Our ultimate guide on things to do in the Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley may be renowned for its wine, but rest assured, there are so many things to get up to alongside wine tasting on your next getaway.
Consider this your ultimate guide on things to do in the Hunter Valley – from art galleries and hot air ballooning to spa days and cooking classes, there’s so much to explore in the region.
The Hunter Valley has a thriving arts scene, with major art galleries like Maitland Regional Art Gallery and Singleton Arts and Cultural Centre and plenty of smaller galleries scattered across the region.
Whether you visit a gallery or simply admire a mural, the Hunter offers lots for art lovers to enjoy.
When the sun is out, what better way to get between cellar doors than to hope on a bike? There’s plenty of places that offer bike hire in the Hunter Valley, whether it’s a good old push bike or an electric bike to make those hills even easier.
Cruise along the Around Hermitage Cycleway and stop in at cellar doors like Glandore Estate and Jac & Jones, or take the Tour de Lovedale to discover Lovedale cellar doors like Saltire Estate and Tatler Wines.
The Hunter Valley is a foodie haven. In wine country, treat yourself to a meal at a hatted restaurant like Muse Restaurant, EXP. Restaurant, Bistro Molines, or Margan Restaurant, or enjoy sophisticated yet relaxed dining at Tower Lodge, Esca at Bimbadgen, and Emerson’s Restaurant.
Explore historic towns
The Hunter Valley is home to several historic towns that are worthy of exploring on your next visit to the region. Visit picturesque Morpeth for beautifully preserved historic buildings and boutique shopping, stop by charming Wollombi for markets and cellar doors, and make your way to Maitland for heritage walks and a tour through the old Maitland Gaol.
Go to a concert or festival
The Hunter has long been a destination for live music, with international artists like Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton, and Bruce Springsteen all paying a visit to the region over the years. Bimbadgen Estate, Roche Estate, and Hope Estate are the main venues for bigger international acts, but there are plenty of smaller local wineries, pubs, and restaurants with regular live music.
Golfers will have lots to love about a trip to the Hunter. The region is home to a number of golf courses, several of which can be found at world-class resorts.
Staying in wine country? Try Hunter Valley Golf Club for an 18-hole championship course at Rydges Resort Hunter Valley, The Vintage Golf Club for a Greg Norman-designed course on the grounds of Château Élan, and Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort.
Take your trip to the Hunter up a notch (literally) by hopping on a scenic helicopter flight. Companies like Hunter Valley Helicopters and Aero Logistics offer both scenic flights over the region and wine tour flights.
For extra luxury, Hunter Valley Helicopters have teamed up with local distillery Kawal Rock Distillery for Picnic in the Sky. You’ll be flown to a gourmet picnic with a bottle of Kawal Rock Moscato – at a location only accessible by helicopter.
If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the scenic Hunter Valley, why not do it on horseback? There’s a handful of companies offering horse riding in the valley, and all cater to complete beginners. Taking in the valley’s landscape while you plod along on a horse is a lovely way to really slow down and appreciate your surroundings.
Hot air ballooning
Take in views of the valley from the air on a hot balloon, courtesy of Hunter Valley Ballooning, Balloon Aloft, and Beyond Ballooning. Perfect for a special occasion (or just because, we’re not judging), a sunrise balloon ride followed by champagne breakfast is sure to make for a memorable morning.
Hunter Valley Gardens
Hunter Valley Gardens has been one of the premier attractions in the Hunter Valley for 20 years, and it’s popular with people of all ages. There’s 10 internationally-themed gardens to explore, with 8km of pathways that allow you to meander through the grounds at your own pace.
There’s something on in every season at Hunter Valley Gardens. Visit in winter with the little ones to enjoy Snow Time in the Garden, or head over in December to witness the Christmas Lights Spectacular.
Hunter Valley Wildlife Park
Did you know the Hunter Valley is home to a zoo? Hunter Valley Wildlife Park is a sprawling sanctuary for many species of wildlife, from native Australian animals like koalas, to African giants like lions and giraffes.
Families will love exploring the grounds, set amongst bushland in Nulkaba, just five minutes from Cessnock. You can even have an up-close encounter with animals like meerkats and squirrel monkeys, or get exclusive access to the zoo in the morning as part of Wildlife Sunrise.
Learn about Wonnarua Country
The Hunter Valley is situated on Wonnarua Country, and its traditional owners are the Wonnarua people. The region has a rich First Nations history and culture, and it’s well worth learning more about when you’re in the Hunter.
Uncle Warren Taggart is a Wonnarua Elder who runs tours to sacred cultural sites in Yengo National Park, with the aim of providing cultural awareness and a greater appreciation for the richness of Aboriginal spiritual belief and connection to Country. It’s a great way to learn more about the ancient history of Wonnarua Country.
Picnic in the vineyards
With ample wide open spaces ideal for laying down a picnic rug, make sure you grab your local wine of choice and your picks of the local produce (try Lovedale Smokehouse Cafe and Gourmet Pantry for a huge range of delicious picnic-suitable goodies) and picnic the afternoon away. Some wineries – like Bimbadgen and Bonvila Estate – offer picnic hampers so the decision making is done for you.
A getaway to the Hunter Valley doesn’t have to be action-packed – in fact, it can be a chance to reset and relax. Book in for a treatment like a massage or a facial at a luxe spa like Ubika, The Spa at Château Élan, or Elysia Wellness Retreat.
Taste local produce
Wine might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Hunter Valley, but the area is also blessed with exceptional local produce like cheese, olives and olive oil, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Try Binnorie Dairy and Hunter Belle Cheese for unreal local cheeses, stop by Woodlands Olive Grove Estate or Hunter Valley Olive Co for olives and olive oil, and shop at Wollombi Road Providore and Organic Feast Wholefoods Market and Cafe for organic, local fresh fruit and vegetables.
Try a cooking class
Feeling inspired by a delicious meal you’ve had in the Hunter Valley? Take a cooking class and learn some skills to take home with you.
Try a low and slow smoking class at Majors Lane Cooking School, learn how to make cheese at Hunter Valley Cheese Factory, or master the art of pasta with a class at Our Italian Table.
Visit a brewery or distillery
Feeling a bit wined-out on your Hunter Valley trip? Luckily, the region also produces some excellent beer and spirits. Try IronBark Hill Brewhouse and FogHorn Brewery for beer; Pokolbin Distillery, Kawal Rock Distillery, and Hunter Distillery for spirits; and Hope Brewery and Distillery for both.
Walk in national parks
The Hunter Valley is home to stunning landscapes, some of which are designated national parks. Werakata National park is beautiful to explore in spring when wildflowers are in bloom, so put on your walking shoes and go for a hike. Yengo National Park is another popular spot – choose between 4WD trails, mountain biking, or walking. Try Lake St Clair for a scenic campground and boating location nestled in the foothills of Mount Royal National Park.
We couldn’t write a guide on things to do in the Hunter Valley without mentioning its star attraction – wine. Whether you make your own way to some of the region’s 150+ cellar doors or go on a guided tour with one of the many operators in the area, there is so much fantastic wine to sample. Ensure you try the varieties the Hunter Valley is best known for – Semillon and shiraz.
To go behind the scenes at some of Australia’s most iconic wineries, make your way to Tyrell’s, Audrey Wilkinson, and Mount Pleasant. There’s plenty of younger wineries making excellent drops too – try Comyns & Co, Vinden Estate, and Harkham. Have you got the family or furry friends in tow? Head to a family-friendly or dog-friendly cellar door.