Coincidentally, it's an area famed for its great wine - especially Riesling. Put off by memories of sickly sweet Riesling back in the 80s and 90s? Think again, and use a visit to the Clare Valley as a way to rediscover this great variety, along with many others.
Last year we spend a three nights in the Clare Valley with our three-year old and another family with a 5 and 7 year old. And what a great time we had! This post doesn't aim to cover every family friendly aspect of the region, but at least shares with you some of our highlights!
The Riesling Trail was one of the first rail-trails to be developed in South Australia and runs for 36 kilometres along an old railway line between the towns of Auburn and Clare.
The trail is suitable for recreational walkers and cyclists of all ages, as well as wheelchairs and pushers. To me, it's the most obvious fun, energy-burning activity for you to do with the kids in the Clare Valley.
And did I happen to mention that the trail travels past MANY cellar doors so works very well for our Winey Mums, Dads and Grandparents! There are numerous loop trails that allow you to return to their starting point without travelling over old ground.
Hire bikes, walk it, run it... just do it!
No visit to the Clare Valley is complete without a visit to the historic Sevenhill Cellars - the first winery ever established in the region! A great wine-tasting experience is available here and you'll learn about their strong connections with Jesuits who settled in the area in 1851 to plant vines for sacramental purposes, and maybe even spot a Brother or two, as Sevenhill remains the only Jesuit-owned winery in Australia.
But aside from the history and the wine, this place ROCKS for children and families. For starters, the indoor play corner is quite possibly the best one I've seen in a cellar door itself - and I've seen a few! Our little people were more than happy to spend sometime here whilst we did a tasting.
Plus outside there were HUGE expanses of green lawn to play on, totem tennis, a basket full of balls for a kick around and a general family-friendly feel.
Shut the Gate
From the kids perspective, there's a lovely courtyard garden area for them to explore - but make sure they are supervised as there is a creek that runs through the property. It's the kind of cellar door we recommend for the 'discerning Winey Kid' as it's not particularly family-focussed (and neither should it be!) but is most definitely survivable with a well behaved child. And you REALLY shouldn't miss it! This is time for Mummy and Daddy fun!
When it's time again for the kids to burn some energy, take a break from wine tasting and head over to Mintaro Maze to get them lost in a living hedge maze consisting of 800 conifers! As well as the maze, there are heaps of other games for them to play.
O'Leary Walker Wines
O'Leary Walker stands in my mind as the place that I confirmed my personal understanding of the distinct difference between a Riesling made from grapes grown in the Watervale subregion of the Clare Valley, versus grapes grown in the Polish Hill subregion of the Clare Valley. Give me that Polish Hill minerality any day!
But aside from this, this is a beautifully spacious cellar door and our kids happily did some colouring in (provided by the lovely staff) whilst we did our tasting. PLUS there's a HUGE expanse of green lawn with stunning views that any Winey Kid would be happy to kick a ball around for a while! We didn't eat here but I'd confidently try one of their regional platters knowing that we'd survive as a family in this gorgeous location.
Taking a break from wine again (see how things change when you're a parent?), Bungaree Station is worth a visit with the family when staying in the Clare Valley. In fact, I've heard great things about actually staying at Bungaree Station as a family!
It was a cold, wet day when we visited but all kids remained happy and wHine free which is always the measure of a good experience. We did the self-guided history trail and the kids enjoyed learning about the history of the station.
Sevenhill Hotel, Sevenhill
Ok, back to food and wine. We booked a table at the Sevenhill Hotel for lunch for 4 adults and 3 kids about 10 minutes prior to arriving. "We've only got space for you in the cellar. Is this ok?" was the question when booking, to which we hastily accepted as anyone with hungry kids knows they need feeding when they need feeding!
This turned in to one of the BEST family lunches ever! Despite having only booked 10 minutes before, they'd set up our table of 7 in the cellar - with only us down there - surrounded by a great collection of local wines! The kids places were all set up with kids menus and activities for them to do. We were all so relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed this lunch. Highly highly recommend!
The Rising Sun Hotel, Auburn
I find when visiting a new region it's handy to know of places you can get an evening meal that also have a kids menu. The Rising Sun met this criteria and offered us a great evening out with delicious kids food and activity packs. Again worth noting that these places are for discerning Winey Kids - best behaviour required - because they are fundamentally adult environments and we must respect fellow diners seeking adult time!
The Little Red Grape
The Little Red Grape provides one of those one-stop-shop destination for families! The destination includes a bakery (perfect for sugar hits, bribes, caffeine hits, easy lunches), a beautiful homeware store (perfect for Winey Mums needing retail therapy) AND a lovely cellar door featuring a range of local winemakers.
Whilst I don't remember the cellar door itself being that family friendly, it's good to know there's a big green lawn and adjacent donut supplies to keep little people happy whilst some of the adults can have a quick taste!
Something that sticks in my mind as being particularly successful on this trip away to the Clare Valley was my friend Mel's super-Mum idea to put together amazing activity packs for the kids. She bought special bags and filled them with heaps of cool activities, colouring in, pens, pencils, games and more. They loved these bags so much that they were happy to take them along to anywhere that wasn't particularly kid focussed and were more than happy to dig something out of them to keep them occupied.
Of course you couldn't expect them to be using their activity packs for the whole trip - which is where the Clare Valley was absolutely superb in providing a nice balance of things for both adults and kids to enjoy.
The above ideas only touch the surface of the Clare Valley. We'd love to hear from you as to where you recommend visiting as a family in this beautiful region!