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If you’re travelling in New South Wales in Australia, make sure you add a trip to the Hunter Valley near Sydney to your New South Wales itinerary. Hunter Valley food and wine are famous in the area and I can confirm it’s delicious. Think wines, cheeses, cured meats, chocolate…aka everything you need for a tasty lunch or dinner (so good I keep typing “hunger valley” instead of “hunter). While most people go to Hunter Valley for the wine, Hunter Valley food is definitely worth making a trip for. I’ve included information on the best restaurants in the Hunter Valley that we visited below, as well as the wineries, and a few more recommended places for lunch and dinner in the Hunter Valley. I’ve also included some of the best Hunter Valley wine tasting tours which are perfect if you’re planning a Hunter Valley day trip from Sydney.
About the Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine region and is home to over 120 wineries, restaurants and spas. All the Hunter Valley cheese and wine we tried was delicious and you’re sure to leave the area with a full stomach!
Where is the Hunter Valley?
The Hunter Valley is about 120km north of Sydney which takes roughly 2 hours to drive. It’s ideal for visiting as a day trip from Sydney or it’s even better as a weekend getaway from Sydney.
How to get to the Hunter Valley, Australia
The easiest way to get to the Hunter Valley in Australia is to drive. If you’re a visitor to Australia, hire a car in Sydney through RentalCars.com which makes it super easy to compare the different deals available.
Alternatively, you can take a tour to Hunter Valley from Sydney. Here are a few options for Hunter Valley tours below, they take you around the best wineries and Hunter Valley restaurants. You’re in for a treat with these Hunter Valley wine tours!
- Hunter Valley wineries, tastings and brewhouse lunch tour: Get picked up in Sydney and head to the Hunter Valley. This tour includes 3 wine tastings, cheese and chocolate samples, a visit to the Hunter Valley Gardens, lunch and transport.
- Full day wine tour with gourmet lunch from Sydney: Be driven to Sydney and back enjoying wine and a gourmet lunch. Has won Sydney’s Best Tour awards for several years making it a great choice when it comes to Hunter Valley tours from Sydney.
- Hunter Valley wine tasting Tour with 2-course lunch: Visit 3 local vineyards to meet the winemakers and sample red and white wines and enjoy a delicious a la carte lunch. Includes transport from Sydney.
- Wine-making, vineyards and lunch tour from Sydney: Travel through the Hunter Valley and taste up to 20 wines at top Hunter Valley vineyards along with a delicious restaurant lunch.
Train from Sydney to Hunter Valley
You can also get from Sydney to Hunter Valley by train. You can take the Cityrail service to Maitland or Morisset and then catch a bus from these stations to Cessnock. From Cessnock, it’ll be around a 20-minute taxi ride from here to wherever you want to go in the valley. Or just stay in Cessnock. That’s where we stayed and then did a couple of drives for dinner and bike rides to other places in the area.
Alternatively, you can get the Countrylink express service from Sydney Central station to Singleton Station. Then you’ll need to get the taxi as above.
Getting around Hunter Valley
If you’re planning on visiting vineyards in Hunter Valley (which let’s face it, you probably are!), then you shouldn’t be driving. You can cycle the backroads of the Hunter Valley if you’re not planning on tasting much wine or, better still, book a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus in the Hunter Valley. This bus allows you to customise your own Hunter Valley Wine Tour.
The bus stops at over 40 different wineries in the region so you’re not limited to only a few. It’s the safest and easiest way to get around while wine tasting in the Huner Valley.
Where to stay in Hunter Valley
If you’re planning to make your trip to the Hunter Valley longer then check out these top Hunter Valley accommodation options below.
Best hotels in the Hunter Valley, Australia
A lot of the hotels in Hunter Valley are luxurious but that doesn’t mean they have to blow the bank
- Grapevines Boutique Accommodation: 15 minute’s drive from Cessnock, this accommodation is set on 12 acres and has panoramic views of the vineyards and mountains. It’s also super close to the Hunter Valley Gardens; one of the top Hunter Valley attractions.
- Tranquil Vale Vineyard: Stay in a homely cottage at this vineyard with an outdoor pool, vineyard and a library of books and movies. Here you can horse ride, play golf and go on chocolate and cheese factory tours.
- The Wattle Lodge: This Hunter Valley lodge is in the heart of the Hunter Valley between the Pokolbin vineyards and Barrington Tops. It has a private patio deck and is eco-friendly too.
- Elfin Hill Hotel: This super cute hotel has a shared kitchen (so you can eat all the treats you find during the day!), a swimming pool and garden.
- Thistle Hill Guesthouse: This guesthouse has huge gardens and is just minute’s away from Pokolbin’s best wineries. The rooms and cottages are spacious and the perfect relaxing setting for your Hunter Valley trip.
