09 April, 2018
Last updated on 15 May, 2023
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Posted by Karolien | Spaceships Intern
No need to be a connoisseur to revel in a road trip to Hunter Valley, the crown jewel of Australia's wine regions. Whether you're a budding enthusiast keen to unravel the intricacies of winemaking or a seasoned wine lover eager to savour the finest vintages, Hunter Valley promises an unforgettable experience.
Hunter Valley, a mere two-hour drive from Sydney (175 km), welcomed us with its serene landscapes. We decided to camp for the night at BIG4 Hunter Valley Holiday Park. For a modest $35, we secured a charming camping spot, access to a refreshing pool, and well-maintained shower and toilet facilities — a perfect blend of budget-friendly convenience and comfort.
We parked Jupiter and set up the side tent for additional shade. Although I'm a sun enthusiast, the occasional respite in the shade is always welcome.
Day 1: A Taste of Hunter Valley
Our culinary adventure began at Kelman Vineyard, conveniently located within walking distance from our campsite — a sensible choice considering the potential hazards of drinking and driving. The vineyard offered us a palate-pleasing exploration of the region's signature wines and an intriguing insight into their creative process.
Next, we ventured to The Garden Cellars in Pokolbin, where we expanded our tasting experience to include not just wine but also chocolate and vodka. As our campervan was safely parked, we were free to indulge in this delicious exploration.
Day 2: Beachside Bliss
Post our gastronomic tour of Hunter Valley, we set course for Port Stephens, eager to soak up some beach vibes. Our first stop was the quaint Fisherman’s Bay, boasting a secluded beach and breathtaking views.
Armed with provisions, we set up our portable gas cooker for an afternoon feast, savouring the meal amidst nature's splendour. We concluded the day at Koala Shores Port Stephens Holiday Park, a more upscale destination featuring a large pool and a mini wildlife reserve, home to wild koalas, pelicans, and other fauna. All for a reasonable $30 per night for our vehicle with two Space Travellers.
Inside that little piece of nature, you could find wild koalas and other wild animals. In the water, we saw wild pelicans. All campsites and holiday parks can be found in the guidebook that came with our Spaceships. But you can also use the free camping app by Spaceships.
Explore Hunter Valley with your Spaceship
Day 3: Exploring Caves Beach
Our road trip finale took us to Caves Beach, a hidden gem with a laid-back vibe. At high tide, it offered the unique opportunity to swim into a cave - an adventurous punctuation to our journey.
Our Hunter Valley and beach road trip concluded with a swift return to Sydney, carrying with us a trove of delightful memories and experiences.
Are you eager to explore Hunter Valley? Start planning!
Preparation is key to having a smooth and enjoyable road trip to Hunter Valley. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of the Hunter Valley.
How to plan your Hunter Valley road trip
Hunter Valley is known for its vineyards, so a bit of knowledge about different wines and the wine-making process can enhance your experience. Familiarize yourself with the region's geography, climate (Hunter Valley has a temperate climate with warm summers and cool winters), and the unique varietals it offers (like Semillon and Shiraz). Look into local customs and social norms, as well as the region's history.
Get to know your vehicle
If you're renting a campervan like the Spaceships model mentioned earlier, make sure you know how to operate all its features, including attaching the rear awning or converting a seat into a bed. If using your own vehicle, get it thoroughly checked, especially if you're planning to drive on less frequented or rural roads that can be found in some parts of the Hunter Valley.
Where to sleep in Hunter Valley
Book your campsites in advance. Places like holiday parks in Hunter Valley and Port Stephens are popular and can fill up quickly. These locations offer camping amenities, and some even provide wildlife experiences, like spotting wild koalas.
What to bring? Pack essentials!
Given the region's climate, pack lightweight clothing for the day, but don't forget a jacket for cooler evenings. Comfortable footwear is a must for vineyard tours. Other essentials include good quality sunscreen, a hat, toiletries, maps, a mobile charger, and camping gear such as a portable gas cooker for cooking at your campsite. When hiring a Spaceships campervan it'll be easy for you as these compact campervans come with cooking & sleeping gear included.
Food & drinks
Pack groceries for meals you plan to cook at the campsite. Also, Hunter Valley offers a range of culinary experiences, from fine dining to artisan cheese makers and chocolatiers, which you might want to explore. When it comes to drinking, enjoy the wine tasting, but remember to do so responsibly. Drinking and driving is a serious offence, and there are strict laws in Australia against it.
