Australian wine is world-famous for its diversity and full bodied temperament. One of the most notable wine producing regions to explore is the Hunter Valley, located 150 kilometres to the north of Sydney. Its close proximity to Sydney makes it ideal for a country day trip, allowing you to enjoy the fresh produce, gourmet restaurants, and walking trails in the area. Naturally, you'll also want to pay a visit to some of the 150 wine producers that call this region home.
One option is to visit the Hunter Valley with an organised tour. These tend to depart from Sydney on a daily basis, and will vary in terms of itinerary and budget. A self-guided tour lets you further customise your trip to the Hunter Valley, however, so you can see the sights at your own pace and enjoy a leisurely drive through the countryside. The most direct route is via the F3 freeway, taking about two hours if departing from Sydney. Drivers can follow this highway to the Cessnock/Hunter Valley exit. Another option is to take the tourist route T33, which is a more scenic journey passing through the historic village of Wollombi and scenic mountain ranges along the way. The roads are well tended, so you won't need a 4X4 to access this region. In fact, you may want to check the Chopper scooters prices on Bikesales and explore the Hunter Valley in true European style on the back of a scooter!
What to Do
As mentioned above, one of the top draws to the Hunter Valley are the wineries and cellar doors. Many of these are open to the public, allowing you to drop by and taste the local Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon that has made the region famous. If you plan on driving back to Sydney in the same day, don't forget to spit out the wine after you've tasted it or you may find yourself unable to drive. This fertile region is also known for its fresh fruits and vegetables, locally produced cheese, and olives. The Pukara Estate makes a variety of olive oils on-site, including flavoured blends with wasabi or garlic. You can stop and taste a range of these olive oils after touring the factory to see how this local oil is made. Cheese lovers won't want to miss a visit to the Hunter Belle cheese factory, located on the New England Highway on the path to Muswellbrook. Learn how the local cheese is made, try some samples, and purchase a wedge to complement your olive oil and wine.
The Hunter Valley is also a region rich with arts and culture. For something a bit different, pay a visit to the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre. This gallery features photography from local artists as well as indigenous paintings. Travelling exhibitions are also displayed in this arts centre, which provides insight into local mining culture. For those interested in exploring the great outdoors, there are numerous bushwalks in the area. However, one of the most intriguing is up Burning Mountain. This formerly active volcano still retains a smell of sulphur, and walkers are rewarded with panoramic views over the Hunter Valley from the top.
Whether you only have an afternoon or a full week, there's plenty to see and do in the Hunter Valley. Don't forget to stock up on all of the lush local gourmet products to bring back home.
Photos by lockthegate and paularps via Flickr Creative Commons