Hunter Valley Activities
Worth getting out of bed for...
- There is a breathtaking 360-degree view of the valley and the Brokenback Range from the Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard (DeBeyers Road, Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 4998 7411), Follow up a tasting of their finely tuned wines with a picnic under one of the stately gum trees in the grounds.
- Arts and culture
- On your way to Lovedale from Sydney you’ll pass the Australian Woodwork Gallery (corner Wine Country Drive and Fleming Street, Nulkaba; +61 (0)2 4990 4994; www.australiawoodwork.com), which has a unique range of items handcrafted items from Australian native timbers. They ship worldwide, which is handy if you're saving sapce for cases of wine in your car.
- Something for nothing
- You're smack-bang in the middle of one of Australia’s premier wine regions with no less than 120 wineries to discover, so tasting is obviously going to be at the top of your list. Just make sure you have a designated driver. The Boutique Wine Centre is a good place to taste several labels under one roof (Broke Road, Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 4998 7474; www.boutiquewinecentre.com.au). For a full guide to the region's drops, see www.winecountry.com.au.
- Cellar doors abound, so take advantage of the specials offered and be sure to leave with a case or three of your favourites. Many outfits also sell locally produced olives and olive oil, homemade chutneys, jams and pickles. Try David Hook Wines (Cnr Broke and Ekerts Roads, Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 4998 7121; www.davidhookwines.com.au). Peterson House specialises in traditional Methode Champenoise sparkling wines, where you can pick up a bottle of distinctly Australian Sparkling Shiraz (corner Broke Road and Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin; + 61 (0)2 4998 7881; www.petersonhouse.com.au). Next door to Peterson’s, the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company (Cnr Broke and Branxton Roads, Pokolbin; www.hvchocolate.com.au) makes tempting handmade chocolates using the finest Belgian couverture – try the Macadamia Nut Bark. Simply D’Vine Garden and Gift Gallery (151 Wine Country Drive, Nulkaba; + 61 (0)2 4990 4291; www.simplydvine.com.au) has more than 100 water fountains on display.
- For time out from sampling wine, visit the little town of Morpeth. It was once a thriving port on the banks of the Hunter River, now it’s worth a look for a snapshot of the region’s heritage, including quaint sandstone houses and cobbled streets. Lunch at Arnott's Bakehouse on Swan Street (+61 (0)2 4934 4343.
- Perfect picnic
- Order a basket of goodies from Hunter Valley Hampers (1300 284 684; www.huntervalleyhampers.com.au), then take your pick of any number of shady tables in vineyards around the region
- This really is an adults' playground, but if you have kids in tow, hightail it to Hunter Valley Gardens, where playgrounds, themed gardens and a child-focused calendar of events provide hours of distraction.
- For a break from wine-tasting, go horse-riding over the beautiful Molly Morgan Range where you’ll not only get great views but you’ll most likely spot a kangaroo or two (288 Talga Road, Rothbury, +61 (0)2 4930 7111; www.huntervalleyhorseriding.com.au). The Hunter also offers several cooking schools, try a pasta-making class at Mount Broke Wines, followed by an alfresco meal with matching wines (Mount Broke Wines 130 Adam’s Peak Road, Broke; + 61 (0)2 9662 3975; www.mtbrokewines.com.au).
- If you want to get off the tourist track, go for Broke. This peaceful town is home to the excellent Margan cellar door and restaurant on Milbrodale Road (+61 (0)2 6579 1372) and Pickled and Pitted on Wollombi Road for olives and oils.
January–February Annual vineyard concerts attract big-name artists every summer; see www.winecountry.com.au for details. April Don’t miss the Hunter Semillon and Seafood festival with semillon masterclasses, wine education, live music and fresh seafood (www.huntersemillonandseafood.com.au). May The end of the grape harvest is marked by the Hunter Valley Harvest Celebrations, which run for two months with various food, wine and music events (www.winecountry.com.au). October Wyndham Estate holds an annual opera gala under the stars. Tickets can be purchased at www.ticketek.com.au. There’s also Jazz in the Vines, hosted by Tyrrell’s Vineyards in October (www.jazzinthevines.com.au).