Camping in the Hunter Valley
If you’re looking to travel the Hunter Valley on a budget then the best option is to go camping.
- Active Holidays Campsite: I highly recommend the Active Holidays campsite which is just as you’re coming into Cessnock. It’s extremely clean, has kitchen facilities and very friendly owners who’ll help you sort anything out, make bookings and give you super handy maps of the area.
Where to find the best Hunter Valley food and Hunter Valley restaurants
Here are some of the best places to eat in the Hunter Valley that we visited (and a few more we didn’t get time for this time around). The best things to do in Hunter Valley (pretty much) all involve eating or drinking so go hungry!
Hunter Valley Cheese Factory
When we visited, the Hunter Valley Cheese Factory was currently based within part of the factory for McGuigan wines. This meant that the cheese-making tour wasn’t running as it normally would (we couldn’t see any cheese being made), but there is still daily cheese making talks. On these talks you’ll find out how the company make their cheese – it’s all by hand!
Now they’re back in their own space, The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory and Tasting Rooms, and do talks and cheese tastings. If you’re a cheese lover you simply have to visit this factory!
Smelly Cheese Shop
This Hunter Valley cheese shop is just across the road from the Hunter Valley Cheese Company is the Smelly Cheese Shop. Don’t be put off by the name – the cheese isn’t actually that smelly. Sure, some of it might be, but you’re not overwhelmed by the smell when you walk in!
Here you can sample 5 cheese for a couple of dollars. You’ll get three samples of their most popular cheese before getting to pick two of your own.
Their Brie was the best brie I’ve ever had. Sometimes I find brie a bit too strong but this one was really creamy. In fact, it was so good we bought one and ate it with some crackers (also from their shop) outside on their beautiful terrace – the perfect Hunter Valley lunch!
Hunter Valley Beer Co.
After a long day’s cycling, we pulled over at Hunter Valley Beer Co. which was just across from our campsite.
As you’d expect for a Hunter Valley brewery, they’ve tonnes of beers and we went for their ‘beer paddle’. With this, you could choose to have four different types of beers (roughly half a pint). It also came with some crispy nuts for us hungry cyclists!
Their ginger beer was particularly good. Different from other ginger ones I’ve tried with a bit more warmth to it. If you go, try it!
The Beer Company has a great outside space, as well as indoor space, and a restaurant that looked like it was serving up some tasty Australian food.
One of the Hunter Valley wineries we visited was the McGuigan Vineyard which was just next door to the Hunter Valley Cheese Company. They do daily vineyard tours but for some reason, there wasn’t one running on the day we turned up.
As a replacement for this, we indulged in some wine tasting with the woman giving us lots of information about the different types of wine (and helped us novices look like wine tasting pros too).
We tried their red wines, all of which were pretty nice. The prices varied wildly from about $11 a bottle to much, much more expensive.
It’s a good place to pick up a bottle for a picnic lunch, or you can take it next door to the cheese company and eat alongside some of their cheese.
Hunter Honey Hive
Pokolbin isn’t actually a town but an area of the Hunter Valley with the highest concentration of vineyards and shops. Despite not being a real town, there’s a little area called Pokolbin Village where there are a few cafes, cute Hunter Valley shops and a general store.
It’s in the general store that you’ll find the Hunter Honey Hive which is full of pretty much everything you could ever make out of honey.
If you’re a honey fan you’ll love their different types of Hunter Valley honey. There’s vanilla, chilli… all sorts!
Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard
The Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard has been voted one of the Top 10 Cellar Doors in Australia. It was also the only one to make it on to the list from New South Wales. It’s undoubtedly in a pretty location; perched atop a hill of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges with 360-degree views over the hillsides and groves of the Hunter Valley.
Hunters Quarter Restaurant
We tried to go to this restaurant on our last night in Australia only to find out that it was entirely booked out for a private function (top tip: always book your Hunter Valley dinner, it’s busy!). We did make it inside though and it looked beautiful.
The restaurant is on the Cockfighters Ghost Vineyard so you’ll see a lot of their wines on your menu. If you’re visiting for lunch during the summer, try and get a table out on the terrace where you can look out onto the vineyard.
The restaurant focuses on fresh, seasonal dishes and tries to use as much local produce as possible.
Two Fat Blokes
These guys do award-winning food and put on tours around the Hunter Valley that are highly recommended. The main attraction is the Two Fat Blokes deli. They’ve aimed to make it feel as though you’re in Provence or Tuscany. On the menu, you’ll find an antipasti menu where you can pick at lots of different snacks, as well as more formal dishes.
There’s also everything you need for a picnic and they’ll happily put together a picnic hamper for you too.
Two Fat Blokes also run a couple of food and wine tours. This one, in particular, looks very interesting and includes a wine tasting experience that you can only get on this tour!