The South Australia guide: Adelaide Hills

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Less than 30 minutes' drive from the city, Adelaide Hills is one of the world's leading producers of cool-climate wines.

Where to stay

Memories of dusty rooms at country pubs fade away at The Stirling Hotel, where a private wing houses five spacious, newly (and smartly) made-over suites including balcony rooms with French doors, leafy village views and party-sized baths. Attention to detail extends to a waterproof bathroom TV remote and a well-equipped communal kitchen for guest use (52 Mount Barker Road, Stirling, 08 8339 9900, stirlinghotel.com.au, from $230 per night).

Families can go bush in comfort at The Retreat, a modern two-bedroom house with an indoor heated pool (9 Hoylake Avenue, Stirling, 08 8339 4702, the-retreat.com.au, from $260 per night, minimum two-night stay Friday, Saturday, Sunday).

Where to eat

Look past the souvenir shops to the heritage of Hahndorf, Australia's oldest German settlement, with a self-guided walking tour available from the Adelaide Hills Visitor Information Centre (68 Main Street, Hahndorf, 08 8388 1185). It gives an insight into the history of the town's 19th-century buildings - the leafy Main Street alone has more than 90.

While you're on Main Street, stop in at number 91a, home to Udder Delights Cheese Cellar, to taste a range of handcrafted local cheeses such as Adelaide Hills brie (the shop is also the starting point for the Adelaide Hills Cheese and Wine Trail, the region's self-drive "progressive picnic"). Take an informal but informative 90-minute nocturnal tour of Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary to see rare and endangered native animals, including platypuses, in a variety of habitats such as wetlands and grasslands (Stock Road, Mylor, 08 8370 9197, warrawong.com).

Visit The Cedars, the light‑infused studio, home and garden of celebrated landscape artist Hans Heysen for a look into the late painter's life and extensive private art collection, as well as a guided tour of the largely intact home, still owned by the Heysen family and rich in anecdotes (Heysen Road, Hahndorf, 08 8388 7277, hansheysen.com.au).

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What to do

Locals flock to the Organic Market and Cafe for homemade breakfast and lunch treats such as Sicilian apple cake, best eaten under the big tree strung with lights out the front (5 Druid Avenue, Stirling, 08 8339 4835, organicmarket.com.au). Nearby is another popular organic breakfast and lunch spot, Ruby's Organic Cafe (29 Mount Barker Road, Stirling, 08 8339 6262).

For fine (but unstuffy) dining, The Grill Restaurant in the historic Stirling Hotel is one of the region's best options, with dishes such as a creamy, subtle confit leek, roquefort and almond tart, and the restaurant's signature chocolate souffle, served with raspberry orange compote and a hot chocolate martini (52 Mount Barker Road, Stirling, 08 8339 2345, stirlinghotel.com.au). Petaluma Restaurant, Bridgewater Mill is another standout (Mount Barker Road, Bridgewater, 08 8339 9200, petaluma.com.au).

Bistro 25 offers rustic, regional food and a strong wine list with a proudly local bias (25 Main Street, Hahndorf, 08 8388 7718). Leave room for an ice-cream or gelato in one of 80 flavours such as blood orange or lemon myrtle made by Bruno Ocampo and family at Ye Olde Icecreamery (27 Main Street, Hahndorf, 0401 645 140, evercream.com.au).

Cellar doors

For wow factor, visit Shaw and Smith (Jones Road, Balhannah, 08 8398 0500, shawandsmith.com) where visitors taste wines in an architect-designed building that has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a lake. Down the road at Nepenthe (Jones Road, Balhannah, 08 8398 8897, nepenthe.com.au) there are views of Mount Lofty and wines are matched with local cheeses. At Hahndorf Hill Winery (Pains Road, Hahndorf, 08 8388 7512, hahndorfhillwinery.com.au) chocolate from France, Belgium and Italy is matched with the winery's offerings in a menu of 40 "chocovino" options. One of South Australia's most popular cellar doors is Bird in Hand (corner Bird in Hand and Pfeiffer roads, Woodside, 08 8389 9488, birdinhand.com.au) where wines are tasted in a rustic extension of the barrel house on a former dairy farm. At The Lane (Ravenswood Lane, Hahndorf, 08 8388 1250, thelane.com.au) the cellar door is part of the buzzing restaurant or, as charismatic sommelier Alister Robertson puts it, "a cellar door with food".

TOP DROP

Hahndorf Hill

Blaufrankisch 2008

Blaufrankisch is an Austrian grape variety, and Hahndorf Hill is the only winery producing it in Australia: this vintage ($35) won a gold medal at the Australian Boutique Wine Awards last year.

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