Just ten minutes east of the city, along a winding road through the Adelaide foothills, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the stunning natural landscape of Waterfall Gully. Located in Cleland Conservation Park, Waterfall Gully is home to First Falls, an 18 metre waterfall that flows all year round. Equally stunning in the cooler months encased in mist as it is the warmer months, this protected bushland has an abundance of natural vegetation, a huge variety of flora and fauna and is home to a diverse range of native wildlife.
It’s an easy drive to the falls along Waterfall Gully Road with the slow and winding road shared by walkers, cyclists and motorists. The road ends with a parking area in front of Utopia Restaurant at the base of First Falls. This is the meeting spot for an estimated 40,000 people a year who make the trip between Waterfall Gully and Mt Lofty Summit. In 2011 the walking trails were upgraded and an open area for children to explore was created between the first and second falls.
Utopia is the only restaurant in Australia situated at the base of a naturally flowing waterfall. With simply stunning views, the building is a heritage listed stone cottage originally built as a teahouse in 1912. Currently owned and operated by a couple with children, the restaurant is a family friendly venue with a delightful kids menu and a toy area for little ones. As well as restaurant table service, there is also a kiosk for drinks and ice creams if you’re not planning on eating in.
Open daily for breakfast, brunch and lunch, our favourite time to visit is for a weekend breakfast before heading off to explore the beautiful surrounding bushland (bookings are essential on weekends). As there is only one car park located at the end of Waterfall Gully Road, it can be very difficult to find a park, especially on weekends due to the huge number of people who park and then trek up to Mt Lofty Summit and back. There is also limited parking along Waterfall Gully Road, but be sure to be respectable to residents when parking alongside privately owned properties.
There are numerous paths you can take as you head off along the track, each one leading to a different vantage point. You can take your time and make it a stroll, or burn some energy and pick up the pace. I’ve seen numerous Mums and Dads with their babies and toddlers strapped into carriers as they make their way up the hill. Young children may only want to walk a short way before they get tired, so you can turn back at any point. My 10 year old has walked to the Summit and back a few times now, taking an easy pace and taking rest stops along the way. It really is a hike to reach the top so you need a certain degree of fitness to go all the way.
It doesn’t take long to get to the top of the first waterfall where there is a viewing area overlooking the valley. It’s a fairly steep climb to this part, but the path is fully paved. The view is beautiful and it’s quite incredible when you realise how close this natural gem is to the city of Adelaide.
Once you’re back down in the gully you can wander around the base of the waterfall and enjoy the gardens. There’s a footbridge, park benches, picnic areas and public toilets near the car park. This area makes a fabulous photo shoot backdrop so it’s the ideal place to take some family snaps.
The gates to the Waterfall Gully car park are open from 6am-7pm Monday to Sunday, and 6am-9pm Monday to Sunday during daylight savings. Utopia Restaurant is open 9am-5pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and public holidays and from 8am-5pm on weekends. Visit Utopia’s website here for more information.
What: Waterfall Gully & Utopia Restaurant
When: All Year (see times above)
Where: Waterfall Gully Road, Waterfall Gully (see map)
Click here for more information via SA’s National Parks website.
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.