Plan the Perfect Hunter Valley Itinerary

Trying to create a Hunter Valley Itinerary for a weekend getaway? Today Tia Cole, born and bred local shares her tips for creating the perfect weekend getaway to the NSW premier wine region.

Just over a two hour drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley has so much to give with multiple wineries, idyllic views and unforgettable experiences. This popular wine region will create a perfect retreat for over the next two nights.

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Getting to the Hunter Valley

If you have a car, the Hunter Valley is a simple drive up the A1 and then the M1 to the M15 where signs will direct you to Hunter Wine Country.

If you flew in from Sydney CBD, the Hunter Valley provides a multitude of travel options for your visit:

  • iHop Hunter Valley – iHop is a Hop-on, Hop-off Hunter Valley bus service in central Pokolbin. With 14 different stops giving you access to 40 venues, including the Hunter Valley Shopping Village and Roche Estate, iHop runs on an hourly schedule makign it easy to move between Hunter Valley destinations. Book iHop with the online booking service by 5pm for the following day to secure your position on the bus pickup.
  • Pokolbin Hire Cars – Pokolbin Hire Cars create a personalised experience by offering to pick you up from Sydney or Newcastle airport and take you to your Hunter Valley accommodation and are prepared to drop you back to the airport when it is time.
  • Hertz Car Rentals Cessnock – Hunter Valley’s central town, Cessnock, provides a range of car rental businesses, including Hertz Car Rentals.
  • Sutton Estate Electric Bike Hire – Sutton Estate Electric Bike Hire has the option to hire their motor-assisted bikes for either a full day (10am-4:30pm) and half day hire (4 hours) with training on arrival.
  • Uber – Uber operates although it’s hard to get in busy times
  • Bus – From Maitland, you can connect to a regular bus service, which will take you to Cessnock and Pokolbin.

Day 1 – Arrival, Accommodation and Adventure

Evening – Arrival at the Hunter Valley Resort

So you have arrived after a long hard week at work (or peaceful day preparing). Begin your getaway in the centrally located Mecure Hunter Valley Gardens hotel.

The generously sized room surround a central swimming pool which is the perfect spot to cool down after a day of summer wine tastings.

The pool at Mecure Hunter Valley Gardens
The pool at Mecure Hunter Valley Gardens

The hotel has a nice bar area and a large restaurant which is handy if you don’t feel lunch driving in the evening. However what we like most about it is the location. You can walk to 3 or 4 tasting venues, including Brokenwood, Tempus and McGuigan’s without having to get in the car.

Mecure Hunter Valley Gardens bar area
Mecure Hunter Valley

The Hop on Hop off bus stop is across the road at Roche Estate. We had a really comfortable stay here recently and I high recommend it.

Dinner – Amanda’s On The Edge

With only an 7-minute drive through the valley, you can watch the sun set over the striking landscape of the Windsor’s Edge Vineyards either cozied up by the fireplace during the Winter or out on the divine alfresco in the warmer months.

Amanda’s On The Edge restaurant offers incredible modern Australian meals from entrée through to dessert. This restaurant is perfect for special occasions, with its striking décor, sweeping views, and friendly staff.

The menu is large enough to offer something for everyone but if you are vegetarian they offer a fantastic 3 course vegetarian menu deal, with vegan options, that includes a bottle of local hunter valley wine to share. This delicious experience is a great way to begin of your magical two-night stay.

Day 2 – A Magical Day for Two

Morning – Watch the sunrise with on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

View Australia in a different light as you begin your day with Balloon Aloft where you will enjoy a one-hour, picturesque hot-air balloon ride. Watch the sunrise illuminate the rolling hills between the hunter valley vineyards and light up an unobscured bird’s-eye view of the Brokenback Ranges as you rise above.

After this serene adventure, they will take you to Peterson House restaurant where you will be treated to a menu of mouth-watering, gourmet breakfast choices along with a selection of sparkling wine tasting options on their tasting menu.

Breakfast in the hunter valley at Petersons
Champagne for breakfast? Why not! At Peterson House

Book your hot air balloon experience with a delicious breakfast as a reward for braving your fear of heights!

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Midmorning – The Hunter Valley Gardens and a trip to the village

Head on over and visit the award-winning Hunter Valley Gardens where each of the 10 themed gardens highlights the artistry of garden culture from around the world, including the famous Storybook Garden.

A waterfall in the scenic Sunken Garden located at Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin.
One of the 10 themed gardens at Hunter Valley Gardens

Depending on the time of year you are visiting, the Hunter Valley Gardens often hold breathtaking events, including their Christmas Lights Spectacular from the months of November-January, where the gardens are dazzled in light art and food trucks are available with tasty treats. If you would like to experience the Christmas Lights Spectacular, we recommend coming back when the sun goes down, where you will be amazed.

