Hahndorf: Australia’s Oldest German Town, South Australia

Editor’s Note: From our contributor in Adelaide, a travel article with a culinary flavour on the South Australian town of Hahndorf.

When writing about a destination, your brain will thump and strain to find the right adjective for the subject. Words pop into your head quickly, but you dismiss them as trite, cliché or lazy. Such is the use of the word “nestled” which has become so prevalent that even describing “nestled” as a cliché is a cliché in itself.

Hahndorf
Hahndorf

But that is the only way I can think of the little township of Hahndorf. Nestled. Either that, or “perched”. Watching those words eke from my skull and into the document fills me with dread, as though I’ve jumped the shark as a writer.

Situated in the Adelaide Hills, the town of Hahndorf wriggles its way into the scenery as though sliding into the softness of a duvet on a cold winter’s night. Streets are lined with trees that colour the town a different hue, depending on the season. The street remains full of cars, each one dwindling the speed down to a walking pace, as a means to absorb more of the surrounding stores or to avoid errant pedestrians.

Hahndorf
Hahndorf Main Street

Hahndorf is a little German-influenced town, featuring quite exaggerated nods to German architecture. It lies approximately half an hour’s drive away from the Adelaide city centre, travelling up the South Eastern Freeway and taking the Hahndorf exit. After a brief winding through the hills, the little town will appear, its quaintness seeping from each building passed. Hahndorf isn’t all schnitzels, food and Deutsche, however. Peppered along the length of the single main street, restaurants of other varieties (Chinese and Indian), crafts stores, and candlemakers can be found.

Take your time wandering up and down the main drag, and you’ll be presented with the typical little cafes, but also wurst shops, some serving the rather unashamedly named “bum burner” hot wursts for those with a taste for all things robust and masochistic. Cheese cellars, sweets shops, ice cream eateries are all here, promising a good, filling day away from Adelaide.

During the winter, the smell of woodsmoke lightly scratches the nose, which immediately taps into my childhood memories of growing up in the Adelaide Hills.

The German Arms Hotel is a popular destination for those seeking a hearty dose of traditional pub meals, however further up the road is the Hahndorf Inn, resplendent in beer hall garb. The wooden parquetry immediately grabs the attention lining the length of the ceiling in the main dining room, providing a palpable sense of warmth. German paraphernalia speckles as much free space as possible, without becoming garish.

Hahndorf Inn
Hahndorf Inn

The menu features dishes that might seem a little outrageous, but deliver a meal worthy of anecdote and recommendation. The German Mixed Grill was notable for its inclusion of Weiss wurst and a brine soaked serve of pork Kassler chop. A good range of German beers are available, with a good range of dosages, some maxxing out at one litre.

A little distance out of the town lies the Beerenberg Farm, a large shed squat on the side of a strawberry shrub-covered hill. A tiny door invites, flanked by a sign announcing the offer of twilight strawberry picking sessions. The large shed belies what waits inside; a modest shop with lines upon lines of jars of produce, featuring unique relishes, chutneys, mayonnaise, molasses, mustards, and jams. Of particular note are the sweet chilli relish (with a nearby cardboard sign to indicate that there is no chilli due to a production oversight), satsuma plum jam, peach jam and various dessert sauces.

Beerenberg
Beerenberg Farm

Looking to get a photo of the strawberry field, I am greeted by a member of the staff who spies my camera and offers me tips on the best vantage points to obtain the best view. He gleefully and proudly points to the southeast, saying that I can see all the fields in that direction, before swinging around to the northwest and directing me to the view over the Hahndorf township.

Hahndorf
Strawberry Fields, Hahndorf

The air tingles with the slight sweet smell of strawberries, and I thank my tipster while revelling in the feeling that could somehow be considered as someone who knows something about photography.

Needing to sate that need for a sweet treat, stopping at Chocolate @ No 5 proved to be satisfying. A different kind of sweetness greets the nostrils upon entering the humble cottage, chocolate lining the shelves. Ordering a honey and vanilla milkshake I peruse the produce, pausing briefly to ask staff about the “Groggy Road” bag.

Chocolate
Chocolate @ No. 5

“It’s like a Rocky Road, but has apricots and sultanas that are soaked in rum,” the chocolatier tells us, a cheeky grin curling at the edges of her mouth.

Taking leave and walking the entire length of the main street, many smells and flavours beckon. I pause briefly to order a triple smoked German sausage from a street vendor before reading a cute sign outside another eatery, explaining that if something isn’t on the menu, that a request can be made to the chef, depending on their mood.

South Australia will proudly boast its wine regions, with many recommending a day trip to the Barossa, McLaren Vale or the Clare Valley for an extended break. While the Adelaide Hills are a neat wine region in their own right, Hahndorf is a must for anyone searching for a relaxing escape.

Words and Photographs copyright Andy H – used with permission.

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Hahndorf: Australia’s Oldest German Town, South Australia was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Andy H

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Andy H

Andy is a freelance writer, sometimes gathering his camera into his car and heading out to just "see where the wind blows him". He has varied interests, not often shying away from different experiences, having contributed articles to video game, martial arts and automotive publications. Follow him @overquill .

3 Comments:

  1. Ahh, Hahndorf… What a place! Love wandering the main street, seeking out gourmet cheeses, wines and food. A nice little tourist town that is a wonderful destination for those seeking a pleasant day up in the Adelaide Hills.

    Andy – can’t wait to read your thoughts on the Barossa, mate!

    • Thanks, Rodney :) As for the Barossa, well I could do it in a day trip but I’d be exhausted by the end of it! It’s spread out so far and wide…

  2. Wow this was a walk down memory lane for me. Growing up in Adelaide, a weekend trip to Hahndorf was a treat for us. Back then it was very quaint and twee, looks a little hipper now ;)

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