A Visit to Hahndorf

We only had a short 75 km to travel from Victor Harbor to Adelaide and then Hahndorf in the Lofty Ranges behind the capital city but it took us all day.

The first part of our journey was across the top of the Fleurieu Peninsula and it took us through some beautiful undulating farming country with paddocks full of sheep and cattle that were grazing contentedly in the green grass.

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There we many splendid gum tress with lots of character along the road and in the pastures. These are the type of trees famously painted by artist Hans Heysen in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1877 and migrated to Adelaide in 1884 with his family. Hans bought his first paint set when he was 14 years old.His works are now in most Australian galleries.

We made quick stop at Hindmarsh Falls. I find it very difficult not to stop at a waterfall when I have my camera with me.


We stopped at a little village called Willunga for lunch. It has more historic buildings per hectare than many other cities in South Australia. The state’s history began with it being a free colony with immigrants arriving from Europe as far back as 1820. Two ladies ran this cafe and their welcome and good food made for a superb stopping place. Apparently, this building was originally a butcher’s shop and residence.

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Driving on through the winemaking area of McLaren Vale we passed golden vineyards and more historic old buildings. This one in with its Georgian style of architecture looked very grand.

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I found it interesting that the Memorial Park in McLaren Vale has such a strong focus on the Vietnam War. A tank, cross and memorial stones all relate to Vietnam. Perhaps there is a WW1 memorial somewhere but this park area has a strong focus on the Battles of Long Tan, Coral and Balmoral which were all significant engagements for Australians.

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With plenty of time on our hands, we decided to follow some roads along the beachfront  suburbs of Noarlunga and Christies Beach north to Glenelg. Eventually, an obligatory tour around ‘The Terraces’ took us on a loop around the edge of the Adelaide CBD. My memory of many details of Adelaide has somewhat faded as it is a long time since we were last here. However, we did find the statue of Colonel Light who first surveyed the city.

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We reached Hahndorf in the late afternoon. Our accommodation was up a small laneway and we drove past it three times before we could find where to turn in to the car park behind a restaurant. The place where we are staying (The Studios) is excellent – modern, large rooms, comfortable beds and a very short walk to the restaurant for meals.

Hahndorf is a little piece of Prussia and Germany inserted into an Australian environment. It proudly declares itself “Australia’s Oldest German Town”. Every second building is a cafe or restaurant that serves lots of sausages, sauerkraut and steins of beer with window boxes and dense floral displays. You could not possibly die of starvation in this town. Every other building has a history that goes  back as far as the 1840s.

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This charming town is characterised by shady, tree-lined streets; lots of shop signs in Teutonic script; and hundreds of tourists strolling along the Main Street. Oom-pa-pa music is played everywhere.

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The town was founded in 1839 by a group of Lutheran immigrants from Germany, who were seeking religious freedom and economic opportunities. At that time, the German states were experiencing political and economic upheaval, with many people suffering from poverty, famine, and political repression.

The Lutheran immigrants, were mainly farmers and skilled tradespeople who were attracted to South Australia because of its reputation as a land of opportunity, where they could establish their own communities and build a new life for themselves. Hahndorf was an attractive destination for German immigrants because of its fertile land and similar climate to their homeland. Over time, Hahndorf became a thriving community, with German-style architecture, cuisine, and festivals that still continue today. The town’s German heritage is still celebrated and commemorated, and the locals milk it to extreme.

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We needed a few more breakfast supplies, so in the afternoon we drove to nearby Mount Gambier where there is a large supermarket. I had been there a number of times during my teenage years. My father had a friend, from his army days in WW2, (Arthur Prosser) and we stayed with his family on a number of occasions. They had a farm on the outskirts of the town and whilst there I milked cows, irrigated potatoes and experienced all the joys of life on a farm.

Now, the town has boomed and Is no longer a little country town. It has developed into a large suburban metropolis and I find it unrecognisable. There are supermarkets, roundabouts, wide roads and a large shopping centre. I had some difficulty finding the location of the old farm, but I think it is near this photo. When  dad’s friend died, the farm was sold and divided into smaller parcels of land. 

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One of the ways that I recognised its location was because at the end of the road was a small cottage with a green roof. Graeme, their oldest son had married and moved into this house. Not long after he moved in, the other kids and I snuck up to the house at night belting buckets, pots and saucepans and anything else that made a loud nuisance noise. It was good old fashioned ‘Tin Kettling’, a customary practice to inflict on newly weds.

I did try to look Graeme up. He was a wedding photographer and a Google search still shows him listed as being at a studio that I do remember being at the bottom of the Main Street. However, it is now a beauty salon and he vacated it some years ago. I had no other luck in tracking him down.

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I did remember that Mount Gambier, indeed is named after a mountain of the same name. A drive to a carpark and a short walk to the relatively low peak gave me some nice views across the landscape back towards the town.




One thought on “A Visit to Hahndorf”

  1. Hi Bruce,
    what a coincidence. I have just finished a book by Kate Morton called “Homecoming” and the story takes place close to Hahndorf.
    Have a great trip
    Birge xxx

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