Family | Food and Wine | Golf | Adventure 11 June 2024

Savour the season: Winter wonders in the Hunter Valley

Grab your coat, your sense of adventure, and your favourite wine glass – we’re heading to the Hunter Valley this winter!

With its sweeping vineyards and stunning vistas stretching as far as the eye can see, this wine lover’s paradise comes alive during the cooler months, with plenty of experiences just waiting to be discovered.

Winter tends to be a slower season for tourism in the Hunter, but that just gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy the Valley’s offerings without the crowds (and snag some budget-friendly deals along the way).

So, trade in those winter blues for a glass of red – here are our top picks for winter experiences in the Hunter Valley.

Warm up with hot air

Image via Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort 

First up is a bucket list-worthy experience that’ll warm you up in no time. How does floating above the vineyards in a hot air balloon sound?

Morning fog aside, you’ll feel the radiant heat from the burners as you glide gently over the rolling countryside of the beautiful Hunter Valley. Sure, you’re soaring 4000 ft up in the air in a picnic basket, but trust us – the views are worth it!

All the magic happens in the early morning, when the sun is rising, the air is calm, and there’s a gourmet bubbly breakfast waiting for you at the end of your flight. Cuddle up with your loved one or create amazing memories with your friends as you ascend into the crisp morning air for a sky-high adventure.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even spot some resident roos hopping across the green meadows below!

Hot air ballooning is an absolute blast, no matter which way the wind blows. And hey, you can even lend a hand with packing up the balloon after the flight – it’s a global tradition and part of the experience, though completely optional.

Just be sure to book the window seat for the best views. (Haha.)

Add a Sunrise Hunter Valley 1 Hour Hot Air Balloon Flight to your Hunter Valley holiday.

Golf, stay and play…

Image via Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort

Golf might not be everyone’s cup of tee, but if you’ve got a thing for the swing, then you can't go past a few rounds at Australia’s Best Golf Hotel, Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.

Tee off at this par-72 championship course, designed by the one and only Steve Smyers (IYKYK). Ranked among Australia’s top resort courses, it features dramatic fairways, elevation changes and strategically placed bunkers. Challenge yourself or your mates to 36 holes over a long weekend while soaking in stunning panoramic views of the Hunter’s vineyards and the Brokenback mountain range.

Even non-golfers will be catered for, with a country club, two restaurants, two bars, three pools and two tennis courts to keep you entertained. Need to unwind after a tough day on the course? Hit up the on-site spa for a relaxing treatment (more on that below).

Whether you boast a handicap of three or have never swung a club before in your life, Cypress Lakes Golf & Country Club is ready to welcome you with open fairways on your next trip to wine country.

…or swirl, sip and stay!

Image via Stay, Sip & Savour

From swinging clubs to swirling glasses, enjoy a long weekend or midweek escape with our Stay, Sip and Savour package at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.

Stay in the heart of the Hunter Valley, where every balcony comes with a view that’ll make your wine-loving heart sing. This package is the ultimate treat for your taste buds, with a 45-minute wine tasting experience for two, guided by our expert Cellar Door crew. Sip on locally crafted wines and immerse yourself in the world of winemaking; then enjoy exquisite cuisine at Oak & Vine Restaurant, serving up dishes inspired by Sri Lankan cuisine, all within the tranquil setting of Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.

In addition to the complimentary wine tasting experience and a $50 Food & Beverage Credit, the Stay, Sip and Savour package includes three nights of luxurious comfort in a Premier Villa, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore all the vineyards the region has to offer.

Don’t miss out on this slow season steal! Book now for stays until 30 November 2024. But hurry – offer ends 30 June 2024!

Build a snowman (no, really!)

Image via Hunter Valley Gardens

From 29 June to 28 July 2024, the Hunter Valley Gardens become a winter wonderland for little kids and big kids alike with Snow Time in the Garden. The entire area is blanketed with fluffy man-made snow, thanks to a bit of winter magic (and some hard-working ice machines). Build a snowman, make snow angels, or have a snowball fight – just don’t forget your gloves!

Feeling the need for speed? Grab a tube and take on the 45-metre giant ice toboggan track. You’ll be queueing up for another go, no matter your age.

If you fancy something a little more graceful, strap on your skates and hit the very real ice skating rink. Little ones can enjoy a smaller rink, while older visitors can glide worry-free on the larger one.

With hearty food and warm beverages to keep you fueled, this is a frosty winter adventure the whole family will love. 

Burn a barrel

Image via Hunter Hunter 

Yep, you heard us. The Hunter Valley’s hottest (literally) event of the year just happens to be held in the middle of winter: Burning of the Barrel!

Forget your typical winter bonfire – we’re talking about burning wine barrels in style. Held at Glandore Estate, this fiery extravaganza is a family-friendly event not to be missed. Around 75 tonnes of wood and some sacrificial wine barrels (empty, of course) are set ablaze – and if that’s not enough to light up the night sky, there’s a ripper fireworks display as well.

Tickets may come with a price tag ($175) but include a full buffet dinner (seconds, thirds and fourths are encouraged), a glass of wine on arrival, artisan cheese, live music and more.

Oh, and not to bury the lead, but this event was named in the worldwide list of Top 50 Wine Experiences by Gourmet Wine Magazine. That’s lit!

Treat yo’self

Image via Elysia Wellness Retreat

Soft tunes, heavenly scents, gentle hands, and a cup of strangely comforting tea…how good are day spas? Get ready to treat yourself to a day of pure relaxation and rejuvenation at Elysia Wellness Retreat in the Hunter Valley.

This all-inclusive health and wellness retreat caters to both day visitors and retreat program guests. From hydrating facials that’ll leave you glowing to massages that melt away tension faster than an ice cube in the Queensland sun, their menu of over 50 therapies has something for everyone.

Spa treatments tend to book up fast, so make sure you book an appointment early. Your mind, body and spirit will thank you. 

Come for the wine, stay for the… wine

Image via Oaks Hotels blog

Look, you can’t visit one of Australia’s oldest wine regions without passing through at least one of the 150 cellar doors for a tasting. With a whopping 200 years of history behind them, these award-winning wineries are bursting at the vine with expertise and passion.

The Hunter Valley is divided into three regions: Pokolbin, Lovedale and Broke-Fordwich, with each offering a unique cellar-door experience, thanks to variations in soil and climate. From charming family-owned vineyards to the big-name players, the Hunter has it all.

It’s easy to hop between cellar doors with plenty of tour operators in the region – or treat yourself to a private driver for a half or whole day. If you’re staying at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort, you’re in luck! Jump aboard the complimentary shuttle and let it whisk you away to the fine drops waiting for you at nearby gems like First Creek Winery and Brokenwood Winery.

Whether you’re a seasoned sipper or just dipping your toe into the world of wine, there are plenty of places to indulge during your winter adventure. After all, in the Hunter Valley, every season is wine season. Cheers to that!

Make winter work for you and take advantage of our latest offering: the Stay, Sip and Savour Package at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort. Stay in the heart of the Hunter Valley, sip on locally crafted wines and savour exquisite cuisine at Oak & Vine – all without breaking the bank! Available for stays until 30 November 2024, but hurry – you’ll have to book by 30 June, 2024 to nab this deal.