The Barossa is a popular travel destination in Australia for locals and tourists, thanks to the congregation of good food and wine, creative arts and culture, amazing natural scenery, rich history, friendly people and easy access from Adelaide. 14 of the region's top winemakers shared with me a list of the best things to do and see in the Barossa during our time together at the Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne.
There's plenty to fill up a long holiday with the partner or family and friends. An hour's drive from Adelaide, the Barossa is also a fantastic weekend getaway spot. As part of my Weekend Guide Series, I decided to get the local view on the top things to do in the valley. And who more knowledgeable about the region than Maggie Beer, who spent the past 35 years adding to the Barossa food tradition.
Maggie Beer's live cooking demonstration at Good Food & Wine Show in Perth / Photo courtesy of Maggie Beer Farm Shop
Maggie is an fine example of Australians who make things happen. A self-taught cook with strong work ethics, she went from farming pheasants and running a humble restaurant to becoming a gourmet food producer, exporter and an award-winning author with Maggie Beer Products and Maggie Beer's Farm Shop. These days her schedule includes cooking up tasty treats in television programs and at events like the Perth Good Food & Wine Show or live on stage with WASO. Despite national fame, Maggie continues to work the kitchen in the Farm Shop and champion the Barossa produce.
Maggie and her family are an integral part of the local community. She and her husband Colin have made the Barossa their home, as have their children and grandchildren. I caught up with Maggie to chat about the best things for families to see and do in the region, her fondness for the Barossa and find out what else she's up to these days.
What's your advice for families visiting the Barossa for the first time?
Maggie: Revel in the space and clean air. We have nature at our fingertips here with beautiful walking trails to discover and seasonal produce abounding. Life here is built around good food and wine, and the culture of fantastic art and music. Make sure you give your self time to enjoy it as a 'local'. Go to the farmer's market, see a concert of classical music, eat just picked vine ripened fruit, talk to the person who made the cheese when you are buying it as well as the winemaker who made the wine you are tasting. And definitely try to watch a sunset too!
Sunset from Mengler Hill / Photo courtesy of Lachlan Swan and Tourism Barossa
What would you put on the family 'To-Do List' while in the valley?
Maggie: I think the natural surroundings of the Valley are great drawcards for families. Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park is a great family option, or the Barossa Bushgardens, the lookout at Mengler's Hill with a wander through the sculpture park, and I know our nature walk around the Pheasant Farm is always very popular with kids, leading visitors through the beautiful environment of the Farm. The Farmer's Market is another family friendly choice.
Barossa Farmers Market / Photo courtesy of Tourism Barossa
Rides along the bike path are another great option with slightly older children, but again, I'm not sure visitors are aware of this before they arrive in the Valley and it's something that needs to be planned for. And if you can time things to be in the Valley when our local shows are on, that's a truly fantastic experience for kids of all ages, with the animals being judged, the produce shed full of competition cakes and preserves, and of course the rides!
Maggie: The Farm Shop is a fantastic opportunity for families to experience the Barossa. We have picnic baskets especially for children so they can set up by the dam with their parents to watch the bird life and turtles on the dam. We have a nature walk signposted around the farm to indicate different trees, animal habitats and the things we grow for our products. This aspect of connecting environment to the food we offer on shelf at the Farm Shop is really important for me. I love being able to share knowledge that can create a better understanding around our food and where it comes from.
Where would you recommend families to stay?
Photo courtesy of Lawley Farm
Maggie: Staying in the Valley as a family, I would highly recommend Lawley Farm on Krondorf Road, or perhaps something more self contained like Naimanya Cottage which is very, very close to Kaiser Stuhl park. Or if you'd rather be in the town, there are a collection of beautiful cottages called Goat Square Cottages at Billy Goat Square in Tanunda. The main street is within easy walking distance from there.
Any exciting developments in the Barossa?
Maggie: One of the most influential developments in the Barossa and further afield in South Australia is Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Foundation. I've been on quite a journey around the South Australian schools that have received the government grant for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation
The focus of the Program is for primary school students to learn how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh food in the belief that this approach will provide a better chance of positively influencing children's food choices. Every school is so amazingly different and each one leaves me feeling how wonderful this visionary programme is and how lucky I am to be involved as ambassador for South Australia. It's one of the loveliest things I get to do in this busy life of mine.
Photo courtesy of Maggie Beer Farm Shop
So what's next on your work-life menu?
Maggie: I'm currently working on my new project, the Maggie Beer Foundation. The Foundation aims to create tangible and ongoing improvement in the aged care environment at a national level. In fellowship with my board of industry leaders, professors and health advisers, I have made it my personal mission to link the latest research of nutrition's impact on brain health and general well-being, with my knowledge of what good food can do for everyone's state of mind. This is important because the difference in our state of mind contributes in a very real way to how well we chew our food, how well we digest our food and therefore the nutrients we actually uptake from each meal. Creating a pleasant environment with signs of obvious care for the meal that is being served has such an impact on the person receiving that meal. Offering a meal is one of the best forms of nurturing someone, so I'm hoping with my focus on this area, there will be a very real chance for the staff and residents of aged care facilities to connect with each other each day and provide the levels of nutrients that can make every difference to their health and well being.
Photo courtesy of Maggie Beer Farm Shop
Maggie Beer Farm Shop - Despite her busy schedule, Maggie still spends time at the Farm Shop, concocting her next tasty treat. You can experience Maggie's food philosophy at the Farm Shop located at the original Pheasant Farm Restaurant site in the Barossa. A cooking demonstration using seasonal produce is held every day at 2pm. There is also a wide range of products including pates, verjuice, olive oil, preserves, vinegars, condiments, ice creams along with coffee, wines, picnic lunches and Maggie's cook books, the latest with her signature recipes using the freshest and best seasonal produce available in the Barossa. Website: www.maggiebeer.com.au/
Barossa Bushgardens - It is a community project that collects and sells provenance seed and seedlings, serves as an educational asset and sanctuary for locally threatened species. It is also a regional native flora centre which showcases and sells the local native plants of the Barossa. Guided tours are available on request. Website: www.anbg.gov.au/chabg/bg-dir/barossa-bush.html
The Barossa Farmers Market - Local market offering real food from the farms and homes of the Barossa. Based in Angaston, the Market is open every Saturday from 7.30am to 11.30am. Website: www.barossafarmersmarket.com.au/
Menglers Hill Lookout - This lookout offers a stunning view over the entire valley. Take a drive or climb to Mengler's Hill lookout and enjoy the sunset over the valley with one of Maggie's picnic baskets and famous wines of the Barossa.
Events in the Barossa - For details on the latest events, visit the Tourism Barossa website or visit information centre. Website: www.barossa.com/
Lawley Farm - It offers 4 suites in a circa 1850 settler's cottage with barn and stables. All with private entrances and set amongst acres of gardens, fields and vineyards. Website: www.lawleyfarm.com.au
Naimanya Cottage - The restored 19th century stone cottage offer sole occupany with pricate entrance, facilities, views of the Flaxmans Valley from the verandah, and easy access to Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park. Website: www.naimanya.com.au/
Goat Square Cottages - 3 historic 1840s self-contained cottages are set in old world garden. Each has a king-sized bed, two-person spa, wood fires in winter and pick your own fruit in season. Website: www.goatsquarecottages.com.au/index.html