To many, the arrival of autumn’s mild days, chilly nights and heightened rainfall is one met with minimal enthusiasm; it is an unwelcome reminder that the even less desirable conditions of winter are just around the corner.
In Australia, autumn begins to unveil itself in March, and folk are forced to bid goodbye to their globally sought-after summers for yet another year. However, whilst the season is greeted hesitantly by some, for many areas of the country it signals the start of one of the most beautiful and productive times of the year.
To the northeast of Adelaide sprawls the undulating countryside of the Barossa Valley. Barossa has been synonymous with wine-making since 1836 with the arrival of the first European settlers, and it is renowned for being one of the oldest wine-growing regions in Australia. Hundreds of families operate vineyards in the valley today, however these lush rolling hills are also home to fruit-growing, meat-smoking, flour-milling, cheese-making and blacksmithing. The Barossa Valley really is a picture of pastoral bliss melded with old-world charm — a place where vineyards neatly windrow the land like lengths of emerald rope, and quaint country towns peek through folds of hillside — and there is no finer time to visit than in the midst of autumn.
At this time of year, the low sun casts the voluptuous land in a golden glow, the vines begin to turn myriad colours, and the smell of ripened fruit permeates the air. Early autumn sees the continuing of the grape harvest and dozens of orchards begin to yield quince, apples, figs and pears. It also promises sizzling sunsets of fiery red and burnt orange lighting the sky at dusk.
Its proximity to Adelaide makes the Barossa Valley an accessible day trip; however, such striking seasonal beauty is best appreciated in a week or weekend getaway.
Here are five of the region’s finest autumnal activities to get stuck into whilst the season is in its prime:
A Barossa balloon ride
There’s no finer way to enjoy the autumn foliage than from a bird’s-eye view. Take to the hazy morning skies on a hot air balloon ride and drift over the kaleidoscopic canopies of trees, sprawling vineyards and the chocolate-box villages below. The ride is finished with sparkling wine and a hearty, seasonal Barossa breakfast down on the ground.
Visit a winery
With the grape harvest still in full swing, no autumn trip to Barossa would be complete without a visit to a winery. From big names like Jacob’s Creek, all the way to intimate boutique wineries, each vineyard presents a unique history, the opportunity to wine-taste, and surroundings of unparalleled seasonal beauty. Spend an afternoon exploring a single vineyard or embark on one of the regional wine trails for a more encompassing insight into the region’s most famous industry.
The Barossa Farmer’s Market
Situated in the town of Angaston, the Barossa Farmer’s Market is a local produce market selling everything from fruit and veg, to specialty breads and pastries, to meat and fresh milk. The combination of a vibrant atmosphere and the finest products the region offers will give you a real taste for country life — and don’t be surprised if you leave with a basket overflowing with seasonal goods.
Cycle the vineyards
It may be cool in those autumn months, however the best way to enjoy Barossa’s landscapes is to be outside and in the thick of them. Hire a bike and meander the sleepy country roads that weave over hillside and dale. It is a flexible, cheap, and enjoyable way to explore the wineries, villages, and heritage sites that pop up along the way.
Mount Crawford Forest Reserve
On those warmer autumn days, Mount Crawford Forest Reserve beckons. In this historic mining area you can immerse yourself in pine- and eucalyptus-scented wilderness and enjoy a weekend picnicking by brooks, camping in clearings, and horse riding or bushwalking through the stunning prismatic foliage.
What are you waiting for?