The Clare Valley is one of South Australia’s top wine regions with cool climate Rieslings being their specialty but also producing red varieties including Cabernet and Shiraz. There are more than 30 cellar doors to visit and taste the local wines, and in a lot of cases, learn from the winemakers themselves in the cellar doors.
Your wine tasting experience can vary in settings from stone cottages and other heritage buildings right up to modern state of the art buildings, all surrounded by grapevines and views, and oozing in country charm and hospitality.
There are lots of accommodation options in the region including a caravan park in Clare, but for something different we decided to stay at the Auburn Community Caravan Park, around 24 kilometres south of Clare.
This caravan park is situated in the grounds of the Auburn Recreation Grounds and although it only has a small amount of powered sites, there is a lot of bush camping space. This bush camping area means no power, but it gives you the ability to camp with friends and set up together how you want.
It costs $20 per night to stay in the bush camping area (where you can have a campfire) or $25 for a powered site. The park is pet friendly and also has an ablution block, camp kitchen and playground.
The town of Auburn is within easy walking distance and has a lot of charming old buildings, a supermarket, hotel, cellar doors and cafes to discover. When staying at the park you are given a few brochures which give you some ideas of what to do in and around Auburn.
You can take the ‘Riesling Trail’, a walking or cycling trail which takes you through the Clare Valley and past many wineries or perhaps a self-guided walking tour to learn about the history of Auburn. One of Auburn’s claims to fame is that the hotel was the birthplace of one of Australia’s most famous poets, C. J. Dennis, whose father was the publican in 1876.
Apart from the peaceful setting of the caravan park though, the highlight for us was dining at the Watervale Hotel, around 9 kilometres from Auburn, heading towards Clare. Thanks to local friends who recommended this, we had private dining room which you can book with a group of 6 -10 people and enjoy incredible food and wines with a minimum spend is $250 in your group.
The hotel provides ethical epicurean experiences and all of our senses were treated with absolutely gorgeous interesting décor throughout every part of the hotel, mouthwatering locally sourced seasonal food, and the longest list (more like a book) of wines I think I’ve ever seen at one time.
We were happy to be guided by our friends (thank you Lynne and Trevor) and shared a number of plates of food including entrée dishes of stuffed olives, locally made ciabatta with smoked butter and duck sliders, followed by lamb Milanese, succulent roasted chicken, flat iron steak and equally astonishing sides. Our only issue was that there was no room for dessert after this gourmet evening.
Dining at the Watervale Hotel on expertly prepared dishes accompanied with some shared bottles of Shiraz from Clare wineries was an experience not to be missed. I can’t rate this hotel highly enough, it was incredibly special and not pretentious at all. In fact the private dining is like being in someone’s home but enabled everyone to enjoy the evening without the cooking and clean up afterwards.
When you visit, make sure to check out every nook and cranny, indoors and out, of this stunning establishment. Plan a stop at the Watervale Hotel when next you visit the Clare Valley to feel truly spoilt and proud of what South Australia has to offer.