Hahndorf, SA

Unique German-Prussian town in the Adelaide Hills.

Hahndorf is a little piece of Silesia, Prussia and Germany in the Adelaide Hills. Proudly declaring itself "Australia's Oldest German Town" and offering lots of sausages, sauerkraut, steins of beer, window boxes with dense floral displays, and Lutheran churches, it is quintessentially Central Europe in the Adelaide Hills. This charming town is characterised by shady, tree-lined streets; lots of shop signs in Teutonic script; and busloads of German tourists being entertained in cafes, beer halls and restaurants run by the descendants of the town's early German settlers. Today it is one of South Australia's premier tourist attractions. There are few places in the country where you can drive through typically Australian countryside and, quite suddenly, enter a world which seems to have been lifted out of Europe.


Hahndorf is located 26 km south-east of Adelaide at the southern edge of the Adelaide Hills. It is 330 m above sea level, has a rainfall of 990 mm and promotes itself as "Australia's Oldest German Town".


Origin of Name

On 28 December, 1838 the ship, Zebra, under the command of the Danish Captain Dirk Meinhertz Hahn, reached Port Adelaide. The ship was carrying 187 immigrants from Silesia many of whom would settle in the Adelaide Hills and name one of the towns after the captain who had brought them to South Australia. Hence "Hahn" for the captain and "dorf" which is German for village.


Things to See and Do

Welcome to Hahndorf
The Welcome to Hahndorf brochure (pick it up at the Visitor Information Centre or download it at There are well over 50 buildings and places of importance in Hahndorf and 38 of those are mentioned on the Welcome to Hahndorf brochure. Start at the top of Main Street (Mount Barker Road) and take a leisurely stroll down this beautiful tree-lined stree. Here is a representative sample of the best and most interesting buildings in the street:

100 & 102 Main Street - Thiele's Cottage and Thiele's House
Located at 100 and 102 Main Street, these two buildings comprise a simple cottage which was built by Johann Friedrich Thiele and his wife Anna Dorothea Schmidt. They were reputedly the first couple to marry in Hahndorf and, because there was no church at the time, they were married under a gum tree in the main street. Next door is the Thiele's House which remained in the Thiele family from 1839-1991.

98 Main Street - The Old Mill
Located at 98 Main Street this old steam-powered flour mill was built in 1851 and operated continuously crushing everything from wheat to quartz and bone for fertiliser until 1912 when it closed down. In 1971 it became the Old Mill Restaurant and has since become a function centre and a Brasserie. The kegs full of flowers, the vines and the awning make it an important part of the aesthetics of the main street.

85 Main Street - Detmold House
Located at 85 Main Street this handsome two storey dwelling was the residence of the Wittwer family (they ran the mill over the road) and was built in 1861 and called Detmold after the town in Germany where the family originated from.

75 Main Street - Haebich's Cottage
Located at 75 Main Street this is a typical example of a half-timber family home, in classic German style, from the early years of the village. The land was purchased by the local blacksmith, George Haebich, in 1850 and the cottage dates from around that time.

73 Main Street - Haebich's Smithy
Located at 73 Main Street this is the site of the town's first blacksmith's shop. The original building was constructed in the 1850s by George Haebich. His son August took over in 1872 and the present building dates from around 1880.

Pioneer Memorial Gardens
Located on Main Street over the road from the German Arms Hotel, this garden commemorates the 39 families who settled the area and created the town. In this small park is a monument to Captain Dirk Hahn who gave his name to the town.

69 Main Street - German Arms Hotel
Located at 69 Main Street this is the centre of the town. An attractive hotel, it was first established on this site in 1861 by the local publican Robert Hunt. There had been a previous hotel as early as 1839 but it burnt down. For many years it was the Cobb & Co staging point in the town. In the front bar is a mural depicting the hotel as it looked in 1913.

St Michael's Lutheran Church
Located on the corner of Balhannah Road and Church Street  just one block away from the Main Street, St Michael's is the oldest Lutheran Church in Australia dating to 1858 and dedicated on 3 July, 1859. The first church in the town, built of pug and consecrated in 1840, operated on this site. It is one of two Lutheran churches in town an indication that the community split over doctrine in the early years of settlement.

