I'm a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Victoria.
Published November 8th 2018
As an everyday city dweller, there is nothing better than a weekend escape away from the hustle and bustle to the wide-open spaces of greenery and fresh air. For all you wine lovers out there, look no further, as Hunter Valley is flooded with boutique cellar doors and world-famous wines. But that's not all that's on offer, with food shops, breweries and outdoor activities available. You're spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your itinerary for a blissed-out break with your partner or posse.
Let's start off with the wine, as it is by far the biggest appeal for Hunter Valley! The region is famous for its Chardonnay, Semillon, and Shiraz, but offers a variety of other choices which are bound to please to any palate. Don't get sucked into staying at one winery for the day, as the region is home to a whopping hundred and fifty separate wineries to choose from. Therefore, you should travel to at least a couple, comparing the taste, texture, type of each vineyard's glass. I visited the Iron Gate Estate, McGuigan Wines and Ernest Hill. Iron Gate estate is influenced by the grand province of the Mediterranean and feels as though you have stepped into a European vineyard after only a half an hour drive. McGuigan Wines is one of the most popular wineries within the region, using their original ancient recipe since opening in 1880. Ernest Hill sits on top of a hill and offers spectacular views to go with your wine. Being on the smaller size of the others, Ernest is the perfect place to visit to escape the crowds. You can also go on a tour (so no one has to drive). Simply let your worries melt away as you are guided around the valley, relaxing with a glass of wine and marvel at the outstanding scenery.
Matilda Bay Brewhouse
If you aren't a wino, have no fear, Hunter Valley offers you an alternative! The renowned Matilda Bay Brewhouse is popular around the country for its unique take on beer and cider, selling a variety of different types for you to choose from. Open for both lunch and dinner, enjoy your craft beer or cider along with a complimenting dish. The brewery is located right next door to the bar and dining section, with a large window that allows you to see the process as you sip on the finishing product.
Want something a little stronger? Hunter Valley Distillery is the place to visit if you're a fiend for anything involving vodkas, gins, liqueurs, and schnapps. It is the only organic distillery in the entire Hunter Valley region. Try the 'test tube' tasting experience to try out a range of different liquors, trying out unique flavours you may not have even heard of before.
Hunter Valley Cheese Shop
Breath in that stinky cheese odour when you open the doors of the Hunter Valley's Cheese Shop. When you're not sipping a glass of tipple or tucking into a platter of local meats and cheeses, the Hunter Valley is the perfect place to ogle the Australian countryside. The shop produces handmade, preservative-free cheeses ranging in different tastes and textures. Grab a cheese tasting board to spoil yourself on creamy cheese and crackers. This award-winning cheese-making factory makes not just everyone's favourites, but unique flavours only found in the Hunter Valley.
Indulge your sweet tooth and venture to the Valley's delicious Chocolate Factory. Learn about how the chocolate making process as you nibble on the taste tests offered. Find out which flavour is your flavour and buy some bags for your friends, family, and of course yourself!
Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort
I finished my first day off at the Cypress Lakes Resort, which doubles as a fantastic restaurant as well as a beautiful accommodation stay. The restaurant serves dishes from their locally sourced produce, including fresh fruit and veggies, vintage aged cheese, and sustainable meat.
Wake up early on a Sunday morning (for once) and hit the skies! Taking a hot air balloon ride above the tranquil scenery. Tower above the stunning patchwork fields and old vineyards which offer the perfect backdrop for the flight of a lifetime. Marvel at the vivid colours covering the region as the sun slowly rises from the horizon.
Cycle your way through the Valley
Get your muscles working and hit the road cycling. Explore the Hunter Valley at a relaxed pace, cycling along the quiet country lanes, stopping off along the way to discover the various wineries and attractions scattered around. With a number of bike hire shops to choose from, simply whizz down the rolling hills as you soak in the beautiful scenery.
The valley is home to a thriving art scene, giving you the chance to splurge on a piece of art as well as wine. As an art enthusiast and painter, I stopped into numerous galleries sprinkling the area. Seeing exceptional local pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Open your mind to this visually stimulating attraction on your journey to Hunter Valley. Whether you're an art newbie, a long-time enthusiast or just stopping through, these art galleries won't disappoint.
To end my second day in the countryside, I took a horse ride through the Molly Morgan Range. We trotted alongside paddocks and rich bushland. Climbing rolling hills to marvel at breathtaking views of the Hunter Valley Wine Country and Lower Hunter, seeing the Barrington Tops from afar. Even if you aren't a confident rider you can easily manager this tour. As the staff give you guidance and rein in your horses if they start to misbehave. Soak up the sun rays and the stunning greenery as you trot or canter your way through the trees.
My weekend at Hunter Valley was an unforgettable experience. Filled with dreamy destinations within a credit card's throw of the city. This cultural hotspot offers visitors a collection of art, wine, and food set amongst its stunning backdrop.