How to spend a romantic weekend in the Hunter Valley
As Australia’s oldest wine region full of outstanding cellar doors, restaurants, picturesque landscapes and quaint towns, the Hunter Valley has romance in abundance.
No matter the season, the Hunter Valley is an ideal spot for a one or two-night romantic getaway. But be warned – you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
I recently took a trip to the region with my partner and sampled plenty of the Hunter’s idyllic offerings, so to help you in your holiday planning, I’ve put together a 48-hour itinerary for a romantic stay in the Hunter Valley.
If you only have two nights in the Hunter Valley, it’s worth getting going early on your first day to start exploring.
Begin by fuelling up on brunch and coffee outdoors at Cafe Enzo. Take your time soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the best of the Hunter’s produce. If the weather isn’t conducive to lounging about outdoors, head inside and warm up by the fireplace.
Settle in for a long lunch on the grounds of Leaves and Fishes. All of their food is served in eco-friendly containers, so you can grab your food and lounge about on the grass, or on one of the picnic tables underneath the gum trees. Or, sit out on the deck overlooking the fish pond. We loved the Asian-inspired menu full of fresh flavours – perfect for sharing with your significant other in the stunning surroundings.
Make sure you browse The Store before you go, and maybe pick up a candle or some locally-made ceramics to take home.
For a more formal affair, make your way to Restaurant Botanica for lunch. Fusing French techniques with modern Australian cuisine, Restaurant Botanica will have you lingering into the afternoon with their exceptional wine list and vineyard views.
If you don’t want to stay in the heart of Wine Country, head to the gorgeous villages of Morpeth or Wollombi for a cosy, country-town atmosphere. While we didn’t head to these towns on this trip, you could easily spend a weekend shopping and eating your way through either town.
We stayed at the expansive Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort in Pokolbin, right on the doorstep of myriad wineries and restaurants.
Our chic, comfortable villa overlooked the bush, and it felt like we were in our own little world. Who said you needed complete isolation to feel secluded and relaxed?
After a day full of wining and dining, there’s plenty of ways to relax at the resort. Book in for a couple’s golf lesson, take a dip in the pool or make your way to the nearby Elysia Wellness Retreat for a spa treatment.
For dinner, we wanted to try something a little different to the norm. Oak and Vine, the onsite restaurant at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort, offers upscale Sri Lankan-inspired cuisine and an exclusively Hunter Valley wine list. My partner and I are both vegetarians, but we didn’t have to miss out, with Oak and Vine providing an entire vegetarian menu.
Highlights of our meal included Seared Melon with tangy coconut butter, saffron cashew puree, and micro greens; Oaks Chilli Cauliflower with Sri Lankan spices, curry leaves and garlic stir fry, and saffron pilau; and Kithul Panna Cotta with wood apple gel, ginger nut, and lime compressed strawberries.
For omnivores, the Ceylon Tea Smoked Duck Breast with roasted beetroot emulsion, orange, feta crumble, and lemongrass foam looked unreal, as did the Five Spice Slow Cooked Beef Cheek with celeriac puree and leafy greens.
If you’re keen to splash out on your trip, book a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Balloon Aloft. It’s worth the early wake up! Plus, you’ll have tomorrow morning to sleep in.
Afterwards, enjoy a champagne breakfast at Peterson House, included in your balloon package.
It would be remiss not to take advantage of the beautiful surroundings of Wine Country, and what better way to soak up the views than by cycling around the valley. There are plenty of places to hire electric bikes from, including Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.
After your adrenaline-filled morning, it’s time to kick back for lunch.
For a country-home atmosphere, head to Amanda’s on the Edge, a staple of the Hunter Valley dining scene for over 20 years.
For sweeping hilltop views and a refined, seasonal menu, eat at Esca at Bimbadgen. Enjoy dishes like Kingfish Crudo with mandarin, grapes, finger lime and pink peppercorn or Fennel Risotto with lemon, baby zucchini and aged parmesan. Better yet, match your meal with Bimbadgen Estate wines.
Today’s the day – it’s time to sample just some of the drops from the more than 150 wineries in the Hunter Valley.
Depending on the area you’re in, you can easily visit three cellar doors for wine tastings in an afternoon. Check out our guides to cellar doors in Broke, Lovedale, Mount View, Pokolbin, Rothbury and Nulkaba, the Upper Hunter and Wollombi Valley for a more comprehensive selection of cellar doors in the Hunter.
We took our time and tasted wines at the medieval yet modern Vamp by Lisa McGuigan. Not your typical cellar door, expect chainmail curtains and quartz light fittings in a funky, monochrome space.
Afterwards, we made for Gundog Estate, a charming and intimate cellar door set against the Broken Back Range. While the wines were outstanding, we also loved the gourmet pantry full of local produce and Gundog’s own range of products (I can confirm, the puttanesca pasta sauce made with Gundog’s Pinot Noir was a hit).
Not a wine drinker? Up the road from Gundog Estate is Newcastle Distillery, where you can taste a range of its craft spirits, accompanied by bar snacks. Or, try craft beers at FogHorn Brewery or IronBark Hill Brewhouse.
Continue sampling the Hunter’s superb food offering with a romantic dinner on your second night. Our guide to the Hunter Valley’s best restaurants covers the cream of the crop when it comes to dining in the region – some highlights include Margan Restaurant, EXP., Muse Restaurant, and Circa 1876.
After a sleep in and buffet breakfast at the resort, it’s time to head out for a spot of shopping and produce tasting before you make your way home.
The Hunter Olive Centre, Pukara Estate Pokolbin, Binnorie Dairy, Lovedale Smokehouse Cafe and Pantry, Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, and Hunter Belle Cheese Room are all fantastic spots to sample locally grown and made produce. Make sure you grab a few goodies to take home!
Depending on what direction you head home in, Maitland Regional Art Gallery is worth a visit. The gallery is host to outstanding exhibitions year round – check out their website to see what’s on.
Undoubtedly, you'll spend the drive back home planning your next visit.
*Note: The writer was gifted a one night stay by Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.