Scenic Drives in the Upper Hunter
A wonderful way to explore the charming Upper Hunter is on scenic drives. You can do a loop and visit picturesque country towns or split the beautiful region into a couple of drives, branching off to enjoy cellar doors, vineyard restaurants, heritage walks, fun festivals and spectacular wilderness.
With plenty of places to stay, enjoy a short break or longer sojourn in the area famous for its thoroughbred horses such as Winx and its delicious food and wine. The wineries are part of the Hunter Valley wine region. You can even time a road trip with the exciting and delightful festivals:
- King of the Ranges Stockman's in February
- Scone Horse Festival in May
- Upper Hunter Wine and Food Affair in May
- Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces in June
- Aberdeen Highland Games in July
- Scone Literary Festival in November
A good place to begin a self-drive tour is Muswellbrook, on the banks of the Hunter River and only three hours’ drive north of Sydney. You can catch a train to the town and rent a car, or fly into Newcastle Airport for the 90 minutes’ drive to Muswellbrook, home to tasty Hunter Belle Cheese.
Stretch your legs on the Muswellbrook Heritage Walk and visit the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre. The art gallery is home to the Max Watters Collection of influential Australian artworks by John Perceval, Grace Cossington-Smith, Ken Whisson and Charles Blackman, to name just a few.
For cellar doors, enjoy a pretty drive southwest to Denman, via olive oil producer Pukara Estate. Around Denman are Two Rivers Wines, Small Forest and Hollydene Estate Wines, where you can enjoy lunch at the Vines Restaurant. West is James Estate Wines in Baerami, near Sandy Hollow.
From Sandy Hollow take a gorgeous drive on the Golden Highway to Merriwa, where you can branch off and enjoy the Lees Pinch lookout walking track or the Big River drive in the Goulburn River National Park. Merriwa is home to the Cottage Museum and the annual Merriwa Festival of Fleeces.
North of Muswellbrook is Aberdeen, which celebrates its Scottish heritage with the annual Aberdeen Highland Games. Two lovely drives from Aberdeen are northeast to shimmering Lake Glenbawn – a popular spot for fishing, boating and camping - and north to Scone, the horse capital of Australia.
North of Scone, on the way to Murrurundi at the foothills of the Liverpool Range, is a naturally burning coal seam at Burning Mountain Nature Reserve and Towarri National Park’s Washpools waterhole. Murrurundi hosts the annual King of the Ranges Stockman’s Challenge and Bush Festival.