Luxury Escapes Guide to the Fleurieu Peninsula
From sprawling valleys and hillsides to dramatic cliff-scapes that lead to white sand and blue waters — the Fleurieu Peninsula is where the vines meet the sea.
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Discover the Fleurieu Peninsula
Things to see and do
Historic Port Willunga jetty and shipwreck
No matter what time of year you visit, the golden cliff-faces, soft white sands and crystal blue waters of this picturesque cove are a sight for sore eyes. Head for a hike along the cliffs on the Heyson trail or spread your toes in the silky sands and check out the remaining jetty pylons that have since become a photographer's delight. There are also caves dug into the cliffs here, once used by fishermen, and now used for picnics. If you’d rather explore the area from the water, you can snorkel or dive over the famous Star of Greece shipwreck.
Explore historic Clarendon and Kangarilla
Head for the hills past Mount Compass, just east of McLaren Vale and you’ll find yourself in farming country, amid some of the most picturesque, quintessential Aussie bushland. Towering gums line the meandering roads — the perfect route for a lazy Sunday drive to Kangarilla. Head further up the hills and you’ll see the whole region laid out before you, right out to the sea. If you need a pitstop, Clarendon is home to a fabulous bakery, and a historic pub, so pick up a pastry, have a pint and soak up the historic architecture that remains here.
Indulge your creative side and soak up the local arts scene
With everything from galleries and working studios to food, wine and art trails, there’s something for everyone’s creative side here. In Port Noarlunga, the Arts Centre is a great place to start, with a variety of exhibitions and artworks on display throughout the year. Nearby is the recently refurbished Sauerbier House, which acts as a working studio that’s often open to the public. Further South, Willunga Glass is the working studio, gallery and shop space. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, there’s a Food, Wine and Art trail you can follow, as well as a Public Art trail.
Try local produce and meet the growers at Willunga Farmers Market
One of Australia’s first and most awarded Farmers Markets, Willunga Farmers Market is at the heart of the food community in this region. The market is frequented by hundreds of locals and visitors each and every Saturday. Whether you’re here to stock up on goods or to sample a few products and chat to the growers for the morning, the market is a great way to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of the region. There’s everything from fruit and veggies to cheese, wine, bread, homemade pies, olive oil, rare honeys and more.
Get tap-happy with some retail therapy at The Temperance Precinct
The newly renovated Temperance Precinct in historic Aldinga township is home to five local businesses, in one beautiful shared space. Miss Gladys on Sea is a fashion retailer that’s easy to get lost in for a couple of hours while Little Road Studio is a working interior design and styling studio, as well as being a stunning homewares and gift store. Maxwell’s Grocery (an organic grocer and café) sits opposite, Sage House provides more retail joy, and Fall From Grace offers a wine bar and bottleshop.
Kayak or paddleboard down Port Noarlunga River Mouth
The Port Noarlunga River Mouth, towards the northern end of the region, is a hotspot for local fishermen and fans of watersports. If you’d like to see the region from the water, a lazy kayak is a beautiful way to do it. There are a couple of spots to hire the kayaks in the region, or you could try your hand at a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) — if you’re feeling confident about your balance. It’s also an idyllic destination for a sunset stroll if you’re not up for getting your toes wet.
Top places to eat and drink
Star of Greece
The location of this restaurant and kiosk is enough to make you add this to your ‘when-we-come-back’ hitlist. It’s a cult favourite, whether you sit outside on the kiosk deck, or dine inside the restaurant or on the beach-facing deck, which has views that span the coastline. The restaurant focusses on modern Aussie cuisine, with a focus on fresh, local produce. The king George whiting and Kangaroo Island squid, both caught locally, never come off the menu, but there’s also steak, daily specials, delicate entrees and more (kids’ menu on offer, too). The wine list is renowned here, too.
Four Winds Chocolate
Open only on Saturdays, this family-run chocolate and patisserie now has over 22 varieties of traditional French pastry on offer, with their raspberry and almond croissant a particular favourite with locals. There are classics likes of pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins, and a range of other sweet and savoury delights that change each week but be sure to get down early if you want to snap ‘em up. There’s also a selection of hand-painted chocolates and chocolate bars with locally sourced toppings like house-made honeycomb from local hive honey, and classic fruit and nuts from local orchards.
