The Hunter Valley stretches from the Goulburn River and Wollemi National Park to the South right upto Barrington Tops National Park to the North. Not only does the Hunter boast wonderful scenery, but it is also home to a large wine and coaling industry.
The Wonnarua ("people of the hills and plains") were the first inhabitants of the Hunter Valley. The first sighting of the Hunter River by European settlers was in 1797, when it was discovered by Lieutenant John Shortland during a search for escaped convicts. The Hunter Valley’s initial value was as a source of timber and coal for the steamships that provided much of the transport for Sydney and its surroundings.
The majority of the vineyards can be found in the Lower Hunter, although the Upper Hunter also has its own attractive quality with its vast horse breeding and racing as well as several vineyards.
The Lower Hunter is divided into 5 main areas, including the Wollombi Valley area to the South west, the Mount View area just North of this, the Cessnock area to the South east, leading into the Pokolbin and Rothbury area in the North west and the Lovedale and North Rothbury area in the North east.
The heart of the Lower Hunter wineries and vineyards is based around Pokolbin, North west of Cessnock. There are around 50 wineries in the whole area with the majority open for wine tasting and, of course, sales.
The Hunter Valley is one of the oldest and most famous wine regions in Australia, boasting many of the large names in wine, including Lindemans Wine, Tyrell's Vineyards and Wyndham Estate.
Although some wines can only be bought from certain wineries, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Semillon, Shiraz and Verdelho can be found in most of the vineyards. The best vintage years in the Hunter for both red and white wines include 1979, 1983, 1996 and 1999, although both the 1980's and 1990's have also seen several other good years.
Food and accommodation are not a problem in the Hunter Valley. There are a wide variety of restaurants for any occasion, serving a selection of local grown vegetables, Upper Hunter bred game and delicious seafood from Port Stephens. There is also a host of accommodation around the Hunter ranging from pubs and guesthouses, to private cabins and luxury hotels.
The wineries are not the only attraction that the Hunter offers. Along side the Hunters natural laid back and relaxed atmosphere you can also find an array of excitement.
There are plenty of other attractions to suit every taste, from horse riding and golf to hot air ballooning and sky diving set amongst wonderful landscapes.
The Hunter Valley is also a great place for music and entertainment, during one of its many festivals. Whatever you are interested in you are sure to find something to suit your needs, from folk, jazz and even opera.
Many spectacular buildings can also be found in the Hunter amongst the marvelous scenery, along with several galleries and museums. Specialities seem to have no end in the Hunter with galleries displaying various antiques and crafts including glassware, jewellery, paintings, sculptures and wrought iron.
It is also worth trying one of the local delicacies which include bread and pastries, cheeses and chocolates.
The numerous towns around the Lower Hunter all offer something different and unique to the visitor. Branxton and Greta are popular for their markets and festivals. Cessnock has a range of accommodation as well as modern shopping areas, set amongst its heritage buildings and craft shops. Kurri Kurri hosts several heritage country pubs as well as a mining museum. It is also popular for a mixture of sports including bowls, golf, squash and tennis.
The rural community of Wollombi still lives in the 1930's, the time in which it was settled. You can wander along taking in the historic atmosphere, go horse riding, or even explore the nearby bushland. For wonderful views of the Brokenback Range head to Broke, or for museums and antique shops go to the old river port of Morpeth.
Denman is a good base from which to explore the Upper Hunter, as are nearby Singleton and Muswellbrook. A selection of accommodation can be found around Denman, as well as a rather unique information centre. It is situated in the Old Carriage Restaurant, which is actually inside an old train carriage.
Muswellbrook is an historic town hosting a range of interesting historic buildings. Singleton is also an historic town, founded in 1820, and one of the earliest to be founded in New South Wales. Singleton is a coaling town, with a museum telling its history from within the old jail.
If you are interested in horses and horse racing then Scone is a place you must definitely visit. Scone is the thoroughbred horse breeding centre in the Upper Hunter, although you will also find horse breeding to be popular throughout the Upper hunter.
There is a range of accommodation and a number of restaurants in Scone, although the main attraction is the race course. There are numerous races throughout the year so you should be able to watch one whatever time you visit
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