Most of us love a visit to a vineyard, and the Hunter region in New South Wales has plenty to enthral wine lovers.
Located just a two hour drive north of Sydney, the area is also rich in fascinating historic sites 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 magnificent part of Australia.
Here are ten top things to do in the Hunter Valley region.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A wine tour is a great way to taste-test some of the valley’s finest drops — with the added advantage that someone else does the driving! The region is famous for its shiraz and semillon varietals. Tyrrell’s Wines is one of the oldest family run vineyards in the Hunter, and features on many wine tour itineraries. It’s world class.
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
Katherine Sellers has travelled to over 30 countries. She 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, a guesthouse manager on Lord Howe Island, and a hostess on board a luxury catamaran sailing the Ningaloo Reef. Recently Katherine completed a lap of Australia with her husband in their motorhome. When she’s not flitting about the country, she puts pen to paper.