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The Wineries Route: rail trails through Clare and Barossa

Simon Parker's picture
Cycling through the Barossa Valley. Cycle Traveller

South Australia is blessed with some excellent cycling infrastructure, and three of its best cycle paths are the basis of this trip, which is a great bicycle touring route for cyclists of all abilities. That the route travels through some of the world's premiere wine growing regions – the Barossa and the Clare Valleys – and is close to Adelaide, makes it even more attractive. And if you've never been cycle touring before, its leisurely pace means it's perfect for those looking to try out their very first self-supported ride.

This route utilises a few rail trails, which means gentle grades and no cars to grapple with (well, there are sections of this route which go on road but we've attempted to keep you off the major highways where possible). Additionally, with some of these trails based on a former railway line, it keeps you close to many of the services and attractions you might be interested in – wineries included. Some of these are serviced by trails that run off the main route, although in some cases the route takes you through or directly past the wineries themselves.

Cycling the Barossa and Clare valleys map. Cycle TravellerWe did this route in June – winter – and while it was cold (one day didn't get above 12 degrees Celsius) we didn't find it uncomfortable, even though we were camping. Spring and autumn would be great times to ride the Wineries Route – the vineyards look particularly enchanting during these seasons – and while it's possible to cycle it in summer we'd strongly suggest you pay careful attention to the weather forecast before heading off as temperatures can soar above 40 degrees in this part of the world.

Note that you could make this is a five or six day adventure by simply returning the same way; this would appeal to cyclists who may need to return a rented bicycle to the same store, or who would rather not rely on the coach (bus) service to Clare.


Route: Barossa and Clare Valley rail trails
Distance: 133km
Days: 3
Difficulty: Easy
Surface: Bitumen and compact pea gravel

 

Day One: Gawler to Kapunda (59.5km)

The route begins in the town of Gawler, around 50km north of Adelaide. Gawler has all the essential amenities you'll need to stock up for the ride, although you should be able to travel light on this journey as you'll be passing towns on a regular basis. Gawler is also serviced by regular trains from Adelaide, making it an easy place to get to (or, of course, you can cycle here from Adelaide).

The ride begins on Carlton Street, which runs off the main road in Gawler (Murray Street). You'll follow Carlton Street for around 4.5 kilometres before coming to the start of the bike path proper – in this instance, the Jack Bobridge Track – which is well signposted at this point. Locals told us the trail is eventually meant to come all the way into town, although when this was likely to happen was unclear.

The first part of this trail keeps you fairly close to the main roads that run through this region, and for the most part this remains the case until Nurioopta. It's at this point we take our route through some backroads to get us to the day's final destination at Kapunda. But while you're travelling close to these roads, you do get sections that take you well away from the sound of traffic. One example is the section that takes you directly through the Jacob's Creek winery, a roller coaster path that gets you in amongst the vines.

Towns you'll pass include Lyndoch and Tununda, before the path flattens out somewhat before entering Nurioopta. Each of these towns has plenty of places to eat and stay at, should you choose to adjust how you tackle a cycling route that can easily become a leisurely-paced culinary adventure.

Cycling through Jacob's Creek winery. Cycle TravellerAt Nurioopta we leave the Jack Bobridge Track and take Old Kapunda Road to the west (this road runs off the main road that runs through Nurioopta – Barossa Valley Way/Murray Street). This takes you (very briefly) to the Stuart Highway, at which point you turn left. In a few hundred metres, after a generous shoulder, you take Moppa Road to the right (there's a rest area on the corner here). This road is largely unsealed although it's excellent quality, and it shouldn't be challenging for most touring bikes although double check the road's condition if there's been heavy rain. You travel on this road, which gives you a healthy dose of serenity and glorious vistas to the north, for approximately 11km until you reach the sealed Kapunda-Truro Road. At this point you head left, and follow this road, which has a decent shoulder for the most part, until you get to a T-intersection just outside of Kapunda. You head left here, following the sign into town.

Day Two: Kapunda to Auburn (50km)

From Kapunda the route takes you along the Tarlee-Kapunda Road, which does see some traffic although it wasn't too busy when we tackled it. At the town of Tarlee, you take what will be the busiest road on the route, the Main North Road/Horrocks Highway, to the north. You cycle on this until the junction with the Barrier Highway, which you then follow into the small town of Riverton. A lovely but quiet town, Riverton's main street (ie. the highway) sports a number of glorious old buildings all set on a wide road so common in many of Australia's rural towns.

It's at this point you leave the roads and rejoin a dedicated cycle path which, in this instance, is the Rattler Trail. It can be a little tricky to find. The Rattler Trail starts behind the town's main sport oval (which also operates as a caravan park) on Oxford Terrace. Enter the sports oval through the main gates and follow it around to the right and at the back you'll see a sign). This trail follows the former Riverton to Spalding railway and takes you all the way to your day's final destination of Auburn.