68 Main Street - Hahndorf Academy
Located at 68 Main Street is the Hahndorf Academy, a rather dour building which was completed in 1883. It was here that T.W. Boehm opened a private primary school in 1857. He added a secondary school in 1871. It was restored in the 1960s and now operates as an art gallery.

35 Main Street - Hahndorf Inn
Located at 35 Main Street this was originally the Union Hotel which was built in 1863 by Benjamin Gray. It is typical of its era. There was a blacksmith's shop next door and stables for draught horses at the rear. It has been operating as the Hahndorf Inn since 1972.

10 Main Street - St Pauls Lutheran Church
Located at the southern end at 10 Main Street this church was opened in 1886 for a congregation which had previously worshipped in the Hahndorf College.

Statue of Hans Heysen
A bronze statue of one of Australia's best known landscape painters, Sir Hans Heysen OBE stands in the main street of Hanhdorf. It was created by sculptor Robert Hannaford AM.


Other Attractions in the Area

Hans Heysen's House and Studio
There was a time when just about every home in Australia had a Hans Heysen painting on the wall. Reproductions of Heysen gum trees with titles like 'Droving into the Light' or 'The Roadside Gum' were standard issue on loungeroom and hallway walls. He was the Australian answer to Constable and Turner, always celebrating rural romance and the unique Australian light but in an essentially sentimental way. The Encyclopaedia of Australian Art notes: "He made his home at Hahndorf, SA and became prolific in water colours of Australian bush landscapes dominated by massive, strongly drawn gum-trees, coloured in delicate pinks and blues. Many of these paintings portrayed the stand of gum-trees on his own 150-acre property at Hahndorf. The Flinders Ranges, Mount Lofty Range, and the regions near Hahndorf became favourite subjects. From 1908 a wide section of the public began to see these works as symbols of the Australian landscape. Heysen won the Wynne Prize for landscape nine times between 1904 and 1932." Heysen's studio, complete with very familiar gum trees across the paddocks, is virtually untouched. The house, known as "The Cedars" and still owned by the family, is in pristine condition and the art on display is much more diverse than the man's ubiquitous gum trees would suggest. One particular delight are Nora's still life paintings. She was Heysen's daughter and her work shows that she should never have been in the shadow of her father. She did win the Archibald Prize when she was only 27 and when she was in her 30s (during World War II) she worked as a war artist in New Guinea. Tel: (08) 8388 7277 or check out The Cedars is open from 10.00 am - 4.30 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Beerenberg Strawberry Farm
Located on Mount Barker Road the Beerenberg Strawberry Farm is part of the historic Paech farming settlement which was established in this area as early as 1839. The sixth generation of the Paech family now run the farm. Between October and May it is possible to pick your own strawberries. At other times the jams from the farm, which have become popular and a byword for quality, can be purchased at the shop. Tel: (08) 8388 7272 or check out

