Hunter Valley captivates visitors with its stunning landscapes, world-renowned wineries, rolling hills, famous vineyards as far as the eye can see, and a vibrant community. Hunter Valley boasts an awe-inspiring natural beauty that will leave any visitor in awe.
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It indeed offers a unique experience for nature lovers, wine enthusiasts, and curious travelers alike, like us!
Here are our best tips and detailed guide for visiting the region, and our recommendations for the best things to do in Hunter Valley.
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Best Time To Visit Hunter Valley
Choosing the best time of year to visit Hunter Valley depends largely on what you want to do while you’re there.
Spring is the best time for hot-air ballooning or for visiting the Hunter Valley Gardens, as the post-winter pastures become a garden of blooming wildflowers and lush green fields after the winter rains.
Summer is ideal for wine tasting & fruit picking. December to February is the best time for wine tastings and vineyard tours, as it’s harvest season and most wineries offer many activities. Although the complete absence of rain and dry period sometimes lasts for a very long time, with highs ranging from 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 21 degrees Celsius).
For us, late Summer / early Fall – the months of March and May are some of the best months to visit Hunter Valley.
If you enjoy the fresh air & panoramic colors of your surroundings, you can choose Fall, as it offers pleasant temperatures and very little rain. It comes after the harvest period when the surroundings are transformed into a beautiful scenic canvas with hues of orange, yellow, green, and brown. It is also the perfect time for hiking.
Winter is from June to August, and it can be tough in the Hunter Valley, with high rainfall and occasional cold snaps keeping you mostly indoors. But if you want to avoid the crowds and have total tranquility, then this is the ideal time to visit.
How To Get To Hunter Valley
The easiest way to get to Hunter Valley and get around while you are there is by hiring a car. Alternatively, a number of Hunter Valley day tours operate from Sydney and Newcastle, or you can also get to Hunter Valley by train departing from Maitland, Newcastle, or Morisset.
From Sydney / South Coast. Hunter Valley region is located about 2 hours drive, approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles) North of Sydney. Located in a picturesque region that is easily accessible by car, with several major highways and roads connecting it to Sydney and surrounding areas.
From Newcastle. The fastest way from Newcastle is via the Newcastle Link Road, which is only 1.5 hours away. Taxi from Newcastle Airport to Pokolbin takes about 50 minutes.
Most regional airports offer direct flights to and from Newcastle. Once you arrive in Newcastle, you can hire a car to get to Hunter Valley.
By Train or Bus
From Sydney City (Cityrail). The North West line offers direct services from Sydney Central Station to Maitland (3 hours) and Singleton (3 hours 10 minutes). From there, you can arrange for a connecting local bus to Cessnock. Remember to have your Opal card with you for the journey.
From Regional NSW (Countrylink). The express service provided by Countrylink departs from Sydney Central Station to Singleton Station. Unfortunately, there are no connecting buses available from Singleton to Cessnock or the Valley. In this case, you will need to take a taxi, which typically takes around 20 minutes.
Top Things To Do in Hunter Valley
Planning your activities in Hunter Valley can be rather overwhelming, so our advice is always to start your trip with a visit to the Hunter Valley Visitor Centre. Tell them what you like, what you don’t like, and what you are after, and they will be more than happy to help you organize your stay in the region and can even suggest the perfect accommodation for your stay. They can also give great advice on where to go in Hunter Valley.
Hunter Valley has plenty of activities to consider, you can jump on private tours, go on a horse-riding adventures, wine tasting, get the barrel straight at wine barrel rolling competition, take a cooking class in Majors Lane Cooking School, or do grape stomping at the wineries. Its great vibe, big wine producers, and gourmet food scene make it one of the most visited regions in Australia and one of our favorites!
Here are some of the best things to do in Hunter Valley, tried by us or recommended by locals during our travels.
1. Explore Hunter Valley’s Unique Wine Varieties
The Hunter Valley wine region consists of three recognized subregions: Broke, Pokolbin, and the Upper Hunter Valley. Each subregion has unique characteristics, offering a diverse range of grape varieties and wines. So it is difficult to box them all together. Lucky for us, that only means there is plenty of variety to enjoy!
Hunter Valley produces some fantastic wine, and the region definitely surprised us. Despite being one of the biggest wine regions in Australia, it has managed to retain its charm and small-town feel.
