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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.