The Early History of Hahndorf
It was decided by the British government that South Australia would be a colony which wasn't initially settled by military officer and convicts. Consequently the early years of the colony were difficult. Settlers liked the idea of free convict labour and were unhappy about having to pay their workers. One solution was to actively encourage settlement from Europe. With this in mind in 1838 George Fife Angas, one of the directors of the South Australian Company and the man often referred to as the "Father of South Australia", travelled to London to try and attract immigrants. During his stay in Europe Angas met Pastor August Ludwig Christian Kavel who was trying to organise for devout Lutherans from Silesia, who were being religiously persecuted by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III, to emigrate. Angas, who had spent much of his life helping create charitable committees and help Christians in distress, was moved by the persecution of the Lutherans. He persuaded Kavel that South Australia was a suitable place for emigration and assisted the Lutherans with a generous £8,000 grant to help them emigrate.
The first Lutheran settlers arrived on 25 November, 1838 at Port Misery. These settlers were to establish German communities at Klemzig, Glen Osmond, Lobethal and in the Adelaide Hills. On 28 December, 1838 a 344 ton ship, Zebra, under the command of a Danish captain, Dirk Hahn, reached South Australia. It was carrying 187 Lutheran immigrants. This was the second group of Prussians to arrive in South Australia. Hahn was so impressed by his passengers that he arranged for them to rent land in the Adelaide Hills. While Hahn was negotiating for the land, the immigrants lived in tents at Port Adelaide. They were originally allocated 150 acres of land (now the site of Hahndorf) which was divided up so there was 38 acres for living quarters and the rest for farming. Later the grant was expanded to 240 acres. A group of twelve men on horseback and some women in a carriage travelled into the hills to inspect the site and Hahn was so taken by it that he declared "It seems to me as if nature had lavished her choicest gifts on South Australia, I should like to end my days here and never return to the busy world." The Lutherans were provided with generous conditions for settlement and provisions for the first year. They were also provided with a preacher, Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche, and a substantial amount of livestock. The early settlers worked hard planting crops and grazing the cattle they had been given. In the first year of their settlement at Hahndorf they all contributed to the construction of St Michael's Church. Through sheer hard work the settlement thrived. Vineyards were established, the women worked as shepherds, the men hired themselves out to the surrounding landowners as cheap labour, and slowly substantial houses, many of which still stand, were built.



* Prior to occupation by Europeans the Adelaide Hills were home to the Peramangk First Nations people for at least 20,000 years

* The coastline was first explored in 1802 when Matthew Flinders, during his epic circumnavigation of Australia, sailed up Gulf St Vincent.

* On 28 December, 1838 the ship Zebra, captained by Dirk Meinhertz Hahn and carrying 187 German immigrants, reached South Australia.

* Initially the immigrants lived in tents at Port Adelaide. Then Hahn organised to rent 150 acres of land (the present site of Hahndorf) which was divided up so there was 38 acres for living quarters and the rest for farming. Later the grant was expanded to 240 acres.

* A group of twelve men on horseback and some women in a carriage travelled to inspect the site and Hahn was so taken by it that he declared: "It seems to me as if nature had lavished her choicest gifts on South Australia, I should like to end my days here and never return to the busy world."

* The settlers were given provisions for the first year. They were also provided with a preacher and a substantial amount of livestock.

* By 1839 the settlers had contributed to the construction of a church which stood where St Michael's Church now stands.

* In 1846 St Paul's Lutheran Church was consecrated.

* By the 1850s vineyards were established, the women worked as shepherds, the men hired themselves out to the surrounding landowners as cheap labour and slowly substantial houses, many of which still stand, were built.

* The artist, Hans Heysen, settled at The Cedars in 1912.

* The town experienced intense anti-German feelings during World War I and the name was changed to Ambleside by a 1917 Act of Parliament.

* In 1917 the German Arms Hotel became the Ambleside Hotel and did not change its name back until 1976.

* In 1935 the Nomenclature Act allowed the town to return to Hahndorf.


Visitor Information

Adelaide Hills Visitor Information Centre, 68 Main Street, Hahndorf, tel: 1800 352 323.


Useful Websites

An excellent website is which has hot links to the Hahndorf brochure and specific attractions around the town.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

4 suggestions
  • Hi guys,
    I am the owner/operator of Hahndorf Walking Tours providing guided walking tours of the village. Stassendorf, Hufendorf and Hahndorf After Dark tours. If you send me an email I’ll send you some photos and content. Regards Sharon

    Sharon Pippos
  • I grew up in Hahndorf and I remember a young man known as “Duffy’” who looked after the Clydesdale horses at the Hahndorf Inn (the stables)…. What happened to him and where is he now ???

    Michelle Lydiard
  • Hi Bruce,
    An interesting piece of history on Hahndorf SA. The chap who founded the German Ames Hotel was a soldier on the Prussian Army. His name was Gottfried Lubasch. He sounded the bugle which started the Battle of Waterloo which helped to defeat Napoleon completely..!!
    Love your work. Amazing.
    Warmest Regards,
    Jason Duffield

    Jason Duffield
  • Our family were part of the first Zimmermanns to come on the Zebra to Australia.

    Mick Zimmermann