When visiting the Hunter countryside from Sydney you will most likely travel along the Central Coast and Newcastle. If self-driving it is worth stopping by here and there as the coast is blessed with gorgeous beaches, national parks, lakes and waterways. The coastal drive itself is a delightful visual experience.
NEWCASTLE (FOR BEACH LOVERS)
Once a notorious penal settlement, Newcastle today is a pretty, historic city with a broad international student scene. The town was largely founded on coal mining and heavy industry, and it became one of the country`s largest ports.
Most importantly, Newcastle is surrounded by some of the finest beaches in New South Wales, and it is the gateway to the fine wineries of the Hunter Valley.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN NEWCASTLE
HUNTER VALLEY (FOR WINE & FOOD LOVERS)
In New South Wales, it surely is wine what instantly comes to mind whenever the Lower Hunter is mentioned – and with good reason. The viticulture history dates back to 1800s, and the region has gradually become one of the most prolific wine-producing areas in Australia, with an epicentre in Cessnock.
The wineries cater well for visitors with cellar door sales, restaurants, picnic and barbeque options and a wide range of accommodation and tours.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN HUNTER VALLEY
WOLLEMI-YENGO-GOULBURN NATIONAL PARK (FOR NATURE & WILDLIFE LOVERS)
The Golden Highway between Newcastle and Dubbo is a well-travelled route. For thousands of years, the valley of the Hunter-Goulburn river system was a movement corridor for Aboriginal travelling between the coast and the western plains.
There is plenty of spectacular scenery on the way, particularly at the Wollemi and Yengo National Parks and the nearby Goulburn National Park – the largest wilderness forests left in New South Wales.
The picturesque rolling hills of the Hunter Valley change into rugged, limestone cliffs and eroded sandstone formations. These national parks are basically an extension to the Blue Mountains National Park, and it features a very similar climate and landscape.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN WOLLEMI-YENGO-GOULBURN NATIONAL PARK
The best way to explore the Hunter Region is to self-drive the big scenic circuit that covers both the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains-Wollemi-Yengo-Goulburn National Parks, starting in Newcastle as follows:
NEWCASTLE-CESSNOCK-SINGELTON-DENMAN-MERRIWA-DUNEDOO-BATHURST-LITHGOW-BLACKHEATH-KATOOMBA-RICHMOND-PUTTY SCENIC ROAD-SINGELTON-CESSNOCK-NEWCASTLE
WHEN TO TRAVEL
If visiting the Hunter Valley mainly for wine sampling and cellar doors weather does not play a big role. However, for beautiful colours, the autumn months seem to be perfect (April-May), and also the harvesting season brings a lot of events and activities, but more crowds (Dec-Feb).
NOTE The nearby national parks can be visited any time of a year although summers tend to be very hot and extremely crowded, especially during the Australian summer holidays (Dec-Feb). Winters (June-Aug) are quite chilly, with occasional snow, but sunny. The middle season is probably the best option for travelling (Oct-Nov and Mar-April).
HOW TO GET THERE
The Hunter Valley is ideal for a day trip or a weekend away from Sydney (1.5 hr drive) or Newcastle (40 min drive).
Nonetheless, some tourists prefer to arrange a group wine tasting tour directly in Sydney/Newcastle – that will allow you enjoying as much wine as you can bear and being driven safely around the wineries and back to your hotel. J
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