Plenty of times that I’ve seen articles put together on Australia’s best driving roads, in tenth place, the entirety of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia is always lumped in together, as if every one of the many twisty roads you’ll find there are exactly the same.
Given the fact Drive Section HQ is based in the Adelaide Hills, naturally, it’s got me feeling some type of way about such a generalisation. Yes, it’s true, there’s plenty of fun to be had anywhere around this part of the world, but as I drive so many of these roads every week while testing new cars or enjoying my own, I feel it’s worth pointing out which roads are good for what, depending on what sort of a mood you’re in.
The beauty of the Essential Drives series we’ve got running on this site is that I can share with you just how varied the roads around places like the Adelaide Hills are, so whether you’re an Adelaide local looking to explore what the Hills have to offer, or someone heading here from interstate, I feel it’s my duty to inform you on where some of the nicest stretches of tarmac are.
And what better a one to start with than Gorge Road – one I ensure I drive almost every single car I review on as a part of my standardised testing, as it’s a road you can learn a lot about a car on if you’re looking to push it. If you’re looking to enjoy the scenery, however, it’s got plenty to offer in that way, too.
While I had the absolutely brilliant Genesis G70 that I recently waxed lyrical about on the driveway, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to grab some photos while on my routine weekly drive, as it’s a car that not only handled such a road with aplomb, but looked pretty stunning while doing it. Our recent review of the latest BMW 3 Series also contains a few shots taken here, too, if you’re looking to see more.
From the Adelaide CBD, it’ll take around half an hour to get out to Gorge Road, which you can get to directly at Athelstone when heading east to take it uphill. If you’re heading north-west and downhill to the city on it as I usually am when I drive it, it takes around the same time to get to it when going via Cudlee Creek Road from Lobethal – a road which has some lovely downhill sweeping bends that are a great warm-up act for the main event, and a great way to get some heat into your tyres.
When heading towards the city, it’s at the Union Bridge just after exiting the main Cudlee Creek township that things start to get serious. After a couple of sweepers once the bridge spits you out, the tight turns that will truly test the grip of your tyres greet you after the turn-off to Chain of Ponds that’s worth being cautious of due to others slowing down for it.
After briefly putting the brakes on to pass the pub and caravan park, the opportunity to really put the hammer down finally presents itself with a string of tight bends that, in a well-set-up car, you can carry a decent pace through if there’s enough grip to be had – thankfully, grip here wasn’t an issue at all in the G70.
With little run-off through this section given there are few places to pull-over, a close rock wall on one side and a guard rail on the other to stop you putting it in the River Torrens, quick and direct steering is something often required given the fast transitions between bends and the sheer tightness of each of them, including a couple of wide hairpins that will point out any body-roll.
The other reason you’ll want to keep your wheels neatly between the lines – which, even still, will be a hard task in anything bigger than the most diminutive hot hatch – is because of a recent addition of some painfully annoying rumble strips to the double lines in the middle of the road. I get why they are there, but my word are they annoying when driving something as wide as most of the cars that suit this road best. Driving something like a Jaguar F-Type or Lexus LC 500 with a particularly wide stance definitely becomes a challenge to avoid creating that horrid droning with.
It’s not enough to spoil the road, however, as the sheer number of great and varied corners makes up for it. In terms of a road for testing a car to its limits on, it’s a motoring journo’s dream, so it’s hardly surprising, then, that Motor used it this year for the road stage of its Performance Car of the Year testing.
After the turn-off to Torrens Hill Road, you’re in for a long series of gorgeous downhill sweepers, with the road cambered perfectly to allow almost any car to remain flat through these bends. How broad they are makes it easy to pile on the speed through them as well – although, it should be noted, hidden speed cameras aren’t uncommon along this section due to this.
If you’re looking for somewhere to take a pause, you could do much worse than the wide and designated lookout area at the Kangaroo Creek Reservoir, where work always seems to be going on above the dam wall. It’s a great photo location, too, given the red rock wall opposite it, although falling rocks are something to be weary of along this section.
From there, the sweeping downhill bends with some particularly stunning cliff faces either side continue all the way past the Montacute Quarry – past which the road gets rather dusty in summer or muddy in winter due to trucks heading to and from it – and on to Athelstone, although if you have a tight-enough car and love a few proper hairpins, turning off to Corkscrew Road before you hit the quarry entrance is worth a look in.
While I find heading downhill to the city to be the best way to give your car a proper workout along Gorge Road, I find heading up towards the Hills to be a more relaxing drive, perhaps due to the corners being less dramatically cambered on the outside of the road as they are on the inside. Regardless, it’s a road that is great fun to drive in either direction.
So if you’re an Adelaidian looking to give your car a proper workout, someone from out of town looking for one of the best drives in all of the Adelaide Hills, or you’re just looking for some great scenery, Gorge Road is definitely one of the choice roads to take in this part of the world.