The best stops between Sydney & the Hunter Valley

It takes just over two hours to get from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, but what’s the rush? There are plenty of places along the way where you can break the journey with a bushwalk, reptile encounter, oyster tour, delicious meal or sky-high adventure.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Jul 2023 -
min read

Crack open an oyster

The pristine waters of the Hawkesbury River produce some of the country’s best oysters. Plump Sydney rocks are grown on oyster leases at Mooney Mooney, just 45 minutes from the city on the Central Coast. Head out with Sydney Oyster Tours for a cruise along the river, then slip on some waders and sample a dozen of the best while standing at a private table right in the water. If you’re short on time, drop into the waterfront Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed for a seafood feast.

Couple enjoy in water dining at Sydney Oyster Farm Tours, Mooney Mooney

Sydney Oyster Farm Tours, Mooney Mooney - Credit: Sydney Oyster Farm Tours 

Saddle up for a long lunch

Tucked away among 28 acres of bushland, Saddles Mount White is a restaurant and bakehouse set inside a quintessential Australian homestead, less than an hour north of Sydney. Make a quick stop for coffee and pastries to eat on the sunny verandah overlooking the dam. Or settle into the huge dining room for a lazy lunch of charcuterie, freshly shucked oysters and a roast scotch fillet. Be sure to test out one of the bespoke saddle stools at the bar and grab a freshly baked sourdough loaf for the road.

Friends enjoying drinks at the Saddles bar, Mount White

Bar at Saddles Mount White, Gosford area

Talk to the animals

The giant statue of Ploddy the Diplodocus was Australia’s first ‘big thing’ and has been looking out over the Pacific Highway since the 1960s. She’s inviting you to take a detour to the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby, home to crocodiles, turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs and even a Galapagos tortoise. If you’d prefer something fluffier, there are also kangaroos, koalas, wombats and quokkas. There are more native animals nearby at the Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary, plus a petting zoo where the kids can feed an alpaca, pat a pig and snuggle a rabbit.

Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast

Australian Reptile Park, NSW Central Coast

Lace up your walking boots

Much of the area between Sydney and the Hunter Valley is national or state park, so take some time to get out into nature before all the wining and dining. Walk a section of the convict-built Old Great North Road in Yengo National Park, admire the 40-metre drop of the dramatic Gap Creek Falls in Watagans National Park, and take a dip in the waterholes at The Basin in Olney State Forest. You’ll also find bushwalking, mountain biking and 4WD tracks in all three parks.

Friends enjoying a walk through Watagans National Park in Lake Macquarie, North Coast

Watagans National Park, Lake Macquarie

Step back in time Wollombi

Just on the edge of the Hunter Valley on the scenic Calga Road drive, the village of Wollombi was once a major stop on the Old Great North Road. Things move more slowly here today, but it’s a great place to stop and soak up a little colonial charm. Wander the quiet main street, where buildings like St Michael’s Church, St John’s Church and the courthouse (now the interesting Endeavour Museum) date back to the 19th century. The cosy Myrtle & Stone cafe is housed in a cottage from the 1930s and serves breakfast and lunch with local wines.

Couple enjoying a walk through the historic village of Wollombi in the Hunter region.

Wollombi, Hunter region

Make time for an adventure

Quadbiking, abseiling, kayaking, axe throwing, horseriding and more await in the lush surrounds of the Glenworth Valley. It’s just a 20-minute detour off the highway, but you could be in another world. The team at Glenworth Valley Wilderness Adventures will kit you out in the latest gear and take you off grid to get your heart racing. Just remember to pack a spare change of clothes; you will get muddy.

Be charmed by Morpeth

It’s not technically on the way, but a short detour north of the Hunter Valley will take you to one of NSW’s hidden gems. Sitting on the bank of the Hunter River, the town of Morpeth dates back to the 19th century and is the birthplace of an Australian icon – Arnott’s biscuits. Learn about its fascinating history along the Morpeth Heritage Walk; browse the interesting boutiques and antique shops; or sample the latest drops at the craft brewery and small-batch distillery.

The Morpeth Bridge over the scenic Hunter River in Morpeth, Hunter Valley

The Morpeth Bridge over the scenic Hunter River in Morpeth, Hunter Valley

Let the kids run wild

There’s nothing like a car ride to send the kids stir crazy, so take a break to burn off some energy. Little ones will love Amazement Farm and Fun Park near Wyong. There are hedge mazes, pony rides, a tiny train, amusement rides and a petting zoo. Bigger kids (and even the grown-ups) will prefer Treetops Adventure just down the road. Climb through the trees on ropes courses suspended up to 25 metres off the ground or bounce around the nets, trampolines and ballpits of Networld.

Children enjoying a visit to TreeTops Central Coast, Wyong Creek

TreeTops Central Coast, Wyong Creek

Grab some sweet and savoury treats

Wyong is roughly the halfway point between Sydney and the Hunter Valley, so it’s a good spot to refuel. The century-old Wyong Milk Factory has been reborn as a charming gourmet hub with a pub, cafe and handful of local producers. Pick up some indulgent handmade chocolates at Luka – the honeycomb slab is always a crowd pleaser. Then stock up for tonight’s cheese board at Little Creek Cheese where the goat fetta and cheddar are national award winners.

Visitor participating in a cheese making lesson at Little Creek Cheese, Wyong

Little Creek Cheese, Wyong

Get wet in Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is around twice the size of Sydney Harbour, making it Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lake. It’s also just a 15-minute detour off the Princes Highway. Turn off towards Morisset and the waterfront playground of Trinity Point Marina. You can book free kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to explore the placid waters of the lake, cook your own lunch on a pontoon barbecue boat, or learn how to fly above the water with an eFoil Fliteboard lesson. Afterwards, relax with lunch on the lawn at the Balinese-inspired 8 at Trinity restaurant.

Kayaking on Lake Macquarie with Jetbuzz Watersports, Lake Macquarie

Jetbuzz Watersports, Lake Macquarie 

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