The Hunter Valley is Australia’s most loved wine region. Just a two-hour drive from Sydney, the Hunter is home to a host of incredible wineries, as well as an abundance of other activities that inspire rest and relaxation—all amidst picturesque rolling hills and expansive vineyards. The perfect retreat for vino and health lovers alike, you’re bound to leave this enchanted escape feeling renewed, revitalised and ultimately well rested.
There’s no shortage of dining options in the Hunter, no matter what your tastes. For tasty treats to take home or enjoy picnic-style, check out The Smelly Cheese Shop, a quirky store in Roche Estate—the small, village-like space with a sprinkling of restaurants and cellar doors. Across the road, at Mcguigans Winery you’ll find Hunter Valley Cheese Co, which is much the same, but with a cute, country-style café on site. For sweet tooths, The Chocolate Company, at Peterson House, has floor-to- ceiling sweet treats, and, not far away, The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company is perfect for a family ice cream or cake outing, with outdoor seating that takes in the lovely views.
For the quaintest cafes offering all the usual goodies in a relaxed setting, try Enzo at Pepper Tree Village, or Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen. Or if an indulgent dinner tickles your fancy, head to EXP. Restaurant, or Muse—two of the Hunter’s most celebrated culinary destinations. Book ahead if you can.
You’ll be completely spoiled for choice when it comes to wineries, and you can easily stumble upon options aplenty—but include the following on your must-visit list. Book in for a tasting at Audrey Wilkinson Cellar Door to take advantage of the best views in the valley. For a hipster hangout headed by the Hunter’s most dynamic, young winemakers, check out Usher Tinkler Wines, or try Scarborough on Hermitage for a delicious cheese plate with your tasting. For picturesque views and premium tastings, wander across the road to Keith Tulloch for top-notch treats overlooking the vineyards. When you’ve over-indulged in wine (or if it’s just not your thing), you’ll welcome a relaxed beer at Hunter Beer Co, or IronBark Hill Brewhouse—both offering a smorgasbord of local brews in relaxed settings.
You could easily skip the wineries altogether and bliss out on spa treatments during your stay, as there’s no shortage of world-class spas and treatments to choose from. Golden Door Health Retreat is Australia’s biggest retreat centre, offering a huge menu of spa and wellness treatments to indulge and evolve. Try their signature Watsu treatment for something eye opening.
The Spa at Chateau Elan is magnificently luxurious, boasting a selection of French-inspired treatments, as well as a day spa with Jacuzzis, relaxing lounges, and saunas to enjoy before or after your treatment (with a glass of bubbly of course). Ubika Spa at Crowne Plaza has all the usuals in a luxurious setting, as well as their signature range of ‘Vinotherapy’ offerings—beauty treatments using wine by-products to rejuvenate the skin, promising to give you that extra glow.
For something ever so slightly more adventurous, take to the sky with a hot air balloon flight that takes in extraordinary views at sunrise, or get grounded with a trip to the Hunter Valley Gardens—a natural wonderland with 8km of walking paths that wind through 14 hectares of well-manicured gardens, offering the perfect place for tranquillity and reflection. There’s also a boutique-shopping village on site to stock up on treats (including more chocolate) and souvenirs to extend the indulgence just a little bit further.
Jessica Humphries is a writer, yoga teacher and passionate traveller. After studying philosophy and immersing herself in the Sydney corporate world, she threw it all in to become a yoga teacher/writer, relocating to the lazy Northern Rivers to enjoy life. Jess has taken many a travel sabbatical and continues to jet around to scope out the best wellness escapes and yoga goodness, whilst working as a freelance writer, editor, copywriter and yoga teacher. See her own travel blog at www.jesshumphries.com