Hunter Valley Gardens hedges
Manicured hedges of the Border Garden in Hunter Valley Gardens Credit: Destination NSW

If time permits, the Hunter Valley Shopping Village is only a short walk away where you can explore unique shops, such as the British Lolly Shop where you can devour real English chocolate and sweets right here in Australia, including 9 different Bon Bons, colourful Flying Saucers, and delicious Double Deckers.

At the Garden Cellars, you can try a range of beers as they have the largest beer tasting options in the region, or you can sample flavoursome wines and liqueurs. Have a wonder and see what other unique things you will discover in the village.

Afternoon Lunch – Have a ‘Picnic Among the Vines’

Your trip to the hunter wouldn’t be complete without visiting Audrey Wilkinson Cellar Doors. Treat yourself with a relaxed lunch for two where you will pick up a divine picnic hamper created for your romantic weekend, along with a bottle of handpicked wine.

With over 270 acres, beginning perched atop the stunning cellar door and overlooking the Brokenback ranges, you can immerse yourself in the vineyards and enjoy a private escape.

Audrey Wilkinson Estate
Audrey Wilkinson Estate

Once you have satisfied your taste buds amongst the astounding scenery, be spoilt as you take part in a master class with premium wine tastings directed by the in-house wine expert. Matching wines will have never been so divine.

Prebook a Hunter Valley Picnic and surprise your partner

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Dinner – The Choice is yours

Let’s end the day and fill your bellies with your choice of dining options near your hotel. Right behind the property is The Wood, the restaurant at Brokenwood winery which focuses on local and seasonal produce. I loved that we could reach the restaurant on foot from the Mecure car park where there is a short cut!

They also have a raw bar which as a fabulous range of snacks to enjoy with wine if you are not hungry enough for a 2 course meal.

Brokenwood Restaurant
The Wood restaurant at Brokenwood Estate is next door to your hotel

For a more laid-back experience, Goldfish Hunter Valley Restaurant is a great choice. They offer a mix of small and large share plates or stand alone mains if you prefer not to share! The. Browse the drink menu where you can enjoy cocktails, locally brewed beers and ciders, and some of the Hunter Valley’s best wines on offer.

If you feel you have seized the day and just want to head up to your hotel and visit Elements Restaurant.

Day 3 – The Perfect End to a Hunter Valley Weekend

Breakfast – Cafe Enzo

It’s a short drive to Cafe Enzo, one of my favourite Polkolbin options. Located in Peppers Creek Village, they have a lovely outdoor dining area perfect for a sunny morning or on cooler days you can grab a table. Stick to a healthy bowl of fruit and museli or dig into a big breakfast, either way you can’t go wrong.

Cafe Enzo garden at Pepper Creek Estate
Cafe Enzo is a top breakfast choice

After breakfast take a look at the other retailers in the small complex. One of my favourite is Pukara Estate, I find it impossible to leave here without a bottle or two. Try their guava vinegar, it’s awesome on salads or in sparking water!

Olive oil and vinegar tasting at Pukara Estate

Morning – Hunter Valley Horse Riding

Breathe in the fresh air as you take in the astonishing views of Pokolbin as you ride through the flourishing vineyards with the Horseback Vineyard Trail Ride. This leisurely paced ride is perfect for beginners as it is designed so you can embrace the panoramic scenery.

Private tours are also available if you would prefer a more intimate adventure. This option is 2 hours of breath-taking views and fresh air brushing against your skin.

Lunch – Cheese, Wine and all things divine

In the heart of wine country is Roche Estate, where you can fill your bellies with a good meal at the Smelly Cheese Shop and enjoy wine matching at your winery visit to the famous Tempus Two Cellar Door.

Enjoy cheese tasting with the finest, local, Australian and imported Artisan gourmet cheese at the Smelly Cheese Shop. Their extensive menu items include everything cheese. Grazing platters, pizza, baguettes, burgers, and more.

Complement your cheese tasting with the finer things in life. Tempus Two is an award-winning cellar door where you can enjoy wine tasting with a range of elegant, hand-crafted wines.

Tempus Two Hunter Valley tasting room
Tempus Two Tasting Room

Goodbye, until next time

Now you know how much there is to do in the Hunter Valley Region of Australia, you will be able to drop by on your next trip and indulge on even more adventures and tastings as you fill your soul with more incredible memories.

Want more ideas? Check out Tia’s list of Things to Do in the Hunter Valley

About the Author: Tia Cole is always looking for her next adventure. Whether it’s hiking through native bushland, swimming at the beach or lifting heavy at the gym, she is down for anything that will teach her something new about the world. Tia is also a lover of the little things. Find her sipping a vanilla latte, playing with her cheeky pup Skylah, or writing away on her laptop.

Main image credit: Destination NSW

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