Travel Tuesday–Hunter Valley, Australia

I’m heading to the West (best) coast this weekend for a little girl time in Calistoga, CA. I can’t wait to shed my hat and gloves for 36 hours. My last visit to wine country was in Australia, when we journeyed to the gorgeous Hunter Valley for a long weekend. In honor of this weekend’s trip, I’m finally posting my vineyard images from that (now very distant) weekend. I’m so behind in blogging about the amazing places we’ve been during our recent time abroad, so over the next few months, I’ll be featuring a “Travel Tuesday” segment. Welcome to the first edition!

The drive from Sydney to Hunter Valley takes about 2.5 hours, if you go the normal way. But of course I made my husband take the “scenic road” (which adds about 35 minutes), or so it was deemed in my travel book. Due to very high winds the day before, the narrow, winding road was littered with huge tree branches that threatened our rental car. We did see some cows and sheep, but the scenery was not worth the stress of my husband gripping the steering wheel and swerving around found objects in the road. Oops. Once we arrived though, Hunter Valley was visual heaven–rolling green hills, hopping kangaroos in the driveway of our hotel, colorful old barns, and sleek metal and glass facades on contemporary wineries. And did I mention the food? What goes best with great wines? Cheese. Lots of cheese from the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. Mmmmm.

We didn’t have much of an agenda, aside from my hubby playing golf at the Greg Norman designed course at our resort, where signs on the course read “Do Not Approach the Kangaroos.” One late afternoon we set out to taste some vino and grab an early dinner. On a whim, we pulled into the gravel parking lot at Cockfighter’s Ghost (named after a horse with quite a story) and headed into the tasting room just as it was about to close. The room is a work of art, with soaring ceilings, poured concrete floors, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open up to the most picturesque view of verdant vines and the mountains beyond. They graciously poured us a flight of wine, but I could hardly focus on the beverages as the light outside was incredible. I quickly disappeared out the back door with my camera…my poor husband is used to that! By running outside, I was able to capture that perfect golden light (photo above) before it quickly slipped behind the mountains. All in all, what a great and unexpected treat for just pulling over on a whim and visiting a winery we hadn’t researched at all. And the wine was really wonderful. I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area.

Non-parents everywhere, don’t kill me for mentioning this, but vineyards and breweries in Australia are surprisingly kid friendly–lots of places have toys and books to entertain little ones while you taste, and some even have playgrounds in view of the tasting area (win-win!). So don’t shy away from exploring even if you have a little taster with you. They will love their sparkling apple juice while you taste your own version of juice! Happy travels.

Hunter Valley Travel Tips:

The Vintage
Cockfighter’s Ghost (see above)
Audrey Wilkinson (amazing history and view)
Olive Tree Restaurant at Wyndham Estate (gorgeous, rustic, delicious)
Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop (amazing fixings for a real or carpet picnic)
1843 Harvest Cafe at Lindeman’s Vineyard (casual lunch, tasty and creative wood-fired pizzas)