Most of us love a visit to a vineyard, but there’s so much more to the magnificent Hunter region than just cellar doors.
Located just a two hour drive north of Sydney, the area is rich in fascinating historic sites all set against a backdrop of stunning natural landscapes. It’s time to explore the beautiful sandy beaches, forests, waterways and diverse urban centres of this former penal settlement.
Here are ten top things to do in the Hunter Valley region.
Paddle upright on Lake Macquarie
Explore the calm and sheltered waters of Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lagoon, Lake Macquarie, on a stand-up paddle board. Take a lesson from the experts to gain the necessary skills, then join the upright enthusiasts at Toronto Foreshore for a social early morning or sunset paddle.
Take a scenic beach walk
Energise with a coffee from Queen’s Wharf in Newcastle and watch the enormous coal ships being tugged into port. Then walk east along Wharf Road to Nobbys Beach and fill your lungs with fresh sea air while following the rugged Bathers Way coastline. It’s one of the top things to do in the Hunter Valley region that will leave you feeling relaxed and revitalised.
Stop for a dip in the surf, ocean baths or historic convict-cut Bogey Hole, before ascending through King Edward Park to the start of the newly built Memorial Walk. Admire the spectacular 360 degree views of coast and city then head for the Merewether Surfhouse for a well-earned lunch.
Hear the big guns roar at Fort Scratchley
Celebrating 200 years from its beginnings as Australia’s first coal mine to a strategic military site, Fort Scratchley on the Hunter River Estuary has significant historical importance. Guided tours of the grounds and tunnels run six days a week.
Watch the 18th century seafaring tradition of the one o’clock gun firing, where you’ll hear – and feel – the impressive roar of the 2 Pound cannon.
Ride the Stockton Bight dunes
Explore the imposing sand dunes at Stockton Bight with Port Stephens 4WD Tours and feel the rush as you slide down 50 metre dunes on sand boards. You can also visit the fascinating Tin City fishing village and the iconic wreck of the MV Sygna, which ran aground in a storm on its maiden voyage in 1974.
Cruise Port Stephens
Larger than Sydney Harbour, Port Stephens is a water lover’s playground with golden sandy beaches, calm blue water and plenty of marine life. Spot the resident dolphins all year round in the Great Lakes Marine Park with Moonshadow Cruises, and watch for whales when they visit from May to November.
Cruise to Broughton Island in the Myall Lakes National Park for a day of swimming and a guided discovery walk, or kick up your heels on the twilight dinner cruise with a meal and live entertainment.
Pay a visit to Newcastle’s eat street
Following the devastating earthquake in 1989, Beaumont Street in the inner city suburb of Hamilton transformed itself into Newcastle’s ‘eat street’, with every cuisine imaginable available along four city blocks. The Blind Monk is a recent addition, focusing on the popular craft beer scene. Choose from 12 beers on tap, tuck into a juicy Monkburger and listen to some great live music.
Step back in time at Morpeth
On the banks of the Hunter River, the National Trust town of Morpeth was once a bustling trading port, but its cobbled streets are now home to galleries, boutique shops, trendy cafes and produce stores. Visit Morpeth Sourdough – located on the original site of the famous William Arnott’s bread and biscuit bakery, where his descendants are still baking.
Explore the Hunter Valley Gardens
Awaken your senses and stroll amongst 60 acres of stunning themed gardens in the Hunter Valley Gardens. The gardens feature thousands of roses, a ten-metre high waterfall, mosaic ground cover, topiary animals, perfectly manicured lawns and an abundance of flowers blooming all year round. It’s one of the loveliest things to see and do in the Hunter Valley.
The gardens are also home to the annual Christmas Lights Spectacular: a stunning display of colour and light just perfect for the festive season.
Visit Barrington Tops National Park
Get amongst the stunning sub-tropical rainforest in the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park in the Upper Hunter. As part of the Gondwana Rainforest network, this region provides a link to the ancient pre-human history of the area.
There are plenty of scenic lookouts, easy walking trails, picnic and camping spots in this magnificent wilderness.
Enjoy wine and jazz amongst the vines
No list of the top things to do in the Hunter Valley would be complete without a visit to a vineyard. The region is famous for its Shiraz and Semillon. Tyrrell’s Wines is one of the oldest family run vineyards. It’s world class.
A wine tour is a great way to see – and taste – the best of the valley – and someone else does the driving!
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten top things to do in the Hunter Valley? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Katherine Sellers has a background in hospitality and tourism around Australia and the UK. She has travelled to over 30 countries and has worked in country pubs and resorts in England and Wales, been a travel agent in Sydney and Brisbane, a croupier for high rollers on Christmas Island, a reservationist at Jenolan Caves House and Palm Bay Whitsundays, a guesthouse manager on Lord Howe Island and in Victoria’s High Country and a hostess on board a luxury catamaran sailing the Ningaloo Reef. Recently Katherine completed a lap of the country with her husband in their Toyota Coaster motorhome, taking about two years to do so. When she’s not flitting about the country visiting new and familiar places, she cruises the calm azure waters of the Whitsunday Islands and puts pen to paper.