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Hotel Highlights

  • Complete relaxation in a remote, rural setting
  • In the heart of Australia’s finest wine region
  • Only two hours’ drive from Sydney

Overview

A fine example of Antipodean shabby chic, Tonic, in the Australian wine lovers’ paradise of the Hunter Valley, offers the kind of laid-back living that wannabe jackaroos go to bed dreaming about. Made up of four separate iron, timber and glass buildings, set in gardens that are filled with native grasses and plants, the hotel overlooks a series of creeks and dams, while the Brokenback mountain range lines the horizon. Sunsets are predictably jaw-dropping.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Tonic with us:

A bottle of local wine to enjoy on your balcony

Facilities

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Tonic hotel - Hunter Valley - Australia

Need To Know

Rooms

Eight, including two rooms in a separate apartment.

Check–out

Midday; earliest check-in, 2pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $230.74 (AU$245), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates include Continental breakfast.

Also

The Tonic Concierge service – free for guests – is always on hand to answer queries and make bookings for you.

At the hotel

Pool, CD/DVD library, laundry services and massages on request. In rooms: king-size beds, private balcony, 15-metre lap pool, air-conditioning, broadband, flatscreen TV, DVD player, hifi, iPod and dock, Aesop toiletries and kitchenette.

Our favourite rooms

All rooms in the main hotel come with white ceilings and walls, and polished concrete floors – a lovely, cooling touch that’s the ideal counterpoint to New South Wales’ hot summers. We particularly love the two-bedroom apartment, though, which has a red room (complete with a battered old Coke sign and colourful children’s art) and a green room, filled with seriously cool vases and quirky floral cushions in luscious lime tones. Even the digital displays on the Grundig CD players match the relevant colour schemes.

Poolside

Those floating in the pool get a lovely view out over the valley and the Brokenback mountain range.

Packing tips

Make sure you take a comprehensive wine guide, and maybe some strong plastic bags in case any of those bottles you’ll buy smash in your suitcase.

Also

The hotel has a minimum two-night-stay policy at weekends, and it only allows one ‘small’ dog at a time.

Children

Under-15s are not allowed at Tonic.

Food & Drink

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Tonic hotel - Hunter Valley - Australia

Hotel Restaurant

There is no restaurant at Tonic, but the Tonic Lounge, housed in a separate building, comes with a chunky wooden dining table and a fully equipped kitchen, complete with condiments, tea, coffee and maxi bar. Your personal fridge is stocked with plenty of do-it-yourself breakfast provisions, including muesli, bread, croissants, jam and butter. Eggs and bacon are for sale in the Tonic Lounge.

Hotel Bar

The cool, chic Tonic lounge has polished concrete floors, an open fire and comfy chocolate-brown couches. Don’t expect to while away the hours chatting to the bartender, though; in here, you just help yourself from the honesty bar.

Last orders

There’s no cut-off point here.

Room service

There’s no room service at Tonic.

Smith Insider

Dress code

This place is so laid-back that you could go and fetch a drink in your pyjamas, and no one would bat an eyelid.

Top table

Take your drinks out onto the large deck outside the Tonic Lounge, and sip them while enjoying stunning views over the surrounding countryside.

Local Guide

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Tonic hotel - Hunter Valley - Australia
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Wine-tasting has to be top of your list. You are right in the middle of one of Australia’s premier wine regions, and there are no less than 120 wineries to discover. Make sure you have a designated driver. The Boutique Wine Centre (Broke Road Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 4998 7474; www.boutiquewinecentre.com) is a good place to taste several labels under one roof. Alternatively, get the VIP treatment on a small-group tour with Hunter Valley Boutique Wine Tours (+61 (0)419 419931; www.huntervalleytours.com.au). See the beautiful Molly Morgan Range on horseback, courtesy of Hunter Valley Horse Riding & Adventures (288 Talga Road, Rothbury; www.huntervalleyhorseriding.com.au) – you’re likely to spot a kangaroo or two. Appetite for the local area whetted? Sail over the vineyards at sunrise in a hot-air balloon with Balloon Safaris (Cessnock Airport, Polkobin; www.balloonsafaris.com.au). If it’s culture you’re after, then see an opera performance among the vines. The historic Wyndham Estate vineyard on the banks of the Hunter River holds an annual opera gala under the stars in October. To book tickets, visit www.tickettek.com.au.

Local restaurants

Poole’s Rock Winery Estate (576 Debeyers Road, Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 4998 6968; www.poolesrock.com.au) offers the Firestick Café by day and the Rock Restaurant by night. Enjoy delicious wood-fired pizzas while overlooking 90-year-old shiraz vines over lunch, or award-winning regional cuisine – try the scallop tortellini – in ultra-modern surroundings at dinner. At Hungerford Hill Winery (1 Broke Road, Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 49987666; www.hungerfordhill.com.au), you can dine in the airy, modern Muse. The stylish wine bar has over 20 wines available by the glass where you can enjoy a simple salad or antipasto plate in relaxed surrounds. Next door is their stunning tasting room. Perfect for lunch, little boathouse-style café Leaves & Fishes (737 Lovedale Road, Lovedale; +61 (0)2 4930 7400; www.leavesandfishes.com) hoiks its freshwater perch straight out of the adjacent ponds and slaps it straight on the grill. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. At old Hunter fave Esca Bimbadgen (Bimbadgen Estate Winery, 790 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin; +61 (0)2 4998 4666; www.bimbadgen.com.au), you’ll dine well on seasonal modern Australian cuisine while enjoying great views.

