48 Hours in the Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest winegrowing region, is just two hours’ drive from Sydney, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. As well as its acclaimed wineries and restaurants, the area is known for its luxury hotels, championship golf courses, rejuvenating spas and gourmet food producers.
Start the day teeing off at one of the many championship golf courses including the Hunter Valley Golf & Country Club, Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort and The Vintage Golf Club, which features a Greg Norman-designed course. There are also excellent nine-hole courses at Branxton Golf Club, north of Cessnock, Paterson Golf Club and Singleton Golf Club.
If golf isn’t your thing, take it slow and book into one of the region’s many rejuvenating day spas for a morning of luxurious pampering, including massage, steams and facials. Try the Ubika Spa at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley or the Reflections Day Spa at Adina Vineyard in Lovedale.
Feeling relaxed? It’s time to explore. With more cellar doors than any other wine region in Australia, you’ll want to spend some time sampling the areas superb wines. Start with the Hunter Valley’s small and boutique wineries and drop into the Small Winemakers Centre in Pokolbin which showcases wine from more than 25 small vineyards. Leave your own wheels behind and join a wine-tasting tour, either by classic car, bus, Segway or even on horseback. Or for a total wine experience, head to the Hunter Wine Theatre to see how grapes are harvested, crushed and turned into wine, before a wine tasting.
Spend the night at one of the many luxurious hotels and resorts in the Hunter Valley. Chateau Elan in Rothbury is on a secluded 100-acre property with a championship golf course. Enjoy fine dining at The Legends Grill restaurant.
Spicers Vineyards Estate near Pokolbin is set among rolling vineyards and is perfect for food and wine lovers. Dine at the award-winning Restaurant Botanica or arrange for a Gourmet Dinner Hamper, which comes with wine, DVDs and movie snacks.
Watch the sunrise from the calm serenity of a hot-air balloon, with views over vineyards and rolling countryside. Several hot-air balloon operators offer this exhilarating experience at dawn, before a gourmet breakfast on landing, these include Balloon Aloft, Beyond Ballooning and Wine Country Ballooning.
If you want to get back to nature on a hike or mountain bike ride, join a local tour or book a guide to take you to one of the region’s national parks. Take the Finchley Cultural Walk, which offers visitors a chance to see the Finchley Aboriginal engravings or visit Barrington Tops, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country, rich with plant and wildlife.
Vines were first planted in the Hunter Valley in the 1820s, and early wine pioneers, including Wyndham, Lindeman, Drayton, Tyrell and Tulloch, which established family-owned wineries, still operate in the region. Spend the rest of the day visiting some of the biggest wine names in the Hunter Valley to taste wines and buy your favourites from the cellar doors.
The region is known for its semillon, but also produces great shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, verdelho and chardonnay, and many of the wineries have restaurants that offer wine-matching lunches and dinners.
The vineyards are well served for live entertainment with regular concerts featuring music and opera stars. Gigs in 2020 include Rod Stewart, Simple Minds and Rick Astley. Check the events calendar for the latest shows.