As soon as you say the words ‘I’m visiting the Hunter Valley’, most people immediately think you are going for the wine.
However at the top of my Hunter Valley bucket list on a recent visit was the amazing Hunter Valley Gardens — and they didn’t disappoint! Here are some tips for things to see and do at the Hunter Valley Gardens.
Located just over two hours’ drive from Sydney, and less than an hour from Newcastle, the Hunter Valley Gardens are Australia’s largest display gardens. The gardens are open all year, daily from 9am to 4pm and 6.30pm to 10pm (closed Christmas Day).
There are ten different themes to explore during your visit, including the one most popular with kids young and old: the gorgeous Storybook Garden. This particular garden is filled with classic nursery rhyme figures, such as Humpty Dumpty and the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with much-loved characters that many of us grew up with, while others are only just getting to know.
The other nine gardens are the Italian Grotto, Indian Mosaic, Formal, Rose, Sunken, Border, Oriental, Chinese Moongate and Lakes Walk. Aside from the Storybook Garden I particularly loved the Border and Sunken gardens. The Border Garden incorporates formal hedges, classic fountains and an array of annuals representing our four seasons. The Sunken Garden includes a ten metre waterfall, which is a spectacular sight.
Construction of the Hunter Valley Gardens began in 1999 and was completed in 2003. The gardens opened on 10 October, 2003, by the then Premier of New South Wales — the Honourable Mr Bob Carr.
Originally the site consisted of horse paddocks and vineyards, but today the gardens feature around 6,000 trees and 600,000 shrubs. More than 500,000 annuals are planted each year. Imagine having to plant and water them all! There’s so much to see that it’s easy to lose yourself in the 16 hectare site. But you are given a map on entry so don’t worry too much. Just enjoy getting lost for a while!
We eventually made our way to the wonderful village shops. The Hunter Valley Christmas Shop is a must for Christmas gifts, and it’s open all year. I bought scented candles in Candelabra, along with gifts and wine glasses in the Wine Glass Gallery.
If you’re a chocolate lover, you are definitely in luck. The famous Hunter Valley Chocolate Company has a store here, and it serves hot chocolate to die for! Try the freshly made fudge, including a custard tart variety which you can taste for free before you buy. There really is something for everyone here.
So next time you’re considering a visit to the Hunter Valley vines, take some time to lose yourself in the Hunter Valley Gardens. They’re spectacular!
For further information, please visit www.huntervalleygardens.com.au.