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Young people enjoying a wine tasting next to the vineyards at Hope Estate
Photograph: DNSW/Hope Estate

Where to drink, eat and stay in the Hunter Valley

Found north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s biggest wine regions, boasting gorgeous scenery, impressive culinary offerings and – of course – killer drops

Olivia Gee
Avril Treasure
Written by
Olivia Gee
Avril Treasure

Ahhh, wine country. The Hunter Valley’s fertile fields have given birth to more than 150 wineries that roll across the green hills of this popular region, just two hours' drive from Sydney. Proud growers and wine makers have been squeezing the good stuff out of grapes for close to 180 years, and it has earned the Hunter region solid street cred on both Australian and international vinous scenes.

But despite the well deserved nickname, this Wine Country offers more than just bottled grown-up grape juice and gorgeous scenery. Spend a few days here and you'll stumble across many excellent restaurants that rival ones found in the Big Smoke. 

And when you come and stay for a long weekend, the luxe accommodation options will blow every other glamping experience or couple's retreat out of the water.

So, if you're looking for things to do in the Hunter Valley, we're got you covered with our guide on where to drink, dine and stay. Our critics, including Food & Drink Writer Avril Treasure, spend their days sipping, eating and exploring, so they know what's good. 


Love wine? Have a look at the best wine bars in Sydney

Feel like a coastal escape? Check out our guide to Narooma

Best wine in the Hunter Valley

Photograph: Avril Treasure/Usher Tinkler Wines

Everyone who visits the Hunter Valley should enjoy a full day of wine tasting. The Hunter’s big four are their: semillon (which is crisp and citrusy in its youth and honeys with age); a peachy chardonnay; lively verdelho; and a medium-bodied, savoury shiraz.

And while it’s true you could spend weeks adventuring around the hills knocking on cellar doors, we know not everyone’s got time for that. So, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite spots to check out. Come thirsty, book a group tour (we went with Grape to Glass wine tours and they were ace) and get ready to drink some seriously good vino. 

Housed in the original Pokolbin Church that was built in 1905, Usher Tinkler Wines is a picture-perfect place to stop for a tasting. We love the glass back wall, which allows sunshine to pour through while showing off the lush countryside in all its glory. Tinkler’s wines are funky, interesting and blur the lines between traditional and contemporary winemaking, like the 2022 Death By Semillon drop. The team also does a banging salumi and cheese platter, too.

Stop by Mount Pleasant to sip award-winning shiraz by highly regarded winemaker Adrian Sparks overlooking lavender and vines. The historic winery has recently undergone a luxe refurbishment, and now boasts eclectic art and colourful furnishings.

Photograph: Avril Treasure/Mount Pleasant

First Creek Wines bottles 80 per cent of the Hunter’s vinos, but that doesn’t mean this big operation has lost its charm and soul, with their winemaker Liz Silkman as good as it gets. Our top pick: First Creek’s bright and delicious chardonnay. Their cellar door is open seven days a week. 

And while Brokenwood Wines doesn’t have as much character as some of the wineries we’ve checked out, we can tell you their drops go down a treat.

If you're looking for a first-class cellar door experience, Thomas Wines is our pick. Winemarker Andrew Thomas produces some of the finest drops in the region.

Your next port of call is Pepper Tree Wines. This cellar door is positioned on a lush estate, which has spectacular accommodation within spitting distance and some superb food on offer at the nearby Circa 1876. If you have a particularly keen interest in wine science, or want to test the tasting skills you’ve learnt so far, book in for the winery’s Vault Experience. The extremely knowledgeable yet laid-back staff will take you on a private tasting journey of the boutique winery’s premium labels, while providing some history about their three decades in the business and the master vigneron behind it all, John Davis.

Are you done with all the tannins and creamy chardonnays? Cleanse your palate with a craft beer at Hope Estate. These guys are relatively new to the Hunter, but they’re smashing stereotypes and producing some solid craft beers in addition to their wine range. There’s always 12 brews on tap, rotated around 20 core range and seasonal beers – the mango sour is a shining light among this brew family. Since they’re already adhering to the unusual, these guys have also set up a massive stage that brings music and festival action to the valley.

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley

Photograph: Dom Cherry/Yellow Billy Restaurant

The legend goes that Yellow Billy was a bushranger who roamed the Hunter region in the 1860s, sleeping in caves, living off the land and using fire to cook. Chef Sam Alexander and sommelier Pat Hester pay homage to him at their killer spot, Yellow Billy Restaurant in Pokolbin, where cooking over fire is at the heart of each dish. While you’re there, check out the verdant vege and herb garden, and custom-made fire pit, which the team uses daily to bring smoke, char and character to proteins and veg.

Margan Wines and Restaurant in Broke is a must-visit, with owners Andrew and Lisa Margan committed to sustainable winemaking processes. Kick things off with a tasting, stroll around the kitchen garden, and then sit down to an incredible, fresh and bright vege-forward meal led by head chef Joey Ingram.

Photograph: Avril Treasure/Exp

When the sun’s shining, you can’t beat a long lunch at European bistro Muse Kitchen. The restaurant itself is gorgeous – like a Hamptons-style chic farmhouse – and the courtyard is the place of dreams. The dishes on head chef Richmond Rodrigues’s menu are generous and full of flavour. Muse Restaurant, which is a seperate venue, and one of the best restaurants in the region, is another one to add to your list.

Looking for a casual bite to eat and drink? Jimmy Joans in Lovedale is our pick. We loved the outdoor area and the coffee was great, too. 

And be sure to make a reservation at Exp, the Hunter’s intimate, slick and award-winning restaurant by talented owner and chef Frank Fawkner. Here, you’ll embark on a multi-course dining experience served by a passionate and knowledgeable team that is sure to blow you away. Dishes are inventive, creative and laced with nostalgia, making the whole evening a delight and a joy to experience. If you can, try and nab a seat at the bar and watch the chefs in action – they’re synchronised, considered, graceful – and it’s remarkable to see.

Where to stay in the Hunter Valley

Photograph: Avril Treasure/Spicers Guesthouse

There are more great accommodation options in the Hunter region than you can poke a (spotted gum) stick at, from Airbnbs to luxe retreats.

If you’re looking for a romantic escape, our pick would be Spicers Guesthouse, which is well located in Pokolbin. Featuring elegant and stylish rooms, pretty gardens and a dreamy pool, Spicers Guesthouse is all-star.

Travelling with little ones? Rydges Resort Hunter Valley has its very own playground and waterpark. Plus, there's an on-site golf course and spa for the grown ups.


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