The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s oldest and most famous wine regions, and sets the scene for many boutique country getaways. A little over two hours north-west of Sydney, you can easily drive straight there, hit up the sights, then make your way back. But it’s much better when getting there is part of the fun.
Break the drive up with a stop at a gourmet cafe, a lakeside walk, mountain lookouts, a decadent lunch and maybe even some day-spa pampering. Here are our top tips for turning the drive to the Hunter Valley into a road trip to remember.
Grab breakfast at The Butcher’s Block
You’re not clear of Sydney just yet, but getting to Wahroonga in the Upper North Shore means you’re through most of the city’s traffic. Stop for breakfast and coffee at The Butcher’s Block, on the suburb’s main strip. Its aesthetic still leans heavily on the building’s former incarnation as a butcher shop, and choice cuts still anchor the menu (though plenty of vegetarian, and gluten-free, options are available too). The butcher’s burger has a chicken patty, cheese, bacon and a hash brown. But you might prefer to ease into the day with something lighter, like bruschetta or Turkish eggs.
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Stretch your legs at Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area
Set course north on the M1 and turn off at Morisset to stretch your legs at a lakeside nature haven on the shores of Lake Macquarie. It’s a huge area (the lake is twice the size of Sydney Harbour) with countless coves to explore. Awaba Bay is a serene spot for a bushwalk. A fun 6.6-kilometre track loops along the lake shore from Marmong Point to Bolton Point and offers great water views. Spend as much or as little time here as you need before jumping back in the car.
Have lunch at éRemo
Waterways give way to wineries as you head inland to the Hunter Valley, the homeland of long lunches, cellar doors and warm hospitality. éRemo restaurant is part of Spicers Guesthouse, a classic 1980s country homestead near Pokolbin modelled after rural European elegance.
Using the talents of local producers is the éRemo remit. Head chef Jayden Casinelli scours the Hunter Valley for seasonal ingredients and inspiration. A farm-style contemporary Italian a la carte menu is offered daily, and the Avido menu (from the Italian word for “greedy”) is a shared set menu available Friday to Sunday. Lamb ragu, grilled bream, Wagyu bresaola and eggplant rollatini, and Dutch cream potato gnocchi are all winners. The wine list showcases both the best of the Hunter Valley and choice international selections, including some Burgundy vintages available by the bottle.
See the sights from Mount Bright Lookout
To get a sense of the scale of the Hunter Valley wine region, it helps if you get high. Mount Bright is perfect for the post-lunch visitor because you can drive there (or you can walk, if you’re prepared). A patchwork of vineyards is laid out below you, with idyllic towns sprinkled between them. But why stop at one lookout when you can visit two, or even three? Bimbadeen Lookout is just south of Mount Bright (access it from Mount View Road), and Pokolbin Mountains Road Lookout is just to the north. As you can guess, this whole area is fantastic for mountain views, many of which you can enjoy as you drive.
Get pampered at Spa Anise at Spicers Vineyards Estate
End your big day out sinking into a blissful spa treatment surrounded by native bush at Spicers Vineyards Estate. Spa Anise offers a range of signature face and body rituals using oils and body balms from Australian label Waterlily. A couple’s treatment includes a full body massage and exfoliation, followed by a glass of sparkling wine and a fruit platter outside in the gorgeous garden estate. A “vino therapy” skin facial is like the Hunter Valley in treatment form – it works its magic with pressings of shiraz, grape seed and pomegranate.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Spicers Retreats.