Set amid a patchwork of grapevines and kitchen gardens, Spicers Vineyards Estate hotel in the Hunter Valley ticks all the boxes for a romantic getaway. Just two hours from Sydney, it's ideal for a quickie weekend away for two, or keep the love coming with a longer stay – you'll never be at a loss for things to do nearby. You and your sweetheart could spend your entire summer investigating the revivifying properties of Aussie grapes, perhaps some vino-therapy in Spicers' Spa Anise or trying superlative shiraz from the wine cellar – with over 350 bottles it could take a whole summer to sample the fruits of the estate. For more tasty treats, dine on chef Matthew Bremerkamp's farm-fresh fare in the restaurant – we won't blame you if you return to the cellar after dinner too…
Get this when you book through us:
AU$50 spa credit, plus a handmade clove- and cinnamon-scented candle
11am; check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £378.55 (AU$699), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include an à la carte breakfast; specialities include roast peppers, tomatoes (from the garden) and Binnorie Dairy feta on ciabatta, and poached eggs with smoky bacon, tomato chilli jam, wild mushrooms sautéed with spinach and ricotta.
Let Spicers arrange a tasting tour for you at one of the area's many world-class wineries. Or for a more relaxed tour, borrow one of the hotel's bikes and take it for a spin around the neighbouring vineyards.
At the hotel
Vineyards and wine cellar, bocce courts, mountain bikes, outdoor games pavilion, giant chess set, DVD library. In rooms: wood-burning fireplace, flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock, free WiFi, Appelles toiletries, air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water and tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Our favourite rooms
Make the most of your vine-side setting in a King Spa Rooms which has a shared terrace, or a Luxury Spa Suite with a private balcony, both overlooking the vineyard and mountains in the distance. Families and friends travelling together should stay at the luxurious, four-bedroom Vineyard's House, which offers over 200sq m of private space, and has a private pool and barbecue – the ideal spot for a get together.
We can imagine spending many long afternoons soaking in the sun by the outdoor pool. If you're a warm-water person, head to the small spa pool.
Spa Anise is the go-to sanctuary for a range of therapies, all of which harness the benefits of Australian-made Waterlily products. Relax with an aromatherapy massage, rejuvenate with an anti-ageing vino-therapy facial, and flush out any toxins with a purifying walnut scrub, and a blue volcanic clay, cypress and grapefruit wrap. Add some extra spice to your treatment with a mini manicure or a head massage. If you find it hard to choose between the long list of tempting treatments, splash out on one of their rituals; we particularly like the sound of the Vineyards Signature Vino Spa Ritual which includes a champagne sorbet full-body scrub, a hydrating moisturiser with molten cacao and pure vanilla bean, and a vino facial enriched with shiraz, pomegranate, fig and organic chocolate – sounds good enough to eat…
A moleskin diary for jotting down notes on your favourite drops; riding gear for hikes in the country and binocular for spying out the sights from a hot-air balloon.
One of the ground-floor Luxury Spa Suites has a bathroom specially adapted for disabled guests.
Children of all ages are welcome to stay in Vineyard's House, although there's nothing specially geared towards kids here as this is more of an adults' retreat.
Food miles are kept to a minimum at this eco-minded estate, with a vegetable garden, resident pigs and grapevines all within the grounds. Recycling, solar power and mountain bikes for guests add to the green appeal.
Nab one of the tables by the window for uninterrupted vine vistas. If it's not too hot, the veranda perches are prime.
This is one of the Hunter's leading eateries, so smart casual is the way to roll.
With a veggie patch and resident pigs, chef Matthew Bremerkamp has culinary inspiration on tap. Restaurant Botanica's contemporary à la carte menu is loaded with lip-smacking dishes, such as house-made charcuterie and Wagyu beef cheek with smoky chorizo, ras el hanout, celeriac, cauliflower and heirloom carrots, to be paired with the estate's selection of fine wines. Foodies should splash out on the seasonal Signature tasting menu. Earthy tones and floor-to-ceiling windows offering serene vineyard views make for a relaxed setting.
There's no bar as such, but their climate-controlled wine cellar at the back of the restaurant hold many a pre- or post-prandial drink. From the 350-strong wine list, choose local gems from Margan, Tyrrell's and the like, or old-world classics from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Breakfast is served 8.30am to 9.30am; lunch is offered on the weekends only, from noon to 3pm; dinner is available Wednesday to Sunday from 6pm till 8.30pm.
