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The Onkaparinga Scenic Drive

Home > Adelaide > Fun for Children | Food and Wine | Family | Escape the City | Day Trips
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. If you like my articles, please subscribe and click the link to Like them. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au
Published December 10th 2012
Take a scenic tour to the mysterious East
The Onkaparinga Scenic Drive

scenic tour, south australian wineries, about adelaide, adelaide hills maps, the charleston, oakbank, onkaparinga, adelaide hills
BMX Track @ Woodside


When people travel about Adelaide on the South Eastern Freeway, most have a specific destination in mind and the freeway lets you get there as fast as possible.

It's a pity really, as the Adelaide Hills towns in the Onkaparinga Valley (on the Onkaparinga Scenic Tour Drive) have lots to offer.

Hand made chocolates, delicious gourmet cheese, and boutique South Australian wineries are just a few of the attractions that you will find in this friendly near country area.

I know that Adelaide Hills maps are not easily found, but with the help of the internet (and your car GPS) that should no longer be an excuse.

So come with us and make a leisurely visit to the towns along the Onkaparinga Scenic Tour.


Balhannah

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Balhannah Hotel


After leaving the freeway at the Verdun exit it is only a matter of minutes before you reach the town of Balhannah. The sprawling Balhannah Hotel may tempt you with its old world charm, although wine lovers may choose to detour here for a tasting at the award winning Nepenthe Wines cellar door with a cheese platter to accompany it.

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Cocolat @ Balhannah


While pondering your choices, you will probably notice that you are parked outside Cocolat - in fact the very location where all their chocolate indulgences and wicked desserts are created.

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Balhannah Post Office - a Relic from Another Time


Balhannah retains much of its small country town feel even today, despite the large, brash and modern Balhannah Junction shopping centre situated centrally. The small town feel is also reflected in the friendly courtesy shown to tourists travelling through towns on the Onkaparinga Scenic Drive.

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Oakbank Railway Station - 130 Years of History


If you have an interest in history, railways, or urban exploration you may like to visit the 130 year old heritage listed old Balhannah railway station. Sadly neglected by the government and the local community, this place may not have many years left before it crumbles to the ground.

It's a pity that a new use has not been found for this building which brought prosperity to the town. I have even seen a suggestion that it should be used as a shelter on the Amy Gillett Bikeway, although I feel that a new purpose for the building in its present location would be much more appropriate.

Oakbank

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Hotel Oakbank


It will come as no surprise to seasoned travellers about Adelaide that the most prominent business you will see on entering the town is the pub (or is it just me?).

Oakbank has long had strong associations with horse racing, so I guess weary travellers would have flocked to the Oakbank Hotel in herds over the years.

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Oakbank House, Built for Brewer James Johnston


However there are other reasons to stop a while - there is a well documented Oakbank Heritage Walk that describes the historical background of some 40 locations around the town. The rather grand Oakbank House is worth a look, with its attractive drive lined with old gum trees.

Indeed the descendants of James Johnston are still active in town, nowadays making cordials and wines rather than brewing beer. South Australian Wineries are certainly versatile.

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Pike's Brewery, Home to the Oakbank Weaver


For the craftily inclined, the former Pikes Brewery building of 1886 across the road is now home to the Oakbank Weaver. You can see and buy handwoven textiles and tapestries here, but if you want Pike's beer it is now available from Pike's Winery in Clare.

Woodside

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The Restored Woodhouse Institute


Adelaide Hills maps aren't even necessary to find Woodside, just keep following the scenic tour road along the Onkaparinga Valley.

I could easily fall into a pattern and show you photos of the town pubs here, but I won't. Both the Bedford Hotel and the Woodside Hotel looked clean and well maintained rustic watering holes - I didn't enter them, so am unable to recommend either.

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Comfortable Chill Out Area


However I did stop at Lovell's Bakery Cafe for directions, and was so surprised at the facilities that I took some photos.

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Kid's Play Area


The cafe was extremely roomy, with separate areas to chill out, for children to play, and to sit at tables. If you're passing through with kids this would be a very comfortable place to stop for a bite to eat.

Other places of interest in Woodside that are covered elsewhere on Weekend Notes are Melba's Chocolate Factory and the Woodside Cheese Wrights. Is that enough to whet your appetite?

Of course both of those products go admirably with the right choice of wine, so why not visit the local winery too?

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Quaint Building @ Woodside


If you have taken on board a few too many calories, consider a walk around the side streets of town. There are many examples of quirky and unusual architecture to surprise the unwary.

There is also a BMX bike track if you take the Station St turnoff.

Charleston

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The Charleston Hotel (of course!)


Charleston is a very modest sized town, even by comparison with others on the Onkaparinga Scenic Drive, and there is no direct evidence that it was named after the popular dance of the 1920's. Despite its venerable history, the Charleston continues to pop up in unexpected places such as Doctor Who, The Lion King, The Simpsons, and video game Mortal Kombat 3.

Miss Watts haberdashery shop
The Former Miss Watts Haberdashery Shop


While passing through the Adelaide Hills Charleston, I did not see enough people to perform the Charleston dance (unless you count the water delivery truck driver - a reminder that water on tap is still a luxury for some about Adelaide).

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Behind la Curtain


However there was evidence of a certain strangeness, a quirkiness sometimes encountered in small and isolated towns.

A garage on the main street has the words Behind la Curtain painted above the door, while below is painted a pair of curtains and a hand reaches out of the garage to open them. An unusual sight about Adelaide or in a country town!

Mount Torrens

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The Old Stone Mt Torrens Hotel


On arriving in Mount Torrens we have left the Onkapringa Valley Rd behind us, but this unique town is well worthy of mention. It is one of the few State Heritage Areas in South Australia. You can read a description of the town in this article, together with suggestions of things to do in Birdwood.

Other towns in the area also have places of interest to visit.

Consider the Mount Pleasant Farmer's Market on a Saturday. For some good places to burn off energy try Cudlee Creek's mountain bike trails, or exploring the Mt Crawford forest where hiking, forse riding, fossicking and camping are popular.
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Why? Because the Adelaide Hills have lots to offer
When: Anytime
Phone: 1800 353 323
Where: Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Balhannah
Cost: Free to visit
Your Comment
Love it, well done! Also worth mentioning is the Heritage Park - they have Chocolate Factory (Melba's Chocolate Factory) and Cheese Factory, and of course wineries ;)
by jzili (score: 1|11) 2072 days ago
Great article Dave. You've put in lots of effort! The Adelaide Hills is one of my all time favourite spots and looks like you've been a frequent visitor lately. Lovell's bakery looks like a very nice lunch spot.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1596) 2073 days ago
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