Hunter Valley: A peek in to medieval times travel
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Covid Virus has bit the humanity in every region of the world and Australia is no exception. We were confined to our homes for almost 3 months, only stepping out barely for groceries and necessary stuff. But when things got a little better and govt announced relaxation on lock down, it was a relief and I was desperate for a weekend Getaway.
While looking for a suitable destination for my break, some of my friends suggested Hunter Valley region they had recently visited and enjoyed a Hot air balloon ride there.
To be honest I was reluctant to plan for Hunter valley, mostly because that region is famous for wine tasting and I didn't hear anything else. I had covered almost all places around NSW and this was the only place left. So I researched what else could be done in this region. I was delighted to know there were a couple of interesting activities like, classic carriages ride, aqua golf, hot air ballooning, helicopter ride, Hunter Valley gardens (have rides for children), a Victorian style market around hunter valley with rustic country side cafes, vineyards and the accommodations were experiences in themselves. We chose forest ridge near hunter valley quarters, and the location was a cherry on the cake.
We planned for a 2N/3D trip, most of the people can cover in 2 days but i personally believe in exploring the place completely rather than touch and go until you are short of time.
For this trip we took one day leave and combined with weekend so that we are not in rush and have a relaxing, leisurely holiday.
Itinerary to explore Hunter Valley
We planned this itinerary as per our convenience and budget, hence the activities can be modified based on personal choice.
Day 1 - Aqua Golf and Hunter Valley Markets
We started late at 11:00 AM from our place it was a 2 hour drive, we took a lunch break in the middle and directly headed to Aqua Golf Center, which was recommended by my friend who recently visited Hunter valley.
I am not a golf person, I have never even held a Golf stick, but as as a traveler we always yearn for new experiences and so this was no exception.
They charged around $9 per person it includes a bat and a bucket of 20 balls which is more than enough. I tried my luck for the first time, and it was hilarious I wasn't able to touch the ball and was floating my bat over it, even the manager at the place made fun of me, later I got a grasp and played many shots.
Rajat was doing good and he enjoyed the experience thoroughly. The Aqua golf set up was fantastic, it was all along the lake with beautiful valley views and if there were nets with different prizes. If one is lucky enough to hit the ball in a net they will win a prize so it made everyone competitive.
This activity raised our bar for Hunter valley we both were happily exhausted, later we explored a market for quick coffee and it turned out to be beautiful, we went to Rustic country cafe and the decor was amazing with country vibes the host was a very warm lady and we enjoyed our coffee with scones.
After dark we went to our cottage in Forrest Ridge hills, it was a beautiful studio style cottage with ample space and rustic vibes. We cooked and enjoyed our rest of the evening.
Day 2 - Classic carriages, Wine tasting, distillery, Cheese and chocolate, local fare
As mentioned in my post earlier we explored hunter valley region in a very classic way, without the hassle of driving and so that both of us can relax and enjoy the wine tasting and other activities without hassle of planning the places.
Our Accommodation - Forrest Hills Ridge (Farm stay)
Well all the wineries and activities are around Pokolbin region so we booked our stay there to be able to easily commute. We booked our accommodation in https://pokolbinfarmstay.com.au/.
When I got up in the morning at 06:50 just to have some water. Out of curiosity I opened the curtain of our window, to check out the location, since we arrived at night and couldn't see much around. My plan was to have a peek, and go to bed for another hour of sleep, but the view and the location robbed me of my sleeping intentions. I wore my jacket, picked my camera and stepped out.
It was a perfect scenery, sun was rising, birds were chirping, lake was glowing with the sun gold and then I spotted quite a few hot air balloons calmly floating in the air between sun and the lake, it was pure bliss.
I had a wonderful moment with the balloon and lake, while I captured it in my lens.
It was divine and meditative. Then I observed some movement around the field and there was a family of Kangaroos, I mean I was just thinking it can't get better and I was wrong, the scenery was perfect.
A layer of Vineyards, Kangaroos, trees, lake, balloon and sunrise all in one frame. I couldn't resist my temptation and walked around the cottages and found another beautiful morning landscape with layers of valley views surround in morning fog making it look serene and complete.
Well this was an exceptionally good start of the day. We enjoyed the morning sun's glory and then got ready for our classic carriages ride.
Hunter Valley - Classic Carriages
I booked classic carriage in advance and our pick up was at 09:30 AM at Harrigan's Irish pub.