Famous Hunter Valley Wines
It turns out, Hunter Valley is a region with some fantastic offerings of the sweeter white wine varieties, like the Semillon and Verdelho. Between these and some delicious Moscato varieties, you’ll find plenty new discoveries here and lots of old favorites.
Best Hunter Valley Vineyards To Visit
Here are just a few of the Hunter Valley wineries that we recommend you visit and why:
- Lambloch Estate – Their Late Harvest Wine range is like nothing else we’ve ever tried before!
- Tyrell’s – One of the region’s oldest, Tyrrell’s can be found in Central Pokolbin, alongside many other well-known producers, like Brokenwood and boutique cellar doors. Their Seven Harvest Shiraz was the best Shiraz we’ve ever had!
- Audrey Wilkinson – Perched atop a foothill in the Brokenback Mountain Ranges, the expansive views encircling the entrance of the cellar door make for a spectacular arrival. For those who like to linger a little longer, we highly recommend you sit on one of the picnic tables around the cellar door. The wine itself didn’t impress us, but the views were some of the best in the Hunter Valley.
- Pepper Tree Cellar Door – If you are short on time and looking for a one-stop-shop solution to get a taste of Hunter Valley wine varieties at their best, then this is a sound option. Their wine-tasting room also features cheese pairing.
- Peterson House – Home to those famous pink bubbles and signature sandstone building in the magical corner of Broke, it’s hard not to fall in love with Peterson House. You just can’t go wrong with a little bit of bubbly!
2. Visit World-Class Hunter Valley Wineries
As one of Australia’s premier wine regions, Hunter Valley is known for its award-winning wines. Renowned for its boutique wineries, many of which are smaller boutiques that offer a unique and intimate wine-tasting experience.
These boutique wineries are often family-owned and operated, producing limited quantities of high-quality wines. You can sample their creations during the free wine tastings or join their wine-making class, all while enjoying the scenic view of the Hunter.
The region’s temperate climate, fertile soils, and abundant sunshine provide the perfect conditions for growing a diverse range of grape varieties. Home to over 150 wineries, it offers a remarkable array of cellar doors where visitors can learn about the wine-making process. Sample the region’s renowned Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and other varietals.
This wine country of New South Wales offers a huge array of wine tours. They’ve got all your favorites, red, white, and blends as well. Hunter Valley also hosts annual events like the Lovedale Long Lunch and the Hunter Valley Wine Festival, showcasing the finest drops of their local wine.
3. Enjoy Breathtaking Landscapes
Beyond its vineyards, the Hunter Valley is known for its spectacular scenery. Rolling hills adorned with vineyards, grazing cattle, and charming homesteads create a setting that feels like a page out of a storybook garden.
As the sun sets over the horizon, the valley is bathed in warm hues. Opt for a 30-minute city-farm walk to Milhams Farmhouse, try an hour’s walk to the scenic Hunter Lookout at Glen Road Loop Track, or go to Scotts Point Loop for romantic walks and stunning photo opportunities.
4. Go For Hot Air Ballooning
For a different perspective of the region, consider taking an early morning sunrise hot air balloon ride. You’ll witness an amazing view of the wildlife of the Hunter Valley awakening below. Kangaroos hopping through fields, native birds taking flight, and the occasional glimpse of other balloon riders in the distance all contribute to this memorable hot-air ballooning experience.
5. Enjoy Outdoor Adventures
The Hunter Valley is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wealth of thrilling adventures and serene explorations. Whether you seek adrenaline-pumping activities or a peaceful connection with nature, this picturesque region has something to offer.
From hiking through majestic national parks to soaring above vineyards in a hot air balloon, the Hunter Valley promises a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the great outdoors. So, pack your gear and embrace the thrill.
We recommend taking a scenic hike through the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park. Watagans National Park and the Yengo National Park are also particularly popular among hikers. You might encounter native wildlife along the way.
You can also rent an electric bike and cycle along picturesque trails, discovering hidden gems along the way. If you don’t fancy bringing a bike, no problem. There are places here where you can hire old-school cruisers as well.
For those seeking a more exhilarating experience, you can follow mountain biking trails in spots like the Glenrock State Conservation Area. It offers thrilling challenges and adrenaline-fueled descents.
