Intersected by the winding Hunter River, flanked by highland areas to the north and south, and home to the country's oldest vineyards, and a mere three hours north of Sydney, and two hours from Newcastle, it is easy to see why the Hunter Valley continues to be such a popular holiday destination as well as the largest growth centre in the state of New South Wales. For those considering a holiday at Seaside Holiday Resort in Fingal Bay, the Hunter Valley is only a two-hour drive away and makes a perfect destination for a day trip.
A mecca for the Wine Lovers
It’s impossible not to associate the Hunter Valley with vineyards and wine. After all, the Hunter Valley is in fact the birthplace of Australian wine as far back as the early 1800s, and it was here that Australia truly established itself as a wine-making country. Its Mediterranean climate makes it the ideal spot due to its similarity to Europe's finest wine-growing regions. Whether you’re a connoisseur or just enjoy the occasional plonk, there’s no doubt you’ll love visiting the beautiful Hunter Valley and sampling wines direct from the cellar door.
Tyrrell's Wines, Pokolbin. Image via Destination NSW.
There is certainly no shortage of cellar door tastings to be had, and it can be somewhat overwhelming with over 150 to choose from. Pokolbin is a great place to start, and our recommendations are the accessible Brokenwood Wines, boasting the largest cellar door in the region, along with their distinguished five-star wines including the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz and ILR Reserve Semillon. For a little bit of wine-making history, you can't go past Tyrrell's Wines, this traditional, family own and run winery have won more awards than you can poke a stick at, and run tastings and winery tours seven days a week. If you only have time for one-stop, but still want to sample drops from the region's various boutique wineries, the Wine House Hunter Valley might be the way to go. They offer a discovery tasting or can cater to individual palettes. Bookings are recommended for all visits to cellar doors to avoid disappointment.
Brokenwood Wines, Pokolbin. Image via Destination NSW.
And if the wine becomes too much and you start to crave a frothy, never fear, the Hunter Valley is also known for its award-winning breweries such as the renowned Hope Estate (also one of the region's iconic concert venues that has seen the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, and The Who, not to mention all the local artists and festivals that are held there), Peter Dreyton Wines & Iron Bark Hill Brewhouse, and Matilda Bay Brewhouse Hunter Valley which can all be found in Pokolbin, and the Sydney Brewery Hunter Valley in Lovedale.
Although it is an easy day trip from Seaside Holiday Resort to make on your own, if you prefer someone to do the driving for you, Heavenly Tours operates three-quarter and full-day Hunter Valley winery tours for those holidaying on the coast in Port Stephens, straight to and from your door. Sit back and enjoy a selection of cellar door wine tastings, along with included cheese and chocolate tasting, as well as lunch.
Wine Tasting at Tyrrell's Wines, Pokolbin. Image via Destination NSW.
An Epicurean Dream
The rich, fertile lands here in the Hunter Valley don’t just help to grow some of the country’s best wines. The restaurants in the region are equally award-winning with a strong focus on using fresh, in-season, and locally grown produce. The Hunter Valley is an epicurean dream, with its restaurants boasting all the flavour and presentation you can expect from the finest metropolitan establishments.
Cheese lovers will need to visit the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory for a cheese tasting, and pick up a hamper or some cheese for later from The Artisan Cheese Room, or sample a range of local cheeses, along with their own 'smelly' range, at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop, all of which are located in Pokolbin, and Binnorie Dairy in Lovedale. For the sweet tooths amongst us, the region is also known for its fine chocolate. Head to Donarch Fine Chocolate in Tenambit, and Cocoa Nib and Hunter Valley Chocolates in Pokolbin.
Cheese plate at Binnorie Dairy, Pokolbin. Image via Destination NSW.
Feeling a little more peckish than a tasting? Then start your day at Two Fat Blokes Gourmet Tours and Kitchen or Cru Bar + Pantry at Brokenwood Wines in Pokolbin, or The Deck Cafe in Lovedale for breakfast or lunch. There are plenty of exquisite dining experiences to be had in the Hunter Valley and to be honest, we had a hard time selecting just a few. In Pokolbin, the award-winning Muse offers two dining spaces, formal or casual, so can be the perfect spot for a romantic diner or for the whole family; EXP. Restaurant is a hidden gem that offers an interactive dining experience due to its open bar space and is located in a historic cottage surrounded by picturesque grounds, the iconic Circa 1876, or in Rothbury you will find the award-winning Esca at Bimbadgen with its entrance almost as impressive as the view from your table.
Australian fine dining cuisine at EXP. Restaurant, Pokolbin. Image via Destination NSW.
