If you live in Sydney, or you’re visiting this amazing city, we’re guessing that you’re interested in what there is to see and do whilst you’re here? The list is absolutely endless, however if you’re looking for a weekend away for a change of scenery, there are few places more suitable than the stunning Hunter Valley.
Just a two-hour drive out of Sydney, the Hunter valley region boasts endless vineyards as far as the eye can see, endless food options and spa getaway retreats to soak away your Sydney stresses.
In July Sydney Social 101 headed to Hunter Valley to compile a 101 rundown of what to do in the NSW wine region.
The drive is simple, if a little monotonous. In just over two hours from Sydney you’re literally transported to a tranquil escape and a feast for the eyes, and the stomach.
Visit NSW has some great direction from people travelling to the Hunter Valley from all over NSW.
Sydney Social 101 was very lucky to secure a car from Ford to make the journey that little but more comfortable. The amazing guys at Ford provided us with a Ford Kuga –which BTW is an unreal 4WD and small family SUV! It made the journey so much more enjoyable with its heated seats, SYNC™ allowing you to call family and friends just by saying their name. You can even plug-in your music player or USB drive and play your music the way you always do and ask to hear a specific artist, album or track (Siri eat your heart out). All while your hands stay safely on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road. In addition to dual control heating control and cup holders… everyone loves a cup holder right! Ha!
The most impressive of all is the self-reverse parallel park mode – yes you heard right guys, this bad boy parks itself! Seriously!! You control the accelerator and the car does the rest! We’re in the future people. Another nifty little element of the car, especially when driving on motorways (which there is a lot of when driving to the Hunter Valley) is the blind spot light on your wing mirrors. When a vehicle is in your blind spot a light is lit to alert you – cool hey!
We literally found ourselves in complete awe of the car! The hands free power tailgate opens (and closes) with a wave of your foot under the bumper. Because chances are, if you’re putting things in the back you’ve probably got your hands full. It even adjusts to the height of your garage.
Places to Stay
There are so many choices to stay when in the Hunter Valley, we decided to ask the guys at Hunter Valley Tourism where they would recommend and we were (thankfully) pointed in the direction of Spicer’s Retreat and Lodge…
Upon arrival at Spicer’s Vineyeards Estate we were just blown away by the attention to detail and the view. The staff was so friendly and made us feel so welcome from the get-go! There are many retreats and accommodation options in the Hunter Valley that offer traditional surroundings and dated but cosy furnishings – this is not one of them.
Picture a luxuriously appointed estate set amongst rolling vineyards and native bushland just two hours’ drive from Sydney. It truly is a place where great food and wine provide the perfect recipe for relaxation. Its very own Spa Anise adds to the feeling of rejuvenation and revitalization. And where appreciating life comes as naturally as appreciating the latest vintage.
There is a stunning outdoor pool with hot tub, which unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of – but on the plus side, it means we’ve got an excuse to come back!
The service is impeccable and the staff will go the extra mile without a thought.
The rooms, oh the rooms, where to begin… The lounge has a roaring open fire at its heart with a comfortable lounge that you can relax into with a glass of red and a movie – if that tickles your fancy… The bathroom has heated floors, which believe us, in the winter months in a godsend.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is a massive tub in the bathroom with Jacuzzi jets – just a little bit special! The rain shower is also a nice touch if you don’t want to spend your time enjoying the jet bath on tap (pardon the pun).
When you can eventually tear yourself away from the room, there is restaurant Botanica in the grounds that not only serves the most scrummy breakfast each morning, it also has an even dinner menu that is consistently recognized for its quality dining experience and menu. Even better, if you want to stay in your room for breakfast in bed, they’ll deliver your meal right to your door!
We’ll tell you more about that in the ‘Where to eat’ section below!
Sydney Social 101 was invited as a guest to stay at one of the first guesthouses to be established in the Hunter Valley, Sebel Kirkton Park. Upon arrival down the tree lined drive, the unique country manor charm and luxurious facilities did not go unnoticed.
