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Published September 12th 2015
Taking a trip down the original fruit grower's lane
I was heading along Magill Road recently when the Tourist Drive 53 icon appeared on the SatNav in my car. A quick check on Google Maps, and sure enough, I was on Tourist Drive 53. But where did it go, I wondered ? With a spare morning ahead of me, off I went along the Drive in an effort to find out.
Tourist Drive 53 starts at the Maid and Magpie Hotel and heads east along Magill Road passing several shops selling fruit and vegetables, various antiques and collectables, and Jill's Country Kitchen before reaching the Adelaide Hills. Following the cyclists who are headed up the Norton Summit Road, the Drive meanders past Morialta Conservation Park along with some spectacular views of the City behind us and some great views of the cherry farms to the south. A bit further along the road we approach the small township of Norton Summit.
First settled in 1839, Norton Summit 'boomed' during the 19th Century, before settling down to become a small town with a pub (Scenic Hotel), Council Chambers and the St John's Church. However Norton Summit is most famous for its orchards and being the home town of South Australia's longest serving Premier, Sir Thomas Playford. The Playford family has held property in the region for many years, and been fruit growers in the area for the majority of the time. The Playford Centenary Garden across the road from the Scenic Hotel pays tribute to Sir Thomas and the Playford family.
Crossing over South Australia's own Heysen Trail, the next town on the drive is Ashton sitting on a crest at the highest point on the Lobethal Road. Ashton was also founded in 1854 at a time when towns were only 2-3 miles apart, and is based at the crossroads of Tourist Drive 51 and Tourist Drive 53. Business around Ashton has long since disappeared with the Real Estate Office, Post Office and the Memorial Hall being the only three operating pieces of history.
Heading east and down the hill from Ashton we pass a small sign near the bottom that points to an old bridge of yesteryear being the original bridge to be built across Deep Creek. Built in 1867, the narrow single lane bridge serviced traffic for many years, before the Highways Department decided to take out a couple of hairpins on the main road and to build a new bridge around 500m south of this existing bridge.
The Tourist Drive now starts some undulations through some beautiful parts of the Adelaide Hills with orchards, vineyards, gum trees and pine trees all fighting for attention. Amongst other items of interest as the road continues towards Lenswood is the Old Jam Factory (now in the City), Camelot Castle, (Julie) Bishop's Orchards and Accommodation House and the two small towns of Basket Range and Forest Range.
Various more orchards are passed and it is not long before we reach the outskirts of Lenswood, the apple capital of the Adelaide Hills. Just prior to entering the township the magnificent dual pine World War One memorial, once known as the forgotten monument, stands proud on the southern side of the road reminding us that our service men and women came from all parts of our country.
Lenswood's biggest employer is the Lenswood Co-op, where fruitgrowers gather to combine and sell their stocks. At this point, Tourist Drive 53 splits in two directions, and I elect to continue along Lobethal Road and we head past numerous farmhouses, some in various states of disrepair but all still in use today. The Drive continues down the hill and heads past the former Onkaparinga Woollen Factory (home of the Lobethal Markets) in to Lobethal, the town of many Christmas Lights.
Driving north along the Main Street, the Lobethal Bakery comes in to sight and I elect to pull in for some lovely German-themed sustenance before continuing my journey. Meanwhile next door to the bakery is a unique plaque of a cricket bat and ball, erected in honour of the Kumnick Cricket Bat Factory which produced some 15,000 cricket bats a year on this particular site some 100 years ago.
This extension of Tourist Drive 53 ends here and I return back to Lenswood and then turn on to Swamp Road for the remainder of the drive through the scenic valley nestled between the Onkaparinga Valley and the Adelaide Hills where fruit trees are intermingled with some near ruins and the occasional forest, often in the one block. The road then loops around and heads past the Oakbank Racing Club, Johnston's Cellar Door and in to the historic township of Oakbank.
Tourist Drive 53 then continues south along Onkaparinga Drive through Balhannah and past several fruit sellers alongside the road including The Olde Apple Shed whose family sized apple pie is well worthy of the investment. Heading further south, the Drive turns towards Hahndorf and we pass The Cedars, Sir Hans Heysen's painting property in the Adelaide Hills, before finishing at the tourist mecca of Hahndorf.
Unfortunately Adelaide Hills Tourist Drive 53 is no longer sign posted which is disappointing for those just wishing to meander, but it is clearly marked on Google Maps and most SatNavs in cars, and if I am able to navigate along it, then I think anyone can. So if anyone is looking to better understand and appreciate the fruit growing industry within the Adelaide Hills, then take a trip on this Tourist Drive, you wont be disappointed.