As soon as you say the words ‘I’m visiting the Hunter Valley’, most people assume you are going for the wine.
However, at the top of my Hunter Valley to-do 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 this amazing horticultural attraction.
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 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. Meet several much-loved characters that many of us grew up with — and younger visitors are only just getting to know.
The other nine gardens are the Italian Grotto, Indian Mosaic, Formal, Rose, Sunken, Border, Oriental, Chinese 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 that represent the four seasons. The Sunken Garden features a ten-metre-high waterfall, which is a spectacular sight.
Construction of the Hunter Valley Gardens began in 1999 and was completed in 2003. The gardens were opened in October that year 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 is so much to see that it’s easy to lose yourself in the 16-hectare site. Don’t worry — you’re given a map when you enter the grounds.
We eventually made our way to the wonderful village shops. The Hunter Valley Christmas Shop is a must-visit for Christmas gifts. It’s open all year. I bought scented candles from Candelabra, along with gifts and wine glasses from 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!
The Hunter Valley isn’t just about vines. Take some time to lose yourself in the Hunter Valley Gardens on you next visit to this spectacular region.
For further information, please visit www.huntervalleygardens.com.au.