+ Enlarge
A place of grape beauty

Tonic

251 Talga Road, Lovedale, Hunter Valley, NSW 2320, Australia

Tonic is located in Lovedale in the stunning Hunter Valley wine region just two and a half hours north of Sydney or one hour inland from Newcastle.

Planes

Sydney Airport (www.sydneyairport.com.au) services a wide array of international and domestic flights. 25-minute charter flights From Sydney to Cessnock Airport, a 20-minute drive from Tonic, are available with Hunter Valley Aviation (www.huntervalleyaviation.com; +61 (0)2 4991 6500). Alternatively Newcastle Airport (www.newcastleairport.com.au) is serviced by Qantas (www.qantas.com.au; 13 13 13), Jetstar (www.jetstar.com.au; 131 538), Virgin Australia (www.virginaustralia.com; 13 67 89) and Rex (www.rex.com.au; 13 17 13) and is only a one-hour drive from Tonic.

Automobiles

Tonic is a two and a half hour drive north of Sydney. Grab a set of wheels at Sydney Airport or any of the car hire companies in the CBD and head up the Pacific Highway in the direction of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. Guests heading from Newcastle can take the Old Pacific Highway and New England Highway to Tonic.

Reviews

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Tonic hotel - Hunter Valley - Australia

Anonymous review

by David Holmes , Advertising guru

This boutique-hotel review needs to unfold chronologically because Tonic in Australia’s Hunter Valley doesn’t make a sudden appearance. It dawns on you gradually – just like when you wake up knowing something great happened to you yesterday but can’t remember exactly what. At the end of a dusty, creamy, unsealed drive are four corrugated steel-clad cabins and a house, st…
Read more

Tonic

Anonymous review by David Holmes, Advertising guru

This boutique-hotel review needs to unfold chronologically because Tonic in Australia’s Hunter Valley doesn’t make a sudden appearance. It dawns on you gradually – just like when you wake up knowing something great happened to you yesterday but can’t remember exactly what.

At the end of a dusty, creamy, unsealed drive are four corrugated steel-clad cabins and a house, still and unconcerned by the unforgiving Hunter Valley sun. If this had been the Home Counties circa 1944, it could have been the sleeping quarters of a WWII fighter squadron. There are three double rooms and a communal guest lounge to each block. The house belongs to Nici and Leroy. Nici is the owner and Leroy is a large grey cat who thinks he’s the boss.

There is no check-in at the Tonic (nor, as we later discover, is there an official check-out). Mrs Smith punches the last four digits of the credit card into the keypad of our room – number seven – and the door swings open. We step in and, as the door clicks shut behind us, we hear faint music drifting idly across the sitting room. A lamp is on. Air-con soothes. A pair of shaggy, Chewbacca-like slippers peeps out from beneath a simple leather armchair. Mrs Smith opens the fridge door and shouts: ‘Look at this!’ But I can’t. I’m reading the chalked script on a floor-to-ceiling blackboard that says ‘Hi Viv and David. Welcome to Tonic.’

The only-just-off-white walls seem to move outwards wherever the eye falls. The rose taupe polished concrete floor is heated – for winter. The music is coming from a brushed satin unit next to a matching TV. Mrs Smith shows me the stacked shelves in a fridge, which offer organic fruit juices, muesli, fresh milk, butter, croissants, breads, jams and honey.

On the enormous and comfortable bed, we can choose pillows that are latex-filled, micro-fibre non-allergenic or made from alpaca wool. The bathroom is large enough to house a medium-sized car and is sufficiently speck-free for bypass surgery. And you could live in the bath sheets. All this is ours for two nights (and we’re still whispering to each other).

The best thing, though, is the view. The room looks out across a lake to the Brokenback mountains. When we step out on to the expansive wooden deck, we can see two wallabies looking back, straightening up and smiling back at us before a couple of currawongs embark on their faraway haunting calls. (How did the resourceful Nici manage these touches?)

There’s no restaurant at the hotel so, that evening, we eat at Mojo’s, where we experience some of the friendliest service we’ve ever come across. Our 18-year-old waitress is ridiculously sweet and, between courses, shares her life story with us. Mrs Smith’s response to the oaky and vaguely minty 2005 Merlot we have with our meal also confirms the itinerary for tomorrow: a short drive to Pepper Tree Winery.

The next day, after a delicious breakfast chosen from the provisions in the fridge, this is exactly what we do. We taste and do some serious buying at Pepper Tree before setting off to visit more of the Hunter Valley and the oldest vineyards in Australia. But we don’t get far. Our attention is drawn to a white, clapboard church named The Lovedale Wedding Chapel, and we while away an hour, savouring the shade under a circle of broad-leaved trees before we hit the road again.

From the top of a steep hill, we find ourselves looking down on a chocolate factory. I’m speechless: premium hand-made chocolate is to Mr Smith what multi-award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon is to his other half. We take a quick look, but the heat, and the lure of the cooling waters in Tonic’s saltwater pool, stops us from overindulging in lemon and passion fruit fudge.

That night, just before we retire to bed, we stand on the deck outside our room and – no chocolate pun intended – look up to see the powdery white canopy of the Milky Way. The following morning is our last at Tonic, and I feel sad that we haven’t been able to meet Nici (who’s away on business) and congratulate her on the wonderful sanctuary that she’s created in the New South Wales countryside. However, as Mrs Smith points out, it does feel as though we have met her – her ingenuity and style, evident throughout the hotel, is firmly ensconced in our brains. A stay here is just the, ahem, tonic for fast-paced, 21st-century living.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Tonic's Guestbook below.

 

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