The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s major wine regions and boasts not only some of Australia’s finest Semillon (a white varietal of grape known for being full bodied and not too dissimilar from a Chardonnay – tip, it pairs really well with seafood, pork, chicken and of course as with most wine, cheese). But as a whole the region has a lot to offer and while the main reason you’ll want to go is for the wine, the glorious wine, the beaches along the central coast, up from Sydney are some of the best our beautiful country has to offer and well worth taking the scenic route to stop and enjoy before making your way to the Hunter Valley.
Having recently just spent some time in Newcastle – about an hours drive from The Hunter (as the locals would call it), I fell completely in love with the coastal towns and beaches north of the big bright lights of Sydney. Spending the days sunning myself by the saltwater and indulging in plenty of great food and wine along the way.
No matter whether you’re taking a weekend break, or a longer vacation, getting up to the area should be on your list of must dos.
Best travelled by car if you’re coming from Sydney, head up the M1 along the coast towards Norah Head, where you can stop here grab a coffee or brunch if you’ve got some time up your sleeve at The Ark Cafe – they do a delicious smashed avo. Getting back on the road a few key places you might want to take a sand and saltwater break are, Catherine Hill Bay, Caves Beach, and Merewether. The Merewether Surfhouse has a beautiful cliffside view of the beach and a fantastic restaurant, specialising in local and seasonal produce, the perfect seaside spot to breathe in the view.
Image Credit – Merewether Surfhouse
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re looking for a little luxe in country Australia then you need to stay at Corunna Station and more specifically in the Cooks House at Corunna station a beautiful two-bedroom cottage set on a private rural property with a gorgeous outback landscape. Another option for accommodation while you’re in The Hunter is the luxurious Spicers Vineyards Estate; check into one of their luxury spa suites and be prepared to relax.
They have an onsite spa to rejuvenate and unwind in the heart of this incredible wine region, and a beautiful outdoor pool with a spa and sunbeds if you’re looking to soak in some sunshine.
WHERE TO EAT
If you’re looking for a coffee to get you going first thing in the morning then make sure you duck into Alley Cat Espresso, it’s a quirky hole in the wall cafe with a lot of charm and focus on community and sustainability and, of course, really great coffee. Another good spot for your almond milk cappuccino fix is Enzo Cafe, beautifully designed interiors with not only great coffee but a great place to stay for breakfast, brunch or lunch – oh and it’s set in a winery, so a quick tasting is always on the cards.
Lunch and dinner will creep up on you after a few glasses of vino and the Hunter Valley offers up some exceptional culinary food choices. Margan were the pioneers of agri-dining in the Hunter region, everything on your plate in this restaurant is local – if it isn’t from their onsite veggie garden it is sourced locally, expect fresh high quality dishes here. Another spot to check out is Circa1876, as it states in the name the cottage that this beautiful restaurant lives within dates back to 1876, it’s set within the grounds of The Convent (which is also worth a visit even if you aren’t staying for lunch) they serve anything from a 3-course to a 7-course set menu with wine pairings and an entirely vegetarian degustation on offer too. For something special, book a spot at the Chef’s Table at Emersons Restaurant to experience their 8-course degustation menu; immerse yourself in the action of the kitchen and take a look behind the scenes of this award winning restaurant. It really is a dining experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Image Credit – Audrey Wilkinson Wines
THE IMPORTANT STUFF
Okay, you’re in the hunter, you’re in need of some wine… where to even begin? With so much choice and so many great vineyards and cellar doors it can be a bit of a mindmelt trying map out a day of wine tastings. Make it easy for yourself and book a tour, the best in the business in the area is Two Fat Blokes – they offer group and private tours. Or if you’re keen to head into the vines on your own a couple of standout places are Audrey Wilkinson for over 150 years of winemaking experience and the prettiest and most picturesque views. Usher Tinkler Wines are creating wines that open up discussion, blurring the lines between the traditional and contemporary winemaking and is a must visit for anyone who likes their wines paired with fine cheese and salumi. And finally, Krinklewood, a biodynamic winery where all wines are certified organic.
They offer a unique experience in the Hunter and the perfect place to grab a bottle, sit and enjoy the surrounds of their provencal gardens.
If you were looking for a romantic getaway, a girls’ weekend or simply a city break The Hunter Valley has more than enough going for it to give you that feeling that you’ve escaped, you’ve found something special and it’s yours – even if it is just for the weekend. The beaches on the drive up from the big city will give you that fresh salt air you crave and the Hunter will give you the wine… the good wine. What more could you ask for?
Image Credit – Krinklewood Vineyard
Feature Image Credit – Corunna Station