Hahndorf's History

Hahndorf History

 The enchanting town of Hahndorf is recognised as one of the oldest surviving German settlements in Australia.

Indigenous History

The first and traditional owners of the Hahndorf, and surrounding areas, were the Peramangk people. The Indigenous Australians have been the traditional custodians of the land for over 60,000 years. Hahndorf was traditionally called ‘Bukartilla’ which translates to ‘deep pool’. The Hahndorf area was an important water and food source for the Paramangk people. The Paramangk people and the settlers had reportable few serious conflicts between the communities, with records demonstrating that the Paramangk people taught the settlers how to utilise the natural resources around them, including how to catch possums and where to find edible native foods and plants. 


Settler History

In December 1838, 38 Lutheran families (fleeing persecution from Prussia and East Germany) arrived in Adelaide aboard a ship called the Zebra, which as captained by a Dane called Captain Hahn. Captain Hahn negotiated on behalf of the German families and secured a lease of 60 hectares of land in the surrounding Adelaide Hills. It was a 2 month walk to reach their new home and in early 1839 they founded their settlement. Nestled in the Adelaide hills, the area mimics the beautiful scenery, weather and feel of their homeland - Germany. In honour of their Danish sea captain they named  the town Hahndorf (Hahn’s village).

Captain hahn 
Hahndorf is Australia's oldest surviving German Settlement, with many of the original settler’s ancestors still living in there today.

Life in the small but growing community was based heavily around the Lutheran church. By the 1850's, the primitive huts were giving way rapidly to the traditional fachwerk style of farmhouse and barn imported from Germany, together with stone churches, schools, and hotels. 

Hahndorf in the 1900's

During wartime, the German community of Hahndorf suffered persecution once more. As a result, many Germans decided to anglicise their names, particularly those that joined the Australian Army and between 1917 - 1935 Hahndorf was renamed Ambleside. Lutheran schools were also closed in South Australia by Act of Parliament in 1917. In 1936 the ‘Hahndorf’ name was restored to mark South Australia's centennial year.


Famous people from Hahndorf

One might be familiar with the works of famous artist Wilhelm Ernst ‘Hans’ Franz Heysen (1877-1968) also known as “Hans Heysen”. A German born South Australian who became famous for his Australian landscape artwork. His property called “The Cedars” is located just outside the township of Hahndorf and is open to visitors. His daughter Nora Heysen who was born in Hahndorf in 1911 and went on to become the first woman to win the prestigious Archibald prize in 1938, for portraiture. Her works and studio can also viewed at the homestead.

 Hans Heysen

Behind the bustling Main Street, filled with cafes, wine, German food, retail stores and art galleries, is a strong knit community comprised of some of original settler families and, relatively speaking, ‘newcomers’ to our fabulous town.

In August 2004, Hahndorf was placed on the National Trust of Australia's list of Endangered Places. Today we still honour our shared Indigenous and German history in this wonderful town of Hahndorf.


Visiting Hahndorf

Hahndorf, situated in the picturesque Adelaide Hills, offers something special every season! Summer is the perfect time for outdoor dining and trying an assortment of German beer, finishing off the day with some locally made ice cream. Hahndorf really puts on a show in Autumn, the main street lined with gorgeous trees turning red and gold. Winter is the easiest excuse to snuggle up with a hot chocolate or some warm Gluhwein (mulled wine). With numerous cafes supporting open fires, it’ll be hard to leave. Spring is the perfect time to try crisp white wines from the local winery's, enjoyed with a cheese platter, from the towns cheesemakers. Or even strawberry picking, only a few minutes’ walk from town centre.

Hahndorf is a perfect spot to visit on any occasion or season, with accommodation all within walking distance of the main street. Situated in the heart of the Adelaide Hills, it is not only a place where you can spend days wandering up and down the Main Street, but also to use as a base to visit so many wonderful sites.

The German Village ShopThe German Village Shop Team

We are the MUST SEE of the Adelaide hills!