As winter rolls in and the thermometer finally begins to turn down my mind starts to contemplate where we might spend our mid-year break. I love a fix of country air in the winter and so I’m on the lookout for somewhere to enjoy the outdoors and a warm fire.
Last weekend we had a chance to head 90 mins north of Sydney (only 40mins from Newcastle airport) to the Hunter Valley and we were pretty amazed with the area. The scenery was excellent and we were loving having the cool nights in front of the fire 🙂
We had always thought of the Hunter Valley as a great wine region … probably best suited to getting away without the kids so this time we wanted to check it out for a family destination. Obviously there are some activities that we did that were a little more adult focused, but in all cases the operators had thought about the kids too and that was a great surprise.
OK … I know … That isn’t going to be ‘kid heaven’ on the surface and its a personal decision about whether it is an appropriate thing to do with them, but we went on a half day horse-drawn carriage tour around the wine makers and it was excellent! Our host was Hunter Valley Classic Carriages and a special mention to them for their hospitality in picking us up and dropping us off.
Firstly there is the novelty of seeing and travelling in the carriage. It was surprisingly fun for the adults and kids and certainly not something that you do every day. It takes the hassle of driving and finding your away around and you don’t have to worry as much about how much wine you are sampling. The wineries are not all about alcohol and there are other things to do there as well … some have kids areas with books, toys etc and most of them had interesting displays about the farming and wine making processes.
Set in beautiful country, the kids can also walk around and play outside on the grass … its a lot of fun! The driver of the carriage brings carrots to feed the horses and the kids can try that as well as brushing and grooming them (plaiting their manes!). There was even a baby on the tour who coped really well.
We headed out to the amazing Emerson’s Cafe and Restaurant for lunch and the food was incredible. Sitting out on the verandah we took in the amazing vista of vines hanging in rows as far as the eye could see. There was an open grassy space for the kids to run and play outside which is rare … good times!
Hunter Valley Gardens
Once again visiting a garden doesn’t sound exhilarating for most kids but the Hunter Valley Gardens were amazing and they specifically cater for kids especially in the school holidays with all sorts of activities, shows and adventures. They even have created SNOW in the gardens once a year.
Nestled at the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges, in the heart of the Hunter vineyards, you will find the magnificent Hunter Valley Gardens – over 60 acres of spectacular international display gardens that will amaze you with sensational sights, colours, fragrances and adventures. Exploring over 8 kilometres of walking paths, visitors are able to experience each of the ten individual feature gardens with a range of statuary and superb feature gardens, all of a standard you won’t see elsewhere in Australia.
There are beautiful cafes and restaurants there too … we had our dinner at The Cellar Restaurant which is in through the Garden entrance and it was absolutely amazing.
The Cellar Restaurant offers European influenced Modern Australian cuisine but in elegant relaxed surroundings. I’m coming back here … such a nice place.
Hot Air Ballooning
On Sunday morning we ticked a box on the bucket list by going hot air ballooning over the wine region. It really is something to try at least once in your life and I would recommend it to anyone over about 6 years of age. The operators Balloon Aloft told us that under that age it is not as enjoyable because the kids can’t see over the basket.
Its a half day activity and it involves a very early start (like 4:40AM!) …. totally worth it though. It’s weather dependent so we had to drive for about 20 mins and check 2 sites for safety (wind speed and direction). Once they selected the launch site, we all helped setup the balloons and learned how to get in and land.
Then we were away! UP and away for about 45-60 mins … i forget. It was really awesome and the photos prove it.
Once down safely we helped to pack-up the balloon which took about 15 mins and then back for a champagne breakfast. Overall a great morning and totally memorable for the whole family!
As if we hadn’t eaten enough already, we stopped for coffee and some of the most delicious desserts and cakes at Sabor Pokolbin. They actually have 2 locations and they specialise in sweet treats … something the kids weren’t arguing with haha
We stayed at the Grand Mercure – The Vintage which has apartment style apartments which can cater for various size families or groups of families. The rooms were self-contained and really clean and modern. Everything we could want was there including the fire which was a bio-fuel eco-style fire … they are clean burning and put out a fair bit of heat actually.
In the warmer months they have great outdoor activities such as the pool, tennis etc. As a part of the complex there is a full restaurant looking out over the championship golf course … truly spectacular with kangaroos grazing and even hot air balloons landing spectacularly when we enjoyed our buffet breakfast.
This area is now a definite ‘must do’ on my family holiday destination list and would be great all year around. For me I think autumn, winter and spring will suit us though I’m sure summer has its own charm with the long days and growing grape season.
There is plenty to do for families and we have only touched on a few things. You can get more ideas and info from Visit NSW (Hunter Valley).
We were not paid to write this post however our costs were covered for this holiday by Destination NSW.