Have breakfast brought up to your room until 10.30am. The full restaurant menu is available for in-room dining during the restaurant's opening hours; outside these times, the hotel offer a variety of hampers for you to take your pic(nic) of.
Spicers Vineyards Estate is located in the heart of the Hunter Valley on the south-east coast of Australia.
Domestic travellers fly into Newcastle Airport, situated 50 minutes away from the hotel. If flying from further afield, fly direct to Sydney. Call our Smith24 team of travel experts to book your flights and arrange airport transfers (included in booking).
Maitland Station is a 35-minute drive from the hotel. From there, the Hunter Line runs between Newcastle on the coast and Dungog and Scone inland. Connect in Hamilton for a train south to Sydney.
Wheels are invaluable when touring this sprawling wine region. Our Smith24 team can arrange a rental for you to pick up at the airport; it's an easy drive from Sydney up the F3 freeway (National Route 1) to the Hunter Valley. The hotel has free on-site parking.
Arrive in style by charting a helicopter from the airport to the hotel. Call our Smith24 team to organise your private charter.
Worth getting out of bed for
Fromage fans are well catered for in the Hunter Valley. Binnorie Dairy is brimming with creamy delights, including tubs of tangy labneh (yoghurt cheese) and the sinfully good Duetto, a creamy blend of gorgonzola and mascarpone. Snap up cheeses from around the world, along with crackers, gourmet groceries and ice-creams at the Smelly Cheese Shop at Tempus Two winery. Work off the cheese with a hike through dense forestry and along mountainsides on the Great North walk in Watagans National Park, or through the bush on the ominously-named Deadmans Trail – don't worry, it's far nicer than the name suggests – at Werakata National Park. Alternatively, discover the landscape on horseback. Having explored the land, take to the skies on a hot-air ballooning tour to view Hunter Valley in all it's rolling-pastures glory: Balloon Aloft,Cloud 9 Balloon Flights and Hunter Valley Ballooning offer smooth flights followed by champagne and breakfast. For a topsy-turvy, upside down view of Newcastle's sandy beaches and the Hunter Valley pastures, board one of the old army planes at Aerohunter and take an aerobatic ride through the air. There are multiple golf courses nearby; go fore it at Branxton Golf Club or Cessnock Golf Club, both less than a 30-minute drive away. If you're travelling with kids in tow, explore where the wild things are at Hunter Valley Zooand visitHunter Valley Gardens where children can burn off excess energy among the 60 acres of mazes and statue-scattered grounds.
There are plenty of top-notch eateries within easy reach of the hotel. Soaring ceilings, sweeping views of vineyards and sensational seasonal Australian cuisine make Muse Dining a standout choice; all their produce comes from nearby farms and suppliers, and they also have a kids' menu. Overlooking Tallavera Grove in Mount View, Bistro Molines is the latest bastion of local legend Robert Molines. This noted chef handles French and Italian classics with aplomb, such as rabbit rillettes, saffron risotto and crème brûlée. The Cellar Restaurant in the Hunter Valley Gardens, offers alfresco dining in summer and fireside feasting in winter. Generous portion sizes and a hefty wine list add to the appeal. A 20-minute drive away in the sleepy town of Broke, Margan Restaurant delivers punchy Mediterranean fare using produce from the kitchen garden. The award-winning wine list features global heavy-weights and must-try Margan vintages.
Follow up your bacon and eggs or vegetable linguine at Cafe Enzo with a quick spin around the antiques store. Tuck into a bucket of prawns, or a great fish and chips in the breezy lakeside pavilion of Leaves and Fishes. Setting the standard for Italian fare in the area, Cracked Pepper is serves crispy thin pizzas and home-made, melt-in-the-mouth pastas inspired by flavours from Sardinia, Campania and southern Italy.
