Inspired by Australia's natural, developing and fun environments.
Get some inspiration.
Published April 13th 2016
The Scenic Drive that has it all
I was confused and I was a local. It did leave me wandering how interstate tourists might cope. My confusion arose from the large brown signs on North East Road which stated Torrens Valley Scenic Drive, while both my SatNav and Google Maps were telling me that I was on Tourist Drive 58. Perhaps it was to be one and the same – I went for a drive to find out.
I was to start in Modbury and head northeast from there, but the newly refurbished Modbury Institute took my eye. Now badged as The Pickled Duck, and hosting a sandwich board that suggested coffee was made available, I made my way inside this pleasantly redecorated building in what was to be a sign of things to come.
I was on Tourist Drive 58, but apparently not yet on the Scenic Drive as I got back in the car and headed through St Agnes and into Tea Tree Gully where numerous historic buildings have been re-constituted as hotels, cafes or restaurants. The Gully Hotel is the largest of them all, but the Fox and Firkin and Ruby Raja's also show what is possible with an old building and some innovative thinking.
The thinking didn't end there either as soon thereafter I pass Newmans Nursery. Newmans has been a significant name in the northeast for many years, and like many businesses they have felt some competitive pressures from large chains. But in true local spirit Newmans have responded with a café that amongst other things has some devonshire tea and scones, and always has a full car park on the weekends.
The road then starts to climb and we start to catch glimpse of Anstey Hill Recreation Park on the south, and suburban farmlands to the north scattered with buildings of yesteryear. At the top of the hill we note the sign to Glen Ewin Estate, another renovated country estate, and continue through the undulating range to the Inglewood Inn, another heritage listed building that has combined with an innovative chef and menu to force yet another expansion of the car park in order to cater for weekend visitors.
Leaving Inglewood, the drive continues through some undulations and recovering-from-bushfire countryside before touching the first of numerous ponds within the Millbrook Reservoir. The reservoir was built in 1918 to collect waters to service Adelaide, and in the process it was forced the amalgamation of a number of small ponds in the area while also signifying the end to the small township of Chain of Ponds. A small parking bay just across the Kersbrook Creek has an information board detailing the history of the town, the only remnants of which are remaining is the cemetery located just behind the boards.
Up and over a final crest, crossing the Heysen Trail, and the splendour of radiata pine trees throughout the Mt Crawford Forest greets us with views to Checkers Hill to the north and the Adelaide to Mannum pipeline to the south. Descending from a crest we pass some rustic houses on the right before we converge with the Gorge Road, and cross the Torrens River to stumble upon the Gumeracha Weir. Built in the early 20th Century to mitigate floods, water from the Weir is pumped through a tunnel to the Millbrook Reservoir thus alleviating the water pressures on the lower Torrens River.
Before reaching Gumeracha the Chain of Ponds Winery and Talunga Estate appears on the right, both fine establishments and worthy of an extended visit. Gumeracha approaches and it is not until you pass the end of the Main Street that the town's most famous icon becomes visible . The Giant Rocking Horse is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and is a must stop if there are kids in your car.
The road between Gumeracha and Birdwood is perhaps the prettiest in terms of views of gushing River Torrens. The nearby hills and numerous side creeks collect water, and funnel into the largest channel being the river. The river runs through private properties thus making it difficult to get better views than those afforded by the car, which themselves are spectacular enough at various times of the day.
The largest town on the drive is Birdwood and is next. Once called Blumberg but changed during World War One, the town is home to the National Motor Museum, several cafes, bakeries and galleries. A quick walk down the main street sees a few unusual sights including a 1926 Chevy parked atop of the Birdwood Hotel.
Beyond Birdwood, the drive continues to follow the River Torrens and an old rail line towards Mt Pleasant. As we are near the top of the range, the river experiences periods of dryness as its collector tributaries have dwindled. Similarly the rail line is having a dry spell, having been closed in 1964 and being in a state of wait for funds to make it in to a rail trail that joins with the former line at Mt Torrens.
Mt Pleasant is the town at the Top of the Torrens which commenced a Farmers Market five years ago that has gone from a few stalls to over 50 stalls every Saturday morning. With a Caravan Park, more antique shops and the Mt Pleasant Bakery / Café, Mt Pleasant is a town that is worthy of a stop to explore.
The Torrens Valley Scenic Drive 58 continues for another 5km to the crest of the Eden Valley Hills just before the Grand Cru Estate of Peter Seppelt Wines appears. The start of the River Torrens is believed to be at the northern side of the Mt Pleasant Golf Course, and typically only sees water on days of heavy rain.
The Scenic Drive is around 40km and is populated with towns, cafes and bathroom facilities throughout. Parks, trees and wineries in various towns along the drive also encourage visitors to take their time on a trip along one of Adelaide's most popular scenic / tourist drives.