A touch of the Mediterranean: Port Willunga and the McLaren Vale

posted in: Featured, South Australia, wine | 6

Standing on the sandstone cliff top the ocean below beckons with its calm turquoise waters and expansive white beach. I have a morning of sun, sand, water and walking planned followed by an afternoon of wine tasting in the McLaren Vale so I am feeling pretty happy right now. We are standing atop the last part of the Mount Lofty Ranges where they now meet the sea at Sellicks Beach. I am making up my own walking adventure today, incorporating some beach and cliff top walking, loosely following part of the Maslin Bay and Port Willunga Geological Trail.


Maslin beach

Port Willunga

We start with walking a section of the clifftop at Port Willunga before decending down to walk along the beach. The old Port Willunga Jetty comes into view. All that remains of the jetty which once acted as an important feature in the areas early days as a grain port, are jetty pylons. But set against the backdrop of  the sandstone and limestone cliffs, soft sandy beaches and the dazzling blue sea the contrast is visually stunning.  I feel like I have just stepped into the Mediterranean. There are caves that have been carved out by the fishermen into the soft rock of the cliffs. These caves which were used to store boats and nets now provide a cool and shady place to explore.


Sandstone cliffs at Port Willunga
sedimentary rock cliffs at Port Willunga and the beautiful blue sea


Looking down towards the old Port Willunga Jetty
Looking down towards the old Port Willunga Jetty


Port Willunga


Port Willunga Jetty
The pylons are all that is left of the Port Willunga Jetty


Port Willunga Jetty



Port Willunga Jetty


caves at Port Willunga
Fisherman carved these caves into the rock and used them to store their fishing boats and nets


Port Willunga caves
Exploring the caves


Port Willunga caves
View from inside the caves


The calm waters here make it difficult to believe that there are a number of ship wrecks in this area, but the power of nature should never be underestimated. One of the most famous wrecks here is the Star of Greece, a cargo ship built in 1868 in Belfast that met its end here on the reef after getting caught in a violent storm. Sadly there was also loss of life. The wreck of the ship can be seen at low tide and forms a part of the Adelaide Underwater Heritage Trail.

After a morning filled with walking and playing in the sea we are all famished. A shelter shed overlooking the ocean provides the perfect spot to sit and eat our picnic lunch. A ham and salad sandwich has never tasted so good, must be the view.


Shelter shed overlooking the beach at Port Willunga.
Shelter shed overlooking the beach at Port Willunga. Perfect spot for a picnic lunch!


lunch 2


lunch with a view
Lunch with a view


Port Noarlunga

Now its time to check out a jetty that is still standing. We drive up to Port Noarlunga and take a walk out onto the jetty. This views of the marine life from here are amazing and perfect for landlubbers who don’t want to get wet. Port Nuorlunga is home to a narrow heritage listed reef that is only 400 meters offshore. This reef, formed from a consolidated Pleistocene sand dune runs parallel to the beach and is home to more than 60 fish species and 200 marine plant species.


The Noarlunga Jetty
The Noarlunga Jetty


noralunga jetty


Looking over the reef from the Noarlunga Jetty
Looking over the reef from the Noarlunga Jetty
Looking down at the reef from the Noarlunga Jetty
Looking down at the reef from the Noarlunga Jetty


Wirra Wirra Winery

I don’t think there are many Australians who haven’t heard of Wirra Wirra. The winery which was first established in 1894 prospered in the early days but later fell into disrepair and was abandoned. It was resurrected in 1969 and many years of hard work have built into what we see and drink today. Wirra Wirra, like many of the wineries I have been visititing lately, are strong believers in sustainability something that is very close to my heart. Before we even make it into the cellar door we spend a while exploring the grounds. We admire the Wirra Wirra big bottle of wine standing guard near the entrance and learn a bit about the vineyard at the viewing platforms overlooking the vines. But as much as I enjoy wandering around enjoying the property, its time for the main event – Wine!


wirra wirra
Very big bottle of wine!


We enter the beautiful big cellar door and Harry makes a bee line for the toy corner. Hopefully that will keep him occupied for a bit. Wirra Wirra produce a number of different wine ranges including Scrubby Rise, Mrs Wigley, Church Block, RGT collection as well as their flagship and cellar door only wines. I decide to skip straight to the RGT collection. The Riesling and Sauvignon blanc are nice but its the 12th Man Chardonnay that really stands out. It is the perfect balance of oak, stone fruit and acid with a lovely light creamy finish. This is my new favourite chardonnay. Enough said really! The Woodhenge and Catapult Shiraz go down easily as does the Church Block with its lovely blend of cabernet, shiraz and merlot.

