The Clare Valley, just half an hour's drive north of the Barossa, is one of the most accessible, hospitable and prettiest of all Australia's wine regions. It is, in fact, a series of valleys whose tributaries have names such as Hill River and Polish Valley, or the gorgeous Skillogalee Valley, the loveliest of all, providing a vast range of micro-climates for grapegrowers.
As well as some 30 cellar doors, the region is rich in settler history. It was first settled by Jesuit migrants fleeing religious and political persecution, who established the region's oldest existing winery, now Sevenhill Cellars, in 1851. Don’t miss the ridiculously pretty village of Mintaro, home to Martindale Hall, an impressive late-Victorian country seat that was featured in Peter Weir's haunting 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the lowly cottage of young explorer, John Horrocks, near Penwortham.
A great way to explore the valley's riches is to hire a bike and ride the scenic Riesling Trail, which links one end of the valley to the other, binding together its wineries, its history and its diversity. It provides a softer, gentler, typically "country" way to enjoy the most "country" of Australia's wine regions as you sidle past the back doors of its B&Bs, duck into any number of wineries en route and open a bottle with a picnic lunch beside a dam or in the lee of a railway cutting.
Side-trips: You turn north at Gawler for the Clare Valley; if you keep heading west, you'll arrive in the famous Barossa Valley.
Explorer's footprints: The luxury retreat Kingsford Homestead near Gawler is more famous as the set of McLeod's Daughters, but it was also the family home of one of Stuart's party, Stephen King Jr.
Clare has continued to evolve with a vast range of accommodation and steadily improving cafes and restaurants. Take a cabin in family-friendly Clare Caravan Park, a cottage B&B in villages like Auburn and Mintaro, or go luxe at Thorn Park by the Vines.
Breakfast or lunch at the Skillogalee winery restaurant, open daily; for dinner head to Terroir at Auburn, a stunning bistro in an 1860s building where the menu sources most of its produce from within the Clare Valley.