Meander through Australia's oldest wine region
It may be a while since you've visited the Hunter Valley. When I made a short trip recently, I was surprised how much had, and hadn't changed. Rolling hills, vines, kangaroos, and of course great produce and vino by the barrel load. But there were a crop of newcomers too as younger generations start their own businesses, or return home with fresh new ideas after time spent in the big smoke.
It made me think how much food and wine tastes all that much sweeter when you savour it at its source. Next time you're planning a road trip, how about jumping in the car and heading for Australia’s oldest wine region. Rest your head in five-star luxury, indulge in a Hawaiian-style massage or devour some of NSW’s finest buttery croissants. The weekend is yours.
Luxury hotel and resort Kirkton Park has a sumptuous new look, with a crisp blue, black and white palate by Sydney interior designer Greg Natale. The bespoke 70-room property offers a true sense of arrival from its monochrome grand entry hall through to its elegant Locavore bistro with high-backed banquettes, blue wallpaper, dark timber floor and chic white timber shutters. Sleep easy in stylish rooms with crisp white sheets, and awake to the sound of bird song.
336 Oakey Creek Rd, Pokolbin 2320
Golf and beer are a match made in heaven, perhaps because an ice cold ale tastes best when earned. The Hunter offers the chance to earn that reward with a round at either the 18-hole Greg Norman designed Vintage, or the 18-hole championship course at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. Afterwards head to Lovedale Brewery (also at the Crowne Plaza) and reward yourself with an award-winning Lovedale Lager. Actually, it’s so good you better take a six-pack home with you. Too tired after golf? Book a room and spend the night.
430 Wine Country Dr, Lovedale 2325
Book an alfresco table at the acclaimed Margan Wines and Restaurant. More than 90 per cent of Margan’s produce comes from its one-acre kitchen garden and orchard; you can even meet the free-range chooks that supply the star ingredient for the divine crispy hen egg served with asparagus, snap peas and wild garlic. Take a seat on the terrace overlooking Yellow Rock and enjoy the inspiring menu paired with estate grown wines.
1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke 2330
You don’t need to do a serious detox to enjoy the health benefits of the renowned Golden Door Elysia, one of Australia’s largest day spas and health retreats. Try a Hawaiian lomilomi massage or the signature aquatic bodywork treatment known as watsu, it’s fast garnering a cult following worldwide. Set down a dusty dirt road, beyond a gated entrance high on a hill overlooking the craggy mountain range, check in (make sure to pre-book) and check out for a while.
165 Thompsons Rd, Pokolbin 2320
The Hunter Valley’s first equestrian inspired cellar door, Dark Horse Vineyard, features small batch wines that are hand-picked, single vineyard and exclusively from the region. Formerly of Sydney, owners Olivia and Martin Pukanic have combined their love of horses and passion for wine into a glamourous cellar door, and their wines are every bit as good as the striking bottles they’re sold in. The cellar door doubles as a luxury equestrian inspired homewares store, while April this year sees the winery host the valley’s first Polo in the Vines.
386 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale 2320
Word on the street is the divine Icky Sticky Patisserie make the best croissants north of the Harbour Bridge so be sure to take a scenic detour to the charming township of Lorn to get your fill. And it’s not just croissants walking out the door; try and stop at one chocolate éclair, strawberry tart or creamy cheesecake.
2/27 Belmore Rd, Lorn 2320