A Night in Family-Friendly Clare Valley – including visits to Martindale Hall and Mintaro Maze, and an overnight stay at Bungaree Station
A bamboozling maze, a famous haunted mansion, and a historic sheep station are just some of the things you’ll encounter in the Clare Valley, South Australia.
by Carla Caruso
When we had a few days up our sleeve over summer, we decided to make a last-minute family trip to the Clare Valley.
You can’t beat the historic region for a quick getaway with it being under two hours’ drive from the Adelaide CBD.
Despite its relative closeness to the city, you’ll feel a world away among the area’s beautiful old stone buildings, built by the early settlers, and its rows of iconic vines.
Our first stop was the luxurious Martindale Hall, which appeared in the Picnic at Hanging Rock movie. It’s quite a surprise to see the Georgian-style mansion spring up amid the tiny town of Mintaro, which has a population of less than 200 people.
The mansion was once home to the Mortlock family, who also used to own much of the land in the Adelaide suburb of Colonel Light Gardens. (I delve into this history for an upcoming episode of my own indie podcast, Model Suburb.)
But back to Martindale Hall … You’ll feel like you’re on the set of Bridgerton or Downton Abbey in its grand rooms. This includes one room for curios from the family’s exotic travels, and a library containing a billiard table with a slate surface from Mintaro’s famed quarry. When the mansion was bequeathed to the University of Adelaide, Dorothy Mortlock, who died childless, donated much of its household items too. For this reason, the home feels very untouched.
Of course, an old mansion like this isn’t without its ghost stories (which I always love!). One spirit said to haunt the house is young Valentine Mortlock. As a sign reads in his former room:
Valentine was born on Valentine’s Day in 1898 with cretinism, and as they did in those times, was kept out of sight. You can see a gap in the floorboards at the door where there was a wooden gate to keep him in the room.
Valentine died at the age of eight in 1906 and has been seen a few times by staff and visitors. He has been mistaken for a girl at all times as, in that period, little boys were dressed more like little girls with their long curls etc.
The last sighting was in 2011 when he was playing with a three-year-old boy visitor. The little boy’s mother could not get him out of the room, and he said he wanted to play with his new friend and told his mother that ‘she’ looked like an angel. The mother said there were no other children in the hall at the time.
Check the website for the mansion’s opening hours – if you dare! There’s a small entry fee.
After we’d got our ‘spooky’ fix, we headed to Mintaro Maze. The caretakers of Martindale Hall – couple Sharon and Michael Morris – are also behind this ah-mazing attraction. (See what I did there!?) This time we felt like we were in Alice in Wonderland, trying to find our way out of the conifer maze. No easy feat. (Admission is $15 per adult, and $8 for kids, aged four to 15.) While there, we also enjoyed checking out its gnome village and playing oversized outdoor games like chess. (Hello, The Queen’s Gambit.) There’s a gift shop and café on-site too.
There’s plenty to do at this historic station complex, including self-guided walking tours (with signs and audio posts dotted about), feeding sessions with the working farm’s animals, and swims at the homestead’s saltwater pool.
That night, we dined at Umbria Rustic Italian Restaurant in the main street, with menu items including kangaroo ravioli.
The next morning, after more swimming and interacting with the animals at the station, we began our leisurely journey home. First, though, we stopped for lunch at Magpie & Stump Hotel in Mintaro, perusing some of the town’s old buildings and ruins afterwards.
Back in Adelaide, we felt fully recharged, as though we’d been away for longer than one night. No doubt the Clare Valley will be whispering to us again soon!
What we like about it
- From the CBD, it takes just one hour and 40 minutes to drive to the Clare Valley.
- There’s just so much to do and explore in the historic region – as they say, we barely scratched the surface!
- For something different, you can hire a bike (or e-bike!) and cycle along the Riesling Trail – originally a railway line – and drop into wineries along the way.
Things to consider
- Due to Martindale Hall’s many antiques, you’ll need to leave your handbag, backpack, travel bag, pram or stroller at reception, though a handheld purse is okay inside.
- The most popular time to visit the Clare Valley is from March to November as the summer months can be hot and dry. Busy times include the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend in May and the Easter Saturday Clare Races.
For more information on the Clare Valley, please visit the official Clare Valley Tourism website.
What: A night in the Clare Valley | Review
Where: Clare Valley, South Australia
All photos by James Elsby for Play & Go Adelaide
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
As per all our Play & Go reviews, this is not a sponsored post and our review is done completely independently.
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