Taking a Hunter Valley Wine Tour From Sydney

Are you thinking about taking a Hunter Valley Wine Tour from Sydney? Before you decide which operator to book, it helps to know a little about the Hunter region and the experiences available. We have family living in the region and regular visitors, so today we are going to share our best tips for choosing a Hunter Valley tour so you can decide with confidence.

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With almost 200 years of winemaking history and over 150 wineries, a visit to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region is a popular day trip from Sydney. We have done the hard work (hours of research and yes, more than a little wine tasting!) to help you narrow down the choice of the best Hunter Valley tour and wine tasting experiences.

Why you should visit the Hunter Valley?

A day trip to the Hunter Valley is an interesting way to see the New South Wales countryside while spoiling yourself with some of our finest food and wines.

  • The Hunter is the oldest wine region in Australia with 200 years of winemaking history.
  • The fertile land here also produces some excellent food, including olives, cheese and dairy products.
  • There are also quite a lot of breweries and distilleries here, meaning everyone; even non-wine lovers can join in
  • The region has plenty of other attractions, from manicured gardens to racing tracks and spas; there is plenty to do and see here.
  • Over 2.5 million people visit annually, and it is the most popular day trip from Sydney after the Blue Mountains.

Where is the Hunter Valley?

The Hunter Valley is located 200 km north-west of Sydney or 65km from Newcastle. The drive from Sydney takes approx two hours, but on a tour bus, you need to add a little longer with pickups and traffic. From Newcastle, the trip is about an hour.

What types of wine is the Hunter famous for?

The region is world renown for its award-winning Semillon and Shiraz. Chardonnay and Verdelho are also among the top wines here. Newer varieties that have begun to show promise over recent decades include Tempranillo and Sangiovese.

When is the best time to visit the Hunter Valley? 

Is there a best time? Well, I have a favourite, autumn, but each season has something to offer; the excitement of harvest, the colours of spring and autumn and the crisp winter temperatures perfect for red wine by the fireplace. The area enjoys a Mediterranean climate.

Wine grapes on the vine in Hunter Valley
Red wine grapes in a before harvest

Spring – September to November (average 25.7°C/ 78.2°F)*  – vines begin to bud, and a lovely light green appears across the valley, gardens are colourful, and the weather is pleasant

Summer – December to February (average 31.2°C /88.1°F) – harvest time, which usually begins mid-January – it’s very hot! There is a good buzz about the place and lots of visitors.

Autumn – March to May (average 23.5°C /63.6°F) – Autumn wins my pick for the best mix of weather, crowds and the stunning red and gold foliage. It’s an excellent time for photography.

Winter – June to August (average 17.6°C /63.6°F) – Perfect red wine drinking weather. Cooler temperatures make a visit more comfortable.

*daytime average temperatures

Things to remember about visiting the vineyards

  • The minimum drinking age in Australia is 18 years
  • Closed-toe shoes are required for winery tours
  • Weekends are the busiest, so if you have the option to go on Monday or Thursday, this is a good choice. Some places close Tues and Wed so avoid these days.
  • Sometimes less is more – tastings at two vineyards that are not rushed is often far more enjoyable than four hurried tastings.

What’s usually included in a wine tasting tour?

The basic Hunter Valley tour itinerary includes:

  • Return travel from Sydney
  • Wine tastings at three cellar doors – usually 3-4 types of wines at each
  • Behind-the-scenes vineyard tour
  • Some food tasting, usually cheese and chocolate
  • Transport in an air-conditioned minibus
  • Cold storage of any purchases you make

Things that vary between operators:

  • Lunch – included or not, fine dining or picnic style, with or without a drink?
  • The number of drinks offered beyond tastings
  • The quality of the guide and knowledge shared during the tour
  • The size and comfort level of the bus used
  • The style of vineyard visited, boutique or commercial
  • Is a stop to see a wildlife park or kangaroo spotting in the wild included?
  • Is the tour adults only or are children allowed to join?
  • Private winery tours

Looking at the pickup locations can give you an idea of who the tour is targeted at. If the stops include a bunch of backpackers or only picks up at Central Station it will likely cater to a young market.

