I don’t know anything about wine. Well, that’s not entirely true, I know I like white, sparkling and some rose. I also know there are a lot of memes doing the rounds about how important it is! That’s really the extent of it, shameful right?
Based on this, you wouldn’t think I’d be the prime candidate for heading to the Hunter Valley for the weekend. But here’s the cool thing, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley aren’t just for wine snobs with a perfect palate, they are also for regular people who just want a fun weekend getaway.
Newcastle is the perfect base for this weekend trip. By staying in Newcastle you get the best of both worlds, the Hunter Valley and its lush wineries are only an hour’s drive away and the cool bars and beautiful beaches of Newcastle are right on your hotel doorstep. You can be driving through the city centre one minute, turn a corner and be greeted by a stunning coastline – it’s magic.
If you’re looking for a great resource to provide you information on events, attractions and things to do that coincide with your next trip to the Hunter Valley, check out Visit NSW’s dedicated Hunter Valley page by clicking here.
I highly recommend staying at the Chifley Apartments Newcastle. The serviced apartments are spacious and provide you a fridge and kitchenette for all the Hunter Valley goodies you’ll inevitably pick up. The Chifley also serves as the perfect base to allow you to take in Newcastle’s city and sea, then easily head out to the Hunter Valley’s sprawling scenery and vineyards.
The best way to get around is, without a doubt, by hiring a car. You can pick up a hire car at Newcastle airport and drive into the city centre in under 30 minutes. Be sure to take a GPS or Navman with you to make getting around easy. I forgot mine and gave my phone’s data a good workout.
Newcastle is a little city with a big heart and lots to offer willing tourists. Grab a coffee and freshly-baked croissant from Petite Belle for breakfast and drive to Bar Beach (Petite Belle has a range of gluten-free options too). Find a nice spot to perch and watch the waves roll in as the surfers paddle out. My top coffee spot is One Penny Black Espresso Bar, located in the city centre, serving up a beautiful roast to ignite your fire.
If you’re an early riser, the best way to start your day is with a trip to the Merewether Baths. Beautifully situated along the water, the Baths are teaming with locals and provide a stunning backdrop for a refreshing morning swim.
The Landing, The Dockyard and The Honeysuckle Hotel, all on Honeysuckle Way, are great spots for lunch or an afternoon cocktail. The Merewether Surfhouse is also a top spot for lunch or an afternoon drink and finger food. You can sit comfortably in the bar and watch the surfers and kite surfers dotting the break. It may seem dorky but the Newcastle museum is free and really fun for adults and kids alike.
You can do your own driving tour of the city as it’s pretty hard to get lost. Check out the amazing street art of Mike Watt and other talented locals, tucked in side streets and on buildings. Drive along the coastline and don’t be afraid to explore the local streets in search of a better viewpoint.
You can drive your hire car out to the Hunter Valley or arrange a guided tour with the hotel. The drive itself is beautiful, winding through country towns and bushland. I recommend a stop at Costieri Vintage to check out their well-priced antiques.
All the wineries are located within easy driving distance to each other, though choosing which one to visit can be tough! The Audrey Wilkinson winery provides picture perfect views of the rolling hills and vineyards as it is perched atop a hill. The staff aren’t pushy or snobby and insist you don’t need to know anything about wine to enjoy it. They will expertly guide you through a wine-tasting, telling you everything you want to know as you go along.
Afterwards, check out the Farmers Markets followed by the Hunter Valley Cheese Company for a cheese tasting and an oil and vinegar tasting (caramelised balsamic vinegar, get in my belly!). You can buy everything you need for a delicious picnic lunch from either the Farmers Markets or the Hunter Valley Cheese Company, perch yourself under a tree and chow down.
If you’re after a fancy and locally-recommended fine dining experience, Bistro Molines is the number one spot. However, if you’re looking for delicious, well-priced food in a casual setting you have to visit Emersons Café & Restaurant. Chef and owner, Emerson, is charismatic, friendly and serves up beautiful share plates, main meals and even a degustation to lucky diners.
After a full day of wine tastings, cheese tastings, delicious lunch and shopping you’re probably going to need to get horizontal for a while. Head back to your hotel for some much needed rest before heading out on foot to check out Newcastle’s foreshore for dinner.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Newcastle and the Hunter Valley is the friendly and approachable locals. Everyone I ran into was more than happy to strike up a conversation and ask where I was from, then recommend restaurants, bars and local sights.
If you want a relaxing, fun weekend getaway to a stunning part of Australia, you have to visit Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. It has everything, from coastline to city to sprawling countryside.
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.