After two nights in Sydney, we were ready to start our road trip so the gents went to pick up the hire car while us ladies consulted the maps and things to do at our first stop – Port Stephens.
Port Stephens is a large natural harbour in New South Wales, 160 kilometres north east of Sydney and named by Captain Cook, with an array of water activities on offer including dolphin and whale watching, fishing and more.
We made a stop at Newcastle on the way and took a look at the Queens Wharf where we came across Nobby’s Beach and Harry’s Cafe. We all ordered a pie from the latter which were topped with mushie peas, mash potato, gravy or all three. Apparently it’s quite a famous road side eatery with the likes of Pamela Anderson and Elton Johns pictures on the wall from their own visit.
We arrived at our apartments, Pacific Oaks, late afternoon and jumped straight in the pool that surrounded the entire village like a moat, giving James the perfect opportunity to kick start his triathlon training. There were also two jacuzzi pools, a steam room, gym and lane pool to make use of and we ended up doing so during the rainy moments! Since we were in apartments with our own kitchen we made the most of it by cooking in for the two nights we were here, plus the seafront had been scouted for places to eat with little success despite the promise of fresh seafood eateries from the guide books.
We spent our full day here visiting the Hunter Valley Wine Region, an hours drive out of Port Stephens. After a quick Google search on how best to approach the visit we decided to go it alone rather than book a tour since we already had our own vehicle and almost every one of the 130 wineries offered free sampling so it just didn’t seem worth the $60-$80 price tag per person for a tour! If you’re thinking of doing this yourself, take a look at my DIY guide for visiting the Hunter Valley here.
It was a really beautiful place. Quiet roads linked winery after winery from small family run to the larger more established names, each with their own stunning mountain backdrop. We got stuck in, making Tyrrell’s our first stop, a name we all knew well. They call it the ‘cellar door’ …the place where all the barrels are sat proudly, full of wines being aged within the oak. There were even some sherries and port barrels from as early as 1998!
After checking out where the magic is made we popped back to the shop and began sampling. There were only a couple of wines from the premium selection unavailable for free tasting but we were able to make 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. We sampled a couple of whites before moving swiftly on to the Reds and dabbled in everything from Pinot Noir to Shiraz.
We preferred the Shiraz wines on most occasions and always opted for the maturer full bodied ones. Of course we couldn’t leave empty handed and walked away with a selection of our favourites including the 2013 Lost Block Shiraz, 2009 Lunatiq Heathcote Shiraz and the 2013 Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz.