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  • Writer's pictureMichael Waterhouse

The Adelaide Hills

region is located in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges east of the city. The largest town in the area, Mount Barker, has a population of around 29,000 and is one of Australia’s fastest growing towns.

The Adelaide Hills region is one of the cooler wine regions of mainland Australia as, despite warm days in January and February when the grapes are ripening, the region generally experiences cool nights. This significant diurnal variation results in cool mean daily temperatures even in summer and the consequence of this is high quality, cool-climate wines, leading to its world-famous reputation as a wine-producing region. The numerous wineries and cellar doors are represented by a regional association and geographical indication called the Adelaide Hills wine region.

Not long after South Australia was established in 1836 the colonists began settling in the Adelaide Hills. One of the first towns was Norton Summit settled in 1837, shortly followed by Hahndorf, Crafers, Gumeracha, Meadows, Mount Barker and Oakbank.

Many of the Adelaide Hills’ early immigrants, including the Prussian settlers who established Hahndorf, Lobethal and Birdwood, were fleeing religious persecution and the Hills provided them with a new beginning. Those seeking refuge of a different kind were the colony’s cattle thieves, sly grog merchants and bush rangers, who often hid out in the Hills, along with the tiers men who worked the stringybark forests.

The mid to late 1800s saw the gold rush arrive and with it thousands of new settlers hoping to find their fortune. The most successful site was Jupiter Creek at Echunga, which attracted 1200 miners at its peak. With only a third of prospectors making money the rush was short-lived, however miners returned in the 1930s when the Depression saw hundreds try their luck.

By the late 19th century, the towns of Stirling, Mylor, Uraidla and Woodside had sprung up, fuelled by the brewing, milling and farming industries. Around this time many of Adelaide’s wealthy residents started to build grand summer houses in the Hills as a cool retreat from the city’s hot summers, many of which are still lived in.

A number of towns in the Hills were started as German settlements; Hahndorf, and Lobethal are two widely known examples. The original town names and architecture still reflect this. Descendants of these first settlers and others of German origin still reside in the area. This explains the strong German cultural connection seen in the number of Lutheran churches, Lutheran schools which often have German on the curriculum, and the number of older residents who still speak German. Some customs have grown, such as the Lobethal Christmas lights which began in the 1950s.

The Adelaide Hills simply cannot be beaten for your picturesque, sweeping landscape vistas, especially during the Autumn months. The whole region is transformed into a series of picture postcard colourful scenes as the leaves on the trees change colour. A big concentration of these colours can be found in the popular Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens, especially down near the bottom lake. The area around these gardens is a particular favourite of mine with suburbs such as Picadilly, Stirling and Uraidla offering beautiful views of rolling hills and vineyards.

The tourist hotspot of Hahdorf has lots of beautiful heritage listed buildings on or around the main street which are perfect for photographers to capture and the place really comes alive with colour and visitors during the Autumn months.

Other areas I love to photograph are Cherryville, Summertown and Mount Crawford to name just a few with winter being one of the best times to visit the Hills to take photographs. Early morning mist and fog are more common at this time of year and if you can drag yourself out of a nice warm bed you can be rewarded with that special scene.

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