So is the Barossa Valley all about the wine? Yes. And no. First-time visitors can be forgiven for being a tad intimidated on arrival. Where to start? This South Australian treasure, encompassing the towns of Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa 50 minutes north-east of Adelaide, is internationally renown for the quality of its wines, its produce and its restaurants. Its scores of cellar doors are as intriguing as they are delicious, thanks to their incredible back stories and picture perfect locations. Even if one or two tastings is your limit you won't be disappointed – there is plenty to see and do as well as taste and the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort is a perfect base.
The resort sits in the hills of the Barossa Ranges between the historic townships of Lyndoch and Tanunda. Our GPS delivers us via a dirt road but once we round a bend and spot rows of vines, bushland, hills and the lush Tanunda Pines Golf Course next to the low-rise resort we are relieved. Google was just messing with us - we could not be more central. Turns out that the creek at Rowland Flat visible from our balcony is not just any creek – it's Jacob's – and the home to that ubiquitous label is right there as well. After a 10-minute drive to nearby historic Tanunda (yes, the one with the chateau) we realise we are smack bang in a bottle shop come to life. What's not to like?
If you've got it, flaunt it. Every room at this cleverly designed, low-rise resort has a balcony facing bushland, neat rows of vines and distant hills. Rub-your-eyes sunrises and spectacular birdlife are included extras. The outward-facing theme is key here: from the large pool area with its snug cabanas, deck chairs and al fresco cafe, to the restaurant with its high ceiling and terrace; to the covered, yet open-air, walkways which guests traverse from their rooms to get to other parts of the resort, there's an emphasis on space. There are tennis, volleyball and basketball courts; that winery essential that is the giant chess set; an Endota spa, a gym, a lauded restaurant and of course, the 18-hole golf course next door.
All 140 guest rooms were refurbished in late 2020 and ours is more like a small apartment. We enter via a kitchen area with fridge, microwave, plenty of bench space and utensils. The tones are neutral with pops of orange from cushions and a striking gum-leaf mural above the king-size bed. There's enough room for a large desk (the Wi-Fi is free and reliable) and a lounge area with floor lamp and coffee table. The wall-mounted TV across from the bed offers Foxtel and a choice of movies. There's plenty of storage space, including a wardrobe, with safe, ironing board, hair-dryer and luggage bench. The bathroom is roomy and has a rain shower. But the highlight is the large, private balcony accessed by sliding doors – a sun trap in the mornings. From here we spot multi-coloured parrots zipping from grape vine to gum tree and wallabies nibbling on grass just minutes after we arrive. Later our balcony chairs become ringside seats to a boxing match between two giant roos who choose to slug it out in a small clearing in front of us. The sides of the balconies can be retracted for larger groups with adjacent rooms who want to mingle over sundowners. At night, watch from your bed as a carpet of stars pop in a black velvet night sky. Daytimes start with an early glow with silver-tipped rosy sunrises.
The Barossa is home to the big guns: Penfolds, Yalumba, Wolf Blass, Seppeltsfield, Rockford. For a taste of history with your wine try Langmeil Winery in Tanunda, home to what is believed to be the world's oldest shiraz vineyard. Winery tours can be booked at reception, or cycle off to explore on your own. There are plenty of walking and cycling tracks nearby or drive to nearby Angaston, Tanduna or Lyndoch for wining, dining, shopping and pottering. For more adventurous adventures there's Barossa Helicopters (barossahelicopters.com.au) for scenic flights from $40 a person. Or take the kids on a drive to the Whispering Wall, the retaining wall of the Barossa Reservoir built between 1899 and 1903, which offers unique acoustic effects: words whispered at one side can be clearly heard more than 100 metres away. But there is plenty to amuse closer to home. The pool area is big enough so couples and families won't annoy each other and the sail cloths make longer immersion possible. If you want to chill out even more, book into the on-site Endota Spa.
The onsite Cellar Kitchen restaurant with its soaring ceiling and central fireplace specialises in seasonal produce. Highlights are whole wheat spaghetti with Goolwa pipis, chilli, garlic and white wine and roasted fillet of barramundi, cauliflower, almond and caper salsa. Don't miss the crispy potatoes with salt and vinegar as a very moorish side (two courses $68; three courses $85). All dinners feature bread from Tanunda's Apex Bakery with whipped butter. Speaking of bakeries, Tanunda has some big guns including Apex, dating back to 1924 and home to natural sourdough and German breads, and Tanunda Bakery for traditional pretzels and seasonal fruit tarts. This being the Barossa, there are a wealth of good restaurants at wineries nearby and wine tastings can be arranged at the Novotel's tasting room. Foodies should factor in a Saturday visit to the Barossa Farmers' Market at Angaston.
This is a well-priced and attractive alternative for Barossa first timers. Great for couples or families.
The view of hills, vines, sunrises, birdlife and roos.
Cigarette smoke wafting in one afternoon from a nearby balcony.
Jane Richards stayed courtesy of the Novotel Barossa Resort.