This guest post has been written by Suzanne.
When we think of wine and food travel, we often think of destinations such as France, Italy or the Napa Valley in the US. If your travels are taking you to the east coast of Australia you certainly don’t have to miss out on indulging if you are a wine lover.
During your stay in Sydney you absolutely must spare a couple of days to make the 2.5 hour journey North to the Hunter Valley. You can get there even quicker if you catch a flight to Newcastle airport. You’ll be glad that you did as the Hunter Valley is a wine lover’s paradise with close to 200 wineries (approximately 45 of them with cellar doors you can visit).
There are so many ways you can choose to see them too. The obvious choice is via a minibus tour but you can see the valley in style via a customised chauffer driven limousine or even take things slowly with a horse and carriage ride. If you can get up early in the morning (think 5am!) you can even watch the sunrise from above the valley in a hot air balloon.
The valley is most commonly known for its warm climate and light bodied red wines with Shiraz being the dominant grape variety in the region. Summer in the Hunter Valley can see the temperature rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit so white varietals such as Chardonnay, Semillon and Verdelho are abundant and grow so well in the humid climate and sandy soil.
If you are thinking of the cheap (and nasty!) “grandma” style Chardonnays of the 1980s – think again!
The Hunter produces beautiful fruity Chardonnays (not sweet and not dry) finished in both stainless steel and the European style using French Oak barrels to give hints of vanilla. In fact the French Chardonnay style is making quite a come-back in popularity amongst young Australian’s and many a Hunter Valley chardonnay has changed the minds of travellers in their 20s who thought they would never find themselves taking home a bottle!
If you are looking for accommodation you are also spoilt for choice in the Hunter Valley. The “wine country” area of the Hunter stretches from Wollombi in the South to Singleton in the North with stylish country homes (many with wineries on site) sprinkled almost every 500m in between. The area is quite large and spread out. If you drove from one end to the other it would take you around 1.5 hours!
Options range from large country cottages in remote areas that can accommodate up to 20 adults or compact modern motel-style rooms for couples on resort sites with restaurants and room service just a phone call away. Whatever your budget there are options to make your Hunter Valley visit a reality.
Just be mindful that some areas of the valley are quite remote (such as Wollombi, Laguna, Broke or the Branxton area) and your choices may be limited when it comes to available bus tours to visit the cellar doors. It will also increase your travel time so you may have to be prepared to be on the bus for up to an hour before you are dropped off back to your cottage.
Most of the remote cottages have kitchen facilities (like a serviced apartment) and you’ll need to use them to cook your meals (and of course think ahead and bring groceries) as there probably won’t be restaurants nearby in remote areas.
While these things might sound like a downside to choosing a more remote area for your accommodation, the upside is you will enjoy views of the stars at night that you won’t see in the city, enjoy the fresh country air and a sense of priceless serenity as you sip a glass of Hunter Valley wine on the porch.
Kangaroos roam free on many of the country properties in the area and while they are wild, most of them are used to tourists so they will let you pat them if you approach them slowly and gently. It’s the perfect opportunity to get amazing photos up close with one of Australia’s most iconic animals that will make your Instagram account the envy of your friends back home!
With so many different options for accommodation, tours and activities in the region you can see why the Hunter Valley is far more than just a wine growing area. If you only have a day or 2 to spend here then deciding how to maximise your time can be quite daunting! Check out Hunter Valley Insider for a comprehensive guide to the region. You’ll even find some great suggestions for activities and fantastic food in Sydney too.