The Riesling Trail is a great way to get fit whilst taking in some of the best scenery and vineyards in South Australia. It meanders the length of the Clare Valley and follows the former Riverton-Clare-Spalding railway which would have been one of SA's most picturesque train journeys.
The building of the rail line was plagued by public indecision, material shortage, exceptionally bad-weather, strikes and a world war. The line was officially opened in 1918 but in the 1950's, as road transport began to dominate freight carrying services in SA, the line deteriorated and continued to run at a loss. The demise of the line was hastened by a bush fire in 1983, ending all train services. In 1989 the track was dismantled; the steel rails sold to Queensland to extend sugar cane tracks, whilst the railway sleepers went to Melbourne to be used in landscaping. In the 1990's a committee was set up to convert the train track into a walking and cycling linear trail.
A shady, tree-lined section of the Riesling Trail.
Overview The Riesling trail begins at the quaint village of Auburn, some 110 kilometres north of Adelaide. The well graded 27km dirt track heads north through Leasingham, Watervale, Penwortham, and Sevenhill to Clare. It can be ridden one way in about two hours, and walked in about seven. The slightly undulating trail is suitable for walkers, joggers, cyclists, wheelchairs and prams. Wineries, B & B's, pubs and restaurants are within easy reach, and the track is well signposted with points of interest along the way.
This old Stone building in Auburn has been given new life as an eatery. Image by writer.
Auburn-Penwortham I began my ride at Auburn, which has many magnificent bluestone buildings, quite a few of which are listed on the National and State Heritage registers. The Auburn-Penwortham section is around 15kms with the track passing amongst pines, open countryside, green fields and even right past the back doors of houses. At Penwortham and Sevenhill there are three other loops that branch off from the Riesling trail, although these can be hilly and a bit more challenging than the trail itself.
John Ainsworth Horrocks Just before Penwortham, the trail passes under Main North road past the much loved landmark St Mark's church before you reach a storyboard about John Horrocks. At 21 he arrived in Adelaide from England in 1839 and founded the hamlet of Penwortham. He planted the first vines in the region in 1842 and built a cottage believed to be SA's oldest building north of Gawler. The cottage, his grave and Mt Horrocks (the highest point in the area) are all reminders of his significant contribution to the area's early settlement.
Quarry Road Bridge Passing through cemeteries and picnic areas it is a gentle descent toward Clare by way of the Quarry Road bridge (built in 1917). The railway was demolished in the 1980's but the bridge was rebuilt in 1995 after local winemakers realized the potential of a trail passing through the region. At Sevenhill, take a small detour to the Sevenhill Cellars, the oldest winery and vineyard in the region (founded by the Jesuits in 1851).
The impressive steel arch structure spans a road & watercourse. The original concrete abutments are still standing today.
Probably my favourite part of the trail is the Sevenhill to Clare section (7kms) which meanders amongst tall gums, through open country, past dams, homesteads, boutique wineries and B & B's. Kirrihill Wines comes into view on the right with its large balcony overlooking the valley. A welcome break for wine tasting, coffee or four-course meal in the 'Salt n Vines' restaurant, or even for a take away picnic hamper. If you've reached Clare around lunchtime, I recommend the excellent Main Street Bakehouse on Main North road, which has a huge and delicious array of pastries, savory treats, breads and home-made sandwiches.
Mr Mick cellar door and winery just off the trail in Clare. Image by writer.
Clare-Barinia The Clare to Barinia section (9kms) passes through cuttings with steep sides and tall pine trees which protect the track from the sun and wind. This really is open rural countryside, the dead-straight, elevated track offers picturesque views of the surrounding area.
Two serene sections of the track from Clare to Barinia give the feeling that you are riding through a pine forest.
So if you want an easy, meandering ride through vineyards and historic towns with panoramic views of the delightful Clare Valley then make sure you check out the Riesling Trail. It remains one of the Clare valleys most outstanding recreational eco-tourist attractions.
Just to prove I made the 27km distance, this is the end of the line for the Riesling trail at Barinia.