To the Vineyards and Beyond – Our Guide to Hunter Valley

Welcome to  Wine Country! Only a three hour drive north of Sydney, NSW’s Central Coast gem makes for an ideal weekend getaway or mid-week trip. It’s a great spot for wine lovers but look beyond the vineyard, you’ll find there is plenty to do aside from wine tasting. Read on for our guide to the best Hunter Valley has to offer…

Into the Vineyards

The Hunter Valley boasts over 150 world class wineries, picturesque landscapes in abundance, a laid back atmosphere and an array of activities that will whisk you away from the world. If you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, look to the country charm of the Hunter for a warm and friendly welcome.

Hunter-Valley-Sunset
The sunset views from the Hunter Valley are one in a million. Source

For the Wine Buffs

With its temperate climate and 150 year history, the region is most famously known for its Semillon, Chardonnay, and Shiraz. No trip to Hunter Valley is complete without a signature winery tour, but if you only have time to visit one winery, it must be Tyrell’s. Named ‘Winery of the Year’ in the James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion (2010), Tyrrell’s Vineyard in Pokolbin is a family-owned business that dates back to 1858. Since 1971, Tyrrell’s has been awarded over 5,000 trophies and are best known for their world charm.

Tyrells-wine-barrells
A family business with 150 years of history. Ask for the 2005 HVD Vineyard Semillon. Source: Courtesy of Tyrrell’s Wines

Best Time to Go

Book a trip during August-October, when the local wine shows are on.

New to Wine Tasting? Here are some tips:

  • Most wineries will offer you a bucket to spit into, so you can get a taste for the wine without a hangover the next day
  • Leave the cologne or perfume at home. Wine tasting engages in all senses and strong fragrances can interfere with the subtle aromas in wine.
  • Take the time to swirl, sniff and take note of the fragrances before you sip.

Away from the Vineyards

If you think the Hunter is just a series of drinking excursions, you might be in for a surprise. Despite its award-winning vino, there are many noteworthy attractions that don’t involve fermented grapes.

Hunter Valley Gardens

No attention to detail is sparred at the Hunter Valley Gardens. Home to 10 themed gardens, each with its own enchanting appeal. The Storybook Garden is a children’s favourite, featuring ‘larger than life’ nursery rhyme characters and the sounds of classic nursery tales. Kids and kids at heart can join Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Hunter-Valley-Gardens-Alice-In-Wonderland
Plenty of seats available at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Source: Hunter Valley Gardens

The Border Garden is simply divine, like a scene from a Jane Austen novel. Perfectly manicured lawns accented by Indian marble water features and Australian native weeping figs make The Border Garden one of the most opulent gardens at the Hunter Valley.

 

border-garden-hunter-valley
Don’t forget the camera. There are many photo ops at The Border Garden . Source Hunter Valley Gardens

Download the map here to help you navigate through the Hunter Valley Gardens

Foodie Heaven – Circa 1876

With over 65 gourmet and award winning restaurants and cafes, the Hunter Valley is a foodie’s dream. Search Hunter Valley on Pinterest and you will find a vast collection of delicious foodie photos, most taken at Circa 1876. Its mouth-watering modern take on Australian cuisine and rustic cottage backdrop is hard for many to resist.

circa-1876-roast-butternut-pumpkin
From the market garden to your plate. Circa 1876

Fresh produce is always on the menu as organic fruits and vegetables are grown onsite and kept by Executive Chef George Francisco, who also harvests his own honey and cures his own bacon. Favourites on the menu include the parcel of ocean trout, roasted butternut pumpkin with toasted cashew praline and rosemary oil, and fried chicken wings.

Circa1876-fried-chicken-wings
Modern Australian Cuisine with a Soul Food twist is the restaurant’s specialty

Leaves and Fishes

For a tranquil culinary experience, look to Leaves and Fishes, known for its seafood with an Asian twist. Set amongst lush greenery and surrounded by private boathouses, Leaves and Fishes first introduced seafood into the Hunter Valley region, growing its own Silver Perch in the dam below the restaurant’s front deck. We recommend the salt and pepper barramundi curry, soft shell crab with Singapore chilli sauce, followed by chu chee curry and jasmine rice. If you can’t bear to part with the restaurant’s laid back ambiance, you can retreat to one of the secluded boathouses for a 1-2 night stay.

Leaves-and-fishes-boat-houses

The Best Way to Get Around the Hunter Valley

There’s no better way to explore the Hunter Valley than by bike. Take in some fresh air and enjoy some of Hunter Valley’s scenic landscapes. For an off-road, country experience, ride your way through Palmer’s Lane, home to six boutique wineries.  Follow the wine eco-trail to discover wildlife, homemade condiments and boutique wines. Rates are approximately $35 per person for up to 8 hours.

Where to Stay in the Hunter Valley

Choose from self-contained cabins or cottages, farm stays, bed and breakfasts, and motels or spend a few nights camping under the stars. For privacy and some quiet R&R, The Woods offers two boutique accommodation houses tucked away in the Hunter Valley, ideal for families and small groups. It’s a short stroll from Circa 1876, wineries, restaurants and cafes.

For a weekend indulgence, stay at The Carriages Boutique Hotel & Vineyard. Fitted with a roaring log-fire, manicured gardens, a salt-water pool and tennis courts, the boutique hotel offers a luxury experience complete with a gourmet breakfast basket delivered to your door.

How to Get There

Situated 250 kilometres from Sydney, the Hunter Valley is only a short drive 3 hour drive. You can also fly direct to Newcastle from the major east coast airports with prices starting from approximately $250. Coach and rail travel is a unique way to see the countryside and these services usually depart from Sydney, Maitland, Newcastle or other surrounding areas.

Plan Your Day

A long weekend will pass quickly at the Hunter Valley. A destination for foodies, nature lovers and wine aficionados, the Hunter Valley is a great escape so close to home. It’s a popular destination for long weekends and holidays so it’s best to plan ahead with the following tips

  • Keeping a budget in mind will prevent from overspending and help ensure you only splurge on your favourite wines.
  • Make a list of everything you’d like to do in Hunter Valley and prioritise. Pick activities and wineries that are situated near each other to save travel time. If you plan on drinking, it might be wise to choose other wineries or activities that are within walking distance.
  • Book ahead. Some restaurants book out weeks in advance. Select a few you’d like to visit and make a reservation ahead of your trip.
  • Make time to do absolutely nothing. Leave time in between activities to fully immerse in the landscape and tranquil vibe of the Hunter Valley.

Tip: Use this interactive Hunter Valley map to plan your weekend

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