Hunter is a region in New South Wales directly to the north of Sydney. It is also often referred to as the "Hunter Valley". It contains the state's second largest city, Newcastle, which has a population of 390k, and a greater metropolitan area of over 600,000.
Parts of the region are a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, though most of it is in national parks. Geologically, the region is rich in coal; Newcastle is the world's largest coal exporting harbour.
Though everything in the Hunter region is directly covered in this article, the Hunter is generally divided up into three regions: Greater Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, and the Upper Hunter.
|Greater Newcastle |
NSW's second largest metropolitan area may only be 15% of the size of its largest, Sydney, but has become a nice, quieter, northerly alternative to Sydney. Here, you can find the Southern Hemisphere's largest coastal sand dunes, an interesting mix of food, and many coal deposits. Newcastle is the world's largest coal exporting harbour, but you as a traveller can find traces of the region's coal mining industry throughout Greater Newcastle.
|Hunter Valley |
The Hunter Valley is the wine region of New South Wales. While there are a few other smaller wine regions such as the Riverina, it's a weekend day-trip for many eager wine tasters.
|Upper Hunter |
Possibly the least interesting region of the Hunter, and is mostly visited en route whilst travelling along Highway 15. It's two main highlights are the two towns of Muswellbrook and Scone, both of which are primarily farming towns.
The Greater Newcastle region usually refers to the five councils of Newcastle, Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, and Port Stephens. However, for travel purposes, Cessnock is considered to be a part of the Hunter Valley.
Newcastle's core centre where all the city's bustling actions happen.
|Lake Macquarie |
Though it's a satellite city of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie's population is half of the City of Newcastle's. The city surrounds Lake Macquarie, making it popular for lake-based water activities and cycling.
Another one of Newcastle's satellite cities but to the northwest of Newcastle, almost completely missed by travellers. There aren't many sights to see in Maitland, but it does provide a good base for exploring the Hunter Valley – especially when you find out everything in Cessnock has been booked out.
|Port Stephens |
Port Stephens can be described as its own region in its own right. Massive sand dunes, stretching for kilometers on end characterise the region's setting. It even contains the Southern Hemisphere's largest coastal sand dunes!
Though Cessnock makes up Greater Newcastle's fifth local government area, it is not continous unlike the other four and you will need to pass a decent amount of bushland to reach Cessnock. Additionally, as many travellers solely visit Cessnock for the wineries, it is a separate destination for travel purposes.
- 1 Newcastle – the state's second largest settlement and a former steel industry centre. Beaches and coffee shops.
- 2 Cessnock
- 3 Dungog – a small country town at the very heart of the northern Hunter's dairy industry
- 4 Lake Macquarie - coastal community to the south of Newcastle
- 5 Maitland – a satellite city immediately northwest of Newcastle
- 6 Muswellbrook
- 7 Scone - the "horse capital of Australia"
- 8 Singleton - a mining town inland from Newcastle
- 1 Barrington Tops National Park – southernmost park of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
- 2 Kurri Kurri is a small town near Maitland famous for its many murals
- 3 Murrurundi
- 4 Pokolbin
- 5 Port Stephens is a popular rural coastal area north of Newcastle, with beaches, sand dunes and dolphin spotting
- 6 Tomaree National Park – a small national park near Port Stephens
- 7 Werakata National Park
- 8 Wollombi - small historical village
- 9 Yengo National Park – a world heritage national park, part of the Greater Blue Mountains Area
The Hunter is a popular region to the north of Sydney that provides rest and relaxation away from the big city. It is famous for both its vineyards and its coastal areas.
The Hunter Valley is a well-known rest and relaxation destination for weekends away from Sydney. The Hunter Region is one of Australia's most famous wine-growing regions, known for both its red and white wine varieties. It is a good destination for tourists who want a change of scenery from Australia's largest city. The main industries in the Hunter Region are coal mining, agriculture, viticulture and wine making, tourism, horse breeding, electricity production, dairy farming and beef cattle farming.