6. Attend Seasonal Festivals & Events
Plan your visit to coincide with the Hunter Valley’s vibrant festivals and events. Experience the Lovedale Long Lunch, a culinary extravaganza in May featuring the region’s finest food and wine.
Attend the Hunter Valley Wine & Food Festival, a celebration of the region’s gourmet offerings, or simply don’t miss the Hunter Valley Balloon Fiesta, a captivating event in October where colorful hot air balloons fill the sky.
7. Explore Charming Towns and Historical Villages in Hunter Valley
Sure, the countryside is splendid. But that doesn’t mean you should not spend time in Hunter Valley’s charming towns.
Visit the Marthaville Arts and Cultural Centre, Cessnock Regional Art Gallery, and the popular Hunter Valley Zoo in Cessnock, or take a chilling historical escape story tour around the infamous Maitland Gaol.
You can also go to Broke Community Market every first Sunday of the month. Broke has direct access to Yengo National Park and its remarkable Finchley Aboriginal heritage.
8. Roam Around The Hunter Valley Gardens
If you come during the festive season, consider visiting the popular Christmas Lights Spectacular. It is a cherished tradition for many families to celebrate the holiday season in Hunter Valley Gardens. Visit their award-winning Oriental Garden, the enchanting Storybook Garden, and Italian Grotto to take a look at Saint Francis of Assisi.
9. Enjoy Gourmet Food Experiences
In our opinion, Hunter Valley is a foodie haven. Indulge in sustainable farm-to-table experiences, sample the farm fresh produce, visit the smelly cheese shop, and enjoy delicious meals at award-winning restaurants.
Alternatively, if you have a sweet tooth like us, explore the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company for sweet delights, and stop by Maitland local food markets to taste fresh, seasonal local produce.
Pre-book a table at Sabor In The Hunter Dessert Bar, located at the picturesque Lambloch Estate. This place has one of the best views of the vineyards. Follow our lead and go for a tasting plate. You can indulge in a variety of mouthwatering delights and experience a whole range of local flavors.
Dessert can be paired with the perfect wine, or you can have the dessert on its own or with tea, coffee, or any other beverages. Gluten-Free items are on offer as well!
10. Book a Round of Golf at Hunter Valley Golf Courses
After years of wine tourism, the Hunter region has also become synonymous with its championship-level golf courses.
Try the Hunter Valley Gardens Aqua Golf & Putt Putt, or enjoy the rolling hills scenery at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort which has perfectly manicured fairways and an on-site wellness retreat. Alternatively, you can bring your whole family to the Vintage Golf Club’s kids-friendly 18-hole championship course.
Essential Travel Info for Hunter Valley
Tips For Sustainable Travel In Hunter Valley
Hunter Valley is famous for its wineries, but you can still make sustainable choices when indulging in wine tourism. Here are just a few tips on how you can travel better while in Hunter Valley.
Choose eco-friendly accommodations: Look for hotels, resorts, or lodges that prioritize sustainability practices and pay attention to their commitment to environmental responsibility. We recommend a few of these below.
Support local and organic produce: Hunter region is renowned for its vineyards and farm-to-table experiences. Opt for restaurants and wineries with organic farming practices, locally sourced ingredients, and sustainable food production methods.
This way, you can savor delicious meals while reducing your carbon footprint.
Explore the region on foot or by bike: The region is full of scenic landscapes and charming villages. Instead of relying solely on cars, consider exploring the area by walking or cycling. This way you can appreciate the beauty of the region while minimizing your impact on the environment.
Engage in responsible wine tourism: Some wineries offer sustainable experiences where you can taste wines and learn about eco-friendly practices.
Where to Stay in Hunter Valley
You have a variety of options when it comes to sustainable accommodation options scattered around Pokolbin and Cessnock that prioritize eco-friendly practices and minimize their environmental impact.
There are plenty of hotel options available in Cessnock, while the majority of resorts, large hotel chains and small B&B accommodations will be located in Pokolbin.
Here are some sustainable accommodation options to consider:
Hunter Valley Resort
Spicers Retreats, Pokolbin
Spicers Retreats offer a pleasant stay with a lower impact on the environment. There are 34 suites available, suitable for families, with an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. Every room is fitted with a private bathroom, WI-FI, AC, and a TV. It’s a great place to stay if you rent an electric vehicle, as the hotel is equipped with Tesla car chargers.
