Barossa Valley - Tradition and Serenity
As South Australia's most endearing tourist attraction and the best known wine producing region in Australia, the Barossa Valley presents itself as the ideal weekend getaway for Adelaide residents, lying just 60 kilometres north east of the state capital. But in truth the laid back Australian hospitality of the Valley together with its beautiful scenery and quaint, rich heritage makes a visit worthwhile no matter what distance you have to travel. With a scattered population of just 20 000 people mostly centred in the three main towns of Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa, you will find peace, solitude and the opportunity to relax in the Barossa Valley.

The Valley has its typically Mediterranean climate to thank for a lot. Dry summers and mild winters have contributed to the fertility of the region, which has boosted wine productivity and output from other farms. The wineries have in turn pulled in the tourists, who are able to visit here any time of the year because the climate is so pleasant! Its a very positive situation to be in. There are in fact over 100 large and small wineries in the Valley, with over 50 cellar doors where you can stop in and sample the local drop. Its been over 150 years since the first vineyards started producing their grapes, and its an industry thats been fuelled by centuries of European wine making experience, and it all adds up to make a mighty fine wine... especially the local Shiraz, for which the Barossa is renowned.

With so much wine production going on it might be a bit intimidating figuring out where to begin taking it all in. The Barossa Wine Interpretation and Visitor Centre in Tanunda is probably the best starting point. It gives a comprehensive explanation of the process of wine making, from the planting of the vine to the bottling of the wine. There are also a number of interactive displays that explain the history and the culture of the Barossa. From this centre you could move on to one of the three Chateaus that dominate the Valley, Chateau Barossa, Tanunda or Yaldara. Characterised by large, gracious buildings, they are a great place to spend a day sampling wines, trying out the elegant cuisine on offer or just relaxing in the boutique gardens. The garden at Chateau Barossa is especially impressive, as it is home to over 30 000 rose plants from some of the worlds finest rose breeders. Officially opened by the Queen herself, its a stunning place that is a photographers delight.

If youre planning a visit to the Barossa then keep the month of April in mind. Every year for the period of one week the Barossa Vintage Festival is held not only to celebrate the grape harvest, but also to celebrate everything about the valley- its rich traditions and its community spirit. There are wine tastings, twilight concerts and a festival ball. 'Town Day' allows the different communities to showcase what makes them distinct, and the 'heritage hotspot' reflects on the history of the Valley. Remember accommodation may be in scarce supply over this period, so book in advance.

The lush landscapes here have been the muse for many an artist over the years, and there is a strong tradition of arts and crafts in the Barossa valley. There are lots of places where this tradition is evident, but one of the most striking is the Barossa Regional Gallery in Tanunda, a place where you can see regularly updated exhibits of paintings and sculptures by local artists, and there is space for international touring works to be exhibited too. Art gallery visitors might also take interest in the antique stores that dot the valley. One of the most popular is Dragonfly Antiques on Queen Street in Williamstown, which deals with original pieces from Asia that range from 60 to 140 years old. Its an intriguing place to browse through.

The fertility of the Barossa extends far past the wines, with the agricultural produce here growing thick and fast. The best place to experience this is at the farmers market, held in Angaston every Saturday morning. This food only market runs from 7.30 to 11.30, and is your one stop shop to stock up that picnic basket with fresh vegetables, cheeses, fruits, handmade chocolates and fresh meat. Another popular shop for tasty treats for the picnic basket is Maggie Beers Farm Shop, which overlooks a lake near Nuriootpa. Maggie Beer is a culinary celebrity who has written many recipe books and appeared on tv numerous times, and in this shop you can purchase things from her expanding range of products.

So whether youre an Adelaide resident looking for a weekend away, an interstate visitor looking to sample the best of what South Australia has to offer, or an international visitor wanting to visit the most famous wine producing region in Australia, then the Barossa Valley is the perfect destination for you. A hire car will give you the independence to explore the region to its fullest potential, and the freedom to take in as much of it as you like. So look no further than the Barossa Valley for your next peaceful break away.

Gavin Wyatt