An easy 2 hour drive north of Sydney, this region has gourmet getaway written all over it. The sheer size of the valley on top of the 170+ cellar doors and restaurants makes for a daunting prospect when you arrive and attempt to plan your precious mini break. Dividing the valley into sections and exploring 1 per day makes it a lot more manageable. Leaving the wine expertise to James Halliday, we’ll take you to some of the smaller boutique labels and the roads less traveled. Experience the happening harvest as well as many outdoor concerts and festivals in summer, or cosy on down in winter around a crackling fire with a fortifying glass of local red. Weekend prices can sometimes be triple that of the weekdays and minimum 2 or 3 nights often apply. So if ever there were a reason to ditch the desk and grab a grape escape, you’ll find it in the Hunter.

Top things to do

#1 Stonehurst Wines Cellar Door

Ditch the freeway and drive the tourist route (33) through Wollombi. Stop in at the pretty Stonehurst Wines cellar door. Sit around the quirky wooden tables (next to Dr Jurd’s ashes if you like) at ‘the pub’ and quench your thirst with an infamous Doctor Jurd’s Jungle Juice.

#2 Bistro Molines

If there is only one thing you do in The Hunter Valley, it should be lunch at Bistro Molines. As you meander through the open breezeway, you will be transported to rolling hills of Provence. Request a table on the balcony and say ‘Oui’ to the French inspired fare. Whilst you wait for your meal, step next door to the Tallavera Grove 24 cellar door to decide what you would like to drink with lunch.

Audrey Wilkinson cellar door sits proudly on a foothill of the Brokenback Ranges with a panoramic view. Take time out to browse the free museum in the original winery.

#3 Grape Mobile

Feeling guilty about all the excessive wining and dining? Grape Mobile at Pokolbin Brothers can help – hire a bike and ride the Palmers Lane Eco Wine Trail. The mostly bush trail links six cellar doors and is only 6.5kms long so walking is also an option. Calories in, calories out! You may need your car at the end to stash your goodies from the vintage inspired Come What May, store on Calais Estate.

If you’d like more information on a trip to the Hunter Valley then click here to buy a Whileaway Guide – it’s your new road trip bible