‘We spent a month in the Hunter Valley and didn’t visit a single winery!’

Mar 21, 2020
The Hunter Valley, New South Wales, is one of Australia's premier wine regions, but it has so much more to offer. Source: Getty Images

We spent a month in the Hunter Valley and didn’t visiting a single winery. This really is a little bizarre when you think that New South Wales’ Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s best known wine regions.

Having been planted in the early 19th century, the area has played a pivotal role in the history of Australian wine and is internationally recognised. There are more than 150 wineries in the region and its proximity to Sydney ensures that the tourism industry continues to fuel the demand for Hunter Valley wines.

I bet you’re now wondering if we are teetotallers or if it’s a religious thing? That’s funny. We enjoy our wine — we were just too busy exploring other attractions in the region to visit a winery!

The Hunter Valley is such a diverse area that we found ourselves with just too many other options. We spent all our time exploring the little country towns that dot the landscape around the Hunter and Upper Hunter regions and sampled way too many Devonshire teas.

There is so much history in many of our smaller country towns that it is so easy to lose a day walking along the streets, taking in the architecture, the gardens and secondhand book stores. And you know the other thing I discovered? Country stores generally sell better quality products. Granted, there may not be the same range as in big city stores, but the quality is better.

We bush-walked and sat on the banks of a river just marvelling in the beauty of nature. We took drives through winding roads, passed green farmland with fat lambs and alpacas frolicking about, and we stocked up on freshly baked date loaves and jars of lemon butter at the occasional market.

One day our drive took us to Clarence Town and a women’s refuge called Destiny Haven. In addition to being a “residential place of healing” for women whose lives have been shattered by drug and/or alcohol addiction, eating disorders, self-hard and trauma, guests can take part in one of the social enterprises offered — the boutique manufacturing of handcrafted Belgian chocolates, delicious preserves, jewellery, fruitcakes and puddings. These are on sale to passersby like us!

To the east of the Hunter Valley is a beautiful coastline where the beaches equal any I have seen on any of my travels and which keep swimmers, surfers, and fishos of all ages entertained. To the south is the Lake Macquarie district — that’s a whole other blog! And lets not forget Newcastle, fascinating in it’s own right.

When I shared with a friend that my favourite spot was Maitland she nearly collapsed with shock. Truly. Maitland is not the Maitland of 40 years ago and its resurgence is a nod to progress. Fine old hotels with good pub tucker and live music, a great cafe culture, parklands and a riverwalk, museum, an art gallery and wonderful community theatre that runs out of a old sandstone church.

I must put my hand up and admit to getting caught up in the Les Darcy story. An Australian champion pugilist in the late 1930s and Maitland born lad there’s no avoiding Les. Statues and references abound. It’s an interesting tale. Visit a library to find out more.

We did visit the heart of the vineyards regularly to check out specialist condiment makers, a gin distillery and a cheese factory. The old maxim is so true: where you find good wine, you find good food.

We were also ever so lucky to be accommodated near a hotel, which had its own courtesy bus service. The Bradford Hotel at Aberglasslyn served good meals with an extensive menu of local beverages.

Who had time to visit a winery?

Been travelling? Travel at 60 wants to publish your story. Simply sign up as a contributor and submit your stories. When your story is published, you’ll go into the draw to win some great weekly prizes. You can also join the Travel at 60 Travel Lovers Club on Facebook to talk to other travellers in the Travel at 60 community.

Join the community that will get you through the hard times ahead.

Starts at 60 is the community you need when Covid-19 is changing life as we know it. We stick together, help each other, share information and have a whole lot of fun online.

Join for interactive online events, expert advice, timely news, great deals and community conversation.

Where have you spent a month on your travels? Is Australia's Hunter Valley on your travel bucket list?

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up