ENJOY the great outdoors in the Hunter Valley this winter and spring. From picturesque panoramas to encounters of the fury kind, there are an abundance of outdoor experiences to be had, not to mention the view from above.
1. Discover the hidden treasures of a national park
Bring together a landscape of rocky escarpments, deep canyons, virgin forest, woodlands, ﬂowering heath and pockets of rainforest and you have one of the most scenically awe-inspiring areas of the Hunter Valley known as Wollemi National Park.
The park provides a range of outdoor experiences for your next trip with activities that include swimming, rock climbing canoeing, fishing, wildlife and bird-watching and bushwalking.
The gushing Wollemi and Colo rivers provide a great place for recreation and relaxation while hills and valleys can be explored and climbed. Be captivated by the unique scenery such as the mist-shrouded swamp surrounded by beehive-shaped rock formations at Ganguddy in the northwest of the park.
Intriguing for adults and children alike is the Glow Worm Tunnel walking track, a 400 metre long tunnel built in the early 1900’s as part of the railway for the mining town at Newnes. The tunnel is now home to thousands of delightful glow worms that light it up with pinpricks of blue light.
2. The water sport central of the Hunter Valley
Nestled among the undulating hills at the foot of Mount Royal Range, Lake St Clair is one of the region's premier spots for fishing and water sports.
Located a 30 minute drive from Singleton, the lake is known for camping, boating, fishing, skiing, swimming, sailing and picnicking.
Keen fishermen are well provided for with the lake regularly stocked with bass, golden and silver perch.
Checkout the impressive panorama of blue water contrasting with rolling green countryside from the Lake St Clair shoreline. Lush verdant expanses of grass provide an excellent spot to drop and enjoy some local Hunter Valley produce and wine.
The lake is well set up for campers, with hot showers, toilets, powered campsites and public barbecues all available for use. If you need a short break from the glorious wine tours, Lake St Clair is a wonderful idea that can be enjoyed by the whole family entirely for free.
3. Gardens from around the world inspire in the valley
The Hunter Valley Gardens remain one of the most spectacular attractions of regional New South Wales.
Located in Pokolbin, the 10 themed gardens are gloriously diverse, set over 60 acres to make them the largest of their kind in Australia.
Designed around gently winding paths, water features of lakes and ponds have been integrated adding calm and diversity to the landscape.
Beautifully manicured, the gardens are organised into contrasting themes including a European motif, the sweet-scented Rose Garden; the Oriental Garden with its pagoda and pretty plantings of azaleas, magnolias, and camellias; not to mention the Italian Grotto.
The magical Storybook Garden replete with nursery rhyme characters, crafted statues and figures straight out of some favourite fairy tales, will delight and entertain the whole family.
Also on the garden’s grounds is a charming village of bespoke shops offering everything from stunning glassware, jewellery, unique clothing and divine candles. When you have had enough exercise there is a tiny train that takes visitors around the park. Once you have worked up an appetite, choose from one of the many restaurants or cafés and enjoy a delicious meal, lunchtime treat or just coffee and wine.
4. Back to nature with life in all its forms
The Werakata National Park and State Conservation Area is the place to be this winter for bird watching. Be sure to take your binoculars as the park is resplendent with birds including the threatened swift parrot and regent honeyeater which can be found in the huge number of spotted gums, one of only a few winter-flowering eucalypts found near the NSW coast.
Werakata National Park also has an abundance of native Australian animals with over 200 different types recorded.
If you are planning a spring visit this is the time to see the impressive wildflower displays of purple happy wanderer, yellow hairpin banksia, red mountain devil, delicate ground orchids and thyme honey myrtle - a sight to behold.
If you are feeling like an active family day trip to the park why not try the Deadmans mountain bike loop, a painless eight kilometre cycle through rare Hunter Valley bushland of ironbark, spotted gum and flowering shrubs.
Other things of note in the park include the Forestry Hut, a historical remnant of a bygone era and the people who worked there. Be sure to include lunch at Astills picnic area where you can sit and take in the idyllic surrounds and, if you’re very quiet, some of the local wildlife.
5. An up close encounter with cuteness
When it comes to personality, meerkats have it in spades. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with these delightfully, playful creatures? Well you can do just that at the Hunter Valley Zoo.