Cycling the Rattler Rail Trail in South Australia. Cycle TravellerConstructed of pea (fine) gravel, the 19km path takes you upwards – gradually (you're rising from 265 metres in Riverton to a high point of 305 metres over the first five kilometres) giving you lovely views in all directions. It's a more exposed path, running through open farm land for the most part.

As you get closer to Auburn the path becomes less exposed, and just where the trail ends you'll ride past the local campground/sports ground which, if you're camping, is conveniently located just a short walk to the main street. We can certainly recommend the pub here – the Rising Sun Hotel – both for its refreshing ales and food. The hotel, which was built in the late 1800s and retains an authentic charm, also offers accommodation.

Day Three: Auburn to Clare (23km)

The Rattler Rail Trail links directly with the Riesling Trail on the northern edge of Auburn. You literally ride off one and straight on to the other!

The Riesling Trail is 32km long and links Auburn with Barinia in the north, although we end our travels at the picturesque town of Clare, at 23km. A short day, although there are numerous diversions to keep you busy along this stretch of the route. It also gives you time to return to Adelaide in the afternoon, if that's required.

Sevenhill Cellars, Clare Valley. Cycle TravellerThis section will take you through the charming towns of Leasingham, Watervale, Penworthham and Sevenhill, all of which are adjacent to superb wineries and other attractions. You'll start at an elevation of 312 metres, gradually rising to 490 metres just after Penworthham before descending to 400 metres at Clare. Not steep by any stretch, with a maximum grade or around 1.5 per cent.

Some of the places we've enjoyed visiting in the past along this part of the route include O'Leary Wines at Leasingham and Sevenhill Cellars, at Sevenhill. You can read about those here in a past article we did on the region. Both were excellent, although you can't go too wrong in an area renowned for its excellent wines and produce.

Ultimately what makes this route so special is the ease of cycling, and the wonderful character and aesthetics of each town you pass through. It's a route that's designed for stopping, and stopping often. Accommodation options are varied, and you shouldn't have an issue finding somewhere to eat each evening. Of course, if camping and self catering is more your thing, you'll also be well catered for at the many camping grounds and supermarkets along the way.

Getting there and away

Regular trains run between Adelaide and Gawler and bicycles travel for free between 9.01am and 3pm, and after 6pm on weekdays, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Yorke Peninsula Coaches services the South Australian Mid-North with bus services between Adelaide and Clare, and they'll take your bicycle too without the need to box it. At the time of writing bikes were an additional $25 on your fare and it is recommended you pre-book them as space is limited.

Comments

Thanks Simon, I rode that route 2 weeks ago, though from north to south.

As I am from NSW I relied upon some websites for the route planning and it can be deceiving. For example, the Barossa website says:

"The track also provides a continuous sealed link from the Barossa to Adelaide via the Stuart O’Grady Track." (http://www.barossa.com/visit/attractions/experiences/cycling-tours-and-t...)

As I had ridden the excellent Riesling and Rattler trails, this made for exciting reading as I had a fully loaded bike and wasn't excited about hauling it up the Mawson Trail or alternatively following highways.

As a word of warning, the trail marking on the Jack Bobridge Track is still poor, especially the southern end where the path simply ends some 5km from Gawler. The Barossa end is sensational though, just a bit more work needed. The Riesling Trail is the benchmark.

There is no signage in Gawler that I could find that directs you to the Stuart O'Grady Track. I searched for a while and in frustration called the local bike store who I can't thank enough for their assistance. If I am ever in Gawler again, I promise to buy a bike off you guys. The Stuart O'Grady Track is a path that follows the Freeway and is excellent. However, 25km from Adelaide, this comes to an end and you are spat out into industrial traffic on Port Wakefield Road which has an appalling "bike lane". As an entry to Adelaide, it was awful.

Finally, you could use the Mawson Trail to link up the various wine trails as an alternative. I recommend the ride over Koonunga Hill.

We very recently did most of this as part of a complete Mawson, north to south. The Mawson people really should alter the route so you do the full length of each rail trail - as we did. The Riesling Trail is an absolute gem - stunning scenery, great surface, and a zillion wineries. And then you end up in Auburn, which has a brewery - way more interesting to me than wineries :)

The Rattler trail is a bit more spartan, but still great surface - and with a tail wind and quite a few beers in the tummy, it flew by...

We also got to do a bit of the Jack Bobridge Track near Tanunda, which was just awesome - it winds around a lot, but that makes it super fun. Excellent new asphalt surface, and good line painting. Wish we could have done the whole thing.

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