Five highlights of a visit to the Hunter Valley
Two hours’ drive north of Sydney lies the birthplace of Australian wine-making — the picturesque Hunter Valley.
Extending from Pokolbin in the south to Muswellbrook in the north, the Hunter Valley is a region of flourishing vineyards set amidst green meadows and rolling hills. It offers visitors access to a plethora of fine food, wine and relaxation indulgences.
Hunter Valley wine tours from Sydney make it easy for visitors to the New South Wales capital to experience the delights of the valley in a single day. However, if you happen to have time to tarry, here are five fabulous things to see and do during your stay.
Margan Wines and Restaurant. Image: MJK Creative
Taste the Hunter Valley’s finest drops
For many people, a visit to the Hunter Valley is all about cellar-door tastings at wineries that range from boutique start-ups to big-name producers like McWilliam’s and Tyrell’s. There are more than 150 cellar door experiences to choose from. Make your own selection from the online Hunter Valley wine directory, or book a local winery tour and let someone else take care of the driving. Serious wine buffs may want to time their trip to coincide with the annual Hunter Valley Wine Festival.
Indulge in fine food
Food rivals wine as the Hunter Valley’s greatest lure. Top restaurants include Muse Kitchen at Pokolbin, Margan Wines and Restaurant at Broke, and Esca on the Bimbadgen Estate. Growing numbers of local providores provide a constant supply of all things delicious. From smoked meats and house-made cheeses to local honey and venison, you’ll find all your gourmet needs amply satisfied. To meet the makers, check out the Hunter Wine Country Markets (held at the De Bortoli Estate).
Dine at Muse Kitchen. Image courtesy of Destination NSW
Fly high over the landscape
One of the best and most indulgent ways to take in the lovely scenery of the Hunter Valley is on a hot-air balloon flight. With 35 years of experience, Balloon Aloft’s flights take off from Peterson House Winery, which specialises in sparkling wines and provides a post-flight breakfast at its restaurant. Locally-owned Beyond Ballooning also offers a sunrise flight followed by a champagne breakfast — this time at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. Wine Valley Ballooning offers another similar product, but with a small-group guarantee.
Go hot air ballooning over the Hunter Valley. Image: Eluminate Media
Stop and smell the flowers at the Hunter Valley Gardens
Families and garden enthusiasts will love the colourful Hunter Valley Gardens. Surrounded by vineyards, the 25-hectare display gardens are the largest in Australia. Design influences from around the world have created ten themed sections, including the Indian Mosaic Garden, Italian Grotto and European-style Formal Garden. For many visitors, the star attraction is the magnificent Sunken Garden, closely followed by the fun and imaginative Storybook Garden. There are plenty of activities for children, and seasonal events throughout the year.
Play a round at Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club. Image: Sydney Seaplanes
Go golfing or spa-hopping
World-class golf courses and an ever-increasing number of day spas and wellness retreats make the Hunter Valley an ideal place for relaxation and indulgence. Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club, Hunter Valley Golf at the Crowne Plaza Resort, and The Vintage at Chateau Elan all have championships golf courses (the latter designed by Greg Norman). They are open to both resident guests and day players.
Chateau Elan and Crowne Plaza also have luxurious spa facilities. If you are looking for something extra special, Adina Vineyard at Lovedale and Spicer’s Vineyards Estate at Pokolbin each have on-site day spas that offer health and relaxation packages within tranquil, vine-framed settings.
About the writer
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph (Escape) and The Australian (Travel & Indulgence). In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.
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