When you think of Hunter Valley Wine Country, you imagine sampling a selection of wines at cellar doors along the tasting trail or long, lazy lunches at one of the gourmet restaurants and cafés. But the region doesn’t just cater to wine connoisseurs or foodies – it’s also the perfect destination for a family-friendly holiday, with ample activities and plenty of fresh air to keep the kids both entertained and healthy!
The stunning beauty of the Hunter Valley Gardens is at the top of the list for many families making their way to wine country.
Featuring eight kilometres of walking paths winding through 14 hectares of gardens, the site is a natural wonderland with more than 6000 trees, 600,000 shrubs and over one million ground cover plants, plus waterfalls, statues, murals and more. Ten individually themed gardens showcase the artistry of gardens around the world, with everything from the Italian Grotto to the Oriental Garden offering a lush landscape of both native and exotic varieties of plants.
Of course, the biggest highlight for the younger members of the family is always the fantastical Storybook Garden, taking visitors on a journey through childhood dreams, memories, and fantasies.
Larger-than-life nursery rhyme characters and spectacular murals greet you at every corner, offering excellent photo opportunities as you join Humpty Dumpty on the wall, Jack and Jill as they tumble down the hill and Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
A number of the region’s wineries also have beautifully landscaped gardens to explore, with Constable Estate at Pokolbin offering countless gardens including the Oak Walk, Sculpture Park, Camellia Garden, Secret Garden, Millennium Walk, Rose Garden and more, while Hunter’s Dream Estate has exquisite Japanese Gardens.
The Hunter Valley is also a prime destination for animal lovers of all ages, with countless exotic and native species on show at the superb Hunter Valley Zoo at Nulkaba.
Discover around 130 species of birds, mammals, primates and reptiles on display including both white and tawny African lions, cheetahs, meerkats, ostriches, alligators and Tasmanian devils. The zoo is also home to some incredibly rare animals including a couple of red-handed tamarins, which are one of only two pairs in Australia. Why not book an up-close and personal experience with a tamarin, marmoset or a meerkat or two!
For four-legged creatures of a different kind, head out to Rothbury and saddle up for a day of equestrian fun at Hunter Valley Horse Riding and Adventures. Ride the unique and beautiful Molly Morgan Range and experience the spectacular views of the Hunter Valley Wine Country and Lower Hunter, with riding available every day for both beginners and more experienced riders.
Older children and adults can hit the trail alongside a qualified guide, or watch the native wildlife begin to emerge at twilight on one of the spectacular sunset rides, while tiny tots and kids under eight years can hop on a pony for a gentle stroll over the fields while spotting a few of the local kangaroos. Children can also visit the aviary to say hello to the parrots, guinea pigs and chooks.
Above: Hunter Valley Horse Riding
Why not combine your trip to the Hunter Valley Gardens with a round at the nearby Hunter Valley Aqua Golf and Putt-Putt. Located within the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village, the site includes a golf driving range with an incentive – the chance to win prizes by landing a ball in the floating nets on the lake. Prizes include cash jackpots, as well as vouchers to the finest restaurants, cellar doors, golf courses and hot air balloon rides, with clubs catering for golfers of all ages.
The Hunter is also home to another new putt-putt course, built as a scaled model of Bathurst’s famous Mount Panorama racing car track. Measuring 40m wide by 80m deep, the golf course features Mount Panorama themed artwork and signage throughout and obstacles shaped from racing car parts. Players putt through V8 supercar rims, between V8 supercar brake disks and down Conrod Straight.
Not surprisingly this high-octane themed course can be found on-site at Go Karts Go Hunter Valley at Kearsley, which features the biggest four-stroke outdoor go-kart track and the fastest four-stroke karts in the Hunter.
Slow things down a notch and take a ride on two wheels at Hunter Valley Resort, where you can enjoy a fun Segway tour that starts outside the brewery and explores the off-road tracks and trails of this vast bushland property.
Travel along an old 1880's stock route and encounter scores of kangaroos, impressive views of the Brokenback Ranges and even the odd wombat, before heading back through the Resort’s vineyard to finish the journey.
Above: The British Lolly Shop
SHOPPING AND SCHOOL HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES
Aside from the Gardens and the golf, the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village is also home to a range of unique boutiques and mouth-watering destinations that are sure to pique the interest of every member of the family.
Kids will be hard-pressed to go past The British Lolly Shop without stopping in, with two life-sized toy British soldiers guarding the entrance to the sweetest of destinations. Choose from nine varieties of bonbons as well as lemon sherbets, humbugs, Blackpool Rock, toffee, nougat, chocolate sweets and bars, with some of the finest quality confectionery and gourmet products from the UK.
Cupcake Espresso and the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company will also provide the perfect sweet treat to relax with at the end of a long and enjoyable day in the Valley.