Adventure | Food and Wine | Family | Romance | Golf 06 October 2017

Hunter Valley’s Finest: Top 15 Experiences In The Hunter Valley

Think the Hunter Valley is all cellar doors and nothing more? Think again. Australia’s oldest – and one of the best known – wine regions certainly has a reputation for producing excellent drops, but there’s more to the Hunter than its vineyards and valley vistas.

From golf courses to day spas, spectacular manicured gardens to wild World Heritage national parks, discover all sides of the Hunter Valley with our guide to the best things to do in the region.

1. Tee off on the green

Putt about Cypress Lakes Golf & Country Club, a par 72, 18-hole championship golf course with dramatic fairway shapes, elevation changes and strategically located bunkers.

Designed by Steve Smyers of Florida and unveiled in 1992, the course is ranked among the top resort courses in Australia, making it the best place to challenge yourself or a few mates to 36 holes over a long weekend. Each tee features stunning panoramic views over the Hunter’s famous vineyards and the surrounding Brokenback mountain range.

Stunning landscape view while dipping in a pool at Cypress Lakes Golf & Country Club

2. Time your trip with an upcoming festival

Festivals are better in wine country. Combine a really good pinot noir with pop concerts at a vineyard, or enjoy smooth jazz, shiraz and a killer sunset on the lawn. Out here in the Hunter, concerts and festivals take place in beautiful natural locations beneath the stars. 

Bring your picnic blanket and enjoy a bubbly or beer each June at the Hunter Valley Wine & Beer Festival, or explore local wine, food and music in September at the End2End Festival

Keep an eye on the events calendar for mini-festivals and events popping up each weekend at the many vineyards and estates across the region, celebrating everything from cheese to barbecue to the annual grape harvest.

3. Sunrise Hot Air Balloon flight

For those chasing something a little bit daring... lift off before dawn and watch the sun rise over the Hunter Valley vineyards in a hot air balloon. The whoosh of the fire burner will send you higher into the sky, revealing scenery that will truly leave you wanting the moment to never end. Take advantage of this romantic experience and pop the question amongst the clouds, or during the champagne breakfast that follows. 

Breathtaking horizon of hot air ballooning in Hunter Valley

4. Take to the skies with a helicopter flight

If hot air ballooning is too tranquil, what about a thrilling 12-minute scenic helicopter ride? Take flight high above the Hunter Valley with this short but unforgettable ride that will give you and your partner a new perspective of the wine region. Snap photos as lush countryside scenes and vineyards unfold below, and your experienced pilot provides a running commentary.

5. Sip your way through the vineyards

No visit to the Hunter Valley is complete without passing through one (or five) of the 150 cellar doors. Australia’s oldest wine region produces some of the best wines in the country, and with 200 years of history, the local award-winning wineries have plenty of expertise and passion to share.

Jump on board the complimentary shuttle from Cypress Lakes Golf & Country Club and taste the region’s finest drops at First Creek Winery and Brokenwood Winery. Alternatively, organise a private driver for a personalised half day or whole day tour.

Scarborough Wine Farm in Hunter Valley New South Wales

6. Visit the luxurious day spa at Elysia Wellness Retreat

Rebalance your mind, body and spirit with a visit to Elysia’s day spa. This all-inclusive leading health and wellness retreat is a haven of rest and restorative practices. The exceptional spa experience offers a range of carefully tailored treatments, therapies and facilities, and is open to both day visitors and retreat program guests. Take time for yourself and book a classic spa treatment, or look at the menu of wellness therapies.

7. Explore the region on horseback

Soak in the sights of the gorgeous Hunter Valley with Hunter Valley Horses. Tour from winery to winery in a horse-drawn carriage, relaxing between tastings as you take in the local scenery. Beginners and experienced riders alike can even jump on horseback and venture between rows of vines. 

Horse back-riding tour from winery to winery in Hunter Valley

8. Explore the Hunter Valley Gardens

Take in the sights, colours and fragrances of 25 acres of spectacularly manicured gardens. The Hunter Valley Gardens are a must-see botanical journey with thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers artfully arranged into themed gardens.

Delight the senses at the Rose Garden, witness a 10-metre-high waterfall, explore fairytale characters at the Storybook Garden – the kids love this one! Wander eight kilometres of pathways to see floral designs and plants not seen elsewhere in Australia.

Lush Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin Hunter Valley New South Wales

9. Stay at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort

Cypress Lakes is more than just an 18-hole championship course. The lifestyle-focused Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort is the ultimate place to base yourself in the Hunter Valley. Here you’ll find one-, two- and three-bedroom villas set across 300 acres, along with two restaurants, two bars, three pools and two tennis courts.

For couples, families or big groups, this is the best spot to stay – and there’s no chance of getting bored!

10. Leap from a plane or fly a Warbird

Give yourself an adrenaline rush when you leap into the drop zone challenge with Skydive Hunter Valley. First-timers are in good hands, and self-confessed pros can jump solo. 

If you’ve got the need for speed, you can feel the g-force in a supercharged warbird plane with Aerohunter in the Hunter Valley. Fly with an experienced RAAF or Ace Aerobatic pilot with a number of different aircraft on offer. If you’ve always wanted to star in the Top Gun movie, this is as close as you’re going to get – and what an experience it will be. 

11. Taste the local cheeses

Wine and cheese are a perfect pairing, so it’s no surprise there are a handful of brilliant cheese producers in the Hunter Valley. Drop in to the award-winning Binnorie Dairy for soft cheeses, try Hunter Belle for cheese made by dairy farmers, or go for a special cheese tasting at the The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory.

Board of cheeses and chips in Binnorie Dairy Hunter Valley New South Wales

12. Explore stunning national parks

The Hunter Valley is more than rows of vines and manicured gardens. Explore the region’s wild side at its many national parks. Seek out Aboriginal cultural heritage sites in Yengo National Park, hike through bushland in Watagans National Park, or spend the day swimming in the sparkling waters of Lake St Clair.

Lush gardens in Watagans National Park Lake Macquarie New South Wales

13. Stroll through a sculpture park

Art, nature and wine collide at Winmark Art Gallery. Passionate art collector, owner and vigneron Karin Adcock curates the Broke Fordwich gallery and sculpture park. Wander the Australian bush exploring art, then enjoy a tasting at the Winmark Cellar Door. 

Gallery and sculpture park in Winmark Art Gallery, Hunter Valley New South Wales

14. Walk a llama through the vines

Take your very own llama for a stroll through the rolling hills of beautiful Ben Ean Vineyard. On select Sundays enjoy a one-hour guided walk with a friendly llama thanks to The Llama Collective. You’ll learn how to lead him or her before setting off for a picturesque stroll.

Bring your camera to capture a few happy snaps with your new best friend before exploring the cellar door. 

15. Race around the track 

Get behind the wheel and be amazed by the power and grip driving turbo Subaru WRX STI and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally cars. At Rally School Hunter Valley, they have turbo gravel rally cars that’ll have you on the edge of your seat... and you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.