The Hunter Valley is one of New South Wales’ major wine-growing regions. It’s also a beautiful place to spend a few days driving about, eating and tasting the drops at winery cellar doors.
This is the Hunter, so you’re going to need a car to get about. Cellar doors are what it’s all about, so get on board and check out David Hook Wines, Thomas Wines, Meerea Park, Mistletoe, De Iuliis and Margan. Incidentally, these wineries also make up a collective of forward-thinking wine makers called Hunter Valley New Generation.
Because this is wine land and everything is quite spread out, it’s not really a design or fashion destination, unless by ‘fashion’ and ‘design’ you mean ‘wine’. There are, however, some great pockets for vintage shopping. You’ll want to head to Maitland where you’ll find a street filled with junktiques. Flawed and Fabulous is a good place to start for accessories and jewellery. 307 High St, Maitland 2320. (0414 41 2473). There’s also Generations Apart for larger pieces such as dressers, sideboards and everything in between. (0412 363 527).
There are a couple of good options this side of the vine. Margan features its own kitchen garden and an outdoor seat for sunny days. It’s the best place to be eating in the Hunter. 1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke 2330. (02 6579 1372). Lunch Fri–Sun 12 noon–2.30pm; dinner Fri–Sat 6–8.30pm. For pure atmosphere alone, you can’t look past Bistro Molines – about the most charming outdoor dining set-up around. 749 Mount View Rd, Mt View 2325. (02 4990 9553). Lunch Thu–Mon 12 noon–3pm; dinner Fri–Sat 6.30–10pm.
Maitland, aside from good vintage rummaging, is also home to a wealth of authentic Aussie pubs, with original Art Deco charm. But if this isn’t your speed and you’re keen to drink something other than wine or beer, give Goldfish Hunter Valley a tilt. The sister bar to Goldfish in Sydney, they’re all about classic cocktails – well worth a look-in. Cnr Broke & McDonald Rd, Pokolbin 2320. (02 4998 7688).
It’s about as close to staying in a Tuscan villa as you’ll get in the wine-growing region of NSW. Tower Lodge is a stunning, rambling hotel, equipped with individual villas with high ceilings, fireplaces (you get to light your own fire!) for the cooler months and mosquito nets for the warmer months. 6 Halls Rd, Pokolbin 2320. (02 4998 7022). If you prefer your own space, consider Tonic. Each self-contained cabin features a pre-packaged breakfast including cereal, toast, coffee and tea, so you need never have the stress of getting dressed and facing a dining room. Watch out for kangaroos bounding at dawn and dusk. 251 Talga Rd, Lovedale 2320. (02 4930 9999).