Domestic goddess and backyard explorer with a passion for freelance writing!
Published April 16th 2014
Hunter Valley for the teetotaler
Looking for something to do other than wineries in the Hunter region? The Hunter Valley gardens are a must for those visiting. With beautifully manicured lawns, and themed gardens such as oriental, Indian mosaic, rose garden and Roman courtyard, the gardens has something for everyone. Bring your kids too - they will adore the story book section of the gardens with a giant jumping castle, and multiple fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters of old in stone where they can pose for photos and delve into their imaginations.
With an entry fee of $26 per adult, the Hunter gardens also provide guided tours for an additional $7 per adult or you may choose to simply stroll around in your own time. With numerous gazebos, waterfalls, architectural delights and ponds, the gardens have a lot to offer for any budding photographer or simply for those wanting to be amidst nature. Local birds and wildlife can also be spotted in its natural habitat. Walking around luxuriously might take a total of up to two hours so give yourself a morning or afternoon to enjoy it in the daylight hours. The garden walk leads to a wonderful chapel at the end where couples can pledge marriage vows and take beautiful photos with the bridal party and guests outside in the gardens.
About five hundred metres down the road is the Hunter valley Gardens Village, a delightful set up with specialty shops including Hunter chocolate, cookie shop where you can grab cookies and milk or coffee for $6 on the go, a wine outlet for tasting and purchasing, a seven day per week pharmacy opening at ten am, a general store where one can stock up on supplies, and multiple restaurants and cafés open for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Amongst them, 'Taste of the country, food like no udder' is nestled between the centre gazebo of the village upstairs and surrounded by 'oscars', and other gift shops and situated opposite the general store. Famous for all day breakfasts, open seven days from 9am to 5pm, it is just like being at Gradma's for wholesome, nutritious and fresh meals.
At Hunter Valley garden village, you will also find a board for scenic helicopter flights over the gardens with a contact mobile where you can make bookings. From $60 for a 6 minute thrill flight to longer 20 minute flights up to $200 per head, this is another unique way to appreciate the aerial views of the gardens and the Hunter region.
If you've got a few days, the Hunter Gardens and Garden Village is a must do stopover and is a refreshing break from the wine tasting that the region is so famously known for as Australia's Wine country.
There are numerous cheese tasting, chocolate and cheese shops as well as olive and olive oil tasting in the Polkobin and Broke region particularly on and off Broke road. Amongst these, smelly cheese shop is situated in the Polkobin village amongst other specialty shops and a general store for emergency supplies, with the village being identifiable by a clock tower at the front. The Hunter olive centre and the gourmet pantry where you can purchase wines, oils, jams etc. can be found on McDonalds road just left off Broke road. I would highly recommend trying the Hunter olive centre - you can purchase a bag of bread for 50 cents, and sample the dipping olive oils, including flavoured ones, relishes, jams and the kalamata and green olives as well as marinated in fresh brine also in a variety of flavours such as garlic and chilli.
You can also stopover at the Hunter Valley crown plaza for a nice meal at their restaurant or bar, and if you book in advance a Segway tour around the wineries for more adventurous visitors, which also starts from the Crown Plaza but only on certain days and times especially during the off peak season so checking in advance is advisable. There are also other privately owned wineries where you can book in for gourmet fine dining, again only with advance notice and some are only open to the public on weekends so do check that. If you're there on the weekend, the homemade weekend market might will also be an interesting find in Polkobin. A lot of the hotels and accommodation also rent out bikes and that's also another great way of exploring.
Do see my other article on where to stay in Hunter Valley.