The Hunter Valley
Published: January 2013 – Destinations magazine
It has been just a short few hours’ drive from Sydney, the sun is settling over the rolling landscape lined with vineyard vines and the sweet scent of the countryside fills the air. This is the Hunter Valley region, known for its great wines and a destination as a gourmet paradise.
More than 150 wineries are scattered through the Hunter Valley region, including Pokolbin, Wollombi, Broke, Lovedale and Maitland. Amongst the vineyards you will notice Al Fresco Cafe’s and fine dining restaurants that make your mouth water just looking at them. Breaking the country wilderness and vineyards are stylish boutique accommodations, welcoming guesthouses, Bed & Breakfast rooms and spa retreats. Golf courses blend in with their surrounds and the occasional homestead adds to the country feel.
Whether you are looking for a lazy holiday, a long weekend, or even a quick day trip, then the Hunter Valley is the destination to head for.
Many of the wineries in this area have award winning restaurants offering delicious fare and fine dining. With an abundance of local sources, you can be sure that your meal will be made with the fresh local produce that helps support the region. Food buffs can stock up on local olive oil, cheeses, coffees and smokehouse products. If you enjoy the food why not learn how to cook it yourself, and expand your skills in a cooking and wine class.
Wining and dining go hand in hand, so it is a must to visit the cellar doors to these wineries where you can sample some great wines, including the area’s specialties, Shiraz, Semillon and Chardonnay. Here you can discuss the wines and learn about how they are made and some working wineries will even allow a tour to see the process first-hand.
While the wine and culinary delights are a draw card for the Hunter Valley, the area offers a myriad of experiences and activities. Take to the air to get a better glimpse of the region in all its glory. Imagine waking to a champagne breakfast, followed by watching the sun rise over the vineyards while gliding through the air on a hot air balloon tour.
However, if you are looking for something a little faster paced, take a scenic joy-flight in a helicopter. Many places in the Hunter Valley operate heli-tours, with some even transferring guests from Sydney to their accommodation for an extra special arrival.
For those people who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, you may want to take the chance to explore the area on two wheels. Bike tours are becoming a popular way to get around the region, and with many wineries within a short ride from each other, why not burn off some of those calories you put on at breakfast and explore by bike.
Still not convinced the ballooning, helicopter or bike is for you? Step back in time and travel around the traditional way, by horse and cart. Horse riding tours will provide a unique way to explore off road and really get a sense of the country life. Children are welcome on these tours and offer a fantastic family experience especially when taking along a picnic lunch.
The Hunter Valley has an abundance of wonderful scenery and Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. Set in the historic district of Pokolbin and nestled amongst the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges in the heart of the Hunter vineyards is 25 hectares of living colour known as the Hunter Valley Gardens.
From manicured gardens move to the velvet greens of the Hunter Valley golf course. Tee off on some of Australia’s most scenic holes, set amongst a spectacular backdrop of vineyards and rugged mountain ranges.
After a day of exploring all the Hunter Valley has to offer nothing could top it off more than relaxing with a spa treatment at one of the many spa retreats. Alternatively, maybe a glass of the local wine with a tasty cheese platter whilst watching the sun dip beyond the mountains would do the trick.
By Kate Webster