As a totally different holiday experience book a meerkat Encounter at the zoo. The encounter involves 20 minutes of feeding and interacting at the Meerkat exhibit.
A zoo keeper will be there to answer any questions and provide some meerkat facts while you are free to take as many photos as you like, keeping these special memories to show friends and family.
Equally as cute as the meerkats and also available for encounters, are some varieties of the zoo’s monkeys including the bubbly, busy marmosets and the heavily moustached, very dapper looking, Emperor Tamarin.
The zoo is open 9am to 4pm Thursday to Tuesday and every day during school holidays.
6. Experience one of the best 360 degree views in the Hunter
Combining the best of what the Hunter Valley has to offer, wine and scenery, the award winning Audrey Wilkinson Winery deserves its place on your must visit list.
The winery is perched atop a foot hill of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges. Overlooking vineyards with an amazing 360 degree view, the winery has some of the best panoramas in the district.
For those who love wine and the way it is made, there is a museum displaying original equipment combined with the story of the vineyard and entry is free.
Rated by Gourmet Traveller Wine as one of the Top 10 Cellar Doors in the country, and the only one in NSW, this 150 year-old winery is also one of the oldest in Australia.
So find a spot on the expansive veranda, take in the awe-inspiring view of the picturesque patchwork of vines and paddocks, relax and enjoy a delicious bottle of wine.
The winery is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, between 10am and 5pm.
7. Let yourself be swept back in time
A horse drawn carriage wine tour is a novel way of solving the designated driver issue during your visit to Australia’s premier wine region.
Hunter Valley Horse Carriage Tours will give you a feel for the beautiful outdoors while you are escorted in a relaxed manner from one cellar door to the next. Clip clop your way through private properties, vineyards and farmland, tasting wine as well as a selection of olives, cheese and chocolate as you go.
There are a range of different tours to choose from depending on your circumstances. Horse drawn tours are the perfect way to unwind with that someone special, share some quality time with friends, or impress colleagues.
8. The view from above
A great way to kick off your exploration of the outdoor charm of the Hunter Valley region is with a birds-eye view.
Hunter Valley Helicopters give stunning views of the region from the best vantage point imaginable, giving you the opportunity to plan from the air what you hope to explore in greater detail when back on the ground.
As a locally owned and operated business, Hunter Valley Helicopters have an innate and extensive knowledge of the region and the wow factors from the sky.
Choose from an extensive range of scenic flight packages and special offers.
9. Just floating about
Hot air ballooning gives a similar view of the Hunter Valley’s scenic beauty from above but at an even more leisurely pace.
Beyond Ballooning is a well-known company on the Hunter Valley horizon who offer competitive packages for all requirements.
Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, with Beyond Ballooning, offers a flight followed by a gourmet champagne buffet breakfast at Crowne Plaza’s Redsalt Restaurant, all for the set price of $249 per person.
Or why not try the midweek winter special which is a one hour sunrise balloon flight followed by a champagne buffet breakfast at Crowne Plaza and a digital photo package for just $199.
10. Tee off in the most picturesque location
Do you fancy an 18-hole round of golf on a resort-style course in the heart of paradise? Hunter Valley Golf is a scenic 18-hole championship golf course offering premium facilities, service and unsurpassed natural beauty.
Imagine teeing off surrounded by undulating hills, picturesque lakes, Australian wildlife and the Brokenback Mountain Range as a backdrop.
The golf course is set within the expansive leisure resort of Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley making it the perfect place for a golf weekend getaway.
Choose a package that suits your group from accommodation that includes deluxe rooms, suites or self-contained villas, each featuring a spacious balcony or courtyard, luxurious bathroom, plasma TV and broadband internet.
Villas also come with a kitchen, two bathrooms and spacious lounge and dining area. The resort also caters for golfers with top-brand equipment for hire.
After a day on the course you can freshen up in the onsite locker room and shower facilities before heading to The Lovedale Bar and Restaurant for a post-game drink and something to eat.
The great outdoors are alive and well in the Hunter Valley and a great place to enjoy even during the cooler months. Why not make it part of your planned winter getaway?