Melrose SA – Bikes and Brews

Looking back on our travels in 2022, there was one of our stopovers that I missed in my blogs but it’s a town that definitely deserves a mention.

Melrose is around 280 kilometres north of Adelaide in the Southern Flinders Ranges, and the town sits at the foot of Mount Remarkable.

The town is a cyclist’s haven for both road bike and mountain bike enthusiasts. There is a bike and walking track of 22 kilometres that uses an old rail line between Melrose and the town of Wilmington, and there are mountain bike trails to suit all abilities.

Melrose hosts the ‘Fat Tyre Festival’ in June each year, and in 2023 it will be the 20th anniversary of the festival which will be held on the 10th and 11th of June. The town and the festival attracts visitors from all over Australia and internationally to enjoy the trails, food, music and entertainment. If you don’t have your own bike, that is taken care of with bike hire available in town.

Mount Remarkable is a National Park so there are plenty of hikes you can take through gorges, valley and to summits, and loads of wildlife to see along the way. Entry and camping fees apply for the park.

If you’re travelling with a dog, there are other places to stay including the showgrounds or the caravan park, which is in the heart of town. There are unpowered and powered sites at the showgrounds, with powered sites costing $30 with ablutions and a dump point there.

The caravan park is pet friendly, has powered and unpowered sites, camp kitchens and a pump track to entertain the kids. The unpowered sites are set in a really spacious natural bush area and the Willochra Creek runs through the park.

The park also has a replica swing bridge, similar to those that were constructed in the 1890s, and were used by farm labourers, brewery workers and school children to access the town when the creek was flowing.

Once you’re at the caravan park you can leave the car and go everywhere on foot. The main street of Melrose is full of historical buildings including the 1860 built Mount Remarkable Hotel which is listed on the National Trust Register. The hotel has red gum lintels and some original timber roof shingles.

The other hotel in town is the North Star Hotel, which is the oldest licensed hotel in the Flinders Ranges. It was first licensed in 1854 and in 1876 William Jacka took over the licence and together with his two sons they began Jacka’s Brewery. In 1893 the brewing operations were transferred to an old flour mill around the corner, where as well as beer, they made cordials and aerated waters until the business closed in 1933 during the Depression.

Luckily for visitors today, Jacka Brothers Brewery has been re-established in the old flour mill and surrounding grounds and you can sit and enjoy a brew with the panoramic view of Mount Remarkable in the background.

The ground floor of the brewery tower houses the microbrewery taphouse where you can buy drinks and food to create your own platter of local goodies, and there is seating indoors too. Outside though is where you want to be to appreciate the buildings and vies, and it’s a dog friendly venue too. The other buildings and cellar areas on site have been restored and are used for holding events.

The brewery is open on Saturdays and Sundays and food is catered by different business with a varied menu ranging from wood fired pizzas, loaded nachos, burgers and more.

The brewery is in Lambert Street and as you walk back to the caravan park, you will pass a restored cottage in the same street which is an example of a pug and pine cottage. This building method used pine logs and straw mixed with mud and was common in the 1850s and 60s.

When you return to the caravan park, take a short drive up the steep road behind the unpowered camp area to a monument and lookout area. The monument is Melrose’s War Memorial which commemorates those who died in service during World War One.

At the monument you’ll also find a story board showing the sons of Melrose who died during the war, one of which was Clement Jacka, one of the brothers of the brewery fame.

Melrose is a great little town to visit and stay a while, if you’re exploring the mid north or Flinders Ranges areas of South Australia.

Happy trails


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