McLaren Vale, is honestly my favourite wine region in South Australia. I absolutely adore visiting this area and taking in the sun and authentic Australian wine. Though it sometimes takes a backseat to the albeit more commercialized Australian wine region of the Adelaide Hill’s Barossa Valley, this wine region combines everything I love: wine, beaches and food! McLaren Vale is a must do for anyone visiting South Australia and Adelaide.
Whether you only have time to head down for an afternoon, or are spending a few days, the sweet spot for visiting this wine region in my opinion is 2 nights. This gives you the option to spend some time enjoying and drink in the surroundings! There are numerous wineries, restaurants and things to see in McLaren Vale and you will want the time to do them all! If you’re looking for one of the best wine regions in Australia, then you can’t go wrong with learning all about McLaren Vale.
Don’t Miss in McLaren Vale!
Exploring Australia’s McLaren Vale
A Little Bit of McLaren Vale History
McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, and the first commercial winery in the area dates back to 1839! Being the oldest region in South Australia, it was grown over a gambit of geologic formations that make it an extraordinary place for vineyards. Now, almost 180 years later, the area still keeps its charm and the feeling of its rich heritage while having over 7500 hectares of vineyards. The region also encompasses over 30 kilometers of coastline which makes it the perfect South Australia food, wine and sun getaway!
Getting to South Australia’s McLaren Vale
Getting to the McLaren Vale wine region is easy from Adelaide and really anywhere in South Australia! If you fly into Adelaide Airport it is a 45-minute drive south to get to McLaren vale, and about the same distance from Adelaide City Centre. This means it could be your weekend escape, a day trip, or a longer excursion. We have done a few trips to McLaren Vale when we have been in Adelaide, and it just seems to get better and better each time! If you only have time for one of the numerous available South Australian wine regions, choose McLaren Vale!
Visiting and Getting Around McLaren Vale
Visiting McLaren Vale is best done by car or cab. However, with it being a wine region in Australia you may want to consider taking a tour or grabbing a cab so you can truly try all of the wines. You can also consider riding a bike or taking a hop-on hop-off tour.
Bike Tours of McLaren Vale
There are bike tours of the wineries available for you to take too. Some of these will take you right from Adelaide, let you hop on a bike, enjoy a delicious lunch and enjoy learning all about this amazing wine region!
Let Someone Else Drive: Hop-On Hop-Off Tours
There are also Hop-On Hop-Off Tours that take you on a specific trail. Along the way you can get off at the wineries you choose, visit them, explore them, taste the wine, and when you are done, just hop back on the bus!
Where to Stay in McLaren Vale: Finding McLaren Vale Accommodation
There are plenty of options of places to stay when you go to McLaren Vale, from luxury hotels to hostels, you will find something available no matter what your budget is! This is one of the nicest things about finding accommodation in McLaren Vale, the sheer number of available hostels, BNBs and hotels in McLaren Vale.
We cannot say enough good things about staying at Serafino McLaren Vale! This moderately priced resort gave us the perfect balance between a large room, ample amenities, sweeping groups, a gorgeous pool and wine tasting right on site! We loved the proximity to all the wineries and would recommend for anyone to stay there if you are looking for a McLaren Vale accommodation.
Chapel Hill is one of my favourite wineries, and for those looking for the full experience, you can rent the >Retreat at Chapel Hill. There are seven bedrooms and everything will be taken care of for you from the delicate food to the delicious wine! It is a haven for events and weddings too!
Since McLaren vale is close to its surrounding areas, you can find luxury hotels all around, and some people even choose to stay right on the beach in Glenelg (a 30-minute drive) or Seaford (a 10-minute drive). McLaren Vale is a really centrally located wine region in Australia which makes it a perfect place to explore!
Wineries You Have to Visit in McLaren Vale
As a premier Australian wine region, McLaren Vale wineries are filled with a wide selection of varietals for you to choose from! You can enjoy everything from a classically clean Chardonnay to a smooth Grenache. However, most wineries would say they specialize in a Shiraz or a Cabernet Savignon since the region is known for these varietals! Distinctly enough, you will also find a variety of Mediterranean wines in the area such as Tempranillo and Zinfandel (which you can’t go wrong with).
Whether you decide to drive down the road, or you plan out your visit. You will find wineries splashed throughout the entire regions. All you have to do is take a short walk, bus ride, cab or drive to find your next one. These are four of the best McLaren Vale wineries.
Wirra Wirra Winery and Restaurant
Wirra Wirra is a beautifully build cellar door that overlooks its vineyards below. The cellar door is one of the ones in McLaren Vale that is large, sweeping and demanding as you drive up to it. Complete with a restaurant and an outside patio area. You could spend a couple hours at Wirra Wirra definitely, and enjoy every single minute of it! This would make almost every list of best McLaren Vale Wineries.
3 wines to try at Wirra Wirra:
- Mrs Wigley Moscato! (I single handedly can drink an entire bottle of this bubbly goodness!)
- Church Block Blend
- The Lost Watch Riesling
Chapel Hill Winery Tasting Room and Gallery
Chapel Hill Winery is situated on top of a hill overlooking the rows and rows of vineyards. They are probably one of the most iconic cellar doors in the entire McLaren Vale region, and you can feel it the moment you park in their parking lot. The Chapel Hill cellar door itself is built into a 150-year-old Chapel, and the red doors and stunning stones are truly remarkable, making it one of the must visit wineries in McLaren Vale.
3 wines to try at Chapel Hill:
- The Verdelho
- The Sangiovese Rose
- The McLaren Vale Cabernet Savignon
D’Arenburg and It’s Cube!
The cube has become on of the “icons” of McLaren Vale. Not only is it towering and structurally different from the rest of the region, it also sits inside on the mos famous McLaren Vale wineries. With the winery dating back to 1912, D’Arenberg creates some amazing wine! They are also part of the “Australia’s First Families of Wine” which brought together 12 founding Australian wine families.
The best part of this winery is that you can try almost all of their wines for a $10 tasting fee. As a winey lover, I also love when they charge for tasting, because a lot of the time I’m just passing through and don’t like the pressure of purchasing a bottle when I don’t have room in my luggage!
3 wines to try at D’Arenburg:
- The Dead Arm Shiraz (It’s sooo good!)
- The Lucky Lizard
- d’Arry’s Original
Mollydooker might be considered the quirkiest winery on this list, but they have wines that truly pack a punch, are world-renowned and award-winning. The moment you step into the Mollydooker cellar door, you are taken on an adventure. The wines for tasting are set up in the middle of the room and you physically move with the attendant from one to another. It was a fun experience and definitely one of the best McLaren Vale wineries!
3 wines to try at Mollydooker Winery:
- Girl on the Go Verdelho (This is sparkly!)
- The Boxer Shiraz
- Gigglepot Cabernet Sauvignon
Where to Eat in McLaren Vale
Besides being a world class wine region, and being filled with McLaren wine, there are so many restaurants that you need to visit! From little cafes that show off the brilliance of Australian coffee in McLaren Vale to the degustation menus that are mouthwatering, you are in for a culinary adventure at the restaurants in McLaren Vale.
d’Arry’s Verandah is a restaurant that definitely requires reservations. With a la carte selections and a degustation menu that is to die for, you cannot go wrong by wetting your apetite with the brilliant food and wine at D’Arry’s verandah.
Mullygrub Fine Grub
We went searching for coffee early in a morning in McLaren Vale. We stumbled upon Mullygrub and couldn’t have been more blown away by our breakfast and coffee we received! The food was amazing and we loved the toast!