The Five Icons of Autumn in the Adelaide Hills
From spectacular autumn foliage in the townships and gardens, to a bountiful harvest and romantic morning mists - discover what we love most about autumn in the Adelaide Hills!
The villages of the Adelaide Hills put on a tremendous show of colour in autumn when leaves turn various shades of yellow, orange, red and even deep burgundy. It’s a natural display that owes as much to the region’s human history as to its climate. In the 19th century, Hills dwellers planted their gardens, streets and orchards with much-loved European trees because the deciduous species did so well in the cooler Hills climes. They especially relished the ‘old country’ autumnal display triggered in late March/early April – as we still do today…
Where can I see it best?
Take a seat beside the Main Lake of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden near Crafers. Not only will you get an eyeful of autumn colour courtesy the canopies of oaks, liquidambars and maples, but the colours will also be reflected in the lake’s surface. It’s Instagram catnip! The lower entrance in Piccadilly is closest to the lake.
The Main Street of Stirling (blazing with liquidambars), the tunnel of trees on the western entrance to Hahndorf (brilliant in yellow) and the drive through Piccadilly Valley, from Crafers to Uraidla.
Vine leaves are not immune to autumn and no less spectacular in the change….
Where can I see it best?
Colourful corduroy can be seen throughout the Hills wine region, though Golding Wines lays on an autumn feast to truly dine out on. Golding recently reopened its extraordinary NIDO Experience. The ‘Nido’ is a bit like a human sized nest that sits isolated on a hilltop with sweeping views over the vineyards and paddocks rolling from Lobethal to Woodside. The sculpture is woven from willow branches and can accommodate a party of up to six. Once you’re installed in this charming and semi-al fresco space, you’ll be delivered a series of season-inspired courses. Think kangaroo tartare with chilli and ginger, quail with artichoke and panna cotta with honeycomb.
The many colourful cellar doors serving food and wines beside the changing vines. The restaurant at Mount Lofty Ranges Vineyard in Lenswood is overlooks long lines of vines which run into a deep vale. Take a seat outside, snuggle under a warm blanket and order a bottle of Aspire Pinot Noir. Hahndorf Hill Winery has a large enclosed deck on tall stilts, guaranteeing an eyeful of vine, as does The Lane Vineyard cellar door and restaurant – both near Hahndorf.
The spiky cases of Castanea sativa are split, the brown-husked nuts are blackening on a fire, and ‘The Chestnut Man’ is doing a lively trade on the Main Street of Stirling...
Where can I get some?
Nirvana Organic Farm in Heathfield (behind Stirling) has become a Hills institution since its owners began ‘garden-quality farming’ in the 1980s. The 4.5ha property sits in a valley and is planted with some 50 chestnut trees. From March to April each year, owners Quentin Jones and Deb Cantrill bring in the crop, and to ensure the world knows the seasonal treat has arrived, Quentin sets up a brazier in Stirling at weekends to sell them hot and fresh. The roast chestnuts are on sale from 11am until they’re sold out; if you’d prefer to roast your own, you can buy them fresh from Nirvana’s on-farm shop.
Taking your pick of autumn fruits. One of the lushest (and most decadent) is the fig, which is positively begging to accompany blue vein cheese in March. Get amongst the broad-leaved trees at Glen Ewin Estate in Houghton. In Lenswood, the ‘Pick a Pink Lady’ Weekend run by Apple & Pear Growers SA takes place in early May, offering a chance to pick your own and buy direct from apple growers who’ve been working the local valleys since the late 1800s. Enjoy the last of the year’s strawberries in April – visit Green Valley Strawberries at Hay Valley (between Woodside and Nairne) for direct sales and a cafe, or Beerenberg Farm in Hahndorf where you can pick your own.
Autumn mists in the Mount Lofty Ranges are as reliable as Christmas thanks to a mix of steep elevations, and warm moist air from below hitting cooler air above. These mists and fogs are much loved by camellia growers, wine growers and geography teachers (who use the region to illustrate this rather complex bit of climatology). And while it may be hard to fathom, we all understand the romance of a misty morning, especially when it’s combined with a really good coffee…
Where can I get misty-eyed?
At the weekend, rug up and head out for an 8.30am brew at The Summit café at Mount Lofty Summit in Crafers. Sit out among the swirling mists and when the sun warms the air, you may be treated to the gorgeous layers of texture and shade.
Taking a seat outside any of the cafés in Crafers, Stirling and Aldgate. It’s strangely intimate being sat amongst the diffused light.
Fungi are at their most fabulous in autumn and winter, especially after a heavy rain.
Where can I see them?
Good question – because, just to be clear, ‘seeing’ is much safer (and probably more satisfying) than collecting them and chucking them in the pan. The world of fungi in the Hills is multi-hued and multi-faceted, occupied by the like of the bright purple Emperor, the scaly cylinder that is Lawyer’s Wig and the pixies’ favourite, the red and white-spotted fly agaric. Join one of the many open country or forested sections along the Pioneer Women’s Trail and keep your eyes open for any of these 29 varieties of fungi. Kuitpo forest is also a favourite mushroom hunting ground.
Farmers markets in the Adelaide Hills! If you’re hell-bent on a feed of mushrooms, check out the stalls of local farmers and growers from right across the region. Occasionally you’ll find a few gorgeous field mushrooms or exotic ‘slippery jacks’ (pine mushrooms) for sale. You'll also find them on the menu at local dining establishments with an emphasis on foraging and local produce such as The Summertown Aristologist in Summertown.