How to spend the PERFECT day in Australia’s oldest Wine Region if you’re a first timer..
When you visit the Hunter Valley for the first time, get ready to play Alice and fall down the rabbit hole to a wine-filled wonderland. Vines first claimed the land here in the 1820s and it boasts more cellar doors than any other Aussie wine region. Though wine is the top drawcard, thrill-seekers, history buffs, shopaholics and spa-lovers flock to attractions that pair beautifully with that sunset drink at the end of an exciting day.
The perfect Hunter Valley day should include all of your senses, with a bite out of every highlight. An adventure wine tour of the Hunter Valley takes your taste buds on a journey through wine, beer, chocolate, cheese, liqueurs and the local’s favourite restaurants. Or, combine attractions and adventures with your favourite beverages on private wine tours designed just for you.
Whatever you love to do, here’s just a taste of the options available to fill a fantastic itinerary. Mix and match them to create your own incredible Hunter Valley adventure for the day.
Wine, wine and more wine
If it’s all about vineyard-hopping for you, make the ‘hopping’ part easy on a full day, guided wine tour. As for the options, go right ahead and rub your hands with glee. Australia’s oldest wine region is home to more than 150 cellar doors, so all you need to do is narrow down your favourite picks for a day. This comes with a warning though, as many people develop an overwhelming urge to stay and sip far beyond one day!
Certified organic wines and sustainable vineyard practices are the name of the game on the French-inspired grounds of Krinklewood Biodynamic Vineyard. Founded in 1866, Audrey Wilkinson Winery offers those postcard views complete with the Brokenback Mountain Range as a backdrop. Elegance reigns at Tempus Two, starting from the Pewter entry doors to the bold wines. Then, there’s Capercaillie Wines, Lucy’s Run, Tulloch Wines…and so many more!
Cheese has always been the perfect partner for wine, but there’s no rule to say you can’t add other treats into the mix on your itinerary. Gourmet delights await around every corner, from world-class restaurants to home-baked goodies at the markets. While you’re visiting the Lambloch Estate winery, Sabor Dessert Bar is onsite for a delicious fix of cheesecake, chocolate mousse, brownies and tarts. That’s not all though, with Pokolbin Cider House nearby for refreshing raspberry, apple, pear and vintage flavours.
Along with scrumptious platters at most of the wineries, Binnorie Dairy at Lovedale fulfils all your cheesy fantasies with labna, brie, marinated feta, goats cheese and halloumi. Need more? Pop into the Smelly Cheese Shop at Roche Estate. Now, in terms of restaurants, you’re spoilt for choice with farm to fork cuisine. Spend your evening at Muse Kitchen in European-inspired ambience. Goldfish Bar and Kitchen offers a slice of the 1920s, with tantalising share plates to enjoy and innovative cocktails to wash it all down with.
What could be more exciting than blending your afternoon wine tastings with an adventure or two to start the day? A scenic helicopter flight is an amazing way to enjoy the views, from short joy rides to day-long private tours for special occasions and events.
For the perfect bird’s eye view, glide through the sky on a hot air balloon ride, with a champagne breakfast awaiting after your magical trip. You’ll get up-close and personal with the resident kangaroos across the Molly Morgan Range, as you explore the stunning countryside on horseback. Can’t go anywhere without your mountain bike? Cycle the Deadmans loop through spotted gum trees, with the sounds of kookaburras ringing in the air.
Wonderful walks in nature
To stretch your legs between sips, the Hunter Valley delivers natural havens complete with stunning walking trails. Stay within sight of vineyards and stroll through the enchanting Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin. From fragrant rose gardens to elegant formal landscapes, you’ll explore ten themed spaces across eight kilometres of pathways. When you want to give your hiking boots a good workout, remote wilderness is easily accessible from the main towns.
Head off on the Great North Walk to Bimbadeen Lookout for fabulous photos of the city of Cessnock. From here, you’ll find a range of trails meandering through the wildlife-filled bush. Werakata National Park is a local favourite, located in the Lower Hunter Valley. Pack a basket that overflows with local cheeses, breads and wine to stop at Astills picnic area for a scenic lunch, and keep an eye out for colourful parrots and regent honeyeaters.
In the Watagans State Forest, easy trails put you in the heart of rainforest, wildflowers, waterfalls and panoramic lookouts. For a 5.5 kilometre walk that includes seeing one of the oldest convict-built bridges in the country, take the Circuit Flat walking track in the Yengo National Park.
Bringing the kids on a Hunter Valley adventure? Make a beeline for Tulloch Wines, with a Junior Tasting Experience and a Kombucha Tasting Experience for the whole family to enjoy. While you taste your way through chardonnay, semillon and verdelho at Peter Drayton Wines, let the kids loose on the lawns with football, totem tennis and quoits. At Misty Glen Wines, a Kids Zone with toys, games and grassy areas keeps them happy while you sample the goods in the rose garden.
Along with your family-friendly vineyard fix, it’s easy to slot fun activities into your day. Take a Segway tour from the Adventure Centre to discover off road tracks, and don’t be surprised if a kangaroo or two hops across your path. Other activities here include grape stomping, pizza and candy-making classes, electric bike hire and barrel rolling.
To get even closer to wildlife, hand-feed everyone’s favourite creatures at the Hunter Valley Zoo and learn all about them at daily animal shows. For some friendly competition, Aqua Golf and Putt Putt is located in the Hunter Valley Gardens village.
The greatest treat of all might just be the jelly bean towers and chocolate fondue fountain at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company.
Dreamy day spas
If sinking into pure bliss is high on your agenda, book a spa treatment within your vineyard-hopping itinerary. Many of the top hotels offer opulent treatment rooms, including Spa at Chateau Elan and Ubika Spa at Crowne Plaza. Spa Anise at Spicers Vineyard Estate boasts rooms with private courtyards to indulge in aromatherapy and hot stone massages.
It’s possible to spend all day among the vines with treatments at Reflections Day Spa, located at the gorgeous Adina Vineyard. If you’re really serious about lavish treatments, Elysia Wellness Retreat will feel like heaven on earth. Along with highly specialised therapists for treatments, you’ll relax in steam rooms, spa baths, a Watsu water therapy pool, Vichy shower rooms and private sun gardens.
Culture and history-hopping
Is history-hopping more to your taste than wine? With vineyards first planted in the early 1820s, rich culture is on fine display throughout the Hunter. And, if you love both equally, you’re never far from a wine anyway! To step back in time much further, Aboriginal culture comes to life with rock engravings on the Finchley Cultural Walk and local history at the Wollombi Cultural Centre. While you’re visiting Wollombi, get your colonial architecture fix at St John’s Church and the Endeavour Museum.
Meander along the Singleton Heritage Walk to see the historic buildings on George Street, including the Post Office. In terms of museums and art, get set to gorge to your heart’s content. There’s the Richmond Vale Railway Museum for locomotive fans and the Australian Army Infantry Museum with rare Great War relics. Delve into the creative world of art at the Cessnock Regional Art Gallery and the Marthaville Arts and Cultural Centre.
Obviously, you’re never going to fit everything that the Hunter Valley has to offer into a one-day itinerary! However, you may be surprised how many highlights you can experience on a full-day guided tour, with locals to show you the best of the best. Whether it’s wine and cheese tastings, nature walks, history, day spas, adventure activities or family fun you’re seeking, all you need to do is pick your favourites and set out on the perfect first-time Hunter Valley adventure.
If you’re prone to falling in love with enchanting new regions, it might be a good idea to pack that overnight bag though…