Hop On, Hop Off: TrailHopper Brings Freedom to the Humble Wine Tour

“It was as simple as getting around in Margaret River, and fighting with my wife about who would do the driving each day,” says Matthew Hodge, co-founder of the new wine-tour service TrailHopper. “It just came from the need to not drink and drive, really.” So often the simplest ideas are the best, and Hodge…

“It was as simple as getting around in Margaret River, and fighting with my wife about who would do the driving each day,” says Matthew Hodge, co-founder of the new wine-tour service TrailHopper.

“It just came from the need to not drink and drive, really.” So often the simplest ideas are the best, and Hodge has now brought this easy concept into reality with his business partner Kristian Phipps.

While there are some hop on hop off tours running around the state, TrailHopper offers the unique distinction of leaving from the CBD, allowing punters to make their way to far off regions without having to worry about breaking the law.

Hodge hopes that his tours will service a diverse range of people, including locals and tourists, with budgets both low or high.

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The way it works is this: For a flat fee of $49 customers are picked up in the CBD and driven out to the region of choice (McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills are on offer at this stage). From there the buses drive through a cycle of wineries all day, with individuals free to jump on board and ride to their next destination as they please. “We basically follow an hour-long timetable, and do five or six loops of it throughout the day,” says Hodge.

This freedom gives wine lovers the chance to spend as long or little as they like at any particular winery and move on to the next as they please, for no extra charge. Once the day is done, everyone is rounded up once more, and ferried back to the city.

Hodge says these tours are designed for “car-load sized groups of people to hop on and off irrespective of other groups” but has noticed that sometimes these groups even come together as the day goes on.

“What we do find is that people make friends and groups join up, like if someone is raving about a particular winery on the way, more people might join them.”

While the tours currently head to the Barossa and Adelaide Hills, Hodge says the McLaren Vale tour holds a special place in his heart, for its scenic value and the particular wineries TrailHopper visits in the Vale.

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“We have about 14 or 15 wineries lined up in McLaren Vale at the moment, with seven or eight each in the Barossa and Hills,” he says, “I consider the McLaren Vale one to be the darling of the bunch, really.”

When it comes to those cellar doors, Hodge says he aims to give customers a clear representation of the variety of the regions. “In McLaren Vale TrailHopper is going for a mix of household names and boutique-y ones, so you can expect us to visit places like Oliver’s, Beach Road, Coriole as well as Maxwell’s, Angove, D’Arenberg and Wirra Wirra,” he says.

And on the food front, once again, flexibility is key. A broad choice of wineries and drop spots allows customers to plan their day out and grab a feed wherever they please, as Hodge says, “from a degustation menu at D’Arry’s or Coriole to just grabbing a pasty in town to eat on a hill overlooking the ocean.”

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