The Hunter Valley, about 120km north of Sydney, is one of Australia’s greatest – and, for Sydneysiders, most convenient – rural escapes. People don’t just love the area for its world-renowned wines, but also for what accompanies it: the dining, the luxury hotels, the gourmet cheeses, the decadent chocolate, it goes on and on… Fair to say, the Hunter Valley is a place where you need that clear country air to refresh you after a day or two or serious indulgence. However, after a big meal of the best food and wine around, even the most dedicated designated driver would rather sit back for a sleepy afternoon than get behind the wheel. So why not hire a minibus? If you really have a DD who is ready to forgo the pleasures (and subsequent drowsiness) of the Hunter Valley’s temptations, you can easily drive yourself. If not, we’re happy to provide the driver. But what are you going to do on your Hunter Valley sojourn? This article will outline a few tips for planning your Hunter Valley tour.
The Hunter Valley is big
Like Australia in general, the Hunter Valley is spacious. Carved by the Hunter River and bordered north and south by highlands, the Hunter Valley covers some 30,000 square kilometres (nearly as big as Belgium!). It’s at least a half an hour on country high roads between its farthest flung cellar doors. Between these, there are around another 20 or so vineyards to sample. If you’re planning on a bit of exercise to sharpen your appetite, a morning detour to the many nature walks in the surrounding hills can easily add another 40 klicks to your mini-bus itinerary.
Take the high road
The Hunter Valley has been settled for a couple of hundred years and so is criss-crossed by expressways, highways, back roads, bylaws and near-forgotten country lanes. The major access road is the relatively new Hunter Expressway (M15) – a world-class high-speed connection linking the Hunter with the coast. This then splays out into the Golden Highway and New England Highway. A network of other good roads link the Valley’s towns. Your mini-bus will be more than agile enough to cruise into the Hunter from the south along Putty Road too. It’s a quiet and meandering bush road that stretches all the the way down to Sydney’s northern burbs. This is the scenic route for sure, so if you just need to get to and from Sydney quickly, then it’s a 90-minute straight shot along the Pacific Motorway.
Hunter Valley wineries
There are more than 20 different wineries in the Hunter Valley. They range from the stylish and luxurious to modest craft-wineries where the cellar door is literally just the cellar’s door! Here is a good, reliable selection for your mini-bus itinerary.
ANDREW THOMAS WINES
A balance of making the Hunter more modern yet only offering the region’s blue-ribbon varieties: semillon and shiraz.
Featuring a wine museum and gorgeous views, there’s as much to see here as there is to taste.
A consistent and long-standing winery offering the signature shiraz or semillon taste of the Hunter.
DAVID HOOK WINES
Quaint and inviting, this old-style boutique winery prides itself on giving you the unique flavour of individual vineyards.
DE IULIIS WINES
A thoroughly modern cellar door offering wines nearly as impressive as the view.
DOMAINE DE BINET
A family-run winery that does things differently. Taste something you’ve never come across before.
DRAYTON’S FAMILY WINES
With roots stretching back over 160 years, Drayton’s sticks to classic styles and dessert wines.
FIRST CREEK WINES
Always a lot going on here – especially as it makes wine for many of the Hunter’s smaller vineyards.
HART & HUNTER
Winemaking that highlights individual vineyards. The place to really get to grips with “terroir”.
Just huge. Along with the wine, there’s also a brewhouse, restaurant, views and even the odd Rolling Stones concert. Really.
An architect-designed tasting room for sampling wines from the Hunter and surrounding wine regions.
Wines produced among lavender fields and olive groves, this boutique winery has more than half a century of history to sample.
LEOGATE ESTATE WINES
Fairly new, this place leads the way as a “country chic” setting. Great wines too.
A truly Tuscan feel here, it’s a full food-and-wine experience directly among the vines.
Year-in and year-out, McGuigan makes good wines. The location is really convenient for some of the Hunter’s gourmet food attractions too.
MT PLEASANT WINES
A Hunter Valley icon, this family-run winery does things its own innovative way.
PEPPER TREE WINES
Built in an old convent, this cellar door, the gardens and the on-site Circa 86 restaurant have been a Hunter Valley fave for years.
Cosy and friendly ambience with great views and delightful award-winning wines.
SMALL WINEMAKERS CENTRE
Try the tipple of more than multiple vineyards in this central showcase for the Hunter’s ultra-boutique winemakers.
TAMBURLAINE ORGANIC WINES
Who said organic wine was to be sniffed at? Try Tamburlaine and you’ll find it’s something to be savoured.
A place where classic varieties coexist alongside new ideas. Worth sampling over lunch at the restaurant.
An old-school winery where everything seems to be done just the way it was when the place was established 160 years back.
Do the Hunter Valley by minibus
Whether you have a party just too big for a single car or you have a fair-old group, a mini-bus can take all the logistical worry out of organising your own personal Hunter Valley tour. Australian licencing means you can operate a vehicle up to 12 seats on a regular car licence and, if you need more space, you can also hire a driver too at very reasonable rates. Just call Southern Cross Truck Rentals to find out more about our great minibus hire deals.