Spicers has a number of eco-friendly practices, like the ban on single-use plastics, vegan bathroom products, a partnership with SoapAid, and soft plastic recycling programs.
Voco Kirkton Park, Pokolbin
Voco Kirkton Park is a luxury family-friendly Eco Resort, set on 70 acres of rural surroundings in Pokolbin. The resort has an indoor pool, spa, sauna, fitness center, tennis, and basketball court. The rooms vary in size and layout but feature luxurious beds, WiFi, AC, en suite bathrooms, and a cozy feel.
They are committed to going the extra mile for the Earth with their sustainable solar farm, onsite kitchen garden, bee farm, and other waste reduction initiatives.
Tiny House 888, Pokolbin
Couples who love being close to nature will love staying at Tiny House 888. This romantic escape is set in native bushland. This air-conditioned one-bedroom suite has a bluestone fireplace, an ensuite bathroom with eco-toilet, and the option of a private courtyard or balcony with views over the vines for a sweet, memorable experience.
Hunter Valley Hotel
H Boutique Hotel & Homestead, Pokolbin
H Boutique Hotel is an affordable hotel with 49 country-style rooms that tick all the necessary boxes. Located on the ridge of Pokolbin, the hotel’s rooms offer sunrise and sunset views.
The hotel is ideally located with cellar doors and restaurants within walking distance, a Hunter Valley golf course next door, and that unique view of the Hunter Valley outlook. The hotel also happens to be fully self-sufficient. They have off-grid electricity, naturally filtered rainwater, and an onsite sewage treatment system.
Best Restaurants In Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley region in Australia is known not only for its wineries but also for its vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Carrying on the night in Hunter Valley was easy! Head to Pokolbin or Cessnock in Hunter Valley for a lively night out.
Here are a few options to consider
Harrigan’s Irish Pub
Harrigan’s Irish Pub offers a warm and welcoming ambiance with live music, traditional Irish fare, and a wide selection of beverages. If you fancy a good meal, we recommend trying their local best-selling Beef & Guinness Pot Pie.
Voco Kirkton Park Kitchen & Bar
Voco Kirkton Park implements farm-to-table practices throughout their menu.
Recently, Voco Kirkton Park has extended their sustainability philosophy to the cocktail menu. Voco’s mixologists come up with a lineup of cocktails that not only feature ingredients from their own onsite gardens but also from their trusted local suppliers. Talk about farm-to-cocktail goodness!
Brokenback Bar & Restaurant
For something a little culinary, you can partake in the Brokenback cooking class experience. These classes offer an affordable hands-on, and interactive experience, allowing you to explore the flavors of Tuscany and create memorable meals.
Guests can enjoy the cozy ambiance of the open fireplace during winter or the refreshing alfresco terrace during the summer months.
You can hit up many other local watering holes in Cessnock, like the Peden’s Hotel or Cessnock Hotel. Both bars boast a welcoming and lively bar area where you can relax and socialize while enjoying a wide selection of beverages, including a range of beers on tap.
Circa 1876 Restaurant
Both the scenery and food creations ticked the boxes for us at Circa 1876 Restaurant. Most of the menus are affordable and made of ingredients from their organic, sustainable garden. The whole experience left us well-fed and proud to find a restaurant with both passion and ethos to spare. If you are looking for something really special, try their infamous gluten-free caramel and white chocolate cheesecake.
Goldfish Bar & Restaurant
We opted for something a bit quieter with some drinks at the Goldfish Bar in Tempus Two complex. Goldfish bar and restaurant in the Hunter Valley can be best described as the perfect fusion of an elegant lounge bar and a relaxed balcony experience.
If you’re feeling peckish, Goldfish Bar offers a local selection of tapas and light bites to accompany your drinks. The folks here love to show off their skills, so go ahead and ask them to whip up a special concoction from the bar. They’ll be more than happy to impress you with their creativity. So eat, drink, and be merry!
We hope our guides will assist in planning your ideal Hunter Valley trip. Allocate at least 5 nights to experience the activities available fully. Don’t limit yourself to the wineries alone, do explore the surrounding areas as well. Use these guidelines to appreciate the Hunter Valley’s beauty while supporting its long-term sustainability.
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