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How long do I need to visit the Hunter Valley wineries? What is there to do?

How long do I need to visit the Hunter Valley wineries? What is there to do?

Old Feb 3rd, 2005, 06:33 AM
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How long do I need to visit the Hunter Valley wineries? What is there to do?

I am going to Sydney for about a week and I thought it would be fun to rent a car and do a trip to the Hunter Valley wineries. How long should I allow? I basicaly want to drive around, relax, see a few wineries and have some good food.

Any other thought and suggestions about wineries, restaurants and sights would be appreciated!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2005, 03:40 PM
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Richard, I think I saw, from another post, that you're coming in April, so, with your permission, I am going to try and discourage you from the Hunter Valley and point you to somewhere nicer. I guess I am rather unimpressed with the Hunter Valley because I have been driving through it for years, but always to get to somewhere else, so it never occurred to me that it might ever be termed a TOURIST attraction. Frankly, most of it isn't... if, for instance, you're expecting a VALLEY, you'll be sorely disappointed. This is a term that has been dreamed up in the last few years to describe what was known, in my youth, as the Hunter Basin. I am sure the wineries themselves are okay (never been to one... if I were going to one, I think there are better ones in other areas), but the scenery on the way there and back is nothing to write home about. There are some nice old hotels in Kurri Kurri and Maitland.... if you must go driving in that area, make sure you have a look at (and hopefully stay in) one of those, for a true Aussie experience.

But in April there are better possibilities for a man with a hire car and a day or two to spend. I am going to suggest that you "train" it (very early in the morning) to Valley Heights (1 hr 20 minutes)and hire a car from Redicar, right at the station (thus avoiding the awful Sydney road exits and saving you a lot of driving mileage). From there, head west to Katoomba and have a look around at Echo Point and the Megalong Valley (now THAT'S a valley!) Then drive on to Mount Victoria. There are a couple of great hotels there , so choose the one you like and book your room for the night. Then head out towards the Bell's Line of Road and visit Mt Wilson. It's an amazing, isolated little town that seldom sees a tourist... quite magical at any time of year, but in April, as the autumn leaves come down, it is quite unique. You'll think you're in rural England. Take afternoon tea in the little tea house there, and, if you've a mind to, either follow one of the walking trails, or just inspect the old tombstones in the graveyard of the quaint old church. Then back to Mt Victoria for your night's sleep (dinner is probably better eaten in nearby Blackheath). Up early the next morning (leave before 8 a.m.) and off, further west, to Jenolan Caves (another hour's drive, maybe a bit more). Try to get there by about 9:15, before the ticket office opens and before the tourist buses arrive... the road is, for part of its length, narrow and winding, but at this early hour you may not pass another car.

As soon as the ticket office opens (at 9:30), book your "caves package" of two or even three caves. They're all nice (the Lucas is the least interesting), and the Orient and the Temple of Baal are particularly spectacular, so make sure that your discount multi-caves ticket includes one of them. Have lunch at Caves House, and curse me for saying that you should spend a night at Mt Victoria instead of here (but accommodation at beautiful Caves House is so expensive.....and I'm not sure I'd want to recommend that you drive there in the dark, anyway).

By mid-afternoon you will have seen the caves and be heading back to Valley Heights before all those tourist buses have started their homeward journey. Maybe have dinner at one of the nice little Mountains towns, like Leura. Return to Sydney (and the Criterion Hotel, or maybe the Grand) by evening train.

This is a FAR nicer trip, especially in magic April, than anything the Hunter Valley can offer you! If you then allow another day to do the Spit Bridge-Manly walk, I would say that you're in for one of the best Sydney holidays anyone could ever have.
Alan is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2005, 06:59 PM
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Hi richard
The Hunter & its surrounds (my home) near many of the wineries are a most beautiful part of Australia. Autumn is one of the best times to visit the Hunter wineries with clear cool, sunny days and cool nights.

