Australia has a bit of a reputation as one of the beer-drinkingest capitals of the world. There are few things that go better with warm weather, contact sports and barbecues than an ice-cold brew and Australia has all of the above in spades. With year-round warm weather in the tropical north, to Aussie Rules football, cricket, rugby and the occasional soccer match, there are plenty of occasions to imbibe Downunder.
However, Australia’s world-class wine industry is quietly preceding it’s love for lager and the Hunter Valley wine region, bottling world-class wines since the early-19th century, has a lot to do with it.
If you love wine, embark on a Hunter Valley driving tour and see why this collection of postcard-perfect vineyards and wineries should top your list of places to see when you’re in Sydney.
Take the Scenic Route
Hunter Valley’s beautiful vineyards and cellar doors are no doubt the destination of choice on a drive out to the wine region. But in the Valley, the journey plays just as big a role in a trip to wine country. As you depart Sydney, your scenic drives takes you north, passing Yengo National Park. This World Heritage-listed wilderness area is a dense, green forest of native Aussie trees and plants. The Park is also home to ancient Aboriginal Australian cultural sites dating back thousands of years.
You could also spot plenty of native Aussie animal species like kangaroos, wallabies, gliding possums, wombats and more, in the wild.
Once you make it to Hunter Valley, gaze out your window upon vast stretches of neatly arranged grape vines. Hills and valleys rise and fall and grazing animals dot the green landscape as the winding road snakes its way around the Valley.
This is wine country at its finest.
History in a Glass… Or Two
The Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia. More than 150 vineyards dot the fertile landscape west of Sydney. Vineyards dating back to the 19th century are still in operation here.
For your first step back in time, drive out to Drayton’s Wines. The Drayton family planted their first vine saplings more than 150 years ago and the winery remains in the hands of the family to this day. Six generations of Drayton vintners shaped this legacy vineyard in to what it is today and you’ll want to stop in for a taste of history along with a taste of their classic Hunter Valley Shiraz.
Next on your list of vintage vineyards, you’ll want to make a stop at Mt. Pleasant Estate. This turn of the century winery has a laundry list of accolades under its belt, but all you need to know is that Mt. Pleasant’s wine and history is pure Hunter Valley.
Then, visit the crown jewel of Hunter Valley wineries at McGuigan’s Winery, located in Pokolbin, the idyllic heart of Hunter Valley wine country. This winery is best known for winning the International Winemakers Award 3-times in its history, an almost unheard of feat among vintners. Explore this cellar door and dig in to their winning varietals like shiraz and chardonnay.
Learning with a Twist
Love wine, but can’t put in to words why? Do you hear the other tasters around you talking about the bouquet but there’s not a single flower in sight?
It sounds like you might need Wine School. Drive out to Hunter Valley Resort, where you can join up with a class of other wine amateur wine connoisseurs and have an expert guide you through a proper tasting.
You’ll learn about the winemaking process from harvest to fermentation to bottle finish. Your guide will walk you through the grounds of the vineyard to see up close how the rows of lush vines are grown and harvested.
Then, class begins in the Resort’s Wine Theatre where the history of wine comes alive. Of course, throughout the class you’ll taste and assess various varietals of whites and reds. Wine School is the perfect primer for the rest of your tasting tour and will give you an appreciation for the layers of complexity in a single glass of wine that you never even knew existed. With 38 wines from 8 local producers, you’ll have plenty of ‘homework’ to do without leave property.
Cleanse Your Palate
Like we said, there are a lot of wineries in the Hunter Valley, but you don’t have to burn yourself out packing in too many at once! Be sure to spend some time experiencing everything this quaint region has to offer.
What goes better with wine than an artisan, craft cheese? Head over to Binnorie Dairy Cheese Factory, where you can try and buy dozens of different cheeses straight from the artisans themselves. You can also stop by the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, one of the oldest dairies in the Valley region.
If you’d like to get a bit adventurous on your trip in wine country and get a true bird’s eye view of your lush surroundings, you can board a hot air balloon for a float over the pristine valley. Or, if you’re really up for an adventure, try skydiving from up high! There’s really nothing like the adrenaline rush of jumping out of a plane several thousand feet in the air!
You can even take a horseback or Segway tour of parts of the Hunter Valley. Trot or roll through pure Aussie bush land where you could even see wild kangaroos or a wombat or two.
There are plenty of other shops like antique stores, cafes, galleries and more, so you’ll always find something new and exciting to try in the Hunter Valley.
And if you’re a fan of hitting the links, the Hunter Valley also hosts some of the most beautiful golf courses in Australia. Relax with a cup of world-class wine on an 18-hole award winning course ranked among the best in Australia.
Detour to Port Stephens
Located just about an hour east of the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens is a charming coastal city that you’ll want to make some time for. Explore the busy esplanade with its quaint shops and cafes. Then, gear up for a bit of adventure if you’d like. Try out sand-boarding on the more than 20 miles of sand dunes at Stockton Beach. If you’ve never heard of sand-boarding, it’s exactly as it sounds: riding a board down the steep side of soft sand dunes. It’s just like surfing in the ocean, but without the whole swimming thing!
And if you didn’t get enough Aussie wildlife in Hunter Valley proper with the wild ‘roos and wombats, hop aboard a local Port Stephens cruise ship for some dolphin spotting. More than 150 bottlenose dolphins call Port Stephens home, making it the dolphin capital of Australia!
Of course, you can always just spend your time relaxing on more than 26 golden-beaches like Box Beach and Zenith Beach. The perfect side-trip for your stay in wine country.
Wind Down in Wine Town with a Hunter Valley Driving Tour
There’s nothing like a relaxing trip to a winery. There’s just something about those rolling, rural hills that’s undeniably pleasant. And when you do it at your own pace by driving yourself from Sydney, you can spend your time the way you like at some of your new favorite places.
Need a few more recommendations? Not sure how to go about booking a car hire halfway around the world? Get in touch with one of our Destination Specialists for a free consultation today. We can show you where to go and tell you how to get there for a worry-free trip to picturesque Hunter Valley.
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm).
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Tags: australia, best places to visit, hunter valley, Places to Visit in Australia, port stephens, self-drive, sydney, Wildlife, Wine, wine tasting