Romantic Getaways: The Hunter Valley

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The New South Wales Hunter Valley is an ideal spot for a romantic getaway, with plenty of activities on offer from wine tasting and fine dining, to more adventurous outdoor pursuits should you want to take pity on your waistline and get active. And there's accommodation galore, from cozy cottages with fireplaces and spas, to elegant resorts. Here's our top six essentials in the fourth of our new series of Ultimate Romantic Getaways, the Hunter Valley. 

1. Stay At A Luxurious, Romantic Resort 

There are plenty of places to choose from in the Hunter Valley when it comes to romantic getaways, but Château Élan at the Vintage truly has it all. A resort tucked away in Rothbury, just near the central hub of Pokolbin, this is a full-service resort featuring luxury accommodations, as well as a championship golf course, an elegant restaurant, a pool, tennis courts and a day spa; it's ideal for visitors to explore all the Hunter attractions from, or simply to relax and enjoy and go nowhere. The resort has a modern, contemporary design, with plenty of understated elegance and a mix of accommodations to choose from; Spa King Rooms, Spa Suites, and One Bedroom and Two Spa Villas. If you're really in the mood for romance, opt for a Spa Suite which not only has a huge bed for sleeping and watching TV, but also a roomy two-person spa, all with views across the valley. To read our full review click here

2. Take A Balloon Ride 

If you love jaw-dropping scenery, and don't mind heights or getting up early, a must-do on everyone's romance list in the Hunter Valley should be a sunrise balloon ride. The award winning Balloon Aloft team have been flying the Hunter since 1980, with the morning flight taking in picturesque aerial views of Pokolbin, Lovedale, Rothbury or Broke depending on the wind and the weather. The flight lasts approximately an hour, and is followed by a hearty gourmet breakfast accompanied with sparkling wine at the famous Peterson House Winery and Restaurant, so you don't have to worry about filling your stomach before you head out ahead of sunrise to be picked up by the team. If you've ever wanted to fly high and get a bird's eye view of the Hunter Valley, this is undeniably the way to go. 

3. The Australian Regional Food Store And Café 

You get to kill two birds with one stone at this delightful spot just off McDonalds Road in Pokolbin. Not only is this a place to stock up on some delicious Australian produce, including chutneys, cheeses, sauces, spices, olives and more, but it's also a fully operating, fully licensed Regional Café which is part al fresco. On a good weather day you can sit out on the terrace, or venture into the lovely, natural garden and sit by the lake, and if you're lucky, some of the local resident ducks may pop out to say hello. The coffee is barista style and excellent quality, and it goes without saying the venue offers a decent wine list to accompany its eclectic menu of cuisine of lunch dishes and sweet treats - they serve from 10am until 5pm. If for no other reason, stop by to have break in between wine tastings, to soak up the tranquil countryside. 

4. Go Horse Riding 

A late afternoon ride on horseback is a wonderful way to enjoy a leisurely exploration of the Hunter Valley countryside, while also spotting local wildlife. Located in Rothbury, Hunter Valley Horse Riding has horses of all sizes to suit everyone from beginners to the experienced rider, and kids too, and on the ride you're accompanied by a qualified guide who can help you if you need it, while highlighting points of interest along the way. Although the company offers rides all day, including personalised ones with tuition if need be, the sunset ride is the best time to see the landscape change and the animals awaken for the evening and night, including wallabies and kangaroos which come out to feed. All to the romantic symphony of evening birdsong, as the birds get ready to roost for the night. 

5. Go Wine Tasting 

Fortunately for visitors to the Hunter Valley, no matter where you stay you can choose to visit a mind-boggling number of wineries and vineyards. Just around the Pokolbin/Rothbury area alone there are dozens to choose from, however, to make things easy why not take an organised tour? Tastes Of The Hunter Wine Tours caters to the modern food and wine traveller, people are looking for unique flavours, but they are also looking to meet the locals who made the produce and discover the stories behind the wines. Jumping onboard a small group wine tour is a great way to experience the Hunter Valley wine region in a way that goes far beyond what you would ordinarily see at a simple tasting at the public cellar door. And as a bonus, you can also freshen your palate with a paddle of craft beers - something else the region is becoming famous for. If travelling in stylish leather seats, enjoying great music, soaking up the sun and fresh air amongst the vines and meeting new friends in a relaxed, small group environment is your dream day out or weekend then the Hunter Valley won’t disappoint. 

6. Indulge In Some Fine Dining

The Hunter Valley is now famous for fine dining as well as fine wines, with top chefs from Australia's cities setting up shop there in droves. One of our top picks for a combination of top class cuisine and romantic dining is Roberts Circa 1876; it enjoys a picturesque location, and is part of the quaint Peppers Convent resort, just a short walk down the driveway. Roberts is run by the Cowley family and is a romantic combination wooden and brick building surrounded by an organic market garden. At the helm in the kitchen is Chef George Francisco, a highly talented culinary creator who fuses a modern style of Australian cuisine with a French influence, with the best and freshest of local produce. The restaurant embraces the growing paddock-to-plate culture, and it has a vineyard deck which can be enjoyed in summer for a glass of wine before embarking on your culinary journey. Check out our Roberts full review.

Joanna Hall