Although only minutes by car from Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills is another world away -- ideal for a romantic interlude discovering its many attractions together. Its undulating hills are dotted with picturesque villages interspersed with market gardens, orchards, long-established formal gardens and myriad vineyards producing quality wines.
Leaving Adelaide, you can enjoy panoramic views over the city to Spencer Gulf from Mt Lofty Summit before arriving in beautiful Stirling – an ideal spot to make your base. Every bit the English village, its main streets are lined with vibrant liquid ambers in autumn and, in winter, moody mists rise gently in the surrounding valleys.
Foodies can book a gourmet cooking class at the Sticky Rice Cooking School learning perhaps Moroccan, Thai, Spanish or Indian dishes. You can buy top local produce at the long-established Organic Market and Café and decadent pastries at the Cellar Patisserie – perhaps the basis for a country picnic – picking up more produce as you go.
At nearby Bridgewater, you can sip cool-climate Petaluma wines in the lovely old 19th century former stone flour mill now the winery's cellar door.
The historic village of Hahndorf is always busy at weekends so allow plenty of time to explore its postcard-pretty tree-lined main street. As Australia's oldest surviving German settlement, many of the original timber buildings now house charming boutiques, atmospheric cellar doors, bric-a-brac shops, cafes, restaurants and local produce stores. Savour typical German cakes such as bee-sting or sour cherry streudel at the German Cake Shop, German-style smallgoods at Taste in Hahndorf, choose premium wines at Somerled Cellar Door and buy top cheese or even learn how to make your own home-style cheese with an interactive cheese-making class at Udder Delights.
Just out of town, you can indulge in a ChocoVino experience matching wines with chocolates at Hahndorf Hill Wines, pick your own strawberries in season at Beerenberg Strawberry Farm, luscious cherries in summer in Verdun and visit the artist Hans Heysen's home studio surrounded by stands of majestic gums for which he became internationally famous.
At nearby Mount Barker, stop for great coffee at Sazon before stocking up on local produce at the Adelaide Farmers' Markets held each Saturday morning.
At Balhannah, The Red Door Food Store offers terrific home-made provisions with wonderful artisan chocolates at Cocolat next door, while those in need of a little clothes and homewares retail therapy should seek out Balhannah by Design.
Further on at Woodside, you can try and buy hand-crafted cheese at Woodside Cheese Wrights and even learn how to make feta with cheesemaker Kris Lloyd. Next door, you can stock up on a huge range of chocolates from Melba's Chocolates and sample top wines with tasting platters at Bird in the Hand winery nearby.
Adelaide Hills Fact file:
Distance From Adelaide: 20 minutes by car.
Enjoy smart tapas dishes for lunch or dinner at Miss Perez in Druid Ave, Stirling; on Sunday book lunch at The Lane with fabulous vineyard views but start with a flight of wines at Shaw & Smith winery nearby; and at night, dine at the enormously popular Stirling Hotel either casually in the bistro or flash-up a tad in the intimate Grill Restaurant.
One of the three very stylish balcony suites at the Stirling Hotel makes the perfect romantic retreat. Offering laid-back luxury, the rooms are fitted with touch panel audio visual controls, king-size beds, dual-head rain showers, open gas fires and private balconies – just perfect to while away a night or two any time of year. Stirling Hotel, 52 Mount Marker Road, Stirling, Tel: (08) 8339 2345.
Pony is one of the hills' best-kept secrets. Located in the tiny country town of Charleston, this country boutique stocks überchic clothing, gorgeous homewares and novel gifts that city-folk travel up to the hills to buy