Give your tastebuds a serious work-out in Australia's oldest wine growing region.
By Ellie Schneider
Enjoy epicurean indulgences in the Hunter Valley, home to more than 120 wineries, gourmet restaurants, spa retreats and concerts in the vineyards.
- Learn a thing or two from the winemakers
- Get a bird's-eye view across the vineyards
- Relax at a luxurious spa retreat
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Top things to do in the Hunter Valley
Drink and dine
At the Hunter Valley's cellar doors you can taste a wide variety of wines, or join a tasting masterclass to sample rare vintages. The historic 1866 Audrey Wilkinson winery offers an excellent range of Semillons at its picturesque tasting room. You can try Chardonnay and Shiraz at the Oakvale Wines estate. At avant garde winery Usher Tinkler – housed within the beautifully restored Pokolbin Church – pair wine or whiskey with prosciutto, truffle salumi and camembert. Sit down to lunch at multi-award-winning restaurant Muse, where you'll dine on seasonally driven dishes (such as Mandagery Creek venison or chicken tarrine) paired with Hungerford Hill wines. At Moorebank Vineyard you can indulge in wine, cheese and chocolate tastings, or picnic on the private grounds. Be sure to grab a selfie with Sheila the resident sheep.
When you need a break from a jam-packed schedule of cellar doors, drop into the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory. Here you'll find a fantastic selection of handmade cow and goat milk cheese, available to taste and buy. Order a cheese tasting board to try five cheeses, or book a private cheese appreciation class to learn about cheese varieties and the art of wine matching. The Smelly Cheese Shop also offers a great range of local and imported cheese, which you can enjoy at its in-house café.
Float above the vineyards
Set your alarm clock early for a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft. On this one hour flight you'll ascent above the Hunter Valley vineyards of Pokolbin, Lovedale, Rothbury and Broke, to heights of more than 600 metres (2000 feet). Afterwards, a decadent champagne breakfast is served on the deck of Restaurant Cuvee at Peterson House Winery. Choose from a mouth-watering menu teamed with chocolates and Peterson House sparkling wines.
Be pampered at a day spa
After all that food and wine, it’s time to unwind at one of the Hunter Valley's many day spas. Choose from a number of spa packages at Château Élan, which include use of the hydro lounge, offering a plunge pool and outdoor hot spa. The Couples Retreat package begins with an invigorating body massage before a soak in a private geisha tub, and culminates in a Swedish massage. Or visit Australia's largest day spa, Spa Elysia at Golden Door Health Retreat, and book an indulgent 110 minute Pamper Package, which includes a luxurious body exfoliation, body wrap and pedi spa.
Go for the festivals
Throughout the year the Hunter Valley presents a diverse calendar of festivals and events at its wineries. Music buffs should visit for Jazz in the Vines, which hosts big names in jazz, soul, blues and rock at Tyrrell’s Vineyard on the last Saturday of October. During May progressive-style dining event the Lovedale Long Lunch winds through several Hunter Valley vineyards and restaurants, offering different dishes at each venue. Wander through the colourful blooms of the Hunter Valley Gardens during Spring Festival in September or follow an art trail at Sculpture in the Vineyards in November.