Hunter Valley Wine Tour tasting room
Wine tasting at the cellar door 

Even if you are not a tour lover, these tours of wine country make sense because drink driving laws in Australia are very strict and on a tour there is no need for a designated driver, meaning everyone can enjoy the day.

What type of Hunter Valley day tours are available?

So how do you choose which type of tour is best for you? Well, hopefully, these classifications will help. I have based these on my personal experience of escorting groups to the Hunter for over 15 years. Most of my tours have been with budget and backpackers groups, so this is my primary experience although I have done several mid-range and one luxury tour.

There are three main types of Hunter Valley tours, and the major difference between them is the level of comfort and inclusions. All include some excellent wines and a couple of food stops.

Budget and backpacker Hunter Valley Tours

These tours are designed for backpackers or those who want a general visit. Transport is usually by minibus. These vehicles that are perfectly safe but not the most comfortable.

  • The itineraries include mainstream venues, often larger vineyards where the level of customer service can be less personal than the smaller vineyards (of course there are exceptions to this).
  • The wines you are given to taste on the budget tours may not be as good as those on the more upmarket tours.
  • Lunch stops on these budget tours are not fancy and mostly offer club or pub food. That is not to say it is bad, it is usually quite good, but it is not a gourmet food experience. It might be pizza or pasta or might be chicken and salad.
  • You will typically have a couple of non-wine spots, often chocolate or cheese. They also often include a brewery or distillery.

These wine tours are not particularly educational, but they are usually lots of fun. They are best suited to laid-back travellers who are happy to be tasting some wine and seeing the countryside.

Mid-range and luxury winery tours

If you are visiting the Hunter Valley as a wine lover with a strong interest in Australian wine or want to treat yourself to a nice meal with your tour, then consider one of these.

  • Mid-priced tours and above tend to take you to boutique properties and include a more expensive meal.
  • The group sizes can be smaller or larger depending on the operator. Large buses offer a higher level of comfort on the long ride up, and this may appeal to some.
  • On these tours, you are likely to get more information from your driver about the region and Australia’s winemaking history.

I am not a fan of big bus tours generally, but the high-end ones I have listed on this page cover the area very well and offer an excellent experience.

Private Hunter Valley winery tours

Private wine tours are perfect for anyone passionate about wine collecting or those who love the generally like to spoil themselves a little.

  • These tours are usually escorted in very comfortable four-wheel drives or larger passenger vans. 
  • There is a strong focus on showcasing the area and its unique offerings, and the level of customer service is very high. 
  • You may have some ability to suggest particular wineries if you have any that you have discovered and want to visit.

The operators of these tours are generally very passionate about the region and likely know many of the winemakers, helping to create a more relaxed visit. If money is no object, this should be your choice!

Hunter Valley Tours departing from Sydney

Autopia Tours – Wine Tour with 3 Tastings and Garden Lunch

Duration: 10 hours | Max group size: 14 | Book this tour

Autopia’s wine tour with garden lunch offers:

  • Tastings at three boutique wineries
  • Tastings of local cheeses
  • A visit to Hunter Valley Gardens
  • Shop and small tasting at Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory

Who is this tour best suited to? This tour appeals to budget travellers and backpackers who are looking for a fun day out with good quality stops. The wineries visited change depending on the day and season. Under 18s are not permitted on this tour.

Check tour availability 

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Colourful Collective – Hunter Valley Tour with Lunch & Distillery

Duration: 11 hours | Max group size: 14 | Book this tour

Zephyr offers a fun day out with quality guides. The itinerary changes daily to provide the best experience possible and there is a focus on boutique wineries.

  • Visit three wineries (often Blueberry Hill, Irongate and Mount View Estate)
  • Enjoy a visit to Hunter Distillery an organic distillery (vodka, gin and schnapps)
  • Beer tasting at Potters Brewery
  • Local cheese tasting and chocolate tasting
  • 1-course lunch with a glass of wine, beer or soft drink

This tour is best suited to those who are looking for a fun day out, singles or groups will enjoy this one as there is a focus on making sure everyone is having fun. No under 18s allowed on this tour.

