Duped the most famous and popular wine growing region in Australia, The Hunter Valley is on many people’s to do list when visiting Sydney and The East Coast. There are many tours available with pick-up, with a particular focus on round trips from Sydney, for me I think it’s a little too far but it fit perfectly as a day trip from Port Stephens.
We’d considered a tour, but actually unless the pick up was from Sydney it was difficult to begin anywhere else other than inside the Hunter Valley itself, which meant we would need to drive there anyway, thus meaning someone would need to be sensible to get us home. Once you take the need for a pick up out of the equation, the starting price of $60 per person most companies offered seemed a bit steep. The majority offered 3-4 wineries and the option of lunch, but that was usually extra, so we decided we’d drive ourselves around and save the $60 for buying the wines! If everyone in your party is keen on getting sloshed then you most certainly need to hire a driver or book on to a tour.
Have a look at The Hunter Valley website for tour details.
There are 130 wineries in the region, from small family run estates to the larger more established names. Try as you might you won’t get round them all unless you decide to stay in nearby accommodation for two weeks and focus all your holiday on doing so. What you need to do is choose an area to explore. Try the Lovedale Road Trail if you’re after an unhurried experience with boutique wineries and a chocolate factory or for spectacular views of the valley drive up to Bimbadeen Lookout on the aptly named Mount View Trail. We chose the Pokolbin Road Trail, perhaps the most popular so if you’re visiting at the weekend be prepared to rub elbows with the person next to you at the tasting bars.
The Pokolbin Trail really was a beautiful place and perfect for the four of us to meander around at our own pace. We visited midweek so the road remained quiet and linked winery after winery amidst the stunning mountain backdrop. On this road you’ll find some of the bigger named wineries all producing their versions of Semillon, Shiraz and Verdelho that the region is famed for.
One of the standout big names for us was Tyrrell’s, where we made our way through their portfolio of wines including the Winemakers Selection sourced from their Hunter Valley Vineyards as well as the Lost Block and Old Winery ranges that came from regions such as Heathcote and Adelaide Hills. If you’re a lover of red like we were then make sure you sample the 2009 Lunatiq Heathcote Shiraz.
Another we visited and loved was the McGuigan Brother’s winery, complete with their own gift shop and cheese shop. They had a great selection of exclusives with wines like their Black Label Shiraz available for just $12 from the cellar door. If you prefer smaller family owned wineries and something a little different, the Tamburlaine estate is well worth a visit, offering organic wines made at the Hunter Valley.
There’s more than just wine sampling to enjoy while at the Hunter Valley, from activities like hot air balloon rides to suit the adventure seeking to cheese, chocolate and gourmet food for the foodies. There are also a couple of breweries to visit if sampling beer is more your thing or vodka if you’re a fan of the harder stuff!
Most wineries are open from 10am – 5pm so whatever time of day you visit there’s a big chance you’ll want a bite to eat, either to soak up the mornings sampling or prepare you for the afternoons. There are plenty of places to eat with many of the vineyards having their own cafe or restaurant, however, be aware that if you’re visiting in the afternoon many places stop serving at 3pm so make sure you get your lunch early. We stopped at a cafe for lunch inside the Hunter Valley Gardens which also offers numerous boutique shops, a picnic area, gardens, mini golf and aqua golf.