Never Never Distillery and Chalk Hill Cellar Door
Opening in 2020, the much-anticipated Never Never distillery is perched atop the McLaren Vale hills, overlooking the valleys and vineyards below. The versatile space is open for tastings, cocktails and retail sales, with a stunning outdoor deck, plenty of lawn space for a rug and a picnic, and a delightfully styled distillery door. While you’re there, pop next door to Chalk Hill cellar door. The shared space is ideal for travelling groups — whether you fancy a grenache or a gin and tonic, this is the spot to sip it.
The Salopian Inn
The quaint little cottage nestled among the vines on the picturesque road from Willunga to McLaren Vale is a regional icon. Current head chef and co-owner Karena Armstrong is well known for her modern, fresh, and moorish cuisine. Her house-made dumplings have become synonymous with the food culture of the region; don’t forget to smear on some of their house-made chilli sauce — it’s addictive. The menu focuses on local produce, sourcing mostly from their own garden or local farms. Sample a house-gin (this also happens to be a specialty gin bar) and watch the sun set over the vines.
The Victory Hotel
A South Aussie pub stalwart, The Victory Hotel boasts views of the dramatic coastline towards the southern end of the region, at Sellicks. The lawn beer garden is the ultimate spot for a sundowner or a stop-off on a drive down the coast. Stay a while and dine inside their restaurant area, which offers modern Australian food as well as pub favourites the likes of schnitzels and locally caught fish and chips. Don’t forget to head downstairs to the cellar, where owner Doug Govan stores an incredible collection of local and international wines — this is a regional gem for wine-lovers.
If you’re a pizza-lover, a visit to the region simply isn’t complete without a stop-over at Russell’s. In operation for almost 30 years, Russell’s specialises in simple, delicious wood-oven pizzas. Their recipes have barely changed in the time they’ve opened — they’re just that good. Wood-oven bread with house-made dukkah is a delight to start, followed with a couple of pizzas and a fresh local salad. Bring a bottle of local red (it’s BYO here) and finish it off with a slice of their house-made deserts. This character-filled place will have you feeling like a local in no time.
While the region is dotted with over 80 cellar doors, S.C. Pannell is definitely one for the not-to-skip list. Winemaker Steve Pannell has won a number of awards for his drops in recent years, focussing on crafting wines that drink well with food, as well as being sustainable and suited to the climate. Try a tasty fiano if you’d like a crisp white, or sip one of Steve’s delightful nero d’avola drops or even a grenache shiraz. Stay a while longer for some food and soak up the view with a glass on the deck.
Dawn Patrol Coffee
Coffee fans, rejoice! This little hideaway nestled between the vines is open Sundays for tastings, coffee, pastries and caffeinated banter. Dawn Patrol roasts all their beans from here, so you might even spot some coffee-making in action. Either way, owners Dom and Nick can whip you up a spiffy filter coffee, or take you through their range — an educational, delicious process, that’ll have you ready to take on a Sunday afternoon of exploring the region. Keep an eye out for the in-house pooch, alpaca and sheep that roam the property.
Three Monkeys Fine Foods
Let’s face it, a holiday just wouldn’t be quite right without a smashing smashed avo (excuse the pun). Three Monkeys is a cute little cafe in Willunga, housed in an old cottage complete with porch dining and a courtyard out the back. Their menu is delicious and ever-changing, with hits like an eggs benedict bagel or purple porridge with blueberries and warm banana. Of course, you can build your own simple brekky, with locally smoked bacon and fresh local bread, and sip on your flat white as you take in the happenings of the bustling little Willunga township.
In recent years, the Fleurieu Peninsula has begun to build a name for itself in the beer industry, with half a dozen or more local brewers popping up and selling craft brews. Goodieson is one of the first to hit the region, nestled in a pretty spot with top notch views — the ideal setting for a brew and an afternoon ponder. Aside from the usual suspects like pale ale, IPA and stout, the team here like to make different seasonal blends, including a Christmas blend that’s been barrel aged in a shiraz barrel, and a coffee stout using local coffee grinds. If you’d like to sample a few frothies, check out the brewery trail and check out these great additions: Swell Taphouse, Shifty Lizard, South Coast Brewing, Victor’s Place, Vale Brewing (at Beresford Wines).