The staff is friendly, approachable and accommodating. The venue does have a feel of history when you take a look around and even though some elements might be seen as dated, there is certainly a huge helping of charm that makes you feel right at home. (The Sebel is undergoing a huge refurbishment in 2016, so you’ll need to get in quick to see it in its original glory).
Located in the heart of Pokolbin, and only minutes to the Hunter Valley’s most popular attractions and wineries, the property remains true to its Australian colonial heritage and is complemented by 70 acres of rural surroundings
The Sebel Kirkton Park Hunter Valley boasts 71 spacious guestrooms – most with sweeping verandahs, an award-winning restaurant, tennis courts, a billiards room and an on-site Grecian-style pool house with indoor heated pool, sauna, spa and gymnasium.
The rooms are comfortable and quaint with modern bathroom facilities and a hearty mini bar offering. With the rooms surrounding the gust facilities restaurant and pool, you never have far to walk to get back ‘home’ (for the weekend).
This is a great place to stay during the winter and the restaurant offering certainly capitalizes on this! We were treated to a three course Christmas in July dining experience complete with crackers and all the trimmings. We’ve included a complete review of this in the ‘Where to eat’ section below!
Where to Relax
Spicers Vineyards Estate is host to Spa Anise, an elegant new day spa with two treatment rooms, natural timber flooring and private courtyards.
Fully qualified therapists are on hand to provide a range of luxurious massages, treatments, body wraps and facials.
Sydney Social 101 decided to try out a facial for our write up (it would be rude not to right?!) –Again the attention to detail is just amazing with heated towels, a complimentary foot massage upon arrival, your choice of oils depending on your mood and a serene experience that leaves you so relaxed that you don’t want to leave.
This is highly recommended if you’re heading to the Hunter Valley for a hens, or a special birthday treat – group bookings can absolutely be catered for!
Where to Eat
Beautifully presented dishes, paired with the best wine that the Hunter region has to offer, Restaurant Botanica is focused on seasonality and freshness, perfectly complemented by an award-winning wine list and stunning views looking out across our private vineyard to the Brokenback Mountain Range.
The restaurant’s very own kitchen garden is the source of many of the herbs and vegetables that add a wholesome and healthy dimension to the dishes.
Spicers Vineyards Estate and Restaurant Botanica’s Head Chef Josh Duncan has bought a new and exciting chapter to Restaurant Botanica. Josh’s extensive career so far has seen him work in Australia, London, Dubai & Italy.
At the award-winning Restaurant Botanica in the Hunter Valley Josh specializes in Modern Contemporary European cuisine. His menu is based on local and seasonal produce. Josh is also very happy using the very own kitchen garden to bring a special influence to his dishes on the menu.
Restaurant Botanica has been recognized and awarded Best for Romance in the 2015 Dimmi Awards and Two Wine Glasses in the 2014 Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year Awards – pretty impressive to say the least!
Lunch: 12.00pm – 3.00pm Sat and Sun
Weekday Lunch Groups by request
Dinner: From 6.00pm – 7 nights a week
Conservatory – Sebel
When staying at the Sebel, Sydney Social 101 was hosted for an Xmas in July dinner. The four course offering brought the festivities to the venue, along with a generous pairing of locally sourced wines.
We highly recommend heading to Conservatory for a bite to eat!
Thrills and Spills
As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not all about the accommodation and the food at the Hunter Valley!
From boutique wineries to household names, you can join a private tour with highly experienced and respected experts or simply find your own way to the stellar attractions of the cellar doors. Some of the recommended tours include:
If you fancy going old school – you can even go by horse and carriage, yes you read correctly!
If you like a drop of adrenalin with your wine, the Hunter Valley can serve up exactly what you need. Choose from hot air ballooning, a helicopter tour, mountain biking or even sky diving (to name a few).
The Hunter Valley has several world-class golf courses including The Vintage, designed by the legendary Greg Norman, and the unusual challenge of teeing off over a vineyard at Cypress Lakes – the choices literally are endless.