The Hunter is one of the few regions of NSW where you can get by to your destination mostly using freeways and/or divided dual carriageways. The Pacific Motorway (M1), sometimes referred to as the Sydney–Newcastle Freeway, is one of NSW's first regional freeways, links Sydney to the outer western suburbs of Newcastle. Fron Newcastle, you can use the Hunter Expressway (M15) westwards towards many of the Hunter Valley's wineries and onwards toward Singleton, Muswellbrook, and the Central West.
Newcastle Interchange is about 2.5 hours from Sydney Central station. Outside of central Newcastle, most of the region is difficult to tour without a car.
Newcastle has its own domestic airport (NTL IATA), with regular flights from other Australian destinations. There are flight connections to Sydney, although the time spent getting to Sydney airport, checking in and flying rarely makes this an attractive option except if you are travelling on another flight.
There are suburban train services from Newcastle Interchange up through the Hunter Valley as far as Scone or Dungog. Regional (booked) services run from Sydney and Broadmeadow as far as Scone and Dungog.
- Picturesque rural communities are scattered across the valley.
- The large Stockton Sand Dunes are the Southern Hemisphere's largest sand dunes.
Wineries in the Hunter Valley
. Tours generally visit multiple destinations in the Hunter Valley region, and hence they are listed here:
The Hunter Valley is a major wine growing region in Australia. Tours of vineyards and wine tasting tours are a huge industry. A number of local operators run tours of wineries:
- Gone Walkabout Safaris, ☏ +61 2 49158515, [email protected]. Gone Walkabout Safaris operate 7 days a week with guaranteed departures every day, picking up participants from their accommodation in Newcastle and Hunter Valley. $60 per person.
- Boutique Wine Tours, ☏ +61 2 9499 5444, [email protected]. Boutique Wine Tours run luxury (14 person max) day tours of the Hunter Valley wineries, picking up participants from their accommodation in Sydney. $115 per person with lunch or $99 per person if you purchase your own lunch..
- Aussie Wine Tours, ☏ +61 2 4991 1074 0412 735 809, fax: +61 2 4990 6969, [email protected]. This Cessnock based tour company offers wine tours. From $45 per person (weekends) and $35 per person (weekdays).
- Cheers Bus, ☏ +61 408 987 057, [email protected]. This Cessnock based tour company offers wine tours. Half day tours are available, as are full day tours including lunch. From $35 per person.
- Wine Country Limousines, 193 Bimbadeen Road, ☏ +61 2 4991 7484, [email protected]. Mount View. Up to seven people can share a limousine for a wine tour from 10AM to 5PM.
In addition, there are several tours that set off from Sydney for day trips or weekend-long visits to the Hunter Valley wineries:
- Red Carpet Tours, 2 Windsor Road, Willoughby, ☏ +61 2 9967 3238, fax: +61 2 9967 3638, [email protected]. Red Carpet Tours run 18 person day tours of Hunter Valley wineries, including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Participants are picked up from their accommodation in Sydney. $155 adults and $135 concessions.
- Wine Country Tours, ☏ +61 2 9484 0477, fax: +61 2 9980 1109, [email protected]. Wine Country Tours offer 8 person wine tours hosted by a winemaker with 25 years experience. The tour includes private cellar inspections, as well as morning tea and lunch. Participants are picked up from their accommodation in Sydney. Cost is $150 per person.
- Mt Royal National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area
Most wineries offer excellent restaurants to go with your wine tasting
The Hunter wine region is one of Australia's best known wine regions, playing a pivotal role in the history of Australian wine as one of the first wine regions planted in the early 19th century. The success of the Hunter Valley wine industry has been dominated by its proximity to Sydney with its settlement and plantings in the 19th century fuelled by the trade network that linked the valley to the city. The steady demand of consumers from Sydney continues to drive much of the Hunter Valley wine industry, including a factor in the economy by the tourism industry. While the Hunter Valley has been supplanted by the massive Riverina wine region as the largest producer of New South Wales wine, it still accounts for around 3% of Australia's total wine production and is one of the country's most recognisable regions. Today, there's plenty of vineries that anyone can go wine tasting and can be found nearly everywhere.
- Head north towards the Mid-North Coast.