Many of the well-known wineries can be negotiated easily, by car as long as you don't consume too much wine whilst tasting! Some do not allow tour buses so a car is a good idea to see the boutique wineries like Bimbadgen or
Scarborough. Both are great to spend an hour or so tasting & chatting with the winemaker or his staff. There are lots of great restaurants and a very good tourist info centre on the main rood into Pokolbin. Bimbadgen's Esca is a fabulous restaurant and the winery is similar, albeit smaller, to Robert Mondavi's in the Napa Valley.

Just a warning April 9-26 is school vacation time in NSW and also every weekend is very busy in the Hunter for accommodation. I'd suggest a 2 day trip with an overnight in Pokolbin at Peppers or similar. Check out www.wotif.com.au for last minute deals. Don't miss the Hunter if you are a wine-lover!
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 02:20 AM
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I'm most definitely with Alan here. If it's your first trip (you don't say) then there is really no contest between the Blue Mts and the Hunter.

I've only visited the Hunter once - friends from overseas wanted to go, and I had never been. We had a car but there were 3 of us to take turns at driving. I you are the only driver you won't be able to sip from many glasses. We took a self catering cabin for 2 nights which was lovely - everything you could want. Fed ourselves at home the night we arrived (late); drove around the next day, and sampled one of the excellent restaurants that evening.

What is there to do - wine taste, dine - I think there are hot air balloon trips too.

I enjoyed it - and can recommend the winery tour at Tyrells - very informative. But the best thing, apart from the company of my visitors, was the drive there from Katoomba via Wiseman's Ferry. The driving around once you get there is pretty mundane.

The Blue Mts on the other hand are not to be missed. An equally good choice of top notch restaurants and places to stay. But the landscape is to die for.

If you are a real wine buff then the Hunter may still be your destination of choice - but I wouldn't do it as a self drive day trip. You have to stay over. Alternatively I saw an article in the SMH very recently about a helicopter tour you could take. Visiting wineries, etc.

If you are interested I could try and find it - else Google might turn it up for you.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 03:28 AM
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I'm with you Lyndie - have had some wonderful weekends in Hunter region - some of the best reds to be had in the country. It's true that driving and wine tasting don't go together and a night at Peppers at Pokolbin is just so civilised. Richardab, there are some wonderful places to eat in the area, would suggest you visit some of the smaller wineries where you'll meet locals of a like mind and even have a few with the winemaker. These people know how to enjoy themselves, and will make sure you do too.
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Old Feb 4th, 2005, 11:52 AM
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alice13 - I saw that article about the Sydney-Hunter chopper tour too. It sounds like a fantastic day out, but pricey - I think about AU$790 pp.
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Old Feb 5th, 2005, 06:42 PM
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I was in Sydney in late November and took the Wine Rover bus to the Hunter Valley. It picked us up near our hotel and dropped us off at the Hunter Valley Info Center. We then took one of their vans around to a number of wineries and caught the bus back to Sydney at the end of the day.

It was a great day! Since it was mid-week and not during any holidays, it was like having a private driver to take us to whichever wineries we wanted. We could leave our purchases in the van. Our driver was a very knowledgeable and personable young man named David. He had a binder full of local restaurant menues for us to choose from for our lunch.

We ate at a restaurant called Robert's, which was beautiful. The food was excellent (and, I warn you, pricey).

I would recommend Peterson's Champage Cellars for their fantastic Sparkling Shiraz (something you don't find much in the U.S. and I am now craving) Also we enjoyed the wines at Poole's Rock and Brokenwood.

We loved the Hunter Valley and were sorry that we were only there for the day. My friends, who visit Sydney every year, are planning on spending a few days there on their next trip.

I would drive up and stay locally, but maybe take advantage of the Wine Rover van service to get around for your wine tasting.

I also went to the Blue Mountains and enjoyed that very much, but I really liked the Hunter Valley.
shadowcat is offline  
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