We were booked in for general tour and were sharing our cart with 4 other people so we were total 6 passenger in the cart.
Soon we made friends there was an amazing couple, Jason and Jade visiting the place 3rd time they were from central coast and had 5 children , there were two ladies Mary and Mel who were visiting and had hangover from last night yet they were fully enjoying the ride. Rajat got along well with Jason and it felt like we were having a trip with friends.
we all got along very well and discussed various topics, Donna also joined in several conversation. At one point, we have all got so comfortable, Jason opened his Mascato and offered to everyone, and it was literally a carriage bar experience, drinks being spilled and no body can say whether it was effect of the drink or the movement of the carriage.
Its true -there are no strangers, just friends we are yet to meet.
Classic carriage ride available to explore the valley in medieval way, and there were choices to explore from:
A private couple ride was available at $544, ideal for honeymooning couple, with some extra bucks
A ride for a group of 4/ 2 couples Half-Day (3 hours): $130.000 pp Full Day (5.5 hours): $160.00 pp
FULL DAY (10:30 am - 4:00 pm) $95.00 pp
HALF DAY (10:00 am - 1:00 pm or 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm) $75.00 pp
FAMILY HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE RIDES - Enjoy a private 45 minute clip-clop through the heart of Hunter Valley wine country.
To book rides - http://www.huntervalleyclassiccarriages.com.au/
We visited, Roche Estate winery and tasted Meerea Park around 6 tasting were done, and they all were quite unique. The bar tender lady also told us the reason behind the name of region Pokolbin, when migrants came here to explore this place was hot as hell and there was nothing for plantation.
It was possibly a name used to describe the area by the Darkinjung Aboriginal people meaning "a very hot place" but there is also an argument that it is an Hungarian word meaning "in the hell".
There were some outlets for cheese items and there were many shops to hangout. The next we visited PD distillery before stopping for lunch Donna, our carriage rider took us thru a country trail to PD distilleries, they had different flavors of Vodka, Salted Caramel, Honeycomb, and others, we enjoyed the experience.
Later we went to an amazing state called Pepper tree Wines.
Here more than tasting we enjoyed the location, it was perfect for arranging a destination wedding, Jason and Jade were living in that fairy tale kind of house, which was inside this state. the carriage dropped them at the spot and we continued our journey.
Donna took us to a country fare, where people were selling handmade local goods it was a nice set up and everyone of us bought something a souvenir from this trip.
We ended our trip after Sobel Wine, around 4 PM.
Day 3 - Hunter Valley Gardens, Vintage Cars, Aqua Golf, Helicopter ride
This day I kept nearly free because i booked a Helicopter flight , but one can also do Hot air ballooning because its a very different experience, the balloon calmly floats in the atmosphere with rising sun, no motor noise no walls, just you and the atmosphere around you completely transparent and serene. Hot air balloon rides can be booked via - https://www.balloonaloft.com/
I did my hot air ballooning in Cappadocia Turkey and it was an amazing experience so I wanted to try Helicopter ride here - https://huntervalleyhelicopters.com.au/. We booked 10 mins ride and it was around $100 pp.
My ride was booked for 01:30 PM so we had ample of time to explore the area around, first we went to Hunter valley Gardens - the entry was $30 pp so my partner was reluctant as he is not in to gardens, I insisted because so far Hunter valley has amazed me and I didn't want to miss anything here.
However once we started exploring, it was not up to my expectations, not much flowers and greenry, rides were closed its good to go if you have kids because there was a story garden with all the characters portrayed from our nursery rhyme books.
Rest everything was just ok not worth the entry fees.
We covered it in 45 mins and thought of spending our time again in Aqua golf, as it was the activity we both enjoyed a lot during our first day. We entered and the place was full we actually waited for a spot to be available, it has many courts all along the line of water and yet no one was empty there were so many families and groups with multiple buckets of balls just enjoying the day with play.
Today me and Rajat started with 1 bucket and later we played 5 more games, it was so fun, we were trying to target the net for the price but none could get there.
When we walked towards are car in parking we found a huge range of Vintage cars just being displayed there, recently i have watched a Netflix series "From Rust to riches" where Gotham Garage was just completely renovating vintage cars and reviving from old junk. So I was very interested and so were other tourists. We looked at every car closely and admired the craftsmanship later we went for our helicopter ride.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and it was helpful, please watch video for more coverage of the experience and don't forget to subscribe :). Thanks for your precious time.