottage, this McLaren Vale institution has been serving authentic Italian-style wood-fired pizzas for almost 30 years. Grab a table in the garden, crack open a BYO bottle of your favourite local drop and savour the joint's ridiculously convivial atmosphere. Book ahead. See



Sellicks Beach, South Australia 

As one of Australia's only coastal wine regions, McLaren Vale offers the intriguing possibility of spending the morning at the beach and the afternoon among the vineyards. Hire a stand-up paddleboard from SUP Down South at Port Willunga for a cruise on the bay's aquamarine waters. While gliding over a pristine aquatic reserve, you'll pass the remnants of the port's old wooden jetty and several fishermen's caves chiselled into the sandstone cliffs. See


McLaren Vale might have made its name with shiraz, but thanks to a new breed of innovative young winemakers, you'll now find an intriguing range of lesser-known Mediterranean varietals, such as fiano, nero d'avola and carignan. Sample these and more at 148 McMurtrie Road, a new cellar-door incubator that's home to up-and-coming labels Lino Ramble, Bondar and Sherrah. See and

Rob McFarland was a guest of McLaren Vale Grape Wine Tourism Association. See