It is the reds from the flagship and cellar door only wines that impress me however. The RSW Shiraz and The Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon are delicious but out of my price range at $70 a bottle. The Esperenza Monastrell has flavours of cherry and plum combined with a hint of cinnamon and spice. This refreshingly different wine is well priced at $30 a bottle and will be coming home with me today. For those who like Grenache, the original blend Grenache Shiraz is also worth a try. We finish up by tasting the fortified wines. The Empire Servies NV Rare Muscat is like drinking liquid velvet – divine!  I have enjoyed our wine tasting here at Wirra Wirra but now its time to move on. Beer time at Goodiesons Brewery.


wirra wirra 2


Goodiesons Brewery

Yes, yes I know this blog is called Walk and Wine but I do also enjoy a good beer! Thank goodness we have stumbled across Goodiesons because not only do they have great beer but they also have a very picturesque outdoor area located right beside a vineyard. Jeff, the owner and brewer, is friendly with a dry sense of humour, qualities I think are essential for anyone taking on the tough world of boutique beer. Jeff and his wife Mary spent some of their early life travelling around Germany and Austria acquiring a taste for good beer. On their return to Australia Jeff became serious about beer and studied Food technology with honours in Malting and brewing. After time working with Lion Nathan the family were seeking a simpler life and relocated to the McLaren Vale and Goodiesons Brewery was born.

The beers here are good. Chris is a fan of the Pilsner and the pale ale, while I really enjoy the stout. You can bring along some food and enjoy a picnic lunch here too. As we have already eaten we order a glass of beer each, grab a mixed 6 pack to take away and let Harry play outside for a while.

Goodiesons Brewery
Time for a swing… or maybe not.


Coriole Vineyards

There was never any doubt that we would visit Coriole Vineyards. Coriole makes my favourite sangiovese and I am super keen to try some of their other wines along with the latest vintage of the sangiovese while we are in the McLaren Vale. As we drive up the driveway we are greeted with a view of the rolling hills, vineyards and beautiful gardens. The original farmhouses on the property were built back in the 1860’s with the ironstone barn now housing the cellar door.

We walk inside and are greeted by a friendly lady conducting the tastings. Chris and I start on the chenin blanc and are pleasantly surprised. I am not usually a fan of this variety but this one is lovely and delicate with peach and tropical fruits on the palate. We move onto the Fiano, an Italian variety I have never tried before. I really like it. Perfect summer wine with citrus and stone fruit on the palate and interesting aromas of mandarin and melon. What I am really here for though is the reds, and I am not disappointed.

We try the barbera, nebbiolo, prosecco, sagrantino, mourvedre, shiraz and cabernet. They are all lovely. The latest vintage of the sangiovese is delicious with its savoury earthy flavour, and cements itself as my favourite sangiovese. The other delightful surprise is the Dancing Fig, a blend of shiraz and mourvedre. This wine has a palate of plum and blackberry with a smooth finish and aromas of plum, nutmeg and rhubarb.

Harry has spied the locally grown olives for sale on the bench and the selection of cheeses in the fridge. He also would like a drink. The tasting lady asks if he would like to try some verjuice. Yes please he says. She carefully pours some verjuice into a wine glass for Harry. I am expecting him to just gulp it down. But instead he holds the glass, swirls the verjuice, sniffs it and then sips it. There are 3 Italian men doing a tasting with us and they erupt into laughter at Harry and his seriousness of tasting the verjuice. I on the other hand just stand there, stuck halfway between feeling mortified and proud, that my child has just pretty much nailed how to observe the colour, aroma and taste of his verjuice. One of the Italians comment “He’s obviously been watching you Mum! Are you sure he’s not Italian?”.

We buy some olives, cheese and crackers and retreat to the garden to take in the views and discuss our dinner plans. It has been an absolutely glorious day and I am envious that the people of Adelaide have such fantastic beaches and wineries right on their doorstep. Next time we head back down this way I will plan to spend more time exploring this part of the Fleurieu Peninsular.

Views over the McLaren vale from Coriole Winery
Views over the McLaren vale from Coriole Winery


coriole 2

At a Glance

mapPort Willunga
45 km south of Adelaide

mapPort Noarlunga
34 kilometres south of Adelaide

mapWirra Wirra
Cnr Strout and McMurtrie Roads, McLaren Vale
Open 10 -5 Mon – Sat , 11 – 5 Sundays http://wirrawirra.com/

mapGoodiesons Brewery
40 Sand Road McLaren Vale
7 days – 11am to 5.30pm

mapCoriole Vineyards
Chaffeys Road McLaren Vale
Open Mon – Fri 10 -5 and weekends 11 – 5

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6 Responses

  1. Dayna

    Such beautiful beaches – and what’s more, they’re free and there’s not another person in sight in your photos! What more could you ask?
    The wines sound pretty good too, though on a hot summers day, I’d definitely be favouring the whites. But I’d still try the reds!

    • Amanda

      Hi Dayna, We saw one other person on the beach at Port Willunga. It was nice to have the area to ourselves for a while. Was nice to finish up the day with some wine tasting, they were all pretty good. Lots of great wine to be had in SA!

  2. Jane

    What a beautiful place. Fantastic shots, Amanda! Look at those blue skies and the sea. Ahh…I’m feeling the relaxation of the place from your post. Thanks!

    • Amanda

      Hi Jane, yes it was pretty relaxing. Such a lovely part of SA, great beaches and wine all within 15 minutes of each other. Heaven!

  3. Duncan

    Thanks for the recommendations, unfortunately the big wine bottle at Wirra Wirra Winery was demolished last week (mid August 2016) due to maintenance issues!!

    The caves on the beach were cool though!

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