Make sure you check the schedule and visit the Handmade in the Hunter Markets that are held outdoors in the picturesque rose-lined gardens of the award-winning Sobel Wines in Pokolbin. Chat to the makers and growers of a variety of local artisan food, wine, and craft creations, and enjoy the wares and atmosphere. The markets are organised to work in conjunction with other major events in the region, allowing you to plan your activities to coincide with market days.
Try your hand at the outdoor Vibrant Thai Street Food or Low and Slow Smoking cooking classes at Lovedale Smokehouse & Majors Lane Cooking School while visiting to learn a new culinary skill or two.
Whatever foodie experience is your cup of tea, it is recommended that you book ahead to avoid missing out.
Adventures for the Family
If you think you need to be a wine drinker to visit the Hunter Valley, you’d be sorely mistaken. The Hunter Valley is a great destination for everyone with plenty to do for big and little kids alike. A must-do is a visit the Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin to immerse yourself in the ten themed gardens that span eight kilometres of walking tracks including the Storybook Garden which is a favourite amongst the kids, the oriental garden and the sunken garden just to name a few, visit the shopping village which is home to many of the regions boutique offerings, dining, as well as putt putt golf and a children's playground, or check out their event calendar for some family fun. Another favourite is a stop at the Hunter Valley Zoo to say g’day to the animals, and for the older kids, a meet and greet with a meerkat, lemur or squirrel monkey just to name a few, although advance bookings are essential so that you don't miss out.
The Hunter Valley Gardens. Image via Destination NSW.
For an adventure that can be tailored to suit all members of the family, you can enjoy a horse or pony ride, the peddle go-carts, or ride the tractor to feed the animals with Hunter Valley Horse Riding & Adventures in Rothbury, or in Pokolbin you can relish a carriage tour or ride in the Vineyards with Hunter Valley Horses, or take a riding lesson at Murchessons Horseback Wine and Dine Tours Hunter Valley (yes that's right, they offer a variety of tours and wine tastings for the grown-ups). Sutton Estate Electric Bike Hire has full or half-day bike hires for you to take the whole family out for some sightseeing. Or try something different with a segway winery or wetlands tour with NSW Segway.
Murchessons Horse Wine & Dine Tours, Pokolbin. Image via Destination NSW.
Soak up the scenery onboard your own helicopter with Hunter Valley Helicopters with their scenic flights starting as low as $60 per person, or amp it up with a dining experience or day tour. However, if a little slice of romance or heaven is more your style, take to the skies for the sunrise in an early morning hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft in Pokolbin or Beyond Ballooning in Lovedale, both of which are suitable for families with children aged seven and up.
Hot air balloons flying over vineyards in Pokolbin in Hunter Valley region. Image by Filippo Rivetti via Destination NSW.
The Place for Events
Over the years, the Hunter Region is showing itself as an in-demand event destination with more and more festivals, concerts, and events being held here each year including international acts at Hope Estate and Bimbadgen, to the Hunter Valley Wine Festival, Lovedale Long Lunch, Sculpture in the Vineyards, the various events at the Hunter Valley Gardens, and many, many more. Make sure you check the event calendar before booking your day trip.
The Hunter Valley Gardens. Image via Destination NSW.
Relax like your Life Depends on it
Now more than ever most of us could do with a good pampering. How about booking yourself into a day spa to get yourself into that relaxation holiday mindset (along with those aching muscles). Elysia Wellness Retreat in Pokolbin offers a range of spa and wellness treatments from facials and massages to meditation and naturopathy, or enjoy a package. Reflections Day Spa in Lovedale offers treatments and a range of tailored packages for new mums to be, couples, and more, and the spa packages at Chateau Elan in Rothbury also allow you to use the onsite hydro lounge and plunge pool.
The Barrington Tops National Park
If you find that a walk among nature is more relaxing than a massage, then luckily one of the most amazing National Parks in the country can be found in the upper Hunter Valley. The Barrington Tops National Park is part of Australia's World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforest that spans to Southern Queensland and is home to one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country. This National Park has a long list of walking trails, spectacular views from Careys Peak, Devils Hole, and Thunderbolts lookouts, and waterfalls along the Antarctic Beech Forest Walk and Polblue Falls Walk that will take your breath away.
View from Devils Hole in the Barrington Tops National Park.
Whatever brings you to the Hunter Region, you’ll find this valley of perfection ticks all the boxes. With plenty to do, see, and most importantly, drink and eat, what are you waiting for? Start planning your day trip from Seaside Holiday Resort on the beach at Fingal Bay.