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Published October 24th 2016
There's more than vines in this Valley
Gum tree lined roads, gently flowing creeks, wildflowers and views to die for are synonymous with long distance travel and scenes from the outback. Little did I expect to see the same when I ventured along Spring Gully Scenic Drive 18 through the world famous wine region of the Clare Valley.
The Clare Valley Wine Food and Tourism Centre on the corner of Horrocks Highway and Spring Gully Road is the starting point of Scenic Drive 18, and with coffee, wine tasting, some light snacks and plenty of local travel ideas, it is easy to forget to get back in the car and start the scenic drive. After a couple more pointers from the staff, we depart and head west along Spring Gully Road.
It is not long before we pass a number of signs pointing out some of the local accommodation houses including Clare View Accommodation, Skilladene and Trestrail Cottage, each of which is nestled into the hills and offer different perspectives and views of the Clare Valley and surrounds.
As the road climbs towards the hills, the bitumen gives away to a solid gravel road, the gum trees multiply, a small creek appears and a combination of farming land and natural bushlands treat visitors as they progress along Spring Gully Road.
Towards the top of the road, the Spring Gully lookout complete with stunning views to the farmlands of the Adelaide Plains, and on a clear day towards Port Wakefield and the Gulf of St Vincent. The lookout also doubles as the entrance to the Spring Gully Conservation Park where a number of short walks take visitors to an oft running waterfall at the Cascades, and in search of the beautiful but rare white spider orchid.
The junction of Saw Mill Road and Hughes Park Road sees drivers with an option for the scenic drive. For those who are short of time, then a left turn will lead you back to Sevenhill and eventually Clare, but for those wishing to explore more of the beautiful Clare Valley, a right turn is a must.
3 bicycles pass us by, and we realise that this part of the Scenic Drive also doubles as the John Horrocks Loop, one of the loop trails running from the popular Riesling Trail between the towns of Penwortham and Sevenhill.
Continuing along Hughes Park Road we pass another series of majestic gum trees and a lightly running creek against a backdrop of vines from some of the named producers of the Clare Valley being Skillogalee, Jeanneret, Mitchell, Penna Lane and Kilikanoon. And while the landscape looks beautiful, the "Cellar Door Open" sign has appeal, and a quick stop eventuates.
The next stop along the Scenic Drive is Hughes Park, a former grazing property that now offers unique and luxury accommodation amongst the gum trees in a fully restored cottage that has origins back to 1845.
The Scenic Drive continues across Popes Hill, crosses the Riesling Trail and the Mawson Trail, and drops down into the lovely town of Watervale, where the temptation of wineries and accommodation continues. From there it is a short drive back along Horrocks Highway towards Clare and the Clare Valley Wine Food and Tourism Centre.
The Spring Gully Scenic Drive 18 is around 22km, with another 11km back to Clare, which makes it an ideal short car trip or perhaps an extended bike ride. Directional signage exists at all corners, or alternatively the staff at the Tourism Centre can provide directions. The Drive is perfect at anytime, with different highlights all year round.