Hahndorf – Jawohl! Germany in the Adelaide Hills


Hahndorf South Australia, just half an hour from Adelaide. Ja, it’s Australia’s most German town.

As far as its European history is concerned, Australia began life as a British penal colony. This means that the first non-aboriginal people to settle here were the dregs of British society.

When you consider what those `dregs’ have achieved in just over 200 years, it’s evidence they must have been industrious people indeed.

Australia wasn’t just a penal settlement.  Over the years many people fled persecution in Europe. This was usually caused by their religious beliefs differing from the norm at the time. Many believed that the Great Southern Land was a great place to start a new life as there were few prejudices here at that time.

South Australia has an advantage over other states. For instance, the state welcomed only free settlers and was never a cruel penal colony. Meaning that Adelaide was an ideal place for free settlers to inhabit.

German Migration

The colony attracted many Germans seeking good farming land. Historically, in 1839 German-speaking Lutherans from Eastern Europe settled in Hahndorf. That makes the town Australia’s oldest original non-English migrant settlement.

Unlike now, in the 1800s diversity was almost unknown in Australia.  That’s why those prim Prussian traditions and customs set Hahndorf apart from other Australian towns.

The German Migration Museum at the Hahndorf Academy tells the story of those early settlers.

Hahndorf was named after a noble Danish sailor who commanded the transport ship `Zebra’. He was Captain Dirk Hahn and was honoured because of his concern for his passengers. It was an arduous voyage to Adelaide and Hahn protected his passengers during the voyage and afterwards.

Early Hahndorf settlers liked to build from timber and brick. So, the architecture differs from Adelaide where bluestone was the common building material. In Hahndorf today, many of those gorgeous buildings still remain intact. Each lovingly restored to their former glory.

A delightful hills town

Hahndorf is not a long drive from the centre of Adelaide.  It’s serenity it seems to transport you a million miles away from the bustling city.

The town snuggles into the Adelaide Hills. Hahndorf’s delightfully attractive main street is worth exploring.  That boulevard features a stunning canopy of leafy trees. Many of the shops and restaurants testify to the fact that Hahndorf has been discovered by artisans and providores.  These folk share a longing to create quality goods out of local produce.

Hahndorf is a foody’s delight. The town is famous for its homemade cheeses, chocolates, pickles and jams.  Excellent German-style wineries and breweries sit right on its doorstep.

My pork knuckles being washed down with a stein of beer was a wonderful treat.

This tradition of making quality food and wines harks back to those first settlers whose productivity made Hahndorf the food bowl of Adelaide.

When you visit Hahndorf and see for yourself just how pretty it is; you can understand why one of Australia’s favourite landscape artists, Sir Hans Heysen, made Hahndorf his home.

Heysen was the first artist to paint the Australian bush in a factual way. Sir Hans found much of his inspiration in the local area. You truly do appreciate his work when you visit his Hahndorf studio, The Cedars.

Hahndorf is a fabulous place to visit. The town exudes an air of optimism. Hahndorf is certainly a tribute those early settlers who fully embraced Australia.