People have been growing wine here since the 1820s, so you're never far from somewhere to quench your thirst (well, sort of). Known for his pristine pinot grigio and old-vine sémillon, the old wine barn at David Hook Wines is a lovely spot for watching the sun set over the vines. The Small Winemakers' Centreis a one-stop shop for boutique producers; we recommend you try Andrew Harris' sublime Braemore sémillon and the Little Wine Company's floral gewürztraminer. The cellar doors are always open for travellers in search of a tasty tipple at Tyrrell's Wines on Broke Road; the winery tour kicks off at 10.30am (AU$5 a person and kids go free). Sample their legendary Graveyard shiraz and other note-worthy drops at Brokenwood; keep an eye on their website for events on during your stay, if the dates align, don't miss their wine dinner.
We know we’re in wine country when the cars in front of ours start to weave a little. It’s a sure sign the cares of the city have been left behind and a grape escape awaits. The mid-afternoon sun is melting buttery light across the vineyards as we cruise the Broke Road into Pokolbin, a hamlet of the Hunter Valley two hours north of Sydney.
As hawks wheel overhead seeking dusk degustations and mobs of kangaroos bound down to dams to drink, our own appetites are awakened to echo those of the wildlife. The Hunter is famously kind to the gatherer and we’re already laden with cheeses, breads, dips, olives and cured meats from the Valley’s many artisan boltholes when we pull into the sweeping driveway of Spicers Vineyards Estate for a weekend of gourmet grazing, vintage neck oiling, op shops and golf.
Set over two levels amid undulating hillsides and tawny eucalypt thickets, Spicers offers eight suites, six on the ground floor and two tucked above (we’re in a King Spa Suite). Each comes with a king-size bed, its own fireplace and Jacuzzi, and a complimentary minibar.
We’re not newlyweds but there are rituals to be observed in such luxurious surrounds. So we jump on the bed like kids full of cordial, run the tub taps full blast, leave the cheese to ripen in the steam, and pop our free bottle of bubbles to drink a toast to breaking city limits and leaving suburban mayhem far behind.
An idyllic hour later we’ve done the biz with the fizz and paid homage to the fromage. All that’s left is to don robes, coax the fire aflame, peruse the movie library and let nature take its course….
A squall of birdsong gently bugles us back to consciousness the next morning. Outside dawn is breaking over the dew soft as a lover’s sigh over the Spicers estate. We take our time emerging from a deep slumber then stroll down to breakfast.
Glassed off, sun soaked and overlooking the serene vista of the Spicers vineyards, Restaurant Botanica is as organic as it sounds. And as the first tremors of caffeine stir the blood and house-made spinach-fetta quiches come and go, equilibrium is restored and life is enhanced. Who says photosynthesis is strictly for plants?
Other guests lope in – a young couple facing up to their first day as man and wife, the slightly worse-for-wear BMW boys we tailed tipsily into town, an older duo as seasoned as the wines they rhapsodise about. Most are so rapt with their Parisian breakfast they don’t extend to hot breakfast. We extend. Poached eggs gush molten orange, the bacon curls crispy yet yielding and the tri-mushroom heap is fungi at its finest.
But it’s the sublime bedrock of bread that elevates this feast into fantasia. When we enquire of the waitress what noble bakery yielded so amazing a loaf, she smiles and beckons us to the Botanica cellar. There, nestled in a temperature-controlled adjunct to the dining room, is a tub of 150-year-old, San Francisco-sourced sourdough yeast bubbling its way to brilliance in time for dinner.
Turns out there’s even richer pickings in Botanica’s back paddock – a garden flush with rhubarb, radish, zucchini, eggplant, snowpeas, strawberries, parsley, pumpkin and lettuce. As we marvel at outsized fruit sun-ripening on the fence posts, three pigs shuffle up to snuffle hello. It’s the Spicers swine – Salami, Crackle and Chop Chop – beasts bluntly named but destined for the sharp end of Botanica chef Mark Stapleton’s ambitions (and smokehouse) in the months to come.
Sure enough, after a day giddily pin-balling between tastings at neighbouring vineyards Piggs Peake and Tintilla Estate, lunch at Keith Tulloch Wine’s Muse Kitchen and an afternoon horse ride through the Valley, we return to Botanica for a three-course dinner. And after kingfish ceviche, grilled spatchcock and seared scallops with matching wines comes a heady hunk of grass-fed beef with a fleck of speck atop. Oh, Crackle!
But this is Spicers. So we dig in and pig out, savouring the taste of dying happy and living well. Oink!