Check the availability of this tour

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Kangaroos in the Hunter Valley
Kangaroos are almost always spotted on a Hunter Valley visit.

Mid-range and luxury Hunter Valley Tours

These tours usually include more boutique wineries, better quality food stops, and a gourmet lunch. You can also usually count on a nicer vehicle.

Chef-Led Hunter Valley Gourmet Food and Wine Day Trip

Duration: 12 hours | Max group size: 14 | Book this tour

This tour is perfect for food lovers with a couple of stops en route to the Hunter that you will love. You start the day at the Sydney Fish Market where chef Jimmy gives you a quick tour and collects supplies for the incredible lunch he will prepare while you are wine tasting.

On the way, you stop off at the Hawkesbury River for where you take a short walk while Jimmy cooks up a fresh breakfast.

On arrival in the Hunter, you will visit some really special wineries and dine on food prepared by Jimmy to complement each wine.

  • Small-group tour with no more than 14 participants
  • Visit 3 boutique wineries and meet the locals/ owners/ winemakers and sample wines at all three cellar doors.
  • Freshly barbecued or prepared food to be paired with specific wines at the second and third winery.

This tour is best for food lovers who want a relaxed day enjoying the best the region has to offer. This is one of the few tours that allows children 4 years and over.

This is my preferred tour – check availability here

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Hunter Valley Tours from Cessnock and Pokolbin

If you decide you don’t want to rush your time in the valley, then why not stay overnight? Several operators pick up from the surrounding areas, and there is also a Hop on Hop off bus letting you have a full day of food and wine without all that time on the bus.

Two Fat Blokes – Small-Group Boutique Winery & Providore Tour

Duration: 8 hours | Max group size: 14 | Book this tour  

Two locals who walk the talk runs this tour, the “two fat blokes” operate Deli and Kitchen in the Hunter and have been running trips since 2008. This is a food lovers tour that I highly recommend for anyone who wants a local experience and is staying in the Hunter overnight.

  • tastings at 5 top wineries
  • luxury vans
  • excellent and entertaining tour guide
  • enjoy a generous lunch among the vines
  • tasting and brewery tour at Hunter Valley Beer Co
  • learn with cheese and wine, and chocolate and wine pairings

This tour is the perfect choice for gourmet lovers who are staying in the region or anyone happy to make their own way to the Hunter from Sydney or Newcastle.

Check the availability of this fantastic experience

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From Pokolbin: Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch

Duration: 7 hours | Max group size: 20 | Book this tour

A great local experience for small groups, this tour starts and ends in the Hunter.

  • Visit 3-4 boutique small batch wineries
  • Learn the art of cheese and wine matching
  • Lunch at a winery
  • Taste between 25-30 wine samples across the day
  • Enjoy local artisan chocolates that have each been paired with its very own premium wine
  • Round-trip transport to and from your hotel in Pokolbin

Another great choice for those staying near the Pokolbin. You will be hard pressed to find a better way to taste such a range of wines in one day.

Check availability of this tour

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Hunter Valley wine tours from Sydney

iHop – Hunter Valley Hop-on Hop-Off Winery Bus

The perfect option for anyone who wants the convenience of a tour with the ability to choose their own stops. Good range of wineries and other attractions along the route.

  • Enjoy a flexible tour of the Hunter Valley via Hop-on, hop-off bus
  • Stop at 16 stops and see 40 attractions
  • Listen to your guide along the way – includes a map, timetable and information on each stop, venue and the local area
  • The guide will offer advice about the best stops based on your needs

Check out our experience using the HOHO service

Private Hunter Valley tours

There are private tours on offer and if you are travelling with a small group a private tour can be a great choice. The only one we are know enough about to personally recommend is this one by Sydney Luxury Tours.

Sydney Luxury Tours – Private Tour in the Hunter Valley

Duration: 12 hours | Max group size: 7 | Book this tour

  • Private transportation
  • Visit the historic village of Wollombi
  • Hunter Valley Cheese Company

Check the availability of this tour

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Still got questions about choosing a tour?

