The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s finest wine-producing regions. Located in New South Wales, to the north of Sydney, it was also one of the first places that European settlers established vineyards in Australia. And it’s not just oenophiles who flock to the Hunter Valley, either. Gourmets come for the region’s celebrated restaurants, where locally produced ingredients are used to create the perfect edible pairings for the locally-produced wines. Tours also explore the scenic countryside, and many operators schedule in time for a stroll among the vines, as well as taking in some of the Sydney sights, for those that start and end in the city.
Experiencing the Hunter Valley can be done alone, although the main point is to sample different types of wine, and that’s not too conducive to driving. As such, tours are an extremely popular way to get to know the Hunter region. There are cheap tours that provide a broad overview of the region and its nuanced produce, half-day tours that take in just a couple of wineries and then there are the perspectives tours: learning about the production process from the winemakers, seeing the vineyards from the air, or sipping wine in the luxuriant surrounds of a spa. Here are five popular Hunter Valley tour options.
From A$149/ per person
Combining an exploration of the fine produce of the Hunter Valley region with some of the local sights, this full-day group tour poses excellent value-for-money. Geared towards first-time visitors to the region, the itinerary includes samplings of local cheeses, wines and liqueurs at a series of boutique wineries. The trip out of Sydney passes over the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. A visit to Hunter Valley Gardens Village is also on the cards. Lunch, with options for different diets, including vegan, is provided as part of the fee, as are the tastings.
From A$189/ per person
Do you like a little mystery added to your gastronomic experiences? Well that’s what this tour throws into the keg along with the customary tasting sessions. The mystery element is left as a surprise, so we won’t ruin it here, suffice to say that it’s designed to help you improve your knowledge of wines. Other highlights of this tour include off-the-beaten path wineries with multiple tasting sessions and cheese pairings, followed by a tour of a local brewery and the chance to drink some locally-brewed beers. If there’s time and the weather’s favourable, there’s also a chance to eat some gourmet snacks amid the grapevines. This tour involves pick-up and drop-off from your Hunter Valley hotel.
FROM A$149/per person
If your main focus is on the wine – and in the Hunter Valley, that would be unsurprising – then consider this tour, which provides an opportunity to taste up to 20 different concoctions. This tour even goes one step further, offering insight into the wine making process, with a behind-the-scenes winemaking excursion at one of the larger working wineries. There will be plenty of time for tastings in the cellar, before heading to a few more wineries including one of the region’s oldest family-run ventures. This tour starts in Sydney and lasts around 11 hours.
From A$225/ per person
If you’d prefer to take a half-day wine tour focussing on fine cuisine and wine, this could be the one. Beginning and ending in the Hunter Valley, this is a small-group tour, usually accommodating a maximum of eight people. Some of the region’s top chefs prepare no fewer than nine (!) courses across the four winery-restaurants on the itinerary. Naturally many of the courses are paired with top-quality wines. Transport between your hotel and each winery is provided, as well as insightful commentary during the journey that helps to add further context to the wine-producing region.
From A$290/ per person
Hunter Valley from the air is a special experience, and befits the level of luxury that one associates with fine wines and gourmet food. Starting out at Cessnock airport on the coast, take a 15-minute flight over the wine region, with mountains looming on the horizon. The flight is a private one, adding to the VIP flavour. Your pilot will touch down in the pretty grounds of the Audrey Wilkinson winery, where a gourmet hamper awaits, which will be designed to meet all dietary preferences. Time will also be available to stroll through the vineyards and winery grounds before the return flight.