With so much to see, do, eat and drink in Australia’s oldest wine region, it’s hard to know where to begin. So here are 10 of our favourites you should definitely keep in mind when you’re visiting the Hunter Valley.
It’s not often you have a place to visit that’s great all year round. But the Hunter Valley, a couple of hours north of Sydney, is exactly that.
Whether it’s the chilly cheer of mid-winter festivals, languid lunches in the February summer, breezy drives through the autumnal countryside or enjoying the colours of spring, the Hunter has you covered.
You just need a plan.
Here are 10 of our favourite places to go and things to do in the Hunter Valley no matter what time of year it is.
1. Tourist Route 33 and Wollombi
They say that travel is as much about the journey as the destination, and if you’re driving from Sydney, taking the scenic drive to the Hunter is exactly that.
Tourist Route 33 (aka the Great North Road) is a beautiful winding road that leads you through forests and fields, past the excellently named village of Bucketty and to the picturesque hamlet of Wollombi. It’s a good spot to get out and stretch your legs before you get into wine country proper.
2. First Fire at the Blaxland Inn
It might seem strange to go to a pub and brewery in wine country, but the Blaxland Inn offers some of the best beer options in the region.
If you time it right and arrive on the first weekend of June, make sure you book a seat at the banquette table of the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival’s First Fire night. The Blaxland Inn lights a big bonfire and serves a carnivore degustation along with matching beers.
Any other time of the year, this is still a great spot to pull up a chair and sample an ale or two.
3. Olive Long Table Luncheon at Whispering Brook Winery
Set amidst the alleys of olive trees, the Olive Long Table Luncheon at Whispering Brook is truly one of the most memorable things you can do in the Hunter. This lunch is a special event that’s become a pillar of the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival each June.
However, during the rest of the year, Whispering Brook is a slice of tranquility away from the crowds where you can sample elegant Portuguese varietals and sumptuous olive oil pressed from fruit of the winery’s orchard.
It’s also worth taking a wander through the olive groves for that extra bit of European romance.
You can read more about Whispering Brook and the Olive Long Table Luncheon here.
4. A Day on the Green at Bimbadgen
This iconic music festival runs from October to March each year in multiple locations, but Bimbadgen (meaning ‘place of good view’ in the local indigenous language) is our favourite.
And even if you’re not here for the concerts, Bimbadgen’s wines are worth travelling for. Even better, the wood fire pizza oven in the garden turns out excellent food. And for that next level up, a table at the winery’s award-winning restaurant Esca will show you the very best Bimbadgen has to offer.
You can read more about A Day on the Green at Bimbadgen here.
5. Grange vs The Hunter at The Wine House
Pitting one of the world’s most famous wines against the best the Hunter Valley has to offer is a fun way to experience wine.
During the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival each winter, the Wine House runs this fun blind horizontal tasting where visitors guess which one is the Grange, but also which wine is their favourite over all.
The Wine House is more than a shop. It’s a cellar door for Hunter wineries that are too small to have their own and a treasury of some of the finest wines of the region. So you can taste and buy some amazing wines here all year round.
Here’s more about our Grange vs Hunter experience.
6. Tasting experiences a Scarborough Wines
Our favourite Hunter winery, Scarborough is a lynchpin of the region. The Scarborough family have been crafting superb Hunter wines here for two generations. Their Obsessive Chardonnay is to die for.
You can pick from several different tasting experiences, each giving you an in-depth insight into the wine and its origins that you can book here.
We were lucky enough to meet everyone in the Scarborough family and learn so much about them, their history and their vineyard – how could we not fall in love with this winery? You can read more about that here.
7. Scale to Tail at Margan Wines
One of Margan’s main focuses – other than crafting beautiful wine and cooking delicious food – is the environment.
The Scale to Tail experience we did during the June Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival was not only a cooking masterclass, it was an exhibition in minimising food waste where we learnt how to break down and use a whole salmon.
We were also shown around the market garden the kitchen here uses in its incredible dishes and lunch afterwards was paired with some of the best wine Margan has to offer.
You can read more about this experience and see our video here.
For the rest of the year, you can book tastings, meals, cooking classes and winery experiences at Margan that you’ll never forget.
8. Still Life Paint & Sip at Keith Tulloch Wines
A visit to Tulloch’s is non-negotiable when you come to the Hunter Valley anyway, but when you get the chance to learn how to paint still life while you sample this winery’s iconic wines, it’s a no-brainer.
During the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival, The Art Social teaches, with clever step-by-step instructions, how to create your own work of art. It’s a lot of fun.
9. Port and Cheese at Tintilla Estate
Tintilla Estate is a family-run winery that makes excellent wine and olive oil, but also port.
Throughout the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival, Tintilla offer a cheese and port tasting, where you get to sample their four fortifieds, two of which are named after the sons of the owners.
During the rest of the year, Tintilla still have their ports available to sample (and buy of course!) but you can also try their range of wines to go with a cheese plate or olive selection, and enjoy the view over peaceful the vineyard from their homely cellar door.
10. Peppers Creek Shopping Village
At the centre of Pokolbin’s wine hub is Peppers Creek Shopping Village. Once you’ve had your fill of wine tasting, fancy a bit of retail therapy or are looking for one of the best breakfast spots in the area, this is your place.
Stop in at Cafe Enzo for top quality coffee and really delicious food. Highly recommended.
Do you have any favourite spots to visit in the Hunter Valley? What do you like to do when you’re in wine country (apart from the obvious!)?
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