Just a two-hour drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley is a popular weekend getaway for Sydneysiders. It’s also very popular with wine lovers from all over the country and from around the world.
The Hunter Valley’s main drawcard is, of course, its vast array of wineries and their exquisite wines; but the valley offers much more than just wine tasting.
So, even if you aren’t a wine drinker, it shouldn’t stop you paying the region a visit.
1- Do a little wine tasting
Well, of course, the first thing you do might be a little wine tasting; how could you not? With over 150 vineyards in the valley, you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are fabulous red, white, sparkling and speciality wines. No matter what your wine of choice, you’ll find it in the Hunter Valley. Plus, the wines are really as good as everyone says they are.
You could spend weeks visiting all those wineries, or you can just pick a few. Click here to discover our 5 favourite wineries in the Hunter Valley.
Just remember that with the Covid restrictions still in place, you will usually need to book your tasting beforehand.
2- Enjoy the Hunter Valley’s vineyard views
Where there is wine there are vines, and the Hunter Valley has miles and miles of vineyard views as far as the eye can see. It’s absolutely stunning, everywhere you look. You can hire some bikes and cycle around the valley or if you prefer to use the car, take a little road trip around the countryside.
For the best views of the Valley, drive up to the Mount View and Bimbadeen Lookouts.
3- Take a trip on the tourist drive 33
If you are driving from Sydney, why not take a scenic drive to the Hunter Valley through the beautiful New South Wales countryside? The Tourist Drive 33 stretches from the Peats Ridge exit on the M1 near Sydney, to Branxton in the heart of wine country, along the historic Great North Road.
The Tourist Drive 33, also called the Convict Trail or the Great North road was built in the 1900’s by convicts (hence its name) and winds its way past some pretty amazing scenery along the way. You’ll enjoy rolling green pastures, charming historic towns, convict-built stone walls, bridges and culverts that are still in use today.
It might take you a little longer to get to the Hunter Valley, but it is so much better than taking the main highway!
If you are not visiting from Sydney, you can still drive parts of the road; especially since Wollombi is on that road and you just have to check out this cute little town!
4- Visit the small town of Wollombi
The charming historic village of Wollombi is situated in a less visited part of the Hunter Valley, but it is nonetheless a special place worth visiting. Wollombi is nestled into a valley and surrounded by rolling green hills. Its centre is home to historic buildings such as its two sandstone churches, a sandstone school, an old post office and the Court House. It also has some lovely little cafes, shops, the old Wollombi Tavern and The Forge, the coolest bric-a-brac ever!
The historical walk does not take long and takes you around the town centre, teaching you more about the town and letting you check out all of its old buildings. We had a really nice lunch at the Myrtle House, a cute little café on the main strip.
5- Indulge in delicious food
You may have come to the Hunter Valley for the wine, but the food is pretty great too. The Hunter Valley has many amazing restaurants to try, so don’t head there to lose weight! The valley has some of the best restaurants around. Just to name a few:
Margan Restaurant: 1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke
EXP Restaurant: 2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
Bistro Molines: 749 Mount View Rd, Mount View
Esca Bimbadgen: 790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
Hunters Quarter: 576 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin
Restaurant Botanica: 555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin
Muse Kitchen: Keith Tulloch Winery Cnr. Hermitage &, Deasys Rd, Pokolbin
6- Go cheese tasting
Cheese and wine! Two of the best things in the world! Many wineries in the valley offer a cheese and wine tasting session. Alternatively, skip the wine and head straight to the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory. They have a good selection of local goat and cow’s cheeses. Yum!
7- Check out the Street art in Kurri Kurri
The small town of Kurri Kurri is worth the detour because of the many murals that are scattered all over the town centre and in the neighbouring countryside. There are over 60 murals in total. They showcase the history and heritage of the region and tell the stories of the local people and of the events that made Kurri Kurri what it is today.
Head to the information centre first and pick up a map. It’s right in the centre of town. You can also get the map here. Then, lose yourself in the streets of Kurri Kurri, hunting for amazing murals. Apparently, there is a Kookaburra hidden in each mural, but some are really hard to see and I did not spot them all. See if you can!
While you are walking around, take a look at some of the old buildings still standing around town, such as the Kurri Kurri Hotel. You will easily spend a couple of hours in this little town just exploring and taking in its art.
8- And the Big Kookaburra
In Australia, we like our giant-sized replicas of “things”. We’ve all heard of the Big Banana, the Big Koala, the Big Pineapple, the Big Ned Kelly; the list goes on! Well in Kurri Kurri, they have the Big Kookaburra.
I absolutely love those birds, so it’s definitely something I wouldn’t have missed! It’s also probably the first thing you’ll see when you reach the Kurri Kurri town centre. This 4.5-metre-tall statue was created in late 2009 to mark Hydro Aluminium’s 40th year in the area. It sits right there in the centre of the Rotary Park.
9- Visit the Hunter Valley Gardens
If you’re a fan of beautiful gardens and need a break from all those vineyard views, head to the Hunter Valley Gardens. The Hunter Valley Gardens are the largest display gardens in Australia. Walking through the gardens takes you on a little trip around the globe, thanks to 10 individually themed gardens. They showcase the styles of gardens from around the world, using both native and exotic plant varieties. With its many rides and exhibits for the little ones, it’s great for the whole family.
Entry fee: $30 per adults (+16y), $20 for children (4-15y), free under 3y
10- Watch the sunrise over the Hunter Valley from a hot air balloon
Although we didn’t get to do this in the Hunter Valley, we’ve heard it’s an amazing thing to do. We can only imagine how gorgeous it would be to catch the sunrise over those rolling hills full of vineyards.
We’ve been on hot air balloon rides before, in Melbourne, Alice Springs and Myanmar, and every time we had a wonderful experience. I’m sure it would be just as amazing in the Hunter Valley. Hot air balloon rides are so peaceful and watching the sun rise from up above is incredible. It’s great for photography too. If you’ve never been hot air ballooning, I couldn’t think of a better place to start.
Where to stay in the Hunter Valley?
H Boutique Hotel
Nestled on a ridge, overlooking the picturesque Brokenback Ranges, H Boutique Hotel is next door to Bimbadgen Wine Estate and you can easily walk there. It offers villas with a cosy fireplace for winter nights and a patio with mountain and vineyard views for the warmer ones. It’s centrally located to explore what the Hunter Valley has to offer. Click here to find their prices.
Château Elan at The Vintage Hunter Valley
Château Elan at The Vintage Hunter Valley is a luxury golf and spa resort offering a range of luxury accommodation, including spacious suites, with spa baths. The fine restaurant on-site serves high-quality à la carte cuisine throughout the day. The resort also has a spacious outdoor swimming pool and well-equipped fitness centre, along with a spa with 18 treatment rooms. You may need a bit of R&R after all that tasting. Click here to find their prices.
Wine Country Motor Inn
If you’re looking for something budget friendly, the Wine Country Motor Inn is conveniently located in the heart of Cessnock. It is only a 5-minute drive to many vineyards and cellar doors. The rooms have modern furnishings, reverse cycle air conditioning and high-speed wireless Internet access. Click here to find their prices.
Or, if you’d prefer something different, use HotelsCombined to search for accommodation across all of the major travel sites.