The scenic Hunter Valley is an easy weekend drive from Sydney and is located only around two hours from the city. Home to a multitude of award-winning wineries, as well as stunning gardens, boutique shop and art galleries, the region is a wonderful place to explore over a leisurely weekend.
Strolling through Handmade in the Hunter Markets is a lovely start to your weekend. These run every second and fourth Saturday of the month, plus both days of a long weekend. While there I shopped for a variety of locally-made art, craft and food.
The Hunter Valley is known, more than anything, for its wines, and if you're a lover of a bold red, a fruity bubbly or a crisp white then it is recommended to visit some local wineries. On my first day in the Hunter Valley, I visited Tamburlaine Winery. Established in 1966, Tamburlaine is Australia's largest producer of organic wines and creates a quality product in varietals such as Semillon, chardonnay, Riesling, Verdelho, Merlot and Syrah. Prices start from around $29AUD per bottle.
I also visited Ballabourneen. At this five-star winery, you can taste regional and traditional Hunter style of whites, reds, rosť and sparkling wines. You can also taste cheeses and gourmet dips that they produce such as the olive and truffle mushroom dip. Could not resist taking this one home for later indulging.
Knowing that I could possibly have a few glasses of the red stuff under the belt, I chose to hire a campervan. This meant I could enjoy tasting plenty of the local drops and then simply walk back to my nearby accommodation. The camper I chose was the luxury motor-hire company, Maui.
Indeed, Maui campers are ideal for an exploration of the Hunter Valley and suit couples, families and groups of friends. I booked a Maui Platinum River campervan for my getaway. It sleeps up to six people and contains all the creature comforts needed for a relaxing trip to a wine region, such as a coffee machine and fridge, wine glasses and leather couches.
The Maui Platinum River campervan.
In the Hunter Valley you can set up your campervan in a variety of public and privately-owned spots for the night. A recommended option to check out is the Big 4 Vineyard Tourist Park. in Cessnock, where rates start from $35AUD per night. Facilities at the park include a pool and spa, wood-fired pizza oven, and a playground.
Ideas for the Sunday
If you want a fairly incredible, unique experience you can consider seeing the Lower Hunter Valley scenery from a bird's eye vantage point, and enjoyed a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft. This company was the first to offer passenger balloon rides in Australia and provides sunrise flights, with a champagne breakfast included, from just $279AUD per person.
Additionally, or alternatively, if the heights are not really for you, you can check out the Hunter Valley Gardens. There are romantic rose gardens, Asian-inspired zen spaces, and a story-book garden where you can see some of your favourite nursery rhyme characters and childhood fantasies right in front of you. There are many more themed zones making up the gardens, so at least a few hours should be spent strolling through all of the scenery.
Here you have the gardens to explore, the village to shop in, and some cute cafes to grab coffee and brekkie at. I got a sweet banana smoothie and decadent sausage and eggs meal at one of the cafes within the village.
Big brekkie and smoothies from a cafe in the Garden Village.
I ended my fabulous weekend with an afternoon horse ride courtesy of the Hill Top Country Guest House. The company is located in the Rothbury/Pokolbin region and runs one or 1.5 hour trail rides through the spectacular Molly Morgan Range, with views of the area's wine country, and even up to the Barrington Tops, on offer. Rides can be booked for every day of the week and cost from $62AUD per person.
Of course these are but a handful of ideas as to what you can do - there are various more wineries and restaurants for you to indulge your tastebuds at, and outdoor activities to plunge you into the beautiful world that is the Hunter Valley. I hope that these can give you a good starting point to planning your Hunter Valley weekend accommodation and itinerary. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend escape from Sydney's hustle and bustle, then let me just say that the Hunter Valley is a quintessential escape.
Beautiful rolling hills and valleys covered in vineyards - that sprout top-quality wines. This is the essence of the Hunter.