Ever wondered what goes on behind some of Australia’s leading cellar doors?

If you think that wine regions are just about wine tastings and lunch pairings, then you are in for a big surprise! Besides a reputation for fine wine and some of the world’s best cellar doors, Australia’s wineries also offer a blend of unique activities.

Planning a day trip or long vacation among vineyards? Here are some of Australia’s best wine regions, guaranteed to keep you in high spirits with non-stop fun and delicious wines. Most of these wine regions are a short drive from the city — rent a car, appoint a designated driver and bring along a jacket, as it can get pretty cool in the evenings.

South Australia

8.1 Wine Tasting at Penfolds Magill Estate, Adelaide, SA

Adelaide Hills

Throw on your adventurer’s cap and get ready to explore hidden tunnels and historical routes in the twilight.

Located just 20 minutes from Adelaide city by car, Adelaide Hills is the perfect wine region for those who want to take a day trip out from the city. Visit the Penfolds Magill Estate, which is the original home of the famed Penfolds wines and one of Australia’s most prized wines, the Grange. Explore underground tunnels, heritage-listed bluestone cellars and the original cottage home of Penfolds’ founders by day. Or join a guided historical tour that takes you down a similar route at twilight, before tucking into a seven-course wine dinner.

8.2 Sevenhill Cellars, Clare Valley, SA

Clare Valley

If you are a fan of Riesling, drive for 90minutes from Adelaide to Clare Valley. You can then drive, stroll or cycle along the picturesque Clare Valley Riesling Trail, which takes you past vineyards, farms, natural bushland and cellar doors. Then, dive into the history of Jesuit priests by exploring the underground cellars of Sevenhill Cellars, which is still known for producing sacramental wine, though its table wine is now more famous. The winery grounds also have a church and crypt to visit if you like.

If you are around on the last Saturday of the month (except in December and January), drop by the Sevenhill Producers Market. Feast on grilled meats, dried fruit, nuts and freshly baked pies, and fill a picnic basket with freshly baked bread, jams, preserves, oils and even flowers. If you are visiting between September and November, take a short drive over to the Spring Gully Conservation Park and enjoy a picnic while surrounded by a riot of wildflowers and orchids.

Victoria

Yarra Valley

With its fairy-tale landscapes, you will not feel out of place booking a horse-drawn carriage in Yarra Valley to explore the heart of Australia’s renowned pinot noir and sparkling wine region – just an hour’s drive northeast of Melbourne.

Clip-clop past lush vineyards and historic wineries, like the De Bortoli estate, where you can enjoy a platter of matured cheese with sustainably grown cool-climate wines in beautiful, landscaped gardens.

8.3 Food and Wine, Yarra Valley, VIC

While the area is famous for its wines and fresh produce, chocolate heaven is actually closer than you think. Don’t miss the chance of stopping at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. A short five-minute drive from De Bortoli estate, release the inner chocolate addict in you and go wild choosing from over 250 handcrafted chocolate products.

8.4 Hot Air Ballooning, Yarra Valley, VIC

Continue your day’s adventure by meeting koalas and kangaroos and feeding parrots at Healesville Sanctuary. If you are staying for more than a day, start a morning with a hot-air balloon ride before landing at a vineyard for a breakfast of sparkling wine and freshly picked produce.

Mornington Peninsula

Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, there is lots more to Mornington Peninsula than just wine and food – horse riding and art are just some of the activities you can look forward to.

For a different and unique experience, ditch your four wheels and reach for a saddle to join a horseback winery tour around Mornington. Trot leisurely through sprawling vineyards to taste regional favourites, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay while enjoying stunning scenery and ocean views atop your trusty steed. After working up your appetite, tuck into hearty local produce at the historic Red Hill Epicurean restaurant.

8.5 Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, Victoria

Later, visit Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove to experience the art of winemaking first-hand. Venture beyond Montalto’s cellar door and you will find yourself in its zany but intriguing Sculpture Park, which houses more than 25 fantastical sculptures and other original installations. Explore these creative works on the Sculpture Trail, meandering past grassy lawns, gravel pathways and wetlands.

Western Australia

Margaret River

Margaret River may be known for breathtaking views and boutique vineyards but it is also the place to be for bustling food festivals and gorgeous beaches — making the three-hour car journey from Perth worth your while.

8.6 Leeuwin Estate Credit Leeuwin Estate

Taste “Australia’s finest example of Chardonnay”, as described by Australian wine writer and critic James Halliday, at Brookland Valley and get busy with a hands-on red wine blending session at Leeuwin Estate. The estate is also famous for holding concerts on its picturesque grounds. If there are on-going concerts when you visit, pack a picnic basket and lounge on the estate’s lawns while soaking in the music, food, wine and atmosphere.

Planning a year-end trip to Australia? Get tickets to the annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape festival. Held in the middle of November, the festival attend master classes, sample local produce from some of Western Australia’s top restaurants and rub shoulders with celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson.

Margaret River is not all wine tasting and gourmet food, though. Pack a swimsuit if you are visiting in spring or summer. The region is home to idyllic beaches, like Hamelin Bay where you can wash off your worries in beautiful, blue waters and relax on stretches of soft, white sand. Hamelin Bay is also famous for another reason – it’s friendly Eagle Rays. These beautiful creatures will swim right up to you looking for food. How’s that for a wildlife encounter? Do take care when around them though as no matter how docile they are, they are still wild animals.                                                                                                                      

Swan Valley

Western Australia’s oldest wine growing region is a true foodie haven, boasting a food and wine trail that takes visitors to more than 150 attractions, including restaurants, produce markets and gourmet stores.

Easily accessible by car, Swan Valley is located on Perth’s doorstep, only a 25-minute drive away from the city. Or better still, if you have more time to spare, get there by taking a relaxing, scenic cruise down the Swan River from Perth. Explore the region’s food and wine scene on the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail, which takes you to wineries, breweries, nougat, honey and teashops, produce markets and restaurants.

Alternatively, go free-and-easy and stop for lunch at Carilley Estate, a family-run vineyard located within the heart of Swan Valley. Pair a leisurely lunch with show-stopping wines in the estate’s restaurant, which is set among lush vineyards and beautiful gardens.