Imagine a valley with endless rows of grape vines stitched neatly into the landscape. Add a few sunrises which stretch long shadows across the mist-draped hollows. Hang some colourful hot air balloons in the sky and dot the towns and backroads with boutique wineries. Mix in some 5-star hotels, some 3-star restaurants and a million stars in the night sky. You have just imagined the Hunter Valley. Located a two-hour drive north of Sydney, this is one of Australia’s premier grape-growing areas and boasts a stellar selection of fresh produce paired with exquisite wine and dining options. The luxury hotels of the Hunter Valley spread themselves across a wide variety of locations. You can find boutique retreats attached to tiny, bespoke vineyards, and luxury day spas in little towns full of angle-parked 4WDs and Akubra-hatted locals. You can embark on endless wine-tasting adventures, fill yourself to the gunwales with epicurean delights, or simply sit and watch the world go by over the rim of a coffee cup or a crystal glass of wine. Every single day is perfect in the Hunter Valley. So don’t dream it: come and see it for yourself.
Located two hours north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is Australia’s premium grape-growing region. Foodies will find an incredible array of artisan foods and farm-fresh produce in the Hunter Valley’s markets, restaurants and cafes. There are also some diverse tourist attractions and activities available in the Hunter Valley, and wherever you’re luxury hotel might be located, you will be able to venture out and experience the best things that the Hunter Valley can provide, all with an easy reach.
The best way to appreciate the bucolic landscapes of the Hunter Valley is to soar over them in a hot air balloon. Sunrise is generally the most favourable time to go ballooning. As you drift silently above the patchwork fields, long rows of grapevines, intricately worked paddocks, and sensual hills, you will see the valley come to life in the light of the new day. When you land you’ll be treated to the traditional champagne breakfast that balloonists have enjoyed from the earliest days of the sport. This is a great way to celebrate a romantic anniversary or special occasion with your loved one.
There’s nothing better than plodding along on a horse on a sunny day. There are a number of horse trekking operators in the Hunter Valley. You can choose a ride up into the hills through the sunlit forests, plod lazily along through the vineyards and river valleys, or take a carriage ride through the streets of Pokolbin.
The Hunter Valley is ground zero for foodies, and if you would like to learn the optimum way to cook some of the best produce in the world, the Hunter Valley has a number of different options where you can learn to cook – and then devour – farm-fresh food in all manner of amazing settings. Your chosen luxury hotel may even have a cooking class option at their restaurant.
The ordered and bucolic landscapes of Hunter Valley are overlooked by rugged ranges which preserve some of the largest temperate rainforests in Australia. The Barrington Tops National Park is located in the upper part of the Hunter Valley and is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area. There are some wonderful walks in these ranges, such as the Antarctic Beech Forest walking track, which takes you through sub-alpine forests, and the 1500m climb to the summit of Aeroplane Hill, which takes you through wetlands and woodlands to the stunning views from Careys Peak Lookout.
Ganguddy, also known as Dunns Swamp, is a World Heritage-listed wilderness landscape of mist-draped swamplands, cliffs, gushing rivers, waterfalls and canyons, enclosed by beehive-shaped rock formations. There are guided kayak tours available that will take you into this beautiful area to experience some of its rich and unique Aboriginal heritage.
Most of Australia’s unique fauna is represented in the Hunter Valley Zoo, so if you’ve ever wanted to pet a koala, hand-feed a kangaroo, or wander through an aviary full of screeching, squawking, feathered Australian beauties, the Hunter Valley Zoo is the place to come. Along with the Australian critters, you can also meet white lions, ring-tailed lemurs and cheetahs, and you can hang out with lemurs, meerkats, marmosets, emperor tamarins and squirrel monkeys.
Everyone likes a good pampering and in the Hunter Valley, you will find all manner of spas and retreats which will provide the perfect tonic for your strained city nerves. Many of the local spas offer treatments inspired by local products, and you can book a double treatment room for you and your friend.
If you love coffee, then the Hunter Valley is a great place to potter around hanging out in cafes. Virtually every town and locality will have at least one joint where you can sample your favourite extraction, and if you do nothing else in the Hunter Valley other than drifting from cafe to café, then your time here won’t be wasted. Sampling cafes is a great way for you and your partner to explore the valley and watch the world go by over the rim of your coffee cups.
Surrounded by mountains at the southern end of the Hunter Valley, Wollombi is a charming village of 19th-century sandstone houses, mixed with cafes and an eclectic selection of shops. There is a one-kilometre, self-guided stroll which will take you through the fascinating history of Wollombi, from its Aboriginal heritage to its early days as a convict settlement. The nearby World Heritage Wilderness of Yengo National Park will take you beyond the European history of the area and back into the deepest days of Aboriginal occupation in the area.
If golf is your thing, then you can tee off in all manner of tranquil country golf courses in the Hunter Valley. Many of the courses also offer restaurants so you can combine thwacking tiny white balls around with sampling some of the Hunter Valley’s best cuisine. The Vintage Golf Club in Rothbury, is a Greg Norman-designed championship course, while the course at the Hunter Valley Golf and Country Club is regarded as one of Australia’s best. Many of the clubs offer golf lessons, so if you are an absolute beginner you can get yourself started on your golf and career in the Hunter Valley.