Enjoy amazing wines on your road trip to Hunter Valley
Plan your activities: wineries to visit
Identify the vineyards you'd like to visit. Some popular ones include Kelman Vineyard and The Garden Cellars. Also, plan for other activities like visiting the Hunter Valley Gardens, enjoying a hot air balloon ride, or exploring the local art galleries. If you plan to enjoy a heavy wine-tasting session, consider arranging a designated driver or booking a guided tour that provides transportation.
Hunter Valley is Australia's oldest wine region so there are plenty of esteemed and award-winning wineries to choose from. Here are some of the notable ones that offer unique experiences:
Tyrrell's Wines: Founded in 1858, Tyrrell's is one of Australia's most historic family-owned wineries. It is renowned for its Semillon and has won numerous accolades. A visit here offers a glimpse into the history of winemaking in Hunter Valley.
Audrey Wilkinson: This winery is not only known for its excellent wines, particularly Semillon and Shiraz but also for its panoramic views. Located on a hilltop, the vineyard offers 360-degree views of the Hunter Valley. They also offer picnic experiences amongst the vines.
Brokenwood Wines: Established in 1970, Brokenwood is famous for its Cricket Pitch Wine. It also boasts a wide range of wines including Semillon, Shiraz, and Chardonnay. The winery's new cellar door is one of the largest in the region, featuring unique circular tasting 'pods'. Pepper Tree Wines: This winery stands out for its commitment to sustainability and its boutique approach to wine production. The beautiful grounds feature a picturesque building with a sandstone veranda, perfect for relaxing and sipping wine.
McGuigan Wines: One of the most recognized names in the Hunter Valley, McGuigan Wines has won "International Winemaker of the Year" four times. Their cellar door offers a comprehensive wine-tasting experience, including a tour of the winery and an opportunity to taste their award-winning wines.
Kelman Vineyard: A smaller, boutique winery, Kelman Vineyard offers a more intimate wine-tasting experience. Their wines are handcrafted from grapes grown exclusively on their own estate, resulting in unique, high-quality wines.
Mount Pleasant Estate: Established in 1921, it's known for its Old Hill Vineyard which produces some of the most awarded wines in Australia. The winery offers breathtaking views and a variety of tasting experiences.
DeLuliis Wines: This family-owned winery is known for its innovative approach to winemaking. Along with wine tasting, you can enjoy an outdoor seating area and an art gallery.
Each of these wineries offers something unique, whether it's historical significance, stunning views, sustainable practices, or simply exceptional wines.
Hunter Valley is home to stunning landscapes and wildlife. Always adhere to local guidelines, dispose of waste properly, and avoid disturbing any wildlife you may encounter. If you're visiting the beach, be mindful of the local marine life.
Best road trip tip: stay flexible!
While it's good to have a plan, some of the best adventures are unplanned. If you come across a hidden gem, be it a secluded beach or a lesser-known vineyard, don't hesitate to explore it.
When to visit Hunter Valley? What is the best time of the year?
This is an easy yet hard question as it all depends. It really depends on what you're looking for in your road trip to Hunter Valley. Let's dive deeper into this and see what you can expect from each season in Hunter Valley.
Spring (September - November): This is an excellent time to visit Hunter Valley as the vineyards are in bloom and the weather is typically mild and pleasant. It's a picturesque time to explore the wineries and vineyards. Many wineries offer guided tours where you can learn about the wine-making process.
Summer (December - February): The region can get quite hot in summer, with temperatures often reaching above 30°C (86°F). However, this is the period when many wineries harvest their grapes, which can be an interesting experience to witness. Do note that some wineries may restrict access during the harvest.
Autumn (March - May): This is considered one of the best times to visit Hunter Valley. The weather is cooler and more comfortable, and the region is particularly beautiful as the leaves change colour. The autumn harvest might also provide opportunities to participate in grape picking and stomping.
Winter (June - August): Winter in the Hunter Valley is relatively mild, with daytime temperatures usually in the mid-teens Celsius (around 60°F). This is the quietest time of year for the region, so it's a good choice if you want to avoid crowds. Many of the region's top restaurants will also have winter menus featuring hearty, comforting food that pairs well with the local wines. This is also when the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival takes place, offering a series of culinary events and wine tastings.
There's really no bad time to visit Hunter Valley. Autumn is often recommended for its pleasant weather, beautiful scenery, and the excitement of the harvest.