New Ghan: Adelaide and Kangaroo Island

By Jay Brunhouse

(Third of three parts on Australia, jump to part 1, part 2, part 3)

“A blind man couldn’t get lost in Adelaide, without a cane.” — taxi driver

Adelaide, Australia, your terminus for your southbound trip on the Ghan, is also the terminus for the Overlander to Melbourne and a worthwhile stopover for passengers traveling aboard the Indian Pacific between Sydney and Perth.

A charming, cosmopolitan hub of about 1.2 million people, Adelaide has a reputation as the 20-minute city. You can always get from A to B in less than half an hour.

The colony’s Surveyor-General, Colonel William Light, laid out Adelaide as a perfect grid of streets and squares completely surrounded by parklands, which now house world-class museums such as the surprising National Wine Centre; the South Australia Museum, which has six floors of natural and cultural history including the Aboriginal exhibits, and the Art Gallery of South Australia, where you can see one of Australia’s finest and oldest collections.

In addition, the parklands house universities offering prestigious degrees in many disciplines and giving the city a youthful feeling.

Wine capital

When you say “wine” to an Aussie, he or she automatically thinks of South Australia. In addition to being the capital of a state roughly the size of Texas, Adelaide is the wine center of South Australia.

An hour’s drive from Adelaide by rental car or with a guide from Life is a Cabernet (phone [08] 8896-2233 or log onto, which is a first-rate wine touring company, takes you to the Barossa (, Australia’s richest and best-known viticultural and wine-making region.

The drive takes you past gum-studded pastures and through rocky hills in which younger vineyards are producing distinctly regional wines. Over 130 migrating bird species, including the diamond firetail, search for food while free-roaming emus help themselves to grapes on the vines.

In the Barossa, comprising the Barossa and Eden valleys, vineyards cover the hillsides like a green cloak. Closer, you examine the purple, plump and juicy shiraz, cabernet and merlot grapes that make Australia a major player in the wine markets.

From 1840, waves of German-speaking immigrants and middle-class English settlers created the Barossa culture that endures today. Wine became a basic part of their life, and viticulture developed as a fundamental agricultural activity.

Vintners in the Barossa produce and bottle 21% of Australia’s wine, making the Barossa Australia’s largest single wine-processing region. Thousands of acres make up Barossa’s rolling landscape, with the oldest shiraz vines dating back to the very first days of Barossa settlement.

Luckily, a far-sighted quarantine policy prevented the spread of phylloxera, which ravaged vineyards worldwide in the 1800s. Now, over 500 grape-growing families, some now fifth and sixth generation, supply 65,000 tons of Barossa grapes to about 50 Barossa wine makers.

Hospitable tasting rooms

There are over 70 wineries and cellars in the region, from small, family enterprises crushing up to 50 tons to national companies crushing over 10,000 tons.

Wineries with hospitable tasting rooms and cellars include Grant Burge Wines (phone [08] 8563-3700], au) and Rockford Wines (phone [08] 8563-2720, www.rockfordwines. where sommeliers serve handmade, sparkling shiraz.

Charles Melton Wines ( is surrounded by a picturesque vineyard; Elderton Wines ( offers wines from 55-year-old stock, while Langmeil Winery ( presents a range of premium wines among historic buildings and an 1840s’ shiraz vineyard.

From the lookout on Mengler Hill Road, about five miles from Tanunda, you can view the panorama of the Barossa. Sculpture Park fronting the lookout was created during the International Sculpture Symposium held in the Barossa in 1988. The park contains a number of marble, granite and black-granite pieces.

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island (K.I.) is the third-largest island off the coast of continental Australia. Nearly 100 miles long and up to 35 miles wide, the island is more than a day-trip destination. It covers an area of 1,750 square miles packed with natural beauty and overflowing with curious wildlife, thanks to its isolation, which shielded it from unwanted rabbits, pests and European development.

Hotel pickups from Adelaide hotels to the ferry landing at Cape Jarvis make convenient the 45-minute crossing to Penneshaw, K.I., by Kangaroo Island Sealink (phone +61 8 8202-8688, The half-hour flight between Adelaide and Kingscote, K.I.’s principle town, aboard Regional Express Airlines (phone +61 2 6393-5550, is even faster.

With a guide from Kangaroo Island Odysseys (phone [08] 8555-0386, or in a rental 4-wheel drive, you can explore differing island habitat, towering cliffs, long, sandy beaches and clean oceans that are the playground of seals, whales and dolphins. You can visit 24 protected areas, including 19 national and conservation parks and five wilderness protection areas covering over 30% of the island.

Koala surplus

With patience, you are sure to spot dozens of the island’s estimated 30,000 koalas clinging to the high branches of tall eucalypts.

Some years ago, authorities declared the koala an endangered species. The small marsupials so appreciated this distinction that they multiplied at an astonishing rate. with the result that the manna and blue gums on K.I. are being chewed down. In an expensive effort to save the trees, the cuddly, but amorous, animals are being actively trapped and relocated to forestry reserves on the mainland.

On the western end of the island, past Vivienne Bay, which is Australia’s best beach, you enter the wilderness of Flinders Chase National Park, where you see at close range the healthy New Zealand fur seal colony romping on rocky outcroppings at Cape du Couedic and marvel at the formation of Remarkable Rocks. At Admirals Arch you see where the powerful forces of nature have cut through the headland to create this astonishing geological formation.

Before you return to Adelaide, witness the Kingscote pelican feeding at 5 p.m., when 50 or so pelicans arrange themselves like rows of spectators in the bleachers of a baseball game. As the grizzled fellow dressed in rubber waders tosses a fish in their direction, the pelicans immediately leap in unison like spectators fighting for a Barry Bonds home run ball.

Many thanks

I thank the South Australia Tourism Commission (phone 888/768-8428, for Kangaroo Island arrangements, nights at the motel-like Acacia Apartments (phone [08] 8553 0088, in Kingscote and in Adelaide’s business hotel Oaks Embassy (phone [08] 8124 9900, as well as air transportation on Qantas Airlines (phone 800/227-4500,

Qantas on June 14, 2006, began seasonal service between Sydney and Vancouver, with a possible stopover in San Francisco, thus making San Francisco-Vancouver flights feasible aboard Qantas. After a break in service, flights will resume Dec. 1, 2006, to Jan. 31, 2007, in anticipation of regular Sydney-Vancouver service via San Francisco year-round.

—All Aboard is written by Jay Brunhouse.