Relaxation Bottled: Sydney to Hunter Valley Travel Guide

A lot can be done in three days, particularly in Australia’s oldest wine region. Whether you spend your days tasting the region’s specialty drops or mix it up with fine food and other indulgences, the Hunter Valley has you covered.


The scenic grounds of Krinklewood Vineyard at Broke in the Hunter Valley

It’s considered the home of Australian wine, with the earliest vines planted in the Hunter Valley in the early nineteenth century, not long after Sydney became a British settlement. For 30,000 years before that, the region was home to the Wonnarua people. But there is far more to it than picturesque rows of vines and long days spent sipping chardonnay and shiraz, two of the most popular grapes. There’s food too, of course, as well as a grab bag of activities that align nicely with gourmet concerns. Although Cessnock is considered one of the major hubs here, it’s the villages – Pokolbin, Rothbury, Lovedale, Broke – where most visitors focus their attention.


Couple enjoying a wine-tasting experience at Brokenwood Wines, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley

There are more than 150 cellar doors scattered across the Hunter Valley, so it can be hard to know where to start. Brokenwood Wines opened a stunning new cellar door complex – the biggest in the region – in 2018, making it a perfect first stop on your voyage of wine discovery. Tastings are conducted around circular pods, but there are a range of premier experiences available too, from a matching experience with canapés to VIP guided tours of the vineyard.


  1. Detour along the Swansea peninsula to visit Caves Beach. It’s a great spot for swimming, plus there are barbecue facilities if you’re planning on spending some time. It’s most well-known, however, for a series of caves at its southern end. Check the tide times though, because you can only explore them when it’s low tide.

  2. People drive through the Hunter Valley, ride bikes from vineyard to vineyard and sometimes rely on a horse, but the best way to see the countryside is with Balloon Aloft. As the sun rises, you lift off and fly across villages and vines, finally coming to rest just in time for a champagne breakfast.

  3. Some consider Pokolbin to be the heart of the region, and it certainly attracts some attention, with its excellent selection of wineries, restaurants, shops, golf courses and spas. It’s also the home of Cocoa Nib, where pastry chef Aymee Slaviero and her team craft magnificent hand-painted bonbons and other sweet creations from French couverture chocolate. We dare you to stop at just one.

  4. In traditional winegrowing areas it’s always interesting to see people doing things differently. At Krinklewood in Broke, everything is grown biodynamically, organically and in a sustainable manner. During a tasting at the French Provencal-style cellar door you might taste semillon, verdelho, shiraz or even an orange wine made from gewürztraminer grapes.

  5. In 2017, an 11-kilometre bike path along Hermitage Road called the Hunter Valley Cycleway opened to riders, linking more than a dozen vineyards, as well as art galleries and antique stores. There’s no need to worry about how you’ll get your bike here, either – you can hire electric ones at nearby Sutton Estate. You can have any purchases delivered to your accommodation, too.


Potters Apartments

In Cessnock, Potters Apartments offers five different styles of room at reasonable prices. The drawcard here is the grounds – they sprawl across four-and-a-half hectares and include landscaped gardens, a pool, tennis court and microbrewery.

Harrigan’s Hunter Valley

Harrigan’s Hunter Valley is an Irish pub in Pokolbin, but it also has spacious, comfortable and budget-friendly rooms overlooking vineyards. Apart from being close to the pub, it’s also walking distance to Hunter Valley Gardens and several excellent wineries.

Adina Vineyard and Olive Grove

You’re in wine country, so why not stay among the grapes? Adina Vineyard and Olive Grove, near Lovedale, has three luxurious self-contained lodges with lovely views, as well as a swimming pool and restaurant.


Wollemi National Park New South Wales

It’s simply a case of picking up your vehicle from Apex Car Rentals at Sydney Airport, following the coast north to Newcastle then turning inland. The Hunter Valley is an easy, two-hour drive, but there are plenty of places to stop along the way almost as soon as you get out of Sydney. A favourite – itself a holiday destination for many Sydneysiders – is Lake Macquarie and its surrounds. You’ll want about three days to enjoy what the Hunter has to offer. Given extra time, on the way back you could skirt Wollemi National Park and spend a couple of days in the Blue Mountains.


Mudgee New South Wales

Ready for the good tastes to continue? Mudgee, three hours from Pokolbin, is fast attracting attention as one of NSW’s great wine and food towns. Set on the banks of the Cudgegong River, it is full of character, with wine bars tucked down cobblestone laneways and cellar doors in stone cottages. Plus, there’s a nature trail through Putta Bucca Wetlands (an important breeding ground for waterbirds), an observatory for stargazers and the chance to visit one of the original gold fields at nearby Gulgong.