Do you have specific questions about the best choice for your circumstances? Head over to Facebook and join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group where you can ask questions and find friendly locals happy to share their advice!

Decided you need longer to explore? Check out the fantastic range of hotels in Hunter Valley.

Want to do more day trips? Check out the best Blue Mountains day tours or a weekend on the Central Coast for something different.

19 thoughts on “Taking a Hunter Valley Wine Tour From Sydney”

  1. I honestly had no idea that the Hunter Valley was the oldest wine region in Australia. Maybe it’s time I visited…

  2. Thanks so much for this informative post on the Hunter Valley. We can’t wait to do some nice wineries as we travel south.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve never been on a wine tour and have really been looking into visiting wineries and broadening my horizons. I am especially interested in the backpacking tours!

  4. It’s a long time since I’ve been to the Hunter Valley, I’m sure there are plenty of new interesting wineries…

  5. I did a Hunter Valley wine tour when I was in Sidney quite a long time ago. I did not have your guide then but I was satisfied with my tour. It’s one more reason for getting back to Sydney. Thanks for sharing!

  6. As a HUGE wine-lover, it’s hard to believe that I’ve never been to the Hunter Valley. I definitely need to add it to my list the next time I am in Australia. And this is such an amazing and comprehensive guide. Thank you!

  7. I just love a wine (and food) tour and you’ve provided a great range of options for when I finally get to Australia. Like you, I don’t care for large bus tours. I tend to prefer a smaller or private tour, with good food, although my budget doesn’t always agree. That tour with Two Fat Blokes sounds tempting – – wine and chocolate too!

  8. We did some wine tasting with friends over in Mclaren Vale in SA and enjoyed it much more than we first thought we would. We would love to do a similar thing in other areas of the country and we’ve heard Hunter Valley is a great spot.

  9. Loved the way you listed out the things that vary between the operators. The little things make all the differences and this will help all of us to make a better decision while choosing a vineyard session to go. Thank you 🙂

  10. Love Australian wines. Especially Semillon and Verdelho. Also love wine history. The first vines were introduced to the country around 1788 to 1790 as I understand it when the Governor to the territory brought vines with him on the First Fleet into the Sydney area. Pretty cool!! Would love to go on a Hunter Valley tour to learn a lot more … well and of course sample wine. 😉

  11. The Hunter Valley is firmly in my mind as a non-negotiable day trip from Sydney! Thanks for listing all the types of tours and what they offer. Can’t wait to sample all the varieties of wine. Australia- I just need to visit you!

  12. That’s quite a detailed post on the Hunter Valley, including details of various tour options available. I would go for one which includes a wildlife park or kangaroo spotting. Will certainly keep all this information in mind before we go.

  13. Wow, these sound like some awesome destinations! I love your suggestion of staying overnight – like you said, why rush it? I really enjoy Sangiovese and Shiraz wines, so it’s good to know that these are popular among these wineries.

  14. I’ve done wine tours in several countries but Australia would be the ultimate! What an awesome experience. I absolutely LOVE Australian wines. Thanks for the details in case I ever make it down there.

  15. Australia is one of the nicest place to visit for wine tours. Many times I went to gold coast for wine tourism. Next time I’ll try with this hunter valley. Great. Thank you.

  16. I’m viewing your article online from San Diego, CA. I really appreciate your detailed information and insight. We are traveling to Sydney in October and a trip to the Hunter Valley is on my list of “have to do things”. I am poking in the dark so any additional help you could provide would assist us greatly in making the best choices. I would like to sample from at least three different wineries, higher quality if available on the same tour but my girlfriend doesn’t drink so the premium tour would be unnecessary. We are seniors but still kickin and look forward to visiting your beautiful country. Thanks.

  17. Are you considering an overnight stay? If you are the HOHO Hunter Valley tour is great iHop Hunter Valley. The driver/guide can help you choose the right wineries and there are stops at places that feature the food as much as the wine. I don’t drink a lot and we loved this experience. There is also https://gourmetgetawaytours.com.au/ that is run by a chef and a